Saturday, September 26, 2009

Exclusive Christianity: There is Not Other Gospel

Wow. What a harsh title. Isn't it just typical of some egotistical Christian to think he is the only one who is right. How absurd and closed minded the Church must be to have such a narrow view. With all the wisdom, all the great thinkers, all the various people on earth and differing views which constitute a celebratory diversity for so many modern thinkers... how can we be so backwards to think we're the only people right on the face of this grand planet?

In our study of Galatians this week, we took a closer look at Paul's outrageous claims in chapter 1:6-8. "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel... But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"

Eternally Condemned? What was the crime worthy of such a judgment? To turn from the Gospel, perverting it from it's original truth. This leaves one of two options: either Paul was inescapably close-minded and unloving, warranting the complete dismissal of this and all his writings, or there must be something crucially important to the Gospel. So crucial, in fact, that to pollute the message with any falsehoods is a capital crime, worthy of death. Which is it?

While we may be under the impression that diversity of thought is good, that perpetual evolution of truth is the ultimate reality, and that any and all claims to exclusive truth must be folly--the reality is that these sentiments are not consistent with a Biblical outlook. Any perversion--modification, addition, revision, or outright restatement--of the Gospel will ultimately fail in one or both of the following ways:
  1. Failure to acknowledge the gravity of our sinful nature, which ultimately leads to idolatry of Man.
  2. Failure to recognize Godís complete character as He has revealed Himself, which leads to idolatry of a created god.

At the core of the issue is God, not man. The charge that Paul, and evangelical Christians today, are in fact intolerant and closed-minded will attempt to center the debate around man. The exclusivity of the Gospel has become an issue of Man's creativity and the assumption that it is our right to determine truth for ourselves. Inasmuch as this is the case, we are already idolaters.

The simple fact is that the Gospel is about God, not man. God desires that all men worship Him, and yet this cannot come about by spreading false testimony about Him--a false Gospel that is, as Paul said, really no Gospel at all.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

So the World May Know You Reign... You Reign in Us.

One of the less fortunate effects of God having placed in me a deep reverence for His sovereignty and the doctrines that acknowledge it has been the thought process that now accompanies any worship experience. Operating out of a deeply rooted understanding that God is wholly and totally sovereign over all things, salvation included, has prompted some questioning over certain worship songs. However, rather than digress into a philosophical conundrum over the phrasing of this lyric or that, I am compelled to write today about a song that I sang yesterday to my God with incredible joy.

In the song, "Reign in Us" by Starfield, the ending chorus says,
"Come cleanse us like a flood and send us out
So the world may know you reign, you reign in us."
As I sang this song aloud it struck me how great a picture this truly is of Jesus' command to tell the whole world about the good news of the Kingdom. That the world may know God reigns, and specifically that He reigns in His people, is exactly how He has purposed for His name to be glorified from as early as His covenant with Abraham. God's reign in Israel was to cause other nations to say, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them" (Deut. 4:7).

In the same way, we are all to reflect the "Kingdom Values"--as our pastor has been calling it in his sermon "Jesus Speaks" series from the Sermon on the Mount. Our message to the world is to be that of proclamation of God's reign, His praiseworthy personhood, and His covenant of love with His church.

Yet, just as I do desire to go out into the world and proclaim that He reigns, and as we the Church are sent out to show that He reigns in us as a body, none of this can be shown without first the cleansing through Christ. The song declares first, "Come cleanse us." That is the prerequisite for His sending us out. When we declare His reign, it is not that we are declaring our choice to allow Him to reign. No, instead, we declare that it is He who re-created us anew, purchased us at a price, adopted us as sons, and now reigns supreme in our lives.

"But, Nick!" someone will exclaim, "The world will hear that as an undesirable dictator-god and not respond." But I ask, for whom do you proclaim? It is for God that we proclaim; it is in adoration of His son that we obey the command to go into all nations; We baptize in the name of the Father, Spirit, and Son; we teach them everything that Christ taught us; indeed it is Christ who is with us always.

So, as our desires are brought in line with God's (a nice plug for compatibalism), we pray "please reign." And, having the cleansing of His blood we are sent out to proclaim that He reigns... He reigns in us.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Nuptial Gospel

By now, the term "social gospel" is pretty widely known, but what's the nuptial gospel? I'll tell you... it's a made up term I just invented. Or at least I think I did. Although I haven't done my due diligence in a trademark and patent search, it was new to me when I thought of it last night.

The social gospel, stripped of it's theologically debatable earmarks and connotations, is at it's heart the principal that THE gospel can (or should, depending on who you ask) be conveyed in the genuine care for those socially needy. This is a Biblical concept, no doubt. "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it" (James 2:15-16)?

In an opportunity that the Spirit created and led me through last night, I found a similar connection between the familiar (felt needs) and the unfamiliar (the gospel to non-believers) that proved very useful. What can a man understand and relate to the love of God if he is not "socially needy." In this case, the married man struggling in his marriage could relate to the covenant love that God has modeled for us.

"Why does she need to deserve your love?" I asked. He didn't quite know what to say. The answer was exceedingly obvious to him, doesn't everyone need to work to deserve love? I explained that her attitude and actions toward him would be more positively effected if he focused less on correcting her (or "parenting" her as he put it) but simply on loving her unconditionally and caring for her. From a psychological standpoint, it made sense to him how this was sound advice.

With that established, I decided now would be a good time to break all social etiquette and bring God up in the midst of a perfectly good normal conversation. "You know, that's what God does for us," I said. His blank stare let me know I had the opportunity to say more. I explained how marriage isn't just something we invented. If we (men, that is) made it up in our own wisdom, we wouldn't have chosen to be monogamous nor would we reserve sex for marriage. To this observation, I received a glowing agreement and buy in... the Spirit was moving.

"So, who made it up? God did. And He told us that, when it's working well, it mimics the way He loves us." Now we're getting somewhere. I was able to make the correlation between his appropriate love for his wife and God's love for his people. "It's nice for me to know that when I screw up, divorce isn't an option for God. That's why it's not an option for me and my wife."

Did He get on his knees and convert? No. But for the first time in a long time I was able to engage this friend in an overt and open discussion about God, His Son, and man that didn't end in a scoff at my faith or an awkward lack of response. So, am I ready to formulate the "nuptial gospel" as a church-wide strategy for conversions? No. But I did find it's effectiveness very moving, and I was grateful to God for giving me the words. I share it today because perhaps your looking for that open door with someone you know. Are they married? Give it a shot.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Evangelism... How good is the good news?

In our BSL (Bible as a Second Language) series, we began with "Gospel"--the Good News. This week, we're going to see the verb form, Euaggelizo (transliterated Evangelizo or Evangelism). Just as we saw that Gospel has taken on a new definition in our oh-so culturally-steeped Church today, just think about what the action of telling it has come to mean.

I want to share a simple quote to let you chew on until Sunday morning. This comes from another blogger that I found while searching the web for resources. I haven't researched his affiliations or other articles, so I'm not advocating everything you may find if you follow this link. But consider what he has to say about our topic at hand, and by 10:15 Sunday morning, see if you can at least relate, if not agree...

"I hate the word evangelism. It's quite possible that some will take offense at that because evangelism is a strong Christian word and concept, and not liking it may have connotations to not liking the action of doing it. And you would be right! I do not like the word because it is very misunderstood by the rest of our world and I do not like the word because of how we have been trained to do it....

"King Richard had good news for the Muslim world Ė it was a crusade! When our world hears 'crusade,' when our world hears 'evangelism,' when our world hears 'turn from your ways!,' they do not connect the dots and think, 'Wow, this is really good news!'"

-- Thoughts Outloud, Jeff Peters

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Monday, February 4, 2008

The inferior church

In the passage we studied yesterday (2 Cor. 12:11-18), Paul charged the Corinthian church in verse 13, "How were you inferior to the other churches?" He goes on to answer his own question, "...except that I was never a burden to you?" As we reflect on what he's saying, the obvious question becomes: why didn't Paul take a collection from Corinth?

Was Corinth poor? We learned earlier in his letter (chapter 9) that they have excess money to share. Did Paul not deserve to make a living from the church in Corinth? In his first letter to Corinth, he gives a lengthy discourse explaining precisely why he had the right to collect (1 Cor. 9). Yet, he claims that to collect from them would hinder the gospel. Why?

As we have discussed, the Corinthians were accustomed to paying their teachers. The better the teacher, the more they paid. Paul felt that if he became a "burden" to the Corinthian Christians, then they may think as though they contributed something of value to the Gospel by their giving, thus enabling themselves to have received it. Indeed, with Paul's refusal to take their financial support, the Corinthians' pride was hurt. They felt inferior to other churches, and yet Paul continues in verse 14 to tell them that he would still not take any offering from them. For, despite their attitude toward wealth, Paul states, "what I want is not your possessions but you."

God wants us to receive his Gospel as empty vessels, fully aware that we have nothing to offer. For Corinth, they wanted to offer their wealth to help God. For us, could it be our knowledge, our skills, our good deeds? God asked Job, blameless as he was, what he had done that God should repay him (Job 41:11). All our knowledge, our skills, even our righteous behavior and any good work is only a gift of grace from God the Father. We are empty vessels that God chooses to fill, and then use. We should rejoice that we are "inferior" so that God alone may glorified.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thy Kingdom Come: A Prayer of Victory

This short, quick-read book is meant for the non-believer investigating the Bible as well as any christian interested in seeing a cohesive view, cover-to-cover, of Biblical narrative with relation to Christ, the Covenant, and salvation. The book begins in Eden and ends in Revelation tying fundamental concepts of the gospel and biblical theology together.

Purchase "Thy Kingdom Come: A Prayer of Victory" as a gift for a friend or for yourself. As an evangelical tool, it's a very easy read (only 100 pages and large type) that won't be too daunting for the seeker.

I would also like to invite you to let your friends know about the book through one of the best social media outlets available to our generation: Join the Facebook Group.

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Bible as a Second Language (BSL)

The following downloads, called Bible as a Second Language (BSL), are word studies on common "christianese" terminology used in the church.

BSL - Gospel

BSL - Evangelism

BSL - Righteous

BSL - Holy.pdf

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