I have the privilege of having an awesome friend, Tom, who bought a sail boat. This friend invited me along a couple days ago to join him on an excursion as he continues to improve as a sailor. For only being his 4th time out (and what was essentially my 1st), his skill has me predicting that he will be swashbuckling the seven seas soon…or at least Lake Minnetonka.
If you listen, there is always something to learn that not only applies to the “regular world” (like the parts of the boat, turn types, course patterns), but also our spiritual lives.
-As a side note this is actually a distinction I reject. Christianity is not a system, or a Sunday/Wednesday thing- it is our lives. Every part of our life is to be in the pursuit of Christ-likenss and the glorifying of God. This means that whether we are sailing, shopping, synchronized swimming, or sitting in a pew, we are to be worshiping God-
Tom was brave enough to hand me the steering-thingy (just kidding Tom, you taught well) and instruct me in the ways of bringing the boat about 180 degrees. Here was what struck me (not the boom, though close): no matter which way you turned, into the wind or with the wind, you could not afford to turn half-heartedly or hesitantly or you would end up in the “no go zone” (where you are directly into the wind, ergo not able to move except maybe backwards) or flipping. You had to commit. Push that rudder hard and hold it till you come full about.
Commitment. Basic principle of life. You cannot be a halfhearted Christian. I will read my Bible right before small group, or pray right before church, or sing in the choir on Sunday, than essentially be like every other heathen the rest of the week.
This doesn’t mean you are doing sinful things necessarily, but as a Christian, life is so much deeper for us than it is for the unbelieving. There is another dimension to everything we do-
We taste a steak and realize that God is good. We lose a loved one and realize that God is good.
There should be a joy, a peace, a patience, a kindness, a gentleness, a meekness, etc about a Christian that is the light of the gospel in every action. This is for what we should be striving. We are sinful, we will fail, but God always forgives and never condemns His children.
We also must realize that is is only through the Spirit that this can be accomplished. This means we must be in constant communion with God and cannot live a compartmentalized “Christian” life.
We must commit lest we stall or flip.
The Outcry! As we all know by now Cruz did not endorse Donald Trump, which he told him he was not going to do days before he gave his speech. This was not a cloak and dagger move. Cruz is now being lambasted by many for going back on his word.
While I believe that your “yes” needs to be “yes”, and your “no” needs to be “no”, is there a place for concession to be made? I think, Biblically, yes.
I will make this short: It is not ok for you to agree to do something wrong. If you signed a business deal, and later found out that there were unlawful dealings going on, you would be obligated as a Christian to pull out of that agreement.
Anther example given by the well articulate, Ben Thompson:
“Hey Steve, I’ll come help you move all your stuff on Saturday. I promise!”
“That’s cool. Oh, by the way, hey everybody! Bob’s wife is crazy, Bob’s a man-slut, and I think his dad wanted to assassinate the president! And he lies, like, ALL THE TIME!”
“Uh, Steve? I don’t think I’m going to help you move anymore.”
“CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GUY? BOB HAS NO INTEGRITY!”
Yes, I am equating endorsing Trump with doing the wrong thing, but before you tear into me let me explain the difference between possibly voting for him and endorsing him:
I think there are some very good reasons to vote for the Trump platform vs the Hillary platform. A friend of mine gave some very sound political reasoning for voting for Trump that had practically nothing to do with Trump. I can even understand the “better of two evils argument” even if I disagree. But to outright support the person that is Donald Trump I think is wrong, the same as I would not endorse any other blatantly immoral celebrity or person.
Yes, all people are sinful on some level but this is often a red herring argument. There is a difference between a sinful person trying to do what is right and a person who boasts of their sin.
Cruz may be making a purely selfish political move. I think that is speculative. I think he has shown consistency during his entire campaign. I watched almost every debate, I read the articles, I read the accusations, and I read the rebuttals. Cruz could have wiped the…well you know..of the Republican Nominee like he was supposed to at the RNC, but instead He chose to stay principled.
We should be voting by our conscience, not by partisan loyalties. That may mean you need to vote for Trump, but that doesn’t mean Cruz is disloyal, a promise breaker, or a liar because he opted not to endorse a man who celebrates his immorality, and is not qualified on character alone to lead a nation. Cruz may even vote for Trump, but that is not the same as publicly endorsing.
This is might be more of a confessional post than a informative one. In my small group, us guys are reading A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Fantastic. In chapter 3-Removing the Veil, he talks about how the veil to the holy of holies was torn but that there is still a veil over our hearts even as regenerate Christians that we have left in place, and that is the veil of sinful self. It keeps us from entering the Presence.
I would say that currently the vast majority of my time as a Christian is standing outside the holy of holies and not entering into the presence of God in a meaningful way. I still am in the temple and have access, but have not fully entered in to commune. By that I mean, I love to read, I love to learn but to really desire God in such a way that he truly is my treasure, truly is my passion, and truly is my motivation is something I long to have as part of my normative Christian walk.
Yes, this is partially an emotional experience, but so much more. It is a conscious awareness of being in the Presence. It is excitement for the things of God; it is an excitement to learn of God, and an excitement to spend time with God. Many can probably relate to Christianity as a chore. Bible reading is hard, committed prayer is hard, and just keeping a good testimony is hard. This is because my treasure is misplaced, not necessarily sinful in things either, but just wrongly prioritized.
I love to learn, which has been God’s gracious way of motivating me to still learn about Him even without a consistent spiritual connection; but the main thing that drew me to John Piper’s ministry was that he seemed to have an essential part of Christianity that I lacked-sincere, consistent desire.
So, I desire to break through the veil of my selfishness and enter into the Presence; to truly commune with God; to be consciously aware of Him, and to be doing the things I do out of a heartfelt passion for God.
For example, when reading chapters 3 and 4 of Tozer’s book I literally was having a worship experience. I was so grateful to God for the truths that were being expounded upon, for the council being given, and the exhortation being infused into my person. I found myself internally saying “Yes, this is right! Thank you God!”.
I do have moments like these and I understand that since I am a sinful human that it will always be a life long pursuit of God, but I believe it is obtainable to have an awareness and communion with God in the every day and have that be the normative experience vs the exception.
Here are three books that have helped many, including myself, with this topic:
Paul is on his way to Rome. He had been accused, threatened, and had several attempts made on his life. Currently he is under arrest and having to appear, numerous times, on trial. Now comes the most recent judge-King Aggripa, and his wife Bernice (lovely name). Festus catches Agrippa up on the situation that was left to him by Felix-with some minor exaggerations to make himself look good (hey-we’ve all done it). Apparently Paul’s situation fascinates Aggripa because he wants to hear directly from Paul.
Back up-Paul was under arrest because the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had arrested him in the temple. Ironically, Paul had gone to Jerusalem trying not to be a contrarian, but they had their agenda. The Jews wanted to kill Paul but the Roman tribune stepped in. He than assembled the Chief Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees and put Paul on trial before them. Paul knows he is going to be sentenced to death but, being the very educated man he was and recognizing his audience, saw an opportunity-and took it. He stated that he was on trial for the thing that the two religious camps disagreed over the most-resurrection. This could not have been more true. Paul was preaching the resurrection of Christ. Things got violent and the Romans stepped in and took Paul away. Paul than pulls out his Roman citizen I.D. card (not very easy to get) and says he has a right to trial before Caesar. So Paul is on his way to Rome. God has told Him this was His will.
Fast Forward-Paul has now had 2 additional trials before Felix and Festus, and here comes Agrippa. Here is how Acts 25 describes the situation:
“Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man for myself.”…So the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city.” (Acts 25:22-23a)
You never know what God has for you. Paul was being persecuted for preaching the truth and sharing the gospel. Yet he was not, seemingly, being blessed for his faithfulness. Instead he was under arrest and appearing before trial after trial. But look at what God is doing with this situation-not in reaction to men’s actions mind you, but providentially. Paul is getting to preach the gospel to more and different people than had he not been arrested and on his way to Rome. These are not more peasants either, but men of great influence. And this is exactly what God had said “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (Acts 23:11b)
Just as his ancestral father Joseph, Paul was wrongly being persecuted in accordance with God’s plan to spread His Word and save His people.
Christian, do not be discouraged when you feel persecuted. When the world, with great pomp, parades you out as a religious numbskull, or a backwater-moron, use the situation to proclaim the gospel faithfully.
As my former Pastor said “Don’t waste your suffering”
When it comes to the vast majority of Christian media out in the market for consumption, I do not hold a popular opinion. The opinion I hold is not flattering and garners a lot of reaction from many of my Christian friends. I dislike – no, I strongly disapprove of – the vast majority of the material Christians are putting out into the theaters, radio, iTunes, and books. The reason is simple: It lacks essential truth and it lacks quality content.
From the beginning of Christianity, there has been the struggle of how to share the gospel with the world without being unnecessarily standoffish. I actually agree with this philosophy. The gospel is what gives hope or offends; we do not need to add to the offense because of our immaturity. BUT…we also cannot water down the gospel to make it more palatable for the unsaved world.
Many Christians would, on the surface, agree with me on this principle. However, in practice, this has played out very differently. For example, I have a hard time listening to a Christian radio station due mostly to the theology, or lack thereof, coming out of my speakers. I do also have an issue with the quality of music on many mainstream Christian radio stations, though, I will admit, it has been getting better over the past 10 years – slowly.
This is not an indictment on all Christian artists, as there is a lot of good quality music – theology aside for a moment – that is not played on the radio. My sentiments also apply to the movies that Christians are producing.
(Note: Yes, I will be making sweeping generalizations. I understand there are exceptions. I am addressing the vast majority of what I have seen and heard because this is what the vast majority of people are listening to and watching.)
There are two main problems that are evident to me:
1.There is a serious lack of good, Biblical theology being presented in these mediums.
2.The overall production and artistic quality of these materials is embarrassing.
Concerning point 2: I will briefly touch on this. Our testimony as Christians is tied to what we do. If we produce sub-par content, we hurt our mission of spreading the kingdom. If Christians only did color-by-number Christian-themed paintings and tried to have them hung in an art museum beside great works of art by secular artists, we would have unnecessarily brought offense to the gospel. This is the way much of the mainstream Christian media has been perceived by the secular world (in terms of quality) and, I would argue, correctly so.
I will be the first to admit it is getting better, but I will also say we should never have been putting out material that was of poor quality to begin with. I will also say I am glad there is a heart for this type of evangelizing – that is to say, using modern media– and that there is an acknowledgment that the quality needs to be better. Still, we need to be improving quicker, and we cannot be sacrificing theological content to do so.
To point 1: For those of you who react to the word theology, thinking it is some kind of thing only those “intellectual Christians who do not actually evangelize” do, I will first say that that is an incorrect perception. But secondly, I will reword and say that the message of these mediums is weak. This has typically been done so that the message will be more palatable for the unsaved world.
There is this idea that we can take the Bible out of the Christian principles and still have the principles. It is true that it is still wrong to steal whether you say, “God commands mankind not to steal,” or if you just say, “Stealing is wrong.” The problem is, you have stripped away the authority behind the morality. Try to explain why stealing is wrong without God. Because it is detrimental to society? Says who? Probably the person you stole from – but so what? Who cares? As a Christian, we cannot simply revert to social contract theories. I will write another post on the grounding of morality in the future, so know that I understand I am oversimplifying and leaving a lot unsaid on this topic. For now, understand that this kind of teaching has opened the floodgates for secular humanism to impose its postmodern ideas of relative truth. It is not enough to say something is wrong without stating the transcendent authority behind why the thing is wrong.
It was made incredibly evident to me that we have watered down the content of the Christian message to almost non-existent proportions when I was seeing Christians actually get excited when Captain America, said “There is only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t look like that.” Yay!!! God was mentioned in a non-Christian movie! Please, Captain America is not a Christian. His character is a portrayal of a person who grew up in a time when the majority of Americans would have identified as Christians who believed in God, but this belief was more tied to the idea of patriotism and a cultural identity than to a strong Christian belief system and true Christian Body life.
I do not deny that the WWII era was more culturally Christian, but a modern parallel is the southern culture in America. Just because everyone believes in God and goes to church does not a strong actually Christian society make. If we have a nominal understanding of the Bible and functionally live as if Christianity is a once-a-week event instead of being the essence of our entire lives, then there is no comparison to the Christianity of the Bible. I think I can say with confidence that Paul would have been very disapproving of American Christianity, even from the greatest generation.
The reason we get so excited when we even just hear God mentioned in the mainstream is because there is such a famine of Christianity in our culture that we jump at anything. We have a lot of blame to shoulder for this. The material we believers have been putting out has progressively been removing strong Christian truths in a bait-and-switch evangelistic methodology. “Get them in with a feel-good story, then we will give them the real stuff.” The problem is, we never get to the “real stuff.” Watered-down messages do not draw the unbelievers; they undermine the believers.
I am resisting giving specific examples of songs and movies (currently) because I want people to have principles to apply to what they listen to and watch. If I start naming specific movies, some readers will ignore what I am trying to communicate because I am attacking things that have emotionally impacted them.
On that note, I am not at all saying that God cannot, and has not, used these materials to His glory. He uses us fallen human beings to spread His kingdom, so I firmly believe that He can use any defective thing he finds on the side of the road to bring Him glory and accomplish His purposes. That does not mean we do not try as hard as possible to do our best and to put out the best material we can. Yes, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags,” but we are called to holiness. Yes, it is not our works that save us or determine our value before God, but faith without works is dead.
Here are a couple good principles to filter your media through:
- Is Jesus Christ mentioned? You cannot have a true gospel presentation without Christ.
- Are there Biblical principles being taught without us being told that they are Biblical principles?
- Is the product of such a quality that you would not be embarrassed to show it to your unsaved friends? i.e. Do the actors make you cringe when they deliver an emotional line?…resisting example….resisting example…”You’re on the daddy team”…sorry.
Call me critical, but please understand that my desire is that we use these mediums and use them well. I want the same thing the people who make these songs and movies want, and that is the spreading of the gospel and exhortation of the Body. If we do not produce quality products, though, they become a detriment to that goal instead of an effective medium.
This is true of any other scenario. You will not go to a restaurant that has bad food, you will not buy from a store that has bad products, and the reputation of those establishments has been established by the quality of their goods.
I apologize if I sound like a curmudgeon; that is not my goal. I love music, and I love movies. I want to be able to enjoy Christian material in these mediums and share them to encourage other believers, and I want to be able to use these mediums as materials for the lost world. Right now, there is little in the main stream that I can in good conscience use for either of those purposes.
And as always, please feel free to comment or ask questions in the comments section below!
The following are adaptations of notes I took last Sunday at church from a sermon preached by Andy Naselli. The full sermon video and audio can be found here.
Romans 14:1-15:7 is a commonly talked about passage among Christians, which I feel is often used for us to justify either doing or not doing specific things we feel are or are not morally right for Christians to do.
How should you relate to fellow Christians who disagree on disputable matters? This is to say, not first-tier issues, i.e. salvation is through faith alone, by grace alone. Disputable matters are actions and observances that Christians may disagree on being permissible in the Christian life.
The main goal is not to agree with each other on disputable matters, but to love (“welcome”) each other. This is Paul’s MAIN point.
3 issues brought up in the passage:
- v. 2-Food
- v. 5-Days
- v. 21-Wine
Correlating issues in modern time:
- Meats that we are free to eat
- Working on Sunday
- Consumption of alcohol
- Bible versions (not a correlating issue to Paul’s but relevant enough to mention)
The “weak in faith” were probably Jewish Christians who felt the need to keep the old laws for salvation.
Paul doesn’t give the theological answer to these disputable matters rather, he recognized that consciences were involved, and for someone to violate their conscious intentionally, whether the thing itself is wrong or not, would be a sin.
His main point is that we should treat each other properly (love one another) while holding opposing view points.
I. (vv. 1-2): Welcome those who disagree with you.
–a weak conscience would mean you are theologically incorrect but not heretical (i.e. your conscience does not allow you to do something that is lawful.)
II. (vv. 3-4): Those who have freedom of conscience must not look down on those who don’t.
III. (vv. 3-4): Those whose consciences restricts them, must not judge those whose don’t.
—God himself welcomes them. Can you pass judgment on someone God does not? (v. 4)
—Be generous towards others and strict on yourself, whether you are the stronger or the weaker brother.
IV. (v. 5): Each believer must be fully convinced of their position in their own conscience.
—That does not mean your conscience is always theologically correct.
V. (vv. 6-9): Assume that others are partaking or abstaining for the glory of God.
VI. (vv. 10-12): Do not judge each other in these matters because we will all someday stand before the judgment seat of God.
VII. (vv. 13-15): Your freedom to eat meat is correct, but don’t let your freedom destroy the faith of a weak brother.
—If the weaker brother simply does not like/agree with, or is even simply offended by what the stronger does, that is an issue that lies with them. Their being offended is not the same as their being caused to stumble. The weaker cannot impose their beliefs on the stronger on the basis of their offense. However, if the stronger causes the weaker to sin against their conscience then is it the stronger in faith who is guilty. The stronger also has no right to lord their freedom over the weaker.
—Calibrating your conscience vs suppressing your conscience: to suppress is to violate what you believe to be wrong. To calibrate is to theologically correct your conscience’s thoughts towards something, and, though it may even feel odd at first, to act with freedom. Again, this is after having established theologically the rightness of the action/observance/partaking.
VIII. (vv. 16-17): Disagreements are not of first importance in the kingdom of God, building one another up in righteousness, peace, and joy are.
IX. (vv. 21): If you have freedom don’t flaunt it; if you don’t, do not restrict others.
X. (vv. 22-23): A person who lives according to their conscience is blessed. If you go against your conscience at all, your are sinning, whether you are theologically correct or not.
XI. (vv. 15:1-7): We must follow the example of Christ and put others first.
XII (v. 7): We glorify God when we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.
Be willing to discuss these disputable issues, do not judge one another for your adherence to your consciences (whether you believe you have more freedom or less), and welcome one another. Paul did not answer the disputable issues he brought up because he wants to establish a larger principle that Christians need to follow based off of Christ’s example.
Without compromise or violation, love one another.
Many of us suffer from “dry reading”, but there is a book out there that totally blew my mind when it came to reading the Bible. Reading the Bible often feels difficult, not enjoyable, and boring. Yet, as Christians we feel guilty about feeling this way so we press on in our un-enthusiatics attempts at establishing a daily reading discipline. We know this is what we are supposed to do yet there is no desire, no passion. This is a major reason John Piper’s ministry has been so impacting on me. Christianity was a duty, not my life, nor my passion. My faith was emotionless and dry, so was reading the Bible, and this is not Biblical Christianity.
Now, before I get hammered by those who reacted to the word “emotion”, let me state clearly that I am NOT an advocate for sensationalism nor emotions as a primary source of motivation or truth. I am a confessional Christian who loves liturgy, loves the historical confessions (Westminster Confession of Faith, Heidelberg Confession, The Beligc Confession, etc) and the creeds (The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, etc). So give me good, grounded, intellectual faith. But!…to model ourselves after the Vulcans with the denial and suppression of emotions is to deny who God is and how he made us. To make a pop-culture reference: The movie Equilibrium built a great plot around the value of emotions (also, it is one of my favorite Christian Bale movies).
So what does this have to do with the Bible being boring? May I submit that the reason the Bible is “boring” is that because we are ignorant of it. The more I read and learn from the Holy Spirit and other scholars, old and new, the more the Bible becomes a vast treasure trove of links, connections, and depth that I could not have possible seen before. Here is a section from the book, Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart, that I mentioned blowing me away.
“What is John 9 about? It is story about Jesus. Jesus preforms a sign, revealing himself as the one sent by the Father, as the creator of the new Adams, as the light of the world. He is the Son of Man, the eschatological judge of Daniel 7, who comes into the world to blind those who see and to give sight to the blind.
It is also a story about a blind man healed by Jesus. The blind man has never seen the light of day and spends his pathetic life begging outside the temple. One day, a man named
Jesus stops and talks with his disciples, puts some clay on the blind mans eyes, and sends him off to wash in Siloam. When he returns, he can see, but he cannot see Jesus because Jesus is gone. His neighbors and friends are befuddled but since it is a Sabbath day, they turn to the Pharisees for a legal judgment. The Pharisees interrogate the man and come to a dead end: they do not want to endorse Jesus, but they cannot deny that the man can see. They turn to his parents, but that interview too ends in frustration. When they come back to the man, they try to bully him with threats and unfounded declarations about Jesus’ sinfulness. Something is happening to the man who was once blind. He started out knowing only Jesus’ name, but when the pharisees ask him what he thinks of Jesus, he says that Jesus is a prophet. When they come back for a 2nd interrogation, he has gotten bolder, doggedly pointing to the fact that he can see and asking how a sinner could do such a thing. In his boldness, he turns ironic: “Do you want to be his disciple too?” It is the pharisees again who push him along in his commitment to Jesus: “We are disciples of Moses; you are his disciple.” Finally, they expel him from the synagogue, and as soon as he steps over the threshold Jesus is waiting outside for him. The blind man has deepening sight. He knows Jesus’ name, then confess him as prophet, then confesses he has come from God, and finally confesses him as Lord and Son of God and prostrates himself before Jesus.
Not so obviously, it is also a story of Exodus. Early in, John links Jesus with Moses (1:17), And he tells a story of Jesus preforming signs that correspond in detail with the signs preformed by Moses in Egypt. Moses turns water to blood; Jesus turns water to wine. Moses brings hail and lightening to Egypt, Jesus calms a storm. In Egypt, locust eat all the grain, but Jesus feeds the 5,000. Moses brings darkness to Egypt, while Jesus brings a blind man from darkness to light. The specific plot of John 9 also retells the story of Exodus. Jesus, the prophet greater then Moses, delivers the man from the Egypt of darkness and sends him through the waters. The man enters the wilderness of trial, temptations, and threat, where the leaders of Israel insist that this new Moses cannot be from God, but the blind man is a faithful Joshua or Caleb, who confesses Jesus with boldness in the face of the giants of the land.
Not so obviously, John 9 is also a story of Genesis…Jesus makes clay to make a man new, and reveals himself as the eternal light who’s light came into the world on the first day and who became incarnate in these last days. Jesus is also the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind man, just as Adam and Eves yes where opened at the tree.
It also a story about the pharisees, a story about Israel’s reaction to Jesus, a story about the mans parents, a story about discipleship…” (141-142)
To be sure, Leithart has some…interesting theories, but to his credit, he points out that some of his speculations may be unfounded, but are interesting to tease out. As Christians, this is ok. There is a difference between meditating on God’s Word that involves speculation, and preaching something as gospel truth. Hopefully this excerpt helps people see that what they read on the surface of the texts is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that lies underneath.
Leithart names his chapters as such :”The Text is a Husk”, “Texts are Events”, “The Text is a Joke”, “Texts are Music” etc. and just pores out knowledge and analogies that, when reading this book, I was so overwhelmed with information and feelings of ineptitude that I just wanted to go into a corner and shrivel up. But it was like a good work out; you hurt during but feel great afterwards. This book showed my that ironically, I had been reading the Bible for years but had not yet even begun to read it.
So how does one start you may ask? Try something easy. When asked how he knew what to preach on Charles Sprugeon said: “I take a text, and make a bee-line for the cross.” So let me encourage you, take a text and see how it points to Christ. Yes, there is danger of eisegesis (reading things into the text that aren’t there, i.e. inserting your own meaning) but the Bible is so Christo-centric that it is fairly easy to see where the Old Testament is pointing to Christ. Here are some examples to get started: Moses as a type of Jesus, or the Tabernacle and it’s foreshadowing of redemption and it’s picturing of Jesus. The Holy of Holies as the throne room of God and how only priests could go in, so when Christ dies and the veil was torn this was establishing believers as the royal priesthood mentioned in Peter, who all have access to the throne.
So just as the “…blind man is being healed by the the Sent One in the pool of sending, and thereby becomes one sent, a type of apostle. He is plunged into the pool “Sent” by the One Sent, immersed in the Sent One’s sending” (102) so we are sent to understand the Word. So go forth and seek! No longer may the text be boring!