Bible, Life's Moments

Theological Practice Demands Theological Foundation

Have you ever heard another person say, “Don’t give me theology, I just need something practical?

Far too often in the Christian community we hear believers offer this sentiment as though the great foundational truths of our faith have little to do with our lives beyond our initial salvation…but, (please excuse the poor English) this just ain’t so. What we believe has everything to do with how we act. How deeply we believe determines how deeply our actions will conform to our belief. For example, if we simply pay lip-service to the doctrines of God’s omniscience (all-knowing) and omnipresence (everywhere present), we will probably never give much thought to what God is thinking about us when we’re about to engage in sin. However, if these doctrines are paramount not only in our minds, but our hearts as well, then being keenly aware of God’s presence and all-knowing awareness of our actions will more than likely cause us to hesitate and even refrain from engaging in the sin.

Thus sound biblical theology is basic to sound Christian living.  True, we will not always act with integrity regarding our biblical foundations, but it is even more true we will fail to live up to biblical expectations if we are not biblically informed. This is really true in our relationships…and really, really true concerning our most special relationships. We can see this with a brief look at the Apostle Paul’s instructions on the family found in Colossians 3:18-21).

Here’s what he wrote:

18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Now, at first glance, that all seems really straight forward. However, to jump into Paul’s explanation of a Christ-centered home, in Col. 3:18-21, without first considering the overall intent of his letter causes us to miss crucial theology concerning the Lord Jesus Christ that reflects directly on a believer’s ability to follow through on the commands found in Colossians 3:18-21.  So, let’s back up a little…

The Colossians had come under a set of false teachings that taught, among other things, that Jesus was not sufficient for the complete work of redemption. Much like present day Christians, the Colossians were being lured into a “Jesus plus something” mentality. In chapter two of Colossians (2:16-19) some of those things were mentioned:

eating rituals

religious festivals

false humility

worshipping angels

special knowledge

The Apostle would have none of it. It is why he went to great lengths (Colossians 1:15 – 2:15, 20-23) to show that Jesus was not only sufficient to save them from their sins, but to save them from their old habits and to transform them into that for which God had redeemed them. Therefore, the great theme of his letter to them was simple:

Christian maturity (the full work of salvation) is based solely upon the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

So how does this kind of doctrine about the person and work of Jesus Christ impact our abilities to be submissive wives, loving husbands, obedient children, and instructive parents? Or, if we want to get personal we might ask, “When was the last time your knowledge about Jesus changed your behavior?” Most people would answer, “Uhhhhh, well, ummmm, I don’t really remember.” In the end, we cannot hope to be godly spouses, parents, or children if we cannot connect the foundational truths necessary for following our Savior to the transformational attitudes necessary to produce right action. Therefore, by necessity, the first part of Colossians (the theological foundation) informs and empowers the second part of Colossians (the theological practice).

The figure below illustrates the point:

The most practical, pragmatic, helpful, insightful advice we can offer others is this: the best psychology is biblical theology. You cannot do until you know.

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Bible

Biblical is the New Radical

I have searched high and low to find someone else who believes the Church of America has grown woefully inadequate to its calling. It would seem that rather than bringing glory and honor to God (Eph. 1), the American Church has become exceptionally self-centered. Yet now, from time to time, I glimpse bright spots…glimmers of hope that we might return to our high calling. David Platt, in his new book, Radical, creates one of those bright spots by writing about something he calls radical, but is really something biblical.

His basic premise is that American Christians have exchanged God’s glory and God’s gospel for the American Dream. I believe the evidence supports his premise. So, as I turned every page of this biblical–not so much radical–gift to both the church and the unchurched,  I found my hopes being boosted. Here was a pastor of a very large church voicing anxieties like these:

“Soon I realized I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important. So what was I to do? I found myself with two big questions. The first was simple. Was I going to believe Jesus? Was I going to embrace Jesus even though he said radical things that drove the crowds away? The second question was more challenging. Was I going to obey Jesus? My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him. In other words, my biggest fear is that I will do exactly what most people did when they encountered Jesus in the first century” (Radical ch. 1).

Amazing! It is amazing not because a megachurch pastor is willing to risk what our American church culture values, but that it has become necessary for a humble pastor to refer to biblical truth and biblical obedience as radical. In fact, maybe “amazing” was the wrong word for me to use at the beginning of this paragraph. Perhaps sad or tragic would have served better.

Pastor Platt rounded out his challenge by discussing such “radical” needs as actually being hungry for the word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit, extending God’s grace to the lost, seriously asking ourselves “How much is too much materialism,” shunning titles, position, and prestige for the sake of becoming servants, and realizing that evangelism/missions is not an option. And again I found myself thinking, “Amazing. Biblical has become the new radical.”

Finally, Pastor Platt’s book should not be considered a one time read. It should become a companion to an ever present attempt to implement the purposes and plans of God found in the Bible. While that may be a radical notion to God’s people living in 21st century U.S.A., it is hardly a radical idea in the heart and mind of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Note: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.” You can download and read Chapter One at http://www.radicalthebook.com/resources.html.

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Bible, Life's Moments

Judas and Lady Gaga

While I can not say that I fully understand all that Lady Gaga wants to say through her new single, Judas (coming out on her up-coming album Born This Way), there is a part of the song that moves me to tears. Toward the end of the song, she sings

“I wanna love you,
But something’s pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
And Judas is the demon I cling to, I cling to.”
 
Maybe the Catholic Church is right when they suggest she is just being disrespectful (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/04/19/lady-gagas-new-song-judas-causes-holy-week-uproar/).  However, I am inclined toward grace, so I hope what she meant when she penned these words is something like this: “Oh, Jesus, I know you are the last, best hope. I know you are the one I need. Still, something in me moves me to cling to Judas instead.” If so, Lady Gaga is in the company of many: partially blind people catching a glimpse of heaven while clinging tightly to the thrills of hell.
 
Either way, I am reminded of what our Lord Jesus said about the people of Jerusalem as he made his way to the Holy City (Luke 13:34):
 
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
 
We all know that the level of hostility generated by the good citizens of Jerusalem toward the Savior rises far above that offered by Lady Gaga. We also know Jesus knew what they were about to do to him. Still the Lord’s heart was moved to compassion on their behalf. He is thinking no differently where Lady Gaga is concerned. He loves her. His Father loves her. The Holy Spirit loves her.  In fact, the Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote (2 Peter 3:9),
 
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
 
And just so his intentions were clear, he followed that with this (2 Peter 3:10),
 
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
 
Together they mean one thing: while the Lord is very patient as he awaits people to flee the kingdom of darkness and run into his waiting arms, his patience will not last forever. It will not last forever in the cosmic sense and it will not last forever in the cause of Christ for one lost person. Like Lady Gaga, there are precious souls all around us. Let’s stop complaining about their antics and attitudes and start leading them via love and service to the Messiah.
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Bible

Soar. A Book by Pastor Kenny Luck.

When I was young, I jumped from airplanes for the 82nd Airborne Division. When my parachute deployed, I felt this overwhelming sense of freedom. The brief time spent floating to the ground stirred every one of my five senses. While it was not quite like soaring on the wings of eagles, it was the closest I have ever come. Oh man, life exploded into vivid reality every time the jump-master yelled, “Go, go, go!”

Pastor Kenny Luck’s book “Soar” aims to help men capture this same experience. Well, like one of my nephews is prone to saying, “It’s the same, but different.” Same in that Pastor Luck wants Christian men to really, truly come alive; different in that Kenny desires us to truly and finally feel alive through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we do, we soar!

In fact, if all I had ever read from this book was a short section from chapter eleven regarding a part of the Holy Spirit’s mission in my life, I would count myself more than satisfied with Pastor Luck’s presentation of the Spirit’s ministry. Here’s what that short section says:

“The mission of the Holy Spirit in your life is to cause spontaneous or continuous spiritual fervor over things that matter to God. All of the following are signs the Holy Spirit is working in your life on a specific matter:

You have conflicts internally. You are thinking twice about decisions. You are remembering the consequences of similar actions in the past. You are having cautionary dreams or consistent streams of thoughts that warn you of certain actions. Your internal radar is flashing red about certain people or situations. You are feeling unusually conflicted in certain situations. You are getting unsolicited but personally targeted advice from various sources (for example, a sermon this past weekend, a friend says the same thing, and then your Scripture reading for the day puts the nail in the coffin).”

This alone, regarding the Holy Spirit’s leading, is worth the price of the book…and much, much more. Think about it: every time you experience these signs, you are experiencing the work of the Majestic, Magnificent, Marvelous God of all creation laboring personally and privately in you, through you, and for you ultimately for his own glory. Amazing! It is the answer to the cry of so many Christians, “Please, please Lord, I want to experience your presence, your favor, your glory”

In three divisions, Transitions, Transformations, and Transactions, Pastor Luck helps us see how the ministry of the Holy Spirit keeps us intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually “in the moment” with God.

Finally, as a fellow pastor, Pastor Luck’s approach causes me to celebrate. This is not a treatment of the Holy Spirit based on emotionalism or experientalism (sorry, that might not be a real word). Pastor Luck asked the question, “What does the Bible teach about the leading, guiding, and teaching ministry of the Spirit?” He asked, “What does the Bible teach regarding walking and living in the Spirit?” In the end, Pastor Luck clearly discovered that what the Bible actually teaches about life in the Spirit is far more satisfying to both our emotions and experience than much of what we have come to understand in the past about phrases like, “I sensed the Spirit’s leading,” I was moved by the Spirit,” or “the Spirit led me.”

Read “Soar” if you want a theology of the Holy Spirit that changes your psychology. Read “Soar” if you want answers about really experiencing the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, soar in the Spirit, by living what Pastor Luck has pointed out from God’s word, if you crave a sense of awe and exhilaration in your life with our Savior.

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Bible

Social Gospel x 2

PART DEUX GRAYBe careful when you accuse someone of having no compassion…

Be careful when you accuse someone of not caring…

…when he or she steadfastly refuses to take up your cause.

Jesus was quite clear that failing to invest ourselves in the lives of the less fortunate is at best problematic and more than likely sinful. His story of the Good Samaritan and his admonitions concerning the “first should be last” are more than enough for us to comprehend this side of compassion.

However, he was equally clear about the spiritual side of things. We must never mistake his desire for the eternal well-being of lost people as a lack of compassion. It is ultimate compassion that our Savior believes, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36).

There is a tension about these two sides of compassion among Christ’s followers, but not within the heart of Christ. The former is Christ-likeness manifest in kindness. The latter is Christ-likeness manifest in love–agape love. The first must always possess potential for revealing the second.

And while this debate has raged among Christians for a century over the social gospel of liberal Christians, we must now apply it to The Social Gospel: Part Deux…the social gospel of conservative Christians. The social justice and public policy activism of conservative Christians has exactly the same potential for good or bad as its liberal counter-part. The life-changing message of Jesus Christ may just as easily be lost in the shuffle during proclamations regarding fiscal, sexual, and self-defense issues as it can during proclamations regarding the need for universal health care or racial reparations. It simply will do no good to argue which is closer to the heart of Jesus if either or both fail as advertisements on behalf of our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection as a ransom for lost people.

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”  Hebrews 9:15

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