Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Biblical Interpretation Series – Part 3 of 3 – CTJ #56

Here in Episode #56, we are closing the 3-part series on Biblical Interpretation.  With last week’s episode featuring Dr. John Walton, we wanted to take the time to think through all the information we discussed before taking a final swing at the material.  We discuss our own personal growth during this short series, truth, translations, studying, and how to handle new evidences on varying degrees of Biblical doctrine & truth.  We hope you will find this episode, and this series, as helpful, and challenging, as we have as we wrap up.

As Always:
Listen.  Subscribe.  Rate.  Comment.

Some additional podcasts we recommend:
The Bible Project
Exploring My Strange Bible
The Naked Bible Podcast
Almost Heretical
Soteriology 101
Theology in the Raw

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


The Grid of Philippians – Rob

Alright.  I’ll give you fair warning.  This one, if it affects you as it affected me, will hit you square between the eyes.  If not, well you were doing better than I was haha.  So just be prepared.

I was perusing Facebook the other day when I looked at the side bar on the right.  You know, the place where you can creeperishly see what your friends are all liking.  Well something popped up that grabbed my attention.  I will use the anonymous name of “Joe Smith” for the time being.  “Joe Smith and 25 other friends like Tosh.0.”

Now, perhaps I am out of touch with reality but from what I know about Daniel Tosh (I’ve never actually seen his show) is that he isn’t exactly one that jokes while upholding “Christian Values.”  From what I understand, Daniel Tosh tends to be somewhat sacrilegious and filthy in his commentary.  I have even heard from “secular friends” that his jokes are very dirty.  Being that I heard this, I figured it best not to spend my time watching his show.

But, when I saw Joe Smith and 25 other friends liked “Tosh.0” on Facebook I was pretty curious as to who liked it, and so clicked it to find out.  “Joe Smith” is a friend of mine that at one point stood for the same Christian values that I do, which peaked my curiosity even more.  As I clicked to see who the 25 other people were I was actually very surprised.  I would say 95% were “Christian.”  Now, don’t take this as me condemning anyone else or looking down on other people’s activities.  What I took out of this was that we, as Christians, may be letting the world influence us in far too many ways.  Somewhere along the lines it became ok to sit and laugh at sin and filth, to enjoy watching sin in movies, enjoy listening to sin in music, and joke about sin in conversation.  I have caught myself thinking on occasion “well this isn’t that bad” and accepting it as OK to watch/listen to/talk about.

We have often heard it said, “If Christ was in the room with you would you still watch it?”  Well guess what?  Christ IS in the room with me every time I go to watch a movie, listen to music, have a conversation, or tell a joke.  There is no “what if” there is “what now?”  I guess seeing how many Christians were ok with subjecting themselves to taking pleasure in sin really got to me.  How much sin am I ok with being leaked into my life?

Paul wrote to the local church in Philippi in Philippians 4:8,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What a contrast!  Now, I’ve heard the argument, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be a weirdo and Christ and his disciples sat and ate with sinners!”  This is correct, Christ did sit and eat with sinners.  But I guarantee that he did not partake in their sin, or laugh at it.  Paul and the disciples did not sit around with the other Christians and tell off-color jokes or watch Tosh.0.  The reason they were with sinners?  To preach the gospel.  What person wants to listen to a message “that will change your life” when the person telling it is no different than they are?  Not only are we taking away from the praise that Christ is worthy of, we are erasing the impact of the gospel.  What a tragedy.  Paul lays forth a grid through which we can pass EVERYTHING we do.  My job can be something that gives Christ praise because of the type of employee I am reflects my Savior.  How are my conversations with my co-workers?  Worthy of praise? Pure? Honorable? Lovely?  How about with other Christians?  True?  Kind of sounds like a possible stab at gossip.  Am I just always looking for more dirt? Are the things commendable that I talk about?  I am reminded of James 3:10,

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things out not to be so.

How many of my recent activities have made it through the grid?  How will my planned activities make it through?  As Christians, we should always be evaluating where we are when it comes to the scripture, not the world.  Too often I have found myself saying “Ok, I will stay this far away from the world!”  Which sounds great except when I realize that the world is spiraling further and further from God.  The only distance I should be worried about is between me and God’s standard.  The world will continue to fall away and I would be wise to not fall away with it.  How much of the world am I letting into my life/mind/heart?  Usually, standing for God will make me the odd-man out.  Christ himself said in John 15:18,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

Want a good indication of you effectiveness for God?  Does the world hate you?  I am not saying that when you go to school you should immediately have things thrown at you and have no friends.  People, in general, will highly respect a Christian who is living for Christ.  They are the nicest people! But the world, the system of thought, education, knowledge, and lifestyle that goes against God, should hate the Christian.  We all know what the Bible means when it says “world.”  Romans 12:1-2 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As a whole, Christians are far too conformed to this world and allow too much of the world into our lives.  I am guilty just as much as the next person.  Tim is hard on the Church but I would say it starts with the individuals in the Church.  We are allowing the world into our lives in small and large ways.  If we are to be effective communicators of the gospel then we have all got to take a step back and re examine what we let come into our minds, across our eyes and ears, and out our mouths.

It’s ok to Disagree – Tim Whitaker

Denominations are in my opinion one of the most divisive things in the church body today. Now before you pick up stones hear me out. The problem isn’t that we have people with different beliefs about the same Jesus, it’s that we have allowed these differences to divide the body of Christ. Far too often we make our non-essential beliefs an essentiality of the Christian faith. We stick to our beliefs about a certain subject and we are prepared to die on that hill. We alienate other people in the body because they don’t see things in the Bible exactly the way we do. The Bible tells us to be one body (See John 17:11, 20-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, and Ephesians 4:3) numerous times, and yet we live in a culture where so many times we view the church body we attend as the one and only, as if somehow God only revealed to us his plan and no one else. It’s this kind of thinking that I believe Satan has used to divide us as a body. It is this kind of thinking that causes church bodies to be be torn apart and split with bitterness. We must as a church body learn that in many many cases it is ok to have different views on many issues that divide us today.
But it has to go further than just agreeing to disagree. If we are truly in the same body of Christ then why aren’t we submitting to each other in search of truth and not our own ideology? Once our view of the Bible becomes our absolute truth, we are no longer in pursuit of God’s truth and instead we are stuck in somehow thinking that we have it all figured out. This thought is toxic to our pursuit of knowing God. God, as we all know can not be figured out, and neither can every truth in the Bible. The Bible is deep, complicated, and there is much more that has to go in to then taking it simply for face value. Sadly, we allow our narrow minded view of Scripture to choke out that life that is buried in the Scriptures. If we are not listening and having a conversation with people who disagree about a certain interpretation of Scripture then how are we to learn? The times I have learned the most were the times that I heavily discussed (or debated) a certain translation of Scripture. The mindset was never “I must always be right”, it was “How can I see this persons view, and if they are correct how can I change my view of this particular passage”. I’ve seen it so many times, people arguing over a certain passage of Scripture in a way not to learn, but to show off, or to put the other person down. How does this edify the body of Christ? How does this build us up? It does not, it instead causes divides and hurt.
This doesn’t mean that everything is up for interpretation, there are most definitely some clear truths that are seen in the Scriptures and ones that we must not compromise on. So what are the core truths that we need to be uncompromising on? Well in my opinion I think there are a few core truths that every believer who follows Christ must stand on.

1. Being restored to God is only possible because of what Jesus did, it has nothing to do with what we can do

2. The trinity and their roles as seen in Scripture.

3. If we claim to believe in the teachings and work of Christ, then there is fruit of that in our life.

4. The Bible is God’s word to humanity. That doesn’t mean it’s simple, or easy, or that we have it figured out, but the Scriptures are God inspired, God breathed

The end. Everything else is up for grabs, is up for discussion, is up for debate within the body in love. Debating is not a bad thing if the heart of the people involved is to uncover more of the truth of God. If the motive is to destroy the other person, then forget it.
We must stand as one church body, united under Christ, reaching our culture and restoring people to God. If we divide or various interpretations of the Bible, or what that looks like then we have COMPLETELY missed the heart of the gospel. Instead of clinging to our doctrines, we need to have open discussions and hear how other brothers and sisters are interpreting the same Scriptures. We might not see eye to eye, and that is ok. Because it’s not doctrines that should unify, it’s the work of Jesus on the cross and the pursuit of Him.

Rob and I have many differences in opinion and views when it comes to the Bible. But you know what? We have only let that fuel our discussions Instead of dividing us, it’s only brought us closer to Jesus and each other. The motive behind Rob and I’s discussions is never to tear each other down, but to learn and see Scripture in new light. Because of this I know that I personally have learned a great deal from Rob and even changed some of my views of certain Scriptures thanks to his expertise.

What’s the bottom line? It’s this: we need to stop letting Satan win when it comes to dividing the body of Christ. In New Jersey on average there are 3 church buildings per square mile. Could you imagine if they started talking to each other? Partnering together to reach the community? What if the church pastors who lived in the same town from different church bodies got together to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas for how the church can become ONE body in that town and reach those people more effectively? Imagine the power we are sitting on if we agreed to disagree, and instead agreed that Jesus died for humanity to restore them to Jesus. What a simple truth that is so deep and so enormously transforming. A truth when united behind can change nations.

Truth Despite Cost – Rob McMichael

This past weekend we had our annual conference for the church I am a part of in Pennsauken.  On Saturday the messages were all about “the Christian and the World”.  A message on understanding the culture of the world, the claims of the world, the claims of Christ, the necessity for consecration, etc etc.  On Saturday night we had a gospel meeting.  Two men spoke. The latter was “the usual” – a gospel message telling all how they can be saved (through faith in Christ only).  Yes, only faith.  Read Romans 11:6 (yes I know the context).  Now, the first speaker is the reason I am writing this post.  His name is John Miller.

John Miller was born into the Amish religion.  Yes, Amish IS NOT a preservation of an older lifestyle, it is very much a religion that can be traced back to the Anabaptists (just like the Hutterites and the Mennonites).  As he stated, there are most likely some members of the Amish community that are definitely real Christians, but the Amish lifestyle is one heavy on works and also very prideful.  It is made clear that if you leave and join the world, you are really condemning yourself to Hell.

If you want to read his full story of salvation look here:

John Miller’s Testimony

To make a long story short he was eventually saved (or born-again).  For reasons he could not explain he felt God was calling him out of the Amish community.  His family submitted to his lead and left with him.  This was not an easy thing to do as his entire family is in the Amish religion.  Basically all of your business is to other Amish folk.  As I stated before, if you leave and go “into the world” you are on your own.  Now when you leave the Amish, it is not a light thing.  His father will not speak with him and will not even allow John and his family to come into his home.  This has been going on for almost 5 years.  I spoke with him about the struggles of life outside the Amish community.  I spoke with him about leaving his entire past behind him to go forth to what God was leading him to do.  Since he left his wife and I believe 4-5 of his children have all received the gift of eternal life!

What is my point?

Truth despite cost.  John Miller and his family now attend a local church after the pattern of the New Testament.  For 3 years they drove 2.5 hours from their home in Virginia to the local church my parents attend in Denver, NC.  Every Sunday morning the Miller family would be waiting at the doors of the Denver Gospel Hall at 9 am after driving 2.5 hours to get there.  Truth despite cost.

Now, God has seen fit to raise up an assembly of believers right near their home in Virginia.  Would this of been possible if John Miller didn’t forsake all that he knew so that he might follow the call of God?  No.

So here we go:

Galatians 1:10
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul’s words here struck my heart.  I can think of no person in the Bible that was more devoted to his calling to preach the gospel than Paul.  Think of his descriptions in some of the epistles:
  • Prisoner of Christ (Philemon 1)
  • Slave of Christ Jesus (Romans 1:1)
  • Bond-Servant of Christ (Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
  • Apostle of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1)
And these descriptions were just in the introduction!  Many other times Paul refers to his calling in the gospel and that a life lived doing anything else would leave him miserable and devoid of his purpose.  The word used in Romans 1:1 is best translated as “slave”, which is meaning that the entirety of the individual is property of the master.  How anxious am I to tell others that I am property of Christ?  My actions are not my own, my life is not my own, my business is not my own.  Everything I am and do is in complete control of my master.  If only this were more true in my own life.Now, the reason this hit my heart so heavy was a matter of “revealed truth” and “conviction”.  Revealed truth is what leads to conviction but they each struck my heart individually.
Revealed Truth 
 When reading the scripture, and I mean really reading the scripture, God will always reveal truth to the truth seeker.  I have found myself reading out of habit with the mindset of “well my little plan here says I should read these chapters…”  What a way to come at the scripture.  I have also found myself with the mindset of “this is what I think the scripture teaches so I should find verses that give the idea of this theology.”  Both are mindsets that I never want to have when it comes to the Bible.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2 that all truth is revealed by the Spirit, for only the Spirit knows God (the Spirit is God).  Should my attitude then be one of submission to have truth revealed to me by the Spirit?  I pray that it is so.  Now when the Spirit reveals truth is where my heart was affected.  As I am reading and the Spirit reveals truth to me I believe there are three options:
  1. Reject the Truth
  2. Delay the Truth
  3. Obey the Truth
In rejection of the truth, my attitude would be to see what the Spirit is revealing to me and to have the attitude of “no, that can’t be what the scripture teaches because I have been taught this… or I think this… or I want this…”  What an attitude to have.  Now, a side point may be that a young Christian should not dive into the scripture with the purpose of having truth revealed beyond the spiritual growth of him/her.  For instance, a parent would not give an infant a nice 12 oz juicy steak for dinner.  That parent would wisely know that the child can only digest certain foods until he/she matures and grows and can handle such food.  God is the same way with our spiritual appetite.  God is the revealer of truth so let Him do the feeding.  There is nothing wrong with “studying to make one wise” but allow God to be the guidance for studying.  But I digress.  The point here is that my attitude can sometimes be to reject truth based on my presuppositions.  God is the revealer of truth and I do believe that He inspired all scripture so He knows what truth is contained.  Let Him reveal it and do not reject His truth.
In delaying the truth, my attitude becomes one of “well I do see that is truth, but I just can’t put that into practice yet”.  Circumstances in life, whether it be a job, friends, family, school, etc can cloud my judgment on how to deal with truth.  I can make decisions as to what I should do with truth based on what I think others will say.  This is where the verse from Galatians is especially powerful.  If my attitude is this “delaying of truth” then I am what Paul says… not a servant of Christ, but a pleaser of men.  I am too concerned about what my friends will think, or what my parents will say.  I am too concerned about how this will affect my testimony at my job or at school.  I see the truth and I acknowledge it, but I am not ready to be “a servant of Christ”, I would rather be a “man-pleaser”.
The final option is then to obey the truth.  At this point I am a true servant of Christ.  My devotion is first and foremost to my Savior who is the sole owner of my life.  I see the truth revealed to me and obey it with no delay.  If Paul was to delay the truth revealed to him, think of the amount of Gentiles that would have possibly missed the gospel of Christ.  Think of how many local churches would not have been established.  But Paul had no delay in the truth revealed to him.  He put the truth above family, friends, job, and his own will.  He truly became a slave for Christ and was “pedal to the metal” from the moment of conversion.  Oh how I long to be like Paul!
Remember John Miller?  What was his reaction to truth?  I’m sure he weighed up the cost many times in his mind.  I am sure that he had second thoughts at some point but his devotion was “if this is God’s calling then I must obey despite the cost because He is worth the cost.”  I can assure you that John Miller is one of the most joyous people you will ever meet.  There will never be a time where a Christian who follows God’s truth will regret that decision.  Oh how I long to take an example from John Miller!
A conviction is a convinced conscience.  True biblical conviction comes from revealed truth.  Further, a conviction can only come from truth that is accepted and not rejected.  A person that is delaying the truth they see must not have too strong of a conviction about it, or they are going against their conviction for other reasons.  This is a dangerous game to play.  I will give a personal example.  Some time ago, I began to feel convicted about the type of movies I was subjecting myself to in light of Philippians 4:8-9.  Many would know this as “the grid”.  So many of the movies that were passing into my mind were leaving messages, impressing images, and provoking thought that didn’t seem to make it through the grid.  At first, I was hesitant to obey this conviction.  I delayed the truth that I saw.  Worried about what others might say when I’m with my friends and they want to watch a certain movie.  I didn’t want to be the one to say “well I don’t actually want to watch that because _____.”  Then I would be pegged as a “holy roller”.  So I delayed the truth and put aside my conviction.  How unenjoyable movies became when all I could think about was how these movies just weren’t lining up with scripture and heavily went against my convinced conscience that it was wrong.  Going against a convinced conscience, in my belief, is sin.  See here what Martin Luther said:
“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason. I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
There had to come a time where I stood by my conviction because it was laid upon my heart and mind by the revealed truth of the Word of God.  My attitude was not to please men, or be accepted by friends/family.  My attitude was to please God.  This is just one simple example ( I’m sure there are others with much better examples than my own).  Some truth will be more costly than others.  I have seen truth pull apart family ties, sever relationships,and destroy friendships.  But what is my attitude? To please men, or to please God? “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Paul tells us straight that we cannot do both.  We must make the choice to follow truth, or please men.  I pray that in all things I will be able to have the courage and confidence to be marked by pleasing God.  That I will be able to say with Paul, “a slave for Christ”.

Following truth despite the cost.  Church isn’t a popularity game.  The church with the biggest numbers doesn’t get the biggest prize.  The believer with the best testimony doesn’t win bonus points.  The missionary with the wildest story doesn’t earn a bigger mansion.  The man or woman, boy or girl, who follows the truth revealed to them by God earns the reward.  What truth is God revealing to you (or has revealed to you)?  What truth is God revealing to me?  Will you follow it despite the cost?  Will I?  Or will I cave to tradition, family ties, friends, opinions, etc, and tell God to wait?


Unlearning what we have learned. – Tim Whitaker

Disclaimers: Rob is probably going to disagree on many points. Sorry 🙂 You can blog about it later. 😛

There is a challenge a lot of us face.  By “us” I’m referring to the people that are re-thinking what it means to be a Christian.  I’m referring to people who are not content with the state of the church.  I’m referring to people who want to be known as disciples of Jesus not just “Christians”. People who want to go deep in to their faith, and who are willing to change their mindset in light of new truths when it comes to Scripture, Jesus, and the Church.  When I refer to “us” this is who I’m referring to.

So there is a challenge for us.  Most of us have grown up in the church and we have been brought up with mindsets that are not completely Biblical.  We have grown up thinking that church happens Sunday mornings, we meet at a “church” building, every service has the same format, we can’t change the format, and being a Christian means being morally right as much as possible.  We have grown up with a limited knowledge of Scripture, Judaism, and how Christianity and Judaism are so closely connected.  We have grown up with the answer (Jesus) without knowing the backstory to the answer.

And so there is a challenge because as we get closer to Jesus and the Kingdom, the more we are loosed of the traditions we grew up with.  Before I go any further let me be clear there is nothing wrong with the traditions we grew up with in and of itself.  I am a product of the traditional church, it is there that I learned who Jesus was, I met great people, and I had a basic community.  But now looking back, I can’t help but see the legalism I was rooted in, the legalism my family was rooted in.  And looking at the church now I can’t help but see how our tradition has become our prison.

The Bible I believe is intentionally vague on what a church body actually looks like and is crystal clear on what the structure of a church body should look like.  We see in Scripture that there are to be teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, and leaders in the church body, but what we don’t see is how that is fleshed out. Granted we have books like Acts, Corinthians, and Galatians, which show what church bodies looked like.  But you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t do much writing in regarding to how the church meeting should go.  He instead spends much more time talking about how we as the body are to live as people.  We see certain key things such as preaching of the word that are talked about in the structure of the meeting, but even that is not specific.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see Paul say “Here is what every church meeting should look like, songs for 20 minutes, preaching for 30 min (make sure it’s 3 points), alter call, and offering”  That is just not there in Scripture.  The problem is that the church is deeply rooted in this structure and is afraid (it seems so) to step out of that tradition.  It’s interesting to me because singing songs, sunday school, youth groups, alter calls, are nowhere in scripture, but we cling on to them like they are the foundations of church.  Then when someone talks about maybe removing one of those things, or changing the format of what we do every Sunday, people get defensive and will say things like “that’s nowhere in Scripture”.  This amazes me.

So the challenge for us is what do we do?  Well what we do is we allow God to free us from comfortability.  The first time I heard a church meeting in a bar in Belgium I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought it was completely unbiblical and I didn’t want to be a part of that body for the month we were there.  By the end of the month I couldn’t get enough of the community, the people, and what they were doing.  We have to be ok with being uncomfortable.  It is difficult to think about church meeting in somewhere other than a church building.  It is difficult to think about a church “service” not including worship music, or an alter call but we have to.  We have got to go back to the scriptures and realize that the church design is meant to be flexible.  The church body can most definitely meet in a church building, but it can also meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, basement, or bar.  The church meeting once a week can definitely include worship  music, a sermon, and an alter call.  But it can also exclude those things.  A church can meet with talk, discuss, and be lead by the teacher in a discussion about a certain piece of Scripture.  That is just as Biblical as what we do every Sunday.

The most difficult thing for me these past several years have been unlearning all that I have learned.  I have had to unlearn that i’m not a “better” Christian because I go to church every Sunday religiously.  I’ve had to learn that it is ok if there isn’t a three point sermon during a church meeting, and I’ve had to learn that maybe creating a consumeristic atmosphere on Sunday morning maybe is not the best way to get people to own their faith.

Let me sum this up.  There is nothing wrong with what the church has been doing in our culture for years.  It has changed many people’s lives, and it has done a great work.  However there is nothing wrong with changing it.  Those traditions are not doctrines, they are not salvational issues, and honestly a lot of the things we do are not in the Bible.  The structure of the church body is clear in Scripture, what that looks like is not, and that’s a good thing.