Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Christ (page 1 of 2)

CTJ #22: Keeping a Christ Centered Marriage

We have all said the words about our relationships “oh yes, we have a very Christ centered marriage” or relationship or friendship – whatever the case.  However, how true are those statements?

Paul Tripp once said, “either Jesus lives in the 10,000 little moments of your life or he does not live in your life at all.”  We discuss what it means to have a Christ centered marriage – in that it starts with a Christ centered life.  This topic is even more relevant in today’s world that is drifting further and further from God.  Our lives should speak of Christ – and our marriages should be telling others the gospel.  Join us as we discuss this vast topic – that we don’t even begin to feel that we’ve somehow mastered or accomplished.

Especially on this podcast – we would love to have your input and experiences!

As always.

Listen.  Rate.  Comment.  Share.

Importance of Christians Engaging not Excluding the World

Warning: This post is a little longer than usual.
In this post we really wanted to address how we (as Christians) are to approach people with different beliefs. It’s a hot button issue inside the Church with an array of different methods to either interact or share Christ with people of different beliefs. This post was written mainly by Rob with Tim writing a little bit here and there to polish off the edges. How we interact with people outside the Christian faith is of utmost importance and we see Christ be an amazing example, as well as the disciples, apostles, and other people in the Bible. In a world of talking points, political rhetoric, and more talking points, it is important that Christians stand out not just in the things they say, but how well they love with their lives. People are watching and waiting to see how followers of Christ are going to handle a lot of the hot button issues of our time. Here are our thoughts.

Interactions with Non-Christians

Interaction with those of a different religion, theory, or idea is something that can’t be avoided in the world today.  Nor should it.  However, this should be prefaced with a few things.  There is no “one-size-fit-all formula” and we should not expect a certain number of converts in a certain time period.  Evangelism is not Christians persuading non-Christians to join their theology.  We aren’t to be watching numbers and setting time based goals.  These are humans we are talking about, not our personal projects.  God wants to save every single person (1 Timothy 2:4) to be saved from their sins for His glory and their blessing.  Evangelism is really Christians following the leading of the Spirit of God who works sovereignly with people  in His time and purpose.  We are reaching real people with real needs in real circumstances.  But how do we do that?

In Love: Without Condescending The Individual
Spreading the gospel is something that every Christian has the responsibility of doing.  If not for the direct command of Christ “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) we could rely on our inherent love for other humans to dictate this commission.  As Christians, we cannot avoid that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal Savior will spend eternity in Hell.  This should touch the heart of every Christian reading this blog.  Our mission is to reach people with a message that can save them for all eternity.  Therefore, everything we do should be out of love not condescension and care not inferiority.  Paul was such an effective evangelist because he never lost sight of the fact “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).  Had it not been for the grace of God in my life I would be in Hell for all eternity.  We, as Christians, are only looking to share how God’s grace has changed us and offer that same hope to others in Christ Jesus.

I’ll tell you what love isn’t.  Love is not using every opportunity to tell every person you met how terrible of a sinner they are and how they only deserve Hell.  Probably not a good conversation/relationship starter.  The best evangelist we have is Jesus himself.  Now, we don’t have God’s omniscience but we do have His example.  In each situation where Christ would evangelize He first developed trust and a relationship.  Think about the woman at the well (John 4:4-42).  First, it was unbelievable to that woman that a Jewish man was even speaking to her (+1 right there).  She was a Samaritan and a woman.  However, He took the initiative and went to where she was.  Ever wonder why she was coming to the well at that time of the day?  It wasn’t the typical time.  She most likely wanted to avoid the other women because of the life she was living.  Christ came to her where she was.  He then tells her what He can do for her; He can give her living water!  There is no doubt that the kindness of this man spoke greatly to this woman.  She already sensed that she was valued in the eyes of the man before her.  Our relationships with others won’t be built in a specified amount of time.  I don’t believe we have the full story of the conversation between Jesus and this woman.  Perhaps it will be days/weeks/months/years of friendship before the proper door opens to share the gospel.  The point is that we should be displaying the attributes of Christ’s love long before we share the message of the gospel.  I heard a saying that goes “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  There is a reason that Christ sat and ate with sinners.  Because it is sinners He is trying to reach.  No better way to build a relationship then over some food and/or coffee.  That is what sitting and eating with sinners is all about.  Want to build a new relationship with an unbeliever?  Grab some food/coffee and listen.  Ask what is going on with their life and actually listen to the answer.  Don’t worry about telling them their sins are taking them to Hell.  Remember this is all about God’s timing; not ours.  If we are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit we won’t miss a good opportunity to speak the gospel but when we try to force it down their throats it does nothing but look bad on Christians.  Care about the person because I can assure you that God loves them regardless of their belief.

But what about when the opportunity finally comes up and perhaps our friend here asks us about the Gospel?  How do we share it?

In Truth: Without Compromising His Message
This one can be a little more difficult.  This is one of the major reasons that Peter says “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).  Gentleness and respect is what we are talking about when we say “in love.”  The first half of that verse says “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”  Interesting.  What I am reminded of is that this gospel is unchanging.  The gospel deals with the holiness of our Savior and therefore we should not alter it in any way.  We don’t need to change the message to make it more acceptable or to take an edge off it.  We need to present the truth.  Let’s go back to the woman at the well.  She and Christ have a relationship now and Christ in His omniscience sees the opportunity to face this woman with the truth of the message.  Her sin.  He asks her to go get her husband.  He confronts her with the issue she was looking to avoid by going to the well at that time of day.  But because He already established the relationship she didn’t throw the bucket of water on him and run back to her home.  Christ didn’t cover up the “ugly” part of the gospel to make it easier to swallow.  When our friends ask us about the gospel the issue of sin must be addressed.  Now, I wouldn’t suggest calling out the wrong you see in everyone else.  That would be the wrong way to go about it.  Christ had the lady confront her own sin before he spoke about it.  If it looks like someone is getting uncomfortable and upset about the topic and no longer wants to discuss it that would be a good time to let it go and talk about something else.  Too often Christians get the “Gospel Mode” going and can’t get out of it.  Just because someone asked you about an attribute of God doesn’t mean you have to point out the fact that pre-marital sex is wrong.  God is the one who is working with hearts/souls/minds and we are just “clay vessels” carrying the message of salvation.  Let God do His work and we must be faithful to present the uncompromised message of salvation.  Not this “feel good gospel” because that won’t save anyone from Hell.  But the reality that Christ died on the cross for sins and only a sinner can be saved.  Christ said “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).  Sinners are the ones who need Christ (thankfully I am definitely one of those which makes me eligible for forgiveness).

So the question then arises:  Well, if I am supposed to witness to nonbelievers and Jesus sat and ate with sinners, shouldn’t I go to the strip clubs, bars, and night clubs so I can relate to them?  We should go to where they are right?  How do I do that?

In Life: Without Contradicting My Testimony
As a messenger of the gospel my life is the greatest message being given.  If my life doesn’t display the love of Christ then no one will care what my lips are speaking.  This is why we stress the attitude of Christians so much on this blog.  The world around us is watching us to see if we practice what we preach and all too often Christians are coming up way too short.  I was once told “we represent a giving God so when we go to others we better go giving.”  Whether that is money, food, time, or whatever I think there is a lot of truth in it.  So first, our lives must reflect our Savior; not deny Him.  I will defer to the words said before an old DC Talk song “What If I Stumble.”

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Tim & Rob

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Christians & Alcohol: The Other Side of the Fence

This is Side 2: see Side 1 here!

It is interesting to me that the majority of things we (as Christians) argue vehemently over are personal preferences.  Many Christians spend their lives arguing for things not in scripture while denying things that are in scripture.  I think one of the biggest things argued for/against may be alcohol.  Did Jesus drink wine? Should I drink alcohol?  Don’t I have personal freedoms in Christ?

I would have to say the scripture is clear that drunkenness is indeed a sin and a “big” one at that.  Just take a look at the list of things Paul gives to those in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  He then concludes “and such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  Three big words in Christianity all in one verse: regeneration, sanctification, and justification but we will get into those perhaps in a different post.  So obviously drunkenness is a sin but little is said about alcohol or moderation drinking in general.  So instead of pulling out verses and attempting to explain something that may or may not be there lets go to some principles of the scripture.

1: Stumbling Another Believer (1 Corinthians 8)
Tim pointed out in his post that his friends check with him to make sure it is ok before drinking in front of him and that is great.  However, I have been out with friends (some mutual friends of Tim and I but some of my personal friends) that have not given me the same luxury.  Now, I am not one to judge them on their decisions about what to drink but because of the reasons I will list in this post, I attempt to avoid alcohol altogether.  Now, with respect to stumbling another believer there are of course lines.  If I didn’t like orange shirts and asked every member of my church to please throw out their orange shirts that would be a bit of an issue on my end.  But when a younger believer has knowledge that the leaders in his local body or the “older crowd” is ok with drinking then he goes out and drinks and fuels the addictive tendency and now has an issue with alcoholism that is closer to the meaning of causing another believer to stumble.  It is obviously still the choice of each individual but when that believer looks up and sees that behavior what inhibition would exist to push him/her in the right direction?

Several years ago there was a study conducted on alcohol usage in teenagers compared to the alcohol usage of parents.  In homes where parents were total abstainers from alcohol 16% of the teenagers tried alcohol before adulthood.  However, in homes where the parents were social drinkers, 66% of the children experimented with alcohol before adulthood.

There are numerous other examples that could be brought to light but the principle is the same: why rejoice in something that could cause another believer (or your own child) to stumble and stumble big.

2: Better to Be Separate then Compromising (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
I mentioned in the intro that in 1 Corinthians 6 we have a list of things that the believers in Corinth used to be, and among that list was drunkard.  Of course a drunkard and a social drinker are not the same thing but I don’t think it is too many steps down the staircase of alcohol between the two.  I have seen many friends that started at social and have stepped down to borderline drunkard.  Do you know what the number one reason people drink alcohol is? Socialization.  That is interesting to me and very telling.  People drink to fit in.  I wonder how this translates to Christians who chose to drink.  People are drinking to fit in with people who drink.  Paul says that some of the believers in Corinth were drunkards but have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.  So being a drunkard is a lifestyle that is associated, not with Christ, but with the world.  So in 2 Corinthians 6 we have Paul’s entreaty (using the words of God from the OT) that they should “come out from among them and be separate.”  I don’t think it is illogical or a stretch to say that a drunkard is not a drunkard without alcohol.  Social drinking is not social drinking without alcohol.  Paul associates the whole business with the world and urges the believers in Corinth to come out from among them and be separate.  As Christians we tend to pride ourselves with our distance from the world.  What we fail to realize is that keeping a steady distance from the world is actually pulling us further from Christ because this world isn’t growing steadily closer to God.  It appears to be the exact opposite and if our focus is on keeping a particular distance from the world then it is on the wrong thing.  We should have the attitude of distance to Christ.  We have been bought with a price and compromising in little things seems like a big price to pay at the judgment seat of Christ.

3: Christian Testimony (1 Peter 4:3-4; Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
I think this slides right in line with #2.  Part of being separate is your Christian testimony.  This, to me, is one of the strongest reasons to not partake in any drinks.  It actually is a fantastic opportunity to speak a few words in the gospel every time I am asked the question from a co-worker “you don’t drink?”  I have the opportunity to say that Christ saved me from my sins and I can’t see any way it is rewarding to Him for me to drink.  Sure, it comes with criticism sometimes; just look at the believers to whom Peter was writing in 1 Peter 4:3-4.  “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”  This negative treatment of those who seek to uphold a Christian testimony and be separate hasn’t changed.  However, there are many who look to such an example and see a difference and inquire.  They are impressed with someone who can stand against the flood of normalcy in our society and have convictions.  Now, the difficulty comes with consistency.  Christian testimony goes far beyond alcohol and drinking and into every sphere of our lives.  When I have talked to others about this issue they come back with a retort of “well if that is the case then we shouldn’t go watch some movies or look at TV shows or listen to some music” and that always surprises me.  When did the grid of Philippians 3 become out of date and unnecessary?  When did looking at our actions and activities to see if there is any honor for Christ in them become something of the past?  EVERY THING should be compared to Christ and to see if it is bringing Him honor.  If it doesn’t, then like Paul reminds those in Corinth “if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss” (1 Corinthians 3:15).  A Christian will have to face a judgment as well.  Not the Great White Throne judgment that judges sins (Revelation 20) but the Judgment Seat of Christ which judges works (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Everything that didn’t bring Christ glory and honor will be burned up and a reward will be lost.  Reward that will ultimately be placed at the feet of Christ.

But I referenced Romans 12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  In Romans 12 I had in mind the appeal “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (v 2) and “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (v 17).  The principle is what we have already been looking at.  Be separate.  But what about “Do what is right in the sight of everyone, “as Paul says in verse 17?  It ties into what a surface reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says “avoid the appearance of evil.”   Some would take this to mean that we should not only avoid evil but avoid anything that looks evil.  Although this may be a good Biblical principle that is not in the context here.  We are to avoid every form of evil, whether it be doctrinal teaching, glaring heresy, or lifestyle choices.  We should avoid everything that may produce anything in us (albeit beliefs or lifestyle) that is contrary to the whole of scripture.  Does drinking make anyone a better person?  Do the ramifications of alcohol help anyone?

Perhaps my convictions are so strong because as a young person I had a former drug addict/distributor (the largest in PEI, Canada) look me in the eye and tell me “Rob, if you learn anything from me just stay away from alcohol all together.  It will do nothing for your testimony and is only playing with fire.  Don’t take the risk of getting burned.”  Regardless of my conviction, the Bible is only crystal clear on drunkenness.  I just wanted to give the Biblical principles for the other side of the argument from Tim’s post.  I am only a sinner saved by grace so to condescend on anyone else would be wrong but hopefully this at least brings a balance to the alcohol issue.  Regardless of your stance our prayer/desire is that all things are done to the glory and honor of our Savior.

-RM

 

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The Condescending Christian

Condescension: (n)
1: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior
2: patronizing attitude or behavior

I think this is a word we are all familiar with.  A word we are all disgusted with? Perhaps.  A word we are all plagued with.  More likely.

I’ve been discussing Christianity with various friends recently and we have all come to the same conclusion: Christians are not very Christ-like.  It reminds me of the first time the label “Christians” was used in the scripture.  We have all heard this before, but in Acts 11:26 we see that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”  The ironic thing is that this is an adjective and was not word that the believers called themselves but was a description that the pagans in Antioch gave them because they were following Christ.  The term was most likely a derogatory term given in mockery but the pagan world looked and saw people following Christ.  I wonder if they were being mocked because they actually acted like Him who they were attempting to follow.  Jesus said “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15:18).  Contempt and mockery comes along with bearing the image of Christ.

Why do I say image instead of name?  “Christian” has become a nominal claim that holds no value but bearing the image of Christ is what we are called to do; be a reflection of Christ.  I believe a major problem in Christendom is that we are trying to be too “Christian-like” and forgetting to be “Christ-like.”

Now, this is not 100% true in every local church but it is a trend I am noticing more and more that the Church is shutting their “doors” tighter and tighter.  Obviously by doors I mean their hearts.  The attitude in local churches is that if you are on the inside you have been blessed and are a select group of “God’s elect” but if you are on the outside then you are not worth our thoughts.  It is interesting that Christ was never holed up in a building with the religious leaders of the day and reminiscing on how much better He was than the rest of the population (for He very well was MUCH better).  He was mocked for sitting and eating with sinners, for talking to a woman at the well, for calling children, for rescuing prostitutes, and loving the “scum.”  However, modern Christianity has turned their face from all of these ones that desperately need our love because we want to be “Christian-like.”  Christians don’t talk with non-Christians! Christians don’t get their hands dirty! Christians don’t sit and eat with sinners!  We want to stay in our “Christian boxes” and remind ourselves how great we are compared to all the sinners!  Paul knew nothing of this attitude when he writes to Timothy “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I AM chief” (1:15).  Paul knew he never lost his nature as a sinner and it motivated him to reach other sinners!  I remember hearing Billy Graham tell an interviewer that the first step for a gospel preacher is to first love sinners for whom Christ died.  Gospel preaching becomes dry and lifeless when the motivation behind the message is not a sincere love for the lost!  Why are people leaving churches to never return?  Because Christians are not “Christ-like.”  Christ didn’t have to provide entertainment to get a following and He didn’t need fancy projectors and loud music.  He only needed His love for every single person.  What happened?  They CLUNG to Him.  The world knows very little of God’s love because we have been called to be the vessels of His love but instead we shut ourselves in and pat each other on the back for being such a good Christian while lives are being torn apart, people are hopeless, and the world is spiraling out of control.

When I was in California recently I was talking to my friend and he was sharing with me some of the various things he has gotten himself into out there.  Every other Wed he goes and gives out burgers and Bibles to homeless people in LA.  Two of the ones he has reached come to services regularly on Sunday because he takes time out of his day to just sit and talk with them and helps them in any way he can.  This was just one of the things he was into and I really looked up to him for that.  He surely isn’t being very “Christian-like” but he certainly is being very “Christ-like.”

I’m not sure when we lost sight of the fact that we are only sinners saved by grace but we have.  Let’s step out of the box of our condescension and back into the life of love for people around.  I don’t care what race, sexual orientation, religion, or social status our neighbor is, they should all be getting a glimpse at the love of Christ.  Would my neighbor be able to call me a follower of Christ or is it just a label I’ve slapped on myself because I go to a Christian church?  What about you?  Lord, change my heart and help me to love like Christ.

-RM

 

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My Story: Paths Colliding and God Directing (Rob)

Happy Valentines day everyone 🙂  I have especially been enjoying the thought of Christ’s love for us this week.  Think of Galatians 2:20
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Ok so Tim and I were at Starbucks the other day and he told me that he wanted us both to do a “story” post on our spiritual life.  I enjoyed Tim’s post and through my post I want to show how God moved in my life to bring me to where I am today (including meeting Tim and starting this blog with him).

So, much like Tim, I was raised in a pretty conservative church.  Except, ours went a little further than even Tim’s upbringing did.  Sure, we were a suit and tie type place, but women also wore head coverings and were silent.  We had no pastor because the priesthood of all believers was something we really believed in.  The requirements for church membership were clear salvation and full immersion baptism and only those in fellowship are allowed to partake in communion on Sunday morning.  I still attend this church and will  gladly discuss why I believe God has called me to be there with anyone.  Growing up this way though had its downsides.  I don’t blame this on the church at all or my parents but I developed an attitude that I was better than some people because of how I was raised and certainly the kids I went to school with weren’t as good as me because I was a REAL Christian!  I grew up listening to a very clear gospel ever Sunday night and usually in the summer we had special gospel meetings for an entire month every night except Saturday.  I made a profession of my faith in Christ at the age of 12 (in 1999) during one of these summer meetings and held onto that for many years.  Really I was only depending on my own faith to save me instead of the work of Jesus on the cross.  I knew the gospel enough to give a good story and convince others I was saved.  I even had myself convinced at one point.  But oh the lingering doubts.  I got baptized to try and suppress some doubts and then joined the local church because that is what Christians do (Forsake not the gathering of yourselves together)!  But it was all a facade.

As I started college in 2005 I began to date a girl who by no means was a Christian and was into all of the things I always stood against (drinking, smoking, etc).  To this day I’m still not sure why I dated her but I’m actually glad I did.  This was the beginning of my REAL encounter with God.  I truly believe God was using this relationship to show me what a fraud I was that I didn’t care about anything that I was claiming to believe.  That is when God was speaking clearly to me, showing me daily that I had never  been “born again” and I was still a sinner on my way to hell.  On spring break in 2006, I was down at my parents house in NC visiting.  My parents still go to a very similar church but just down there in NC.  Whenever I was around them they had a joy and peace that I knew I didn’t have.  I longed for it.  One night I was on the back porch with my friend Daniel and we were playing some guitar together.  He would play all these nice Christian songs and I would play all these secular songs I was into (this is not a sermon against secular music at all).  But that spoke to me loudly, that I had no interest in this Christian life and didn’t care about God or Jesus or anything to do with the Bible.

That night I reached out to my friend Jimmy and told him what had been going on inside my head for some time.  That I really had never been saved.  He read some verses with me and as I was reading 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened” I realized two things.  First, was that I had been depending on my own belief to get me to heaven.  I had convinced myself that I had believed enough and that is what salvation really was; believing God.  Second, I saw that no matter how much I believe that he suffered for sins doesn’t change the fact that he did; just like I can believe that the sun will not rise in the morning but it will not change the suns rising.  I realized that the Bible says he suffered for me and if the Bible said it that it was enough for me.  It wasn’t depending on my faith to save me but depending on the Bible saying that “It is finished” and there was nothing for me to do.  That was March 30, 2006.

Since then my life has been perfect and I have made no mistakes….. NOT.  Christianity is not perfect living, which I very quickly had to admit as the sins didn’t stop.  But as we grow in our faith the desire for sin lessens and we should look more like Christ.  Fortunately God has given us His spirit to accomplish this because the REAL Christian life is impossible without the Holy Spirit.

Now, how I met Tim.  Actually, it comes out of a lower point in my life.  It is not that I was doing anything wrong but I had some of my priorities a bit messed up.  I was reading less and cared more about hanging out with friends, having fun, and going to open mics.  But at Starbucks is where I met Tim and we hit it off instantly.  He encouraged and strengthened my faith as he challenged me.  He doesn’t go to a church like mine and doesn’t share some of my beliefs about how worship should be done but I love him anyway and he has caused me to dive deeper into Christ.  I met some other cool people through him as well.  I was always one to openly discuss my faith with anyone and everyone.  I am not one to shove it down your throat but if you ask me about it I’m going to have an answer.  I have a huge interest in Christian life, the church, apologetics, and science.  All of which integrate into my pursuit of Christ.  The more I talked with Tim the more I loved the challenges we brought eachother as we wrestled with what our faith means everyday.

Tim and I don’t agree on some things but we are definitely both in love with Christ and want to see him lifted up and his people encouraged to follow His example and His word.  When he asked me about a blog I thought it was an excellent idea and was honored he wanted me to join him.  This has been a great learning experience for me and we enjoy seeing discussion and wrestling with our readers as well.  That is really our desire with the blog, to make us all sit back and think and dive into God’s word together to be a better embodiment of our Savior.  We also value the opinions of those that aren’t Christians because isn’t that our commission? To go into all the world and preach the gospel?  Our testimony is at stake to and we want nonbelievers to look in and see a church body that is all about love and truth and God without all the other distractions and headaches that Christians are sometimes known for.  Let’s all grow together as Christians and be a light to an ever darkening world!

Thanks for reading and keep commenting!

-RM

 

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What Salvation Does: Part 2

Ok so in Part 1 we looked at what salvation is.  In its essence biblical salvation is agreeing with God that you are a lost sinner who cannot save himself (or herself) and turning to God for forgiveness of a debt you cannot pay (your sin).  Christ paid the price of redemption on the cross so that everyone can be saved but only those who believe on Him will be saved.

But now that we know what salvation is we should probably look at what salvation does.  If salvation was only “fire protection” from hell that would be a sad thing indeed.  Real salvation has real results! Being a believer is to obey Christ, to rest on him for salvation, and by God to be committed unto heaven’s doctrine of salvation.  We accept Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King.  Salvation is much more than just “a rescue from hell” although it is that.  Let’s see what the Bible says salvation does!
Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

John 7:37-39
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.

1 Corinthians 6:19
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

What did Christ teach during His ministry?  He taught that the Spirit of God was going to indwell believers which is much different from the Old Testament experience where indwelling was a temporary thing and the Spirit of God would come and go.  Since the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God descended (and after the transitional experiences of early Acts) we see that all believers are immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit permanently.  This CANNOT be lost.  This is probably the most important aspect of salvation.  Why?  Because the Christian life is actually impossible without the Spirit of God.  We have a teacher, a guide, a leader, a provider, a comforter, and a witness.  Salvation is a fresh start and it gives us the ability to live the life that God intends for us.

A New Man

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Colossians 3:9-10
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.

Salvation is not “a license to sin” because a person that has come into the good of God’s salvation realizes the price of it.  A person who has been saved knows that the price of salvation was the shedding of the precious blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary so to continue sinning is to add to the punishment of Christ.  Would a true believer ever think that salvation gives the freedom to sin?  God forbid!  But as Christians we are given new life as a new man (or woman).  We can be assured like Paul in Romans 7 that our sinful nature is still within us and shall be until we die or are taken up with Christ by the rapture but with Salvation we are able to serve the law of God.  Now, I made a comment in an earlier post that just because you are a Christian does not guarantee you will produce fruit for God.  I think I should clarify that statement a bit.  Christians will fail and fall, stumble and stagger, and sometimes be shipwrecks but the overall tenor of a life that has been saved by God should be of victory and bearing fruit.  What I meant by my comment was that just because we are saved does not guarantee that we will not fail and always produce fruit for God. If we continue to feed our fleshly nature then we cannot produce fruit for God but like David in Psalm 52 there is always restoration for believers (and salvation for unbelievers).  God gives us the power to overcome our sinful nature and gives us new life as a new man but we must walk in it to be victorious and a true Christian will not be happy unless they are abiding in the vine.  Now, we are not to be the salvation police going around and declaring people to be saved or not but if I am claiming to be a true Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and given new life as a new man I had better be living to prove that and if I’m not I would hope that my fellow Christians would rebuke me and straighten me out.  We have a tremendous amount of “Christians” in this world that confess to be so but from their lifestyle it appears that this is just a nominal title.  Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship with God through a man who gave His life at Calvary.  So when we say we are tied with that man and act nothing like Him, why would anyone else want what “we have” (i.e. a changed life, a new man).  True salvation does change lives!  James gives us that when he says “show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

Peace

Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, one of the best things of salvation is that it brings peace.  Peace is something that this world is searching for.  Peace in the Middle East, peace in schools, peace in homes, peace of mind, etc. Everyone is looking for peace.  I would argue that the reason drugs and alcohol are so rampant is this one simple word: peace.  Everyone is looking for it somewhere.  What most people fail to realize is the reason there is no peace is because peace comes from God.  Now, I am not saying that Christians have no problems and enjoy very peaceful lives from the moment of salvation until the end of their life here on Earth, but what I am saying is that true Christians enjoy peace for the entirety of their lives.  When God gives peace it is not just peace from certain circumstances and dangers, and it is not just empty peace that things will turn out ok, but it is peace that whatever God is doing is the best possible plan for me.  Since we have been justified (made righteous by Christ), we have peace with God.  It is very important that this is only through the Lord Jesus Christ.  We won’t find this true peace anywhere else no matter how long we look.  I personally knew a former drug addict and dealer (who was actually the largest dealer in PEI, Canada) who got real salvation and it was the first time he EVER had real peace.  God’s salvation brings real peace because there is now no fear of death, no fear of the “afterlife,” no fear of what life may bring, because God gives peace.


So salvation is much more than being saved from hell, it is to know your sins forgiven, to be adopted into the family of God, to be coheirs with Christ, to be justified, to be sanctified, indwelt by and sealed by the Spirit of God, and the list could go on.  But as Christians we are given a new standard of living and should consider Christ as our role model.  Our lives should reflect well of Him who we claim to trust.  Let that salvation you have be the change that a chaotic worlds needs to see and be a light for the Gospel!

~Rob

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What Salvation Is: Part 1

The next two blog posts will be a little different.  Julia’s dad (my father-in-law) has professed faith in Christ last week and even got up and gave his testimony during CBC’s services on Sunday.  This is a place he hasn’t stepped foot in for years.  I was with him briefly on Monday night and could definitely see a change.  With that in mind I was thinking of what true salvation is and the ways salvation changes us.  This post will be what salvation is and the following will be what salvation does.

What is Salvation?
A mere decision to a proposition?  Not in the slightest.  A mere conclusion of logic?  Also, no.  Salvation of the Bible is something much more than simply a logical decision or a decision of change.  The shortest message of salvation I think you can read is found in Acts 16:30-31:
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

“Believe on” has the idea of trusting on, resting on, trusting oneself to, or depending on.  What it doesn’t mean is assenting to, acknowledging that, superficially accepting, or any other form of such things.  In Biblical Greek, the word “believe” and “faith” are very closely related (much closer than we know in English).  In fact it would be correct to translate Ephesians 2:8 as “For by grace are you saved through belief; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Believing and faith in the Bible are the same thing.  This is a much stronger word than what we use “believe” for in today’s English language.  We use it to say “to think” or “to assent/accept” and even “to come to understand.”  These meanings are not the meaning of “believing on” in Acts 16:31.  There is an illustration I’ve heard often of a tight rope walker in the 19th century that goes by the name of Charles Blondin (real name Jean Francois Gravelet).  He stretched a tight rope across the Niagra Falls to show his pristine balancing skills.  He started across with a balancing pole, then did a back somersault while walking across.  Each crossing after that he completed in a different manner: blindfolded, with a wheelbarrow, even making an omelet in the middle of the rope.  Then he comes to the crowd that was watching him and asks if they believe that he could carry someone across on his back.  Everyone at once screams “YES WE BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT!”  But then his question changed and was now, “Ok, who will get on my back and cross?”  The crowd suddenly went silent.  Everyone believed ABOUT Blondin.  They saw what he did and believed he COULD do it but no one was willing to believe IN or ON Blondin and get on his back.  Many people believe about the Lord Jesus Christ but only those who believe on Him will ever get real life.

“the Lord Jesus Christ” does not say “Jesus” or “the Savior” or even “Christ.”  He is the one of whom we read that died and rose again.
Jesus tells us that this is the one who became a man to be the savior.  We just recently celebrated the birth of Jesus.  Joseph was told “thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).   The name Jesus tells us of his humanity.
Christ is the anointed one.  He is the promised Messiah, the servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 42).  It is a shame to proclaim Jesus as a cool, party attending, rebel character that is found being proclaimed in many churches.  This is the anointed one, the Messiah, the promised one.
Lord is a term used of one in authority over you, one who you submit and bow to.  There are not two separate events of accepting Jesus as your Savior then accepting him as your Lord.  Salvation is the acknowledgment of Him as Lord!

So the gospel of salvation is that man is without ability to save himself but upon the confession of helplessness, the repentance of sin, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Christ (both the person and the work) “you shall be saved.”

Romans 6:17 is Paul looking back to before they were “saved” when he says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin.”  He is commenting on the fact that we were astray from God and servants of sin.  Then he reflects on their moment of conversion when he says, “but ye have obeyed from the heart.”  The tense of the verb “obeyed” is in the Aorist tense which says it happened at a definite moment of time (the moment of salvation).  But what is interesting is the last phrase, “that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”  Salvation is doctrine; it is truth to be received.  God has revealed the truth of the person and work of Christ and given man the responsibility to respond to the doctrine.  Salvation is truth to be received.

So in the ultimate sense, what is salvation?  It is the supernatural work of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It is the redemption of a fallen race and is available to all.  It is not just giving your life to Jesus or accepting a Savior as I hope I made clear.  Now, at Salvation we may not have known everything we were coming into, I know I didn’t.  But we can look at that moment and see that all of these things are true and prove true in the life of a true believer.  Thank goodness we can say:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

Next time, we will look at what salvation does.  Stay tuned.

~Rob

 

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Joy in Tough Times

Romans 8:38-39
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Recently, I was reminded of the practical truth of these verses when my uncle, my wife, and myself went to help and visit with a lady from our local church who was just released from the hospital and has been given two weeks to a month to live.  We went to help her move her old bed out of her apartment so that the medical company could deliver her hospital bed the next day.  We spent a good amount of time with that dear sister after we were finished just talking and actually being encouraged by one facing so much difficulty.  She also has a burden for many of her own family members who do not know Christ.  However, this sister was the happiest, most joyful person you’ll meet and so full of jokes and laughter.

I am reminded of John 15.  One of the seven “I Am” statements of Christ in the Gospel of John.  “I am the vine” is the message of the first part of John 15.  One of the keys to understanding the implications of John 15 is to remember that salvation is not a fruit bearing event.  In other words, Jesus was not talking about salvation here, He was talking about life after salvation.  One who has not been born again cannot bear fruit, but being born again does not mean you will bear fruit.  The point He was making was that He alone is the one who will spiritually sustain us but it is up to us if we want to be spiritually sustained.  Bearing fruit is the honor of one who continually does the will of God and “abides in Him.”  Bearing fruit is not an automatic right of Christians.  If we yield our life to Him, respond to the Spirit within us, and do His will then we will bear much fruit!  Why do I bring this up?  Because I think what He says after all of this is of utmost importance:

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11

Where do we get real, sustaining joy?  From abiding in the vine! How do we abide in the vine?  By submitting our lives and wills to God!  I have been guilty in the past of looking at the options and knowing what God would have me to do but instead I go for the “instant pleasure” option.  Sure, I have a bit of happiness for a bit but the lasting, sustaining joy is not there.  I have sorrow of a wrong decision, maybe guilt of sin, or sadness for time wasted.  Had I went the way the Spirit was leading I would have abided in the vine and my joy would have been full.

So how does it all fit together?  Well, when I look at this sister who only has a few weeks of life remaining she told us of her ride to the hospital and witnessing to the EMTs, then telling the hospital staff about Christ, and no matter who came in to see her she did not spare the opportunity to tell them about her Savior.  Why? Because her joy was full from all of the time she has spent abiding in Him!  Her joy comes from the fact that she is constantly abiding in Him.  You can tell by the outflow of what she has to say about the one who has her affection.  When we love something we also love to tell others about it.  I love my wife so I happen to talk about her a lot.  She loves her Savior and she happens to talk about Him a lot.  They go hand in hand.

So when life throws curve balls and trials how does a Christian remain joyful?  By abiding in the true vine!  Hoes does one accomplish that?  First, by accepting Christ as your personal Savior because without the issue of sin being taken care of no fruit can be produced for God.  Sin is the cause of separation between God and man but we just celebrated Christmas which is the day we celebrate the birth of the only one who had the mission to die.  He died upon the cross for sin so that sinners could be made righteous.  He said “It is finished” and God was satisfied, are you?  When the relationship is established, the Spirit of God is given to dwell in you and obeying the will of God has the promise that you will yield fruit.  Doing His will brings the joy of serving one who died to save and it is in the vine we find that joy.

-Rob

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Sunday Mornings, Why Are They Always The Same?!

By this time in my blog, I’ve made it pretty clear that I started this not to bash, tear down, or negatively criticize Christianity and the Church.  Granted, I’ve had my moments perhaps of being overly critical, but I assure you the reader it’s out of a heart that loves the Church like crazy.  It’s on my mind every day.  Thinking about ways to be more like Christ, ways the Church can love the world, ways to disciple each other and to live more in the gospel than just a few times a week.  Keep that in mind during this post.  I’m not here claiming to have the corner on the only way to be the Church, I’m simply throwing my ideas and reasoning behind my ideas.

I’m going start off blunt and honest.  I am bored to tears on Sunday mornings more times than not.  I’ve been attending the Sunday service consistently for 20 years and rarely have I seen a church body do a Sunday service radically different then the normal.  It’s boring, it’s drawn out, it’s static (the opposite of the God we serve), and   it’s repetitive.  I’m not trying to sound rude here, I’m just being honest about my view of it.  The Sunday service is pretty much unchanged from Sunday to Sunday. Even “special” services hold to the same rigid format of a Sunday morning service.

Every week millions of people go to a building, sit in seats that face the front stage, listen to announcements, a couple worship songs, a reason why you should give the Church money, a sermon (usually around 3 points), a closing prayer and then a dismissal.  This is how we do Sunday mornings (for the most part).  Your local church might add or take away a few things, but this is the structure we participate in.

My question I’m asking myself is this: “Is this the only way?”.   Now before I go further I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that the traditional way is bad, or evil, or wrong.  I’m simply asking why can’t we be free to worship our living God in unique ways every Sunday? Why does it only seem like Church service counts if there is a sermon and worship songs?  Why do we the Church feel almost trapped into doing Church the same way every Sunday?

In this post I want to focus on one aspect of the Church service in particular.

This thought I have been thinking through over the past few days.  Specifically the sermon.  I was in a Church service Sunday and the pastor was giving the sermon for the morning service.  As I was listening my mind wandered (it does this all the time, the pastor is a great man, it was not because of him or his message) and I thought to myself “do we need to have a sermon preached for the Church meeting to be counted as an official church meeting?”.   As I began to dive in to this I started thinking about other ways people can be taught the Word.

My point isn’t to say that preaching sermons or bad or we need to stop doing so.  My point is to wake us up out of our trance! To be creative and imaginative in the way we preach the the Word of God.  Sometimes practical examples are easier to communicate.  Sometimes people need to practically experience what we are trying to teach them.  Imagine this example with me.

I’ve heard many people preach/teach on the subject of community.  What it looks like, how it works.  The problem with this though, is that community must be experienced.  It can not be just taught, community is not a concept, it’s a tangible expression of the Kingdom of God.  Could you imagine if you walked in to your church building and instead of pews or chairs there were tables set up.  Long ones, and every table was full of breakfast food.  Bagels, eggs, coffee, the works!  Then your pastor got up to the mic and addressed the congregation and said something like this; ” Today we worship God by celebrating His Son dying for us so we can live forever.  As we eat and celebrate this together talk about what He has been doing in your life.” Can you imagine this? Imagine the celebration? Imagine the conversations that people would engage talking about the Lord, what He is doing in their lives.  I know this works because I’ve been a part of things like this.  I’ve sat down with 20,30,40 believers around tables of food and talked about how good God is, what He is doing in our lives.  They have been some of the best church services I’ve ever been a part of because I was a part of the church meeting, not just a passive spectator sitting down watching a performance.

I want to close by saying this.  I’m not saying to replace what we do with things like this.  I’m saying to add on to what we do with things like this.  We can not be afraid to change our Sunday morning meetings up a little bit.  It’s ok to get out of our buildings on a Sunday morning and to serve the community by living out the Gospel of Christ.  It’s ok to teach congregations in a different way then giving them three take home points.  It’s also ok to use those three points when the times call for them, but it’s not the only way to teach people about the Kingdom.  Jesus spoke in parables, Jesus also healed people, Jesus also preached.  Jesus taught in many ways, not just one static format.  We as a church should live in this freedom, using our creativity to teach sound doctrine to people who are starving for it.

Knowing God, Without Knowing God

Last night I had the great opportunity to hang out with some great people I know from a local Church.  They had second Thanksgiving which is exactly what it sounds like.  Everyone brings thanksgiving leftovers, they heat it up, then all eat together.  It was great to see 30 people all over the house eating, engaging in conversation, and enjoying a glimpse of the Kingdom together.  It wasn’t long before talks about theology, prayer, Israel and the like came up and everyone participating in conversations like it all over the house.

 

I was sitting in the kitchen at a table and was talking to another guy about prayer and Christianity.  During the conversation the idea of knowing God, without knowing God came up.  The guy I was talking to said “I have so many Christian friends who know the word, they are so close! But they don’t have a living relationship with Jesus.  It’s like reading someones facebook feed without every talking to them”.  In that moment the thought of knowing about God without actually knowing God hit me in a completely fresh way

There’s no doubt there’s always been a tension between works and grace.  But if there’s one thing that I think is clear in Scripture it’s that works are tangible evidence of the faith inside of you.  James mentions this when he says “Faith without works is dead” and Jesus mentions this in Matthew where he says “Only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven”.  Notice, it’s not who says a prayer, it’s not who walks down an aisle (although this can be a means to doing the will of the Father).  Jesus is clear that it’s not just about saying words, it’s about living out the will of the Father.

 

This should shake us to our core in a very healthy way.  Sometimes I think we get too hung up on the “just pray this prayer and believe” mentality.  James also goes on to say that even the demons believe in God.  Belief is simply not enough.  I think this is important to see because although salvation comes through grace, and through trust in the price Christ payed, that belief is ultimately fleshed out through the life you live.   When people claim to be followers of Jesus, but there is not evidence in their life, they either have a misunderstanding of the Gospel they’ve claimed to believe, or they truly don’t believe in it.

 

Think about it like this.  If someone truly grasped, understood, and was wrecked by this amazing Christ that conquered death for us, offers us a new life transformed, shows us a way to live in wholeness, how would that not change your life?  It’s a shame when I see the gospel cheapened, whittled down to a sentence.  When you do that, not only do you misrepresent the big picture of what is actively happening now, you give the impression that the gospel is just a simple sentence to pray, not a radical life change.  And let’s face it, the gospel of Christ is designed to invade every corner of our life and change it to the ways of God.  This of course, is not an overnight change, and we are all works in progress (I have plenty of junk I have to go through still), but God is patient and He walks through this journey with us, lovingly pointing out where our  life needs to change.   This of course is only one aspect of the Gospel of Christ, and that’s ok.  It’s impossible to fully explain it in a blog post, or a book, it has to be seen through life.

 

It is quite possible to know God, without actually knowing God.  You can have all the head knowledge in the world, all the verses you were taught in AWANA memorized, never missed a Sunday morning in Church, and you can still miss Jesus.  You can still miss the relationship He longs to have with you every day, all day.  Jesus is a person.  Not a book, not a belief, not a sunday morning service.  He is living and breathing at the right hand of the Father, and He desires to talk to us, He desires to guide our life step by step, moment by moment.   We must realize that it’s not just saying “Lord Lord”, it’s about pursing the heart of the Father, doing His will on earth, ushering in the Kingdom of God to a dying world.

 

-TW

 

 

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