Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Category: Christ (page 2 of 2)

Why Can’t We all Just Get Along?

Ok ok so perhaps I’m an idealist? But hey that is what my blog is for, where I can express my idealist views.

 

More and more the debate between Christians and Atheists rages on.  In the headlines we see  “Atheists sues to take out God out of pledge of allegiance” and then of course we see the Christian’s response in other comments and headlines.  We see it in the media all the time. This war it seems that comes up every so often (especially around the holidays) Atheists attempting to take the word “God” out of everything and Christians trying to put the word “God” in everything.  My question is why can’t we just get along?  This is my letter to the Atheists and then next to the Christians.

 

 

To my Atheists friends

Why, Why, Why, Why WHY!  I truly don’t get it.  Taking God out of the pledge of allegiance? I lovingly say that you are in the minority (perhaps growing but still in the minority) on this issue.  the majority of Americans believe in some kind of God (granted it could be a different god, many different religions are represented in America, but never the less most Americans believe in some form of a higher power)  Having the word “God” in a pledge, or on a dollar bill is not religion, it’s a general belief held by MOST people in the world.  There is no way to beat around the bush you guys are on the fringe of the belief system and you can’t dictate to an entire nation what can and can not be in our pledge or on a dollar bill just because you choose not to believe in God (Might I also mention that before you deny the existence of God you first have to acknowledge there is a possibility that He exists, to deny is first to affirm then to reject that belief.)  It is impossible to deny anything without first being aware of it.  But that is for another time.

Further more, why this anger towards religion? Does it really bother you that much to hear the word “God” in the pledge? Then just don’t say God, also if you truly celebrate diversity then you will celebrate the life change many many people  have experienced due to an encounter with God.  Diversity is dangerous because it means accepting things you don’t actually agree with.  You can’t be open minded when it is convenient to you and then shun people that hold a worldview that si completely opposite to yours.  I guess I just don’t understand why there is such a hostile movement coming from the atheists.  You are free to believe almost anything you want here in the states, you can believe in the flying spaghetti monster, or in nothing beyond us.  It really doesn’t matter what you believe, you don’t face jail time, you’re protected by our constitution, you can burn the flag, you can put the flag on a pole in your yard, you can say the pledge, you don’t have to say the pledge.  Do whatever you want, you already have that freedom!  But no, instead now Americans have to deal with your obsession for taking the word “God” out of everything public.  It’s ridiculous because ultimately until you start massacring people (Not that you ever would) you can’t eradicate the belief of God.

 

 

 

To my Christian Family.

 

Change the focus! It is not necessarily proving to someone that you are right and they are wrong   My gosh I’m so exhausted from hearing and seeing debates about God with other people who are not Christians.  Ultimately God is the one who calls people right? It is our job to love people like crazy, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Instead we get in to debates about what is true, what is not true.  God is true, and we believe that, and God has called us to be the light of the world, not the annoying pests that keep telling people to repent or face Hell.  We are called to be goodness, to literally be workers in the kingdom of God bringing heaven to earth, restoring people to Jesus.  I’m not saying we can’t talk about Hell, I’m not saying we can’t affirm Hell. What I am saying is that most people here in our culture already know about Hell, they already know that Christians believe that Hell is forever and eternal. Let us not forget that without love we are a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13)  I really hate when people say “the gospel is offensive” it is?  The word gospel means Good News! How the heck is good news offensive?  And where is that in the scripture? And don’t give me Galatians 5:11 because Paul was under persecution from the Jewish people, not from the pagans.  The same goes for Jesus, the pagans did not crucify Jesus. The chosen people of God in the Old Testament (A.K.A the Israelites) crucified Jesus.   Our “good news” should be a breath of fresh air to a dying world, not more death.  It’s time to communicate and to show people that God wants people restored to Him! This is the crux of the whole Bible! That God made a way for us to be restored to God.  Lets offer some GOOD news.  Good news that we don’t have to live separated from God forever in Hell? Absolutely! But also that we can live with God right now! Right this second!

And really honestly if God is taken out of the pledge who cares? Say God anyway! Be a rebel! Pray in school, put the nativity up on your front lawn! Just because we are called to be peacemakers does not mean that we can’t peacefully protest and continue to peacefully rebel against the government when the time is appropriate.  Let’s say one day the government says being a born again Christian is unlawful and is punishable by prison or some other punishment I hope to God (truly) that Christians are just as outspoken then as they are now.  Personally? I think it’s easy to whine about things when their are no consequences, we will see how many people stand up when/if true persecution comes.

 

 

Couple disclaimers

1. I’m generalizing both with Christians and Atheists because I don’t have the time or space to go in to detail. Both movements are too large to completely define, so I stuck to mainly media generalizations

 

2. I have quite a few friends who are Atheists so this is not an attack on atheism, please don’t see it this way

 

3. I have MANY friends (family really) who are Christians, this is not an attack on Christianity, i breathe the Christian faith, it is all I’m concerned about in my life, and that is why I said what I said.  It is also why I am generally most critical of Christianity, because I am part of that movement.

 

4. 1 Corinthians 13.

Jesus, the socialist? – Rob

Disclaimer:  I am not into politics myself but I am into clearing up misconceptions about my Lord. This was one that just continuously caught my eye.

JESUS WAS A SOCIALIST!!!! JESUS WAS A LIBERAL!!!!!  HE WANTS US TO TAKE CARE OF THE POOR, THE WIDOWS, THE FATHERLESS, THE MOTHERLESS, THE ABANDONED, etc etc etc.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard this argument that Jesus was all about taking care of the less fortunate.  I suppose I would agree.  Was not His entire mission in coming to Earth about “helping out the less fortunate?”  The less fortunate could be summed up in one word.  Sinners.  Sure, Christ came to save sinners; to die on a cross for all of mankind.  But, let’s look into the Bible a litter deeper to see what His “political” stance was.

Let’s start in the OT.  Yes, I know, a big scary collection of laws and rules for the nation of Israel.  But the God of the NT is no different from the God of the OT.  In Malachi 3:6 we read “For I am the LORD, I change not.”  I think that is pretty clear and we can all agree on that.  So what can we learn from the OT?

Numbers 18:24

For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance.  Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 14:28, 29

At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.  And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

What do we see here?  We see the nation of Israel taking care of its own people.  The Levites were not given an inheritance when the division of the land of Canaan was given.  The tribe of the Levites was separated to the service of the sanctuary and the Lord was their inheritance (Deuteronomy 10:9).  But were they just freeloading off the rest of the nation?  Waiting in their tents till that Friday came around and they would receive their check?  No, the Levites were hard at work.  I would venture to say they were not given a division of land because the work of the priests was never done!  So the tithes that the rest of the nation gave were used to take care of their own people.  We also see that every third year they would tithe their produce and invite all people that were within their towns to come and enjoy what God had blessed them with.  It’s obvious then, that God is a socialist, right?

Wrong.

This would be one of the three ways I see in scripture that God gives as acceptable means to take care of the poor.  I would label this as “through the Church.”  In the NT, until the rapture, the Church is the main focus and where God is working through.  In the OT, the nation of Israel was the main focus and where God was working (and will continue after the rapture of the Church).  There were three tithes required (based on 1/10ths of incomes) which included:

  • Support of the Priests (Deut. 14:27, Lev 27:30-34, Num. 18:24-26)
  • Finance of the religious feasts (Deut. 14:22-26)
  • Support of the needy every three years (Deut. 14:28-29)

These were not government run coercions to produce equality and spread the wealth but God designed to take care of His people.  The main reason for the tithes was to pay for the cost of the feasts and provide for the priests.  Every three years they would hold a feast for the needy among them which would only show them the mercy and love of God.  The tithe to support the needy wasn’t a requirement of money but of food.  Interesting.  I guess we could see here that God is in favor of a “flat tax” system as well haha.  It didn’t matter how much money you had, the tithe was still 10%.  Why? To support the work of God.  Even in the OT, there was no free gifts.  Look at the law of gleanings (you can see it in action in the story of Ruth and Boaz).  When a farmer harvested his crops, he was not to go back over his field a second time to gather anything that was missed the first round but was to allow the poor to come and pick up what was left behind for their families.  There was always work involved when it came to aid to the needy.  Doesn’t sound too much like the socialist/liberal view to me.  Look at what Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”  But, there is a place for the Church to take care of some of the financial burdens of the Church and to provide charity to those that need it.  What guidelines do we have in the NT for that?  Again let’s look at Paul’s writings.  1 Timothy 5 gives us some good insight as to “how far” the Church should even go.  Verse 9 puts an age restriction on it, and verses 4 and 16 tell us the family is the first support and only if there is no other support should the Church step in.  Verse 10 tells us that they should have a good reputation and dedicated years of service.  Paul tells Timothy to deny younger women from getting help from the Church.  Some serious restrictions.  This isn’t because Paul was a woman hater but because it was not the Church’s duty to provide help as some sort of charity to anyone and everyone.  That was never God’s plan.  Yes, the Church should help out in the local community but only when it is something that God would deem as worthy.

What about the other two methods of “welfare?”  Well, we touched on one above in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.  The family.  If you notice verse 8 says “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  Strong!  We have an obligation to make sure people in our family are taken care of.  Obviously, I think the same restrictions apply.  I am not going to pour money into a family member who is going and spending it on alcohol and drugs.  But I could pay for rehab, provide food and shelter (as long as it doesn’t endanger my family), etc.  These are things that we should be more than willing to do for our family.  OUR FAMILY.  Got that?

What is the last one then?  Individual charity.  Matthew 6:1-4 says:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

What is the point?  If you have a burden to care for the needy and you are able then do so but, do so on your own and in secret.  Don’t herald to all around about what you are doing and giving.  At no point does Christ ever mention a method whereby the government should control what you give and redistribute the wealth.  That is the goal of liberalism and socialism.

I am not saying Christ is a conservative.  God is God.  If anything, He is apolitical and will reign in an absolute theocracy.  If you look at the list of evil things in Mark 7:20-23 we see Christ declaring both greed and envy as evil.  The list isn’t partial either way.  The greed of the poor man is just as evil as the greed of the rich man and the envy of the rich man is just as evil as the envy of the poor man.  The Bible gives us three methods of taking care of the needy and none mention allowing the government to do so.  Personal responsibility, family responsibility, and Church responsibility should all be carried out within the confines of God’s character.  Christ didn’t go around throwing His salvation at every person He walked past.  Nor should we go around throwing our money to every person we walk past and it definitely shouldn’t be done by the government.  All this nonsense about Christ being a liberal/socialist has got to stop.  He is God and that is final!  Do not apply titles to Christ that He does not claim.  His mission was Calvary not welfare.

~Rob

Knowing God Without Knowing God – Tim Whitaker

Knowing God Without Knowing God

Few disclaimers for this post. First sorry for the delay. Life is life and therefore sometimes it is difficult to post as often as I’d like. Luckily for you (the reader) this does not stop my mind from thinking and considering new ideas (if there is such a thing). That being said my second disclaimer is this. I really hope I don’t offend anyone. You’ve been warned.

 

We have a problem in our Christian culture here in the states. That is nothing new, and I can already here the people saying in their head “oh Tim what else is new with you. You’re always picking apart the church, give it a rest.” Let me address this thought briefly. I love the church, Christ died for it, we are His bride. I believe in the church, the church has done endless amounts of good, many people I know love Jesus and walk with Him daily in the church. This is not church bashing, this is simply being realistic about some of the issues we need to address in the church. Here we go.

As I was saying earlier we have a problem in the church. In fact I would call it an epidemic. We know God, but we don’t know God. Let me explain. We in Christianity have this mindset that the more moral we are, the closer we get to God. Of course no one will say this, but it’s an under-current of the Christian faith. We are told to read our Bible all the time, we are told to do good all the time, we are told to serve as much as possible. These are all good things, but they’ve replaced knowing Jesus in our life. The Bible is not God, serving is not God, doing good is not God. But yet we treat them like God. We automatically assume that if we are doing these things, we are automatically walking with Jesus. I submit however, that you can do all these things and completely miss Jesus.

 

Let me address probably the biggest part of this problem The Bible. Uh oh, I’ve gone off the deep end you say. Fear not, I have not. The Bible is great. God inspired it, men wrote it down, God’s truths are in the Bible, and it is incredibly deep and full of life. The Bible however is NOT God and sometimes it seems that we’ve made the Bible the 4th part of trinity. We have taken the Bible and put it on such a high level that we equate spending time with God by reading the Bible. It’s true that we can spend time with God by reading the Bible, but that is not the only way. In fact if God speaks to us and says to spend time with Him by going for a walk and we instead read our Bible, that is sin! We are disobeying what God told us to do, even if it seems more “spiritual” to God you still missed the mark (sin) for what he wanted you to do. Reading the Bible does not always equate spending time with Jesus. Spending time with JESUS equates spending time with JESUS. We must understand this. We must get this truth. This is EXACTLY what the pharisees did. They had the law down, they were the greatest minds and teachers of the Law. And they completely missed Jesus. They had the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah) memorized. They knew it in the original language, they understood the context, they were great teachers, and they missed Jesus, they missed the whole point. I’m afraid many times we do the same thing in Christianity, only we do it even on a more ignorant level than the pharisees did. Most of us don’t understand the context, we don’t understand the original language, and most of us don’t have a chapter let a lone a whole book of the Bible memorized. We have taken the Bible, claim to know it, and then follow it as a law book and miss what it is pointing to. The Bible does not point to itself. It points to Jesus. We must see this. We must put the Bible in it’s proper place. The Bible is not the 4th part of the trinity. The Bible was not beamed down from heaven in English, it was not written in one period in history, and it was not written by the literal hand of God. The Bible was written over a huge span of time, by men under the inspiration of God, in Hebrew and Greek. The Bible was put together by men who decided (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that these 66 books were the words of God. Let me repeat that, the Bible was NOT written in a year, even the order of the books are not in chronological order. The Bible was pieced together, written in all different contexts, by different authors, all with their own perspectives. This is not to say that the Bible is false, or inaccurate. I’m simply attempting to articulate that sometimes we (with good intentions) use the Bible as a supplement for spending time with Jesus.

Spending time with Jesus, is what it is ALL about. When He died on the cross Jesus literally restored our relationship with God back to the way it was meant to be. The focus is not the rules, or the morality, it is simply God, and out of that everything else flows. The closer we get to God the closer we get to ultimate reality. The closer we get to ultimate reality the more we realize how we were originally designed to live. Sin is not wrong just because it”s wrong. Sin is simply another way of saying that we were never designed to live that way. We were ORIGNALLY created good. Sin distorts that. Our bodies were never designed for sin, we were never designed to live outside of relationship with God. That is what EVERYTHING points to. Christianity is literally all about being restored to Jesus, it’s not about reading your Bible more, it’s not about serving more. It’s about living everyday with Jesus and re-learning how we were meant to live originally. If we start first with Jesus, things like the Bible all fall in to place. The most important commandment Jesus gives is not read the Scriptures everyday, serve relentlessly, or be a really good moral person. The most important Commandment Jesus says is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. Everything must flow of out of this.

If we miss Jesus then we miss it all. If we don’t know what the voice of Jesus sounds like the we’ve missed it If we are not being lead by the Holy Spirit consistently then we miss it. The point of Jesus is not morality or any action, it is simply being restored back to the way we were created to live, out of that everything else will fall in to place. If we put the cart before the horse on this, then we are no longer in relationship with Jesus and we are instead in a relationship with something other than Jesus, and that is idolatry. First and foremost Jesus must be the starting point. From there it flows like a river.

 

So what’s this mean? It means get out of the box you grew up in. Meet Jesus on a walk in the park, meet him during a movie you’re watching, discuss with Him the GOP candidates. God wants to be in our life, He wants us to know Him and He wants to know us. He wants us to discuss our life with Him like we would discuss it with a husband or wife. God does not need, but instead desires to be an intricate part of our life. For us to limit him to “devotional” or other “spiritual” times, makes God a formula that we think we figured out, instead of the relational being that He is.

 

Why I hate the “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” Video – Tim Whitaker

Ok so we’ve all seen the video by now.  For those that don’t you can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY

Let me start by saying the good about this video.  I like this guy, his heart seems in the right place.  He genuinely wants Jesus, and wants to know Jesus.  Wow, awesome.  He also understands some of the MAJOR issues plaguing our church culture today.  He understands that just because you say ” christian” on facebook doesn’t mean you are one.  He understands that we have cared far too much about the outside appearance instead of the heart of people.  And he also understands that we need to really understand our faith.  The problem is, I don’t think he undersands the faith he is claiming.

I’ve heard all the slogans in the Christian culture “It’s all about relationship and not about religion” “It’s against my relationship to have a religion” and “I hate religion but love Jesus”.  I used to say some of these slogans myself.  The problem is looking back, I really didn’t understand what the heck I was saying.  I became a casualty of what I call slogan Christianity.    Slogan Christianity is when your faith goes about as deep as the slogans you’ve heard, and the 10 verses you grew up with (maybe more if you went to AWANA or VBS).  It’s dangerous because when you rely on catchy little phrases and a handful of verses to define an entire life, and when some of the slogans go viral (such as the “It’s against my religion to have a relationship”), people blindly follow the slogan without defining the terms.  In the example I gave we have to ask what exactly what is religion? What is relationship?  If we don’t understand what they mean, then they are useless.

This is the problem I see in this video.  While it sounds nice to the ear, it is empty. there is no depth, nothing is defined, nothing is articulated clearly.  What is this guy’s definition of religion?  Because religion can mean MANY different things.  In fact the word religion can mean several things.

  1. set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing amoral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  5. the practice of religious  beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
Now look at some of those definitions.  Almost all them can fit in to the Christian faith.  There are general things Christians agree upon and practice (such as prayer), there is a body of people (the church),.  Christianity is a religion by definition! There is no way getting around it.  Just because we use the word “religion” doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing.  The word religion is from Latin, and (at least in its etymological parts) it literally (and yes, I mean literally literally) means “reconnection” (re + ligio).  the word itself is completely Christian!
This is what I mean when I say we have to define what we mean.  Just because it’s a popular notion for Christians to be against “religion” doesn’t mean it’s right.
But what does he mean?  Well any Christian who grew up in the culture probably gets what this guy is saying.  He is saying that the core and fundamental heart of Christianity is not morality but it is Jesus. Jesus must be our starting point, NOT morality.  Once we start with morality we then believe that we can somehow earn the love of God.  This idea is completely contrary to the Christian belief system.
Also it is important to know the Scriptures.  At one point in the video the speaker says “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion”. This is not true.  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 5:17 “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”.    Jesus did not come to abolish the Jewish religion and laws.  He came to be a fulfillment of what was spoken prior to His coming.
This brings me to my other major issue with this video.  The speaker exudes a terrible understanding of Judaism, the Torah, and exactly who the Pharisees were.  I don’t blame him, because I didn’t know much better until this past semester, and I still only have a tiny grasp on the issue.
The Pharisees were masters of the Torah.  By age 12 the Jewish children had the first five books of the Bible memorized.  From there only the best became Pharisees.  These were not ignorant people, they were immersed in the Torah all the time.  They were some of the greatest teachers and minds of the day.  The new the Law EXTREMELY well.  Sometimes in Christianity we don’t give them enough credit.  We just write them off as idiots.  This is not the case, they were extremely intelligent.  It is important to understand that the law at the time was the only words given by God to the Jewish people.  There was no understanding of a “trinity” to a Jew before and up to Jesus’s day.  The common Jewish person did not have  a “personal” relationship with God.  In fact in Exodus the people told Moses to be the communicator between God and them.  These are just a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the Pharisees, and the Jewish people.  They thought that the coming Messiah was going to establish an earthly kingdom (and after reading more of the Old Testament I can see why!), they had no idea he was going to be God himself coming down among them. There is a a huge context that we need to understand before we go around throwing God’s chosen people under the bus in ignorance because it is a popular talking about.
What’s my point? My point is this.  Jesus loves religion, He came for religion.  Jesus literally came to reconnect us with God.  So before we as Christians go around throwing slogans around like a beach ball at a nickelback concert ( I can’t take credit for that one liner), we need to understand what the terms we use actually mean.  Part of the Christian life is trying to understand and define basic ideas that we grew up with.  Here are a few I recommend to try and break down.
Define Grace
Define Salvation
Define the Gospel
Good luck, and welcome to the conversation.
For a much more in depth view on this.  Check this blog out.  Really well done when pertaining to this subject

Sin… Suffering… Savior – Rob

This is something that I have actually been tossing around in my mind for some time. I am no scholar and would love input on my thoughts as well. Perhaps I am in fact incorrect in my thinking.
These thoughts were originally brought about after multiple discussions I have had with some strong Calvinists. The “L” in the T.U.L.I.P. acronym most would know as “Limited atonement.” This would teach that Christ only died for the sins of the “elect.” Obviously if Christ only suffered for their sins then it would in fact be impossible for anyone else to be saved. I think this stems from a misunderstanding of sin, Christ, and the work of salvation.

Sin- at its core sin is the disobedience of the commandment of God. Some of the definitions:

  • Transgression: an overstepping of the law
  • Iniquity: an act inherently wrong
  • Error: a departure from right
  • Missing the Mark: a failure to meet the divine standard
  • Trespass: the intrusion of self-will into the sphere of divine authority
  • Lawlessness: spiritual anarchy
  • Unbelief: an insult to the divine veracity

Sin originated with Satan (Isaiah 14:12-14), entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12), and is universal (except for only Christ).

Scofield gives a summary of sin as threefold: An act, the violation of obedience to the revealed will of God; a state, absence of righteousness; a nature, enmity toward God.

In the garden the commandment was to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam, who up to his point had no sin, was given that choice and a free-will to obey or disregard the commandment of the Lord. When Adam chose to disobey, the entire human race fell as a result because he was the “head” of the created world. Now, Adam knew good and evil (which goes against the T of Total depravity). The sinful nature was born and plagues every human because of the fall of man. The result being seen in Romans 5:12. Sin is a problem which the human mind cannot fully comprehend. Sin has separated God from His creation and must have righteous judgment by the very nature of the God of eternity. A misunderstanding of the severity and depths of sin is the start of the misconstrued ideology behind the death of Christ. Sin has affected the entire creation, which will all be redeemed as seen in Revelations.

Christ- the divine, transcendent, eternal Son of God, who was manifested into a human body. A misconstrued idea of Christ would cause a huge error in the understanding of the death of Christ. I do not, and cannot, completely comprehend how God can become a man (hypostatic union), but it doesn’t change the fact that Christ was and is God. The transcendent nature of Christ is vital to begin to understand His death/suffering. How can there be an infinite payment of sin in a finite amount of time? Because of the transcendent nature of God. Outside of our realm and our understanding the God of the Bible dwells. That is the Christ of whom we read “took upon him the form of a man” and “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”. A transcendent, eternal, supernatural God in the body of a man.  I have found myself wondering about Hebrews 4:15 often; how Christ was “was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.”  I think the English language doesn’t do justice in times like this.  Temptation has the negative connotation about it.  I believe the word in Hebrews 4:15 would be better translated as “tried.”  Why are we tempted? Because our sinful nature is appealed by the sin surrounding us.  Ever notice that the moment you stop enjoying God like you should, you stop reading as much as you were, get lazy about your prayer life, and stop having good community with fellow Christians that sin is much more enticing?  I have! This is because the sinful nature inside of me is enticed by sin and when I am not battling that nature/desire it becomes stronger.  Was Christ then ever “tempted?”  I would say no, because He did not have a sinful nature that was enticed by sin.  He understood sin at the deepest level and was utterly disgusted by it.  However, He was tried by the same things we are.  For instance, women still walked in front of His eyes, those certain magazines were still on the shelf at the Wawa in Israel, and the internet was still full of those pages in 20 A.D.  This things all still were in front of Christ and “trying” Him but to no avail because He had no sinful nature to entice.  We are “tempted” to do wrong because our sinful nature desires to do wrong.  Now we can see that Christ not only had no sin; He was incapable of sinning.

Salvation- the payment of sin. May we first marvel at the plan which upholds the requirement of the punishment of sin while setting the offender free! “Who is a pardoning God like thee, or who has grace so rich and free?” As I understand it, one sin will never be unjustly punished twice. This would go against the character of God and the requirement of punishment. If Christ suffered for each sin as if God had a list and laid each one on Him, then we would be correct to assume that only certain people can be saved. However, I do not believe that is how the work of salvation was completed. When Christ suffered in those three dark hours there was an infinite payment to God that was sufficient to cover the entire judgment for sin. The moment of salvation is when I accept that the judgment Christ bore was for my personal sin against God. Therefore I could never tell an unsaved person “Christ died for your sins”. That would lead them to the conclusion that their sins are already paid for and there is no way they would have to pay for them again so they need not even have to believe. The work of salvation was an infinite and not “one-for-one substitution” redemption work. If the work was only sufficient for the elect then the non-elect would have an excuse for their unbelief in that “whosoever believeth” was not applicable because of the insufficiency of the atonement to cover their sin. This is what I see to be a huge misunderstanding of the work of salvation. Christ is an infinite being who paid the sufficient price to cover the full judgment of sin. However, the forgiveness offered is a gift and if the gift is not accepted than the work of salvation does not cover the sins of the rejecter and that individual will pay for their own sins as they did not come into the good of Christ’s sacrifice.

I pray that I was able to convey what I have been thinking about in some logical manner and am certainly open to any correction in my thinking.
-Rob
Perhaps in the future I’ll more solidly lay out the views of Calvinism and Arminianism and explain why I think both are faulty 🙂  Not to say there aren’t true Christians who hold either of those doctrines (there certainly are as I fully believe there could be true Christians in ANY religion).

The Essentiality of Works – Tim Whitaker

Salvation, Saved, Born Again, Christian, Sinner saved by grace, these are all definitions we use when it comes to defining exactly what happens or what happened to someone when Jesus radically affects their life.  I think any Christian would agree that it is by grace we are saved through faith and it is not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  The problem I see however is that we’ve done such a good job of telling people that truth, that we have missed the other side of the coin.  Works, fruit, lifestyle, and evidence of that grace that we claim.

 

 

I must be honest it does amaze me how much I’ve heard so many times that to be a Christian all someone has to do is confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord.  Or verses like the one quoted above, that we are saved through faith.  This is true, it is accurate.  It is 100% on.  But there is another part that we must see, that we must address.  And that is works (or fruits, or lifestyle).  I know the word “works” sounds like heresy to most Christians so I’ll use the word “action” in replace of it.

 

All throughout the Bible we are constantly seeing that without action, our faith is absolutely dead.  And no, I’m not just referring to James.  I’m referring to almost the entire new testament.   Here’s a few verses that come to mind

 

The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

 

And then there’s entire books like 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc etc. that are books to the church literally teaching them how to live as Christians.  We also have the entire sermon on the mount from Jesus which teaches us to do crazy things like “love our enemies”, give people our shirt and coat, and to let people borrow from us as they wish.   The whole New Testament is mainly concerned about works hinging off of the death and resurrection.  To just acknowledge in your heart that Jesus died for you and then to not follow any of the teachings of Jesus or the Bible is simply not enough.  It is not taught in Scripture anywhere that to be a Christian you just need to “believe”.  In fact James even acknowledges that even the demons know who Jesus is and we see it consistently in the four gospels.  Demons knew exactly who Jesus was and what he was doing.

 

 

Christianity can not be broken down in to a nice catchphrase about asking for forgiveness, it can not be boiled down to a cute slogan.  Christianity is deep, complex, and mysterious.  At its core is a simple truth “Christ died for our sins so we can be reconciled to God, to Shalom, to how God made things” but the result of that truth is infinite.  To detach Jesus from the rest of Gods plan is not fullness, it is emptiness.   Jesus died for the sins of the world, absolutely, but there is more to the story.  There is a BEFORE and there is an AFTER.   Our culture is FULL of people who think that because they prayed a prayer, or because the believe in Jesus that they are going to heaven, or that they are a Christian.  This is not taught anywhere in scripture.   Christianity must be fleshed out, it must be lived out.  Understanding that people are all on different walks, and that fruits look different for people is understood, BUT just “believing” is completely dead unless there is action to back it up.

You might say “woah woah, Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 

First it is essential to know context.  Paul is writing to the Jewish people, works were already ingrained in to them.  Paul is telling the Jewish audience that works have nothing to do with salvation, only Jesus can save.  As we see later in other books that he wrote to church, action is essentially proof that we actually believe what we are claiming

 

If you truly believe that you are restored in your relationship with God, that God would send himself down here among us, let us spit on him, and crucify him, all so we can be reconciled to God, and so we can learn to live the way God designed us to live, how could you NOT live that out?  I know many Christians by the way, who are doing this, who are living out there faith, and it is great, it is wonderful, but many many MANY church goers who would claim to be Christians simply sit in the pews one a week and doing nothing more and nothing less with their faith. This is not how Jesus intended his gospel to be lived out.  Christianity is not a consumerism item on the shelf of self-help, it is an active breathing faith that demands all of us.   If Christianity for us is our “religion” or our “faith” then we’ve missed it.  It has to be our life, it has to encompass everything we do.  If we claiming to have the truth, if we are claiming to know God, then that can not fit in to a nice and neat section of our lives.  The gospel instead, completely wrecks us and leaves us with nothing of our own.  We are now slaves to Christ, slaves to the gospel, and  the gospel demands all of us.  Salvation is free, discipleship cost us everything, and we can not have one without the other.

What’s my bottom line?  It’s this – Christians in America (including myself) need to step it up, and instead of telling people about the love of God, we need to SHOW them the love of God.  This means putting our desires down for the sakes of others.  This means inviting the homeless in to our houses instead of just donating money to a charity or buying someone a meal, this means seeing all people the way Jesus does.  It will look different for every person, but it starts with talking to God about how we are called to be the literal hands and feet of Jesus. 

The Shepherd

Ok, so this post won’t be so much a “debatable” topic. But I would like some feedback and input from all of you reading this. This is something I have been enjoying from scripture and I want to have some more input from others.

I’ve been enjoying the title of Christ as “The Shepherd”. Let’s look at some examples:

The Good Shepherd

Verse:
John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”

The Good Shepherd is revealed to us with the distinction of “giving his life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd is the revelation of Christ as the one who will suffer and die on behalf of sinners. What a marvel that is to those who have come into the good of that. And what an invitation to those that are yet outside of God’s goodness in salvation. Isaiah 53:6 says “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” But thankfully that is not where the verse ends. It would be a sad truth indeed (yes still truth) if the verse ended there. Comparing men/women/boys/girls to sheep that have lost their way, know nothing of safety, are out in the open prime for attack and in grave peril. How defenseless we are in reality. But the rest of the verse reads “and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Praise the Good Shepherd!

Now, what I find marvelous is the connection we have to the Psalm of David in Psalms 22. Many would know of the prophetic nature of this Psalm in what David wrote. The first verse was the cry of Christ that broke the silence after he bore the sin of the world, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is the Psalm of The Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. David beautifully wrote of The Good Shepherd in this prophetic Psalm of the cross. The suffering of the savior was so immense that had he not been the Son of God the emotional suffering alone would have killed him; not to mention the sixth to the ninth hour of complete darkness when God the Father punished God the Son for sin that was not His.

That is our Good Shepherd.

The Great Shepherd

Verse:
Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

We saw that The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep but Christ is also called The Great Shepherd. What is the difference? The aspect of Christ that the Great Shepherd brings before us is the one who cares for his sheep. The verses above tells us that God is working in us to make us “perfect” or complete unto the things that are well pleasing in His sight! Is this through ourselves God is doing this? No, this is through the Great Shepherd! Something I always enjoyed about Christ is in Isaiah 9:6 we see “and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” Notice, his shoulder here is singular. But what about the story of the shepherd who sees that one of his 100 sheep has wandered and gone missing. He leaves the 99 sheep and goes to find the one that was lost. In Luke 15:5 we see the result, “And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” When Christ finds the lost sheep he returns with that sheep on his shoulders. Plural. Eternal security in the Great Shepherd that cares for his sheep! No matter what comes into our lives we can be rest assured that the Great Shepherd is leading and guiding us to make us complete unto the things that are well pleasing in God’s sight.

The Good Shepherd could be tied to Psalm 22 so perfectly but what about the Great Shepherd? I think at the word shepherd most of our minds when to one of the most famous Psalms in the Bible. Psalm 23 starts out “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Read through the 23rd Psalm and keep in mind Christ as the Great Shepherd! One who brings us to green pastures and still waters, restoring our souls, leading in righteous paths, always with us, our comfort, preparing tables, overflowing our cups, and inviting us to stay in His house forever! I love verse 6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There is so much more to this Psalm than I am pointing on in this post but I really enjoy seeing The Great Shepherd who cares for us in every circumstance and trial in our lives. No matter what we are going through or how we feel we can say “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” We live in the house of the Great Shepherd who cares for his sheep!

That is our Great Shepherd!

The Chief Shepherd

Verse:
1 Peter 5:4 “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

So what about the Chief Shepherd? Peter was writing here in chapter 5 to the elders in the local churches that received this letter to encourage and exhort them to take extra care in tending to the flock (the local churches). The Chief Shepherd is the one who owns all the flock(s). In The Chief Shepherd we are reminded of the eternal reign of Christ. This is significant for church elders because their work will be rewarded by The Chief Shepherd by a crown of glory that is eternal! This is significant to everyone because everything we do for Christ is not lost! There is no other king or ruler. Christ is eternal and will give each saved person an everlasting crown of glory when he appears again! That should give us all motivation to do what we can for him! Because it is worth all of eternity!

Now, just like the Good Shepherd and Great Shepherd, by now you are expecting a Psalm connection. Thankfully, the Spirit of God (I think) gave one of those too! Look at Psalm 24 as verse 1 about sums it up, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Everything here is Christs, whether you accept it or not 🙂 Over and over we are reminded to “Lift up your heads!” Why? Because of the King of Glory. It reminds me of that Third Day song (which this is where they got the lyrics from haha). “Who is this King of Glory?” I love the answer in verse 10, “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory.” Let us give thanks for the Chief Shepherd that reminds us of His eternal reign! I hope that is an encouragement to you as it is to me. To serve the Chief Shepherd who is the reigning King of Glory forever and ever and gives rewards of crowns of glory that never fade!

That is our Chief Shepherd.

I am thankful I am purchased by the Good Shepherd, cared for by the Great Shepherd, and serving the Chief Shepherd!

~Rob

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