Dangers of a Me-Centered Theology

December 31, 2007

So often, in my discussions with philosophers or “believers” in the real world, I come up against this common phrase: “My God … (fill in the blank).” Of course, the blank is usually filled with something sweet and comfortable and completely contradictory to even a most cursory understanding of scripture. Such things as “My God would not send anyone to Hell” or “My God just wants us all to love each other and not be so condemning” or “(My) God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.” Let’s face it, there are a lot of things we would want God to be about if we had it our way.

But we don’t.

Let’s look at the Bible on this (novel approach). When Paul is speaking to the church in Galatia, he is dealing with a congregation that has been suffering under the teachings of a false gospel where they are being told as new converts to Christianity to come into subjugation of the Jewish covenant law, specifically to the act of circumcision as an ordinance, of which he deals with in chapter 5. This may not register with us in modern times, as most infant males are circumcised shortly after birth, but for these first generation Christian believers, men of 20,30 or more years of age, they were being told that in order to be fully covered by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross they must get circumcised. That would take some serious belief to do, as a circumcision, one could only imagine, is not something that can be taken too lightly (especially with 1st century medical technology!). Yet, these early Christians, in a desire to be in full obedience, went through with what the teachers proclaimed.

Because of this, Paul was enraged. In Galatians 5:1-12 he blasts the false teachers and their message, proclaiming again to the Galataians that no work of man is sufficient for the grace of God, and capitulating it at the end with a statement, in verse 12, that he wished the false teachers were cut off. But even more than “cut off”, Paul wishes that the false teachers would amputate there own private parts! That is an awfully strong fate for one man to wish upon another.

We also see this sentiment in Christ’s own teachings, as in Luke 17:1-2 where He says, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” In essence, Christ says, it would be better for a false teacher to chain himself to concrete blocks and jump off a bridge than to have others believe his false doctrines. Again, not such a good fate.

So, it appears clear to me that one should be careful before they talk about what “my God” is like and make sure that they know the TRUE God first. The gospel is not about us, our lives are not about us, and as such, the character of God is not about what helps us sleep best at night or gives us the most glory, but instead is about what will bring the most glory to Him.

I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for MY glory,
whom I formed and made.
– Isaiah 43:6-7

Reflections on Undulation with C.S. Lewis

December 30, 2007

To me a very important part of the Christian life is recognizing the weakness and utter depravity of the human condition. It is so easy to assume, and even taught among some of the branches of “Christianity”, that there exists some sort of “sinless perfectionism” among those who have truly been saved; the thought that once one becomes a “true” Christian that they will no longer sin or have desires for the evil things in the world. However, there could be nothing further from the truth (see Romans 7:13-25, 2 Corinthians 12, and Galatians 2:11-14), and this doctrine is surely a road that will lead to much stress in the life of a believer.

C.S. Lewis addressed this reality as well in his book The Screwtape Letters. This book is a continuing correspondance between two demons as they work on how to lead a new believer in the Enemy (aka God) down to a life serving “Our Father Below.” In chapter 9 (attached below) we see a letter going out about how to handle a Christian who is going through a down-time in their spiritual walk. I believe that texts like this can be of great comfort to a believer because they show us that the thoughts which Satan uses to attack our minds and make us doubt God’s presence in our lives are not a unique failing of our own, but are a systemic issue that all Christians must deal with at some point or another. Or, in short, when it comes to feelings of spiritual doubt, you are not alone.

The Screwtape Letters: Chapter 9

The Cross in a New Light

December 29, 2007

I just wanted to share with all of you this sermon which I listened to online last night. It is by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington and it will completely change the way you view what Jesus’ death on the cross must have been like. I have never heard a pastor speak with so much explicit detail on the true nature of crucifixion. It even puts the imagery from The Passion movie in the backseat.

I want to note, the sermon is fairly long, takes about 9 minutes to really get going, and from the middle on he deals with issues that are prevalent doctrinally in the modern church, but from 9 minutes in until about 40 minutes in, Driscoll gives a pretty intense commentary on what exactly crucifixion was and why Jesus’ death in this manner is a big deal. Also, it is fairly graphic in it’s imagery so I would suggest being prepared for that (and probably not eating while you listen).

In all, I really think that listening to this message will give you a whole new perspective on Jesus’ actual death and the severe price that he paid so that we may be reunited with the Father in Heaven. Enjoy!

Mark Driscoll- Death by Love: Reflections on the Cross

Thoughts on a Question from Dawkins about Faith

December 29, 2007

I was watching a video today of an interview between Richard Dawkins, a well-known athiest, and Alister McGrath, a Christian scientist and writer, in which they discuss many questions that Dawkins has about Christianity. One question that Dawkins asks in particular caught my attention. He describes the situation in which militant Islamists, girded by an extreme faith in the Muslism teachings, choose to strap a bomb on themselves and use it as a method for advancing their cause. To this, Dawkins asks, “Faith, as it is taught to children, something that they are taught to believe because they believe because they believe, isn’t that a dangerous thing to teach children?” My surprising answer to Dawkins is “yes.” Yes, this is dangerous, but not in the way Dawkins desires.

It is Dawkins desire to show that faith is a dangerous thing to have and that it is thus better for all of mankind to live as he does, i.e. as an athiest whom believes in no god. However, the actual, Biblical reason for why this is dangerous rests simply upon the fact that faith is not something just to be taught.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3

Thus, we see that faith is a gift from God, something which he has allotted for us, and not a “good principle” about religion which we are taught as children. Yes, we are taught about faith, and as it says in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing…”, but this is not the hearing which we do as a child, growing up listening to Sunday School messages. This is the hearing, as Romans 10:17 continues, “… and hearing through the word of Christ.” This is the gearing of the “good news”, the hearing of the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected so that we may be free from sins.

It is not just that we can hear about faith and what a good thing it is and then we have it. No! It is that we hear the good news, realizes that we are sinners, realize that we can do nothing outside of God (Ephesians 2:1-3), and fall on our knees, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). That is faith.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” – Romans 8:29-30

So, in conclusion, yes, it is dangerous to have faith that is just something we learn and that we “believe because we believe.” But on the other hand, to have a faith which is a gift from God, allotted to us, so that we may be justified, glorified, and live for all eternity with our heavenly Father, now that is a most wonderful thing!

Interesting Quote

December 28, 2007

I heard this quote today and found interesting. I think I will put it up without any discussion and just let you chew on it for a while. It is by C.S. Lewis and says:

“We all serve God inevitably, but it makes a great difference whether you serve like Judas or serve like John.”

A Reason for Obedience

December 28, 2007

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. - Galatians 5:7-9

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? -1 Corinthians 5:6

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel. – Joshua 7:1

Why is it important to have a focus on biblical obedience? The scriptures, as seen above, point clearly to the fact that the disobedience of the few can be enough to bring fall to the lot, both in the New Testament churches of Corinth and Galatia as well as to the people of Israel in the Old Testament.

So, what does this mean to us? Well, the first conclusion that I believe we should pull from this is what I call the “Not With Me” principle. It is our responsibility as free actors to (1) study and understand as much of the will of God as possible, and (2) to conform ourselves to His will and act this out in our lives daily. We must individually take responsibility for our lives and make sure that the leaven does not come from our own lives.

The second conclusion we find is that, once we have the truth of God’s will stored inside of us, we must share that truth and convey the importance of believing in it to our fellow believers. What might have happened to the people of Israel at the Battle of Ai had someone been there to remind Achan of the commandments of the Lord (though, of course, Achan should have recalled them himself too).

Thus, once we have come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ it then becomes imperative of us to continuously seek after the truths of God and to be obedient thereof.

Why this blog? 1 Peter 4:3

December 27, 2007

” 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. ”

The above verse is the driving purpose for this blog. Because of this I feel the leading of the Spirit to study and prepare, both for myself and my bretheren, lessons on how to “put off the body of flesh” and to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

How shall we do this? Through a thorough study of His word, bit-by-bit, not just picking and choosing texts, but by reading the complete inspired words of the Holy Spirit and picking up the keys to learn how we can forsake ourselves and follow after Christ on a daily basis.

It is my belief through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the infallable word of God that the time which is past suffices for living in our carnal nature and that from this point on we are accountable for the actions in which we partake. Therefore, we must learn to desire God and to uncover the true knowledge of God so that He may be glorified through us.