Thursday, November 19, 2009

Still Alive and Well

Yes, I borrowed the title from one of my all-time favorite songs. Anyone remember Rick Derringer? The song doesn't really say much, but the groove is classic!

Anyway, it's been awhile since I've added a post and I wanted all two or three of you who read this thing to know that I'm still here. I've been busy with church services/activities and blog reading/commenting (not to mention an increase of workload at my job) and have had little time to post new material. I do have a lot on my mind, I just haven't gotten around to organzing and then posting it. I was planning on posting a rant on the "anti-Christ" doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, but I'll leave that for another day.

I've been spending much of my free time learning about photography so that I can begin taking quality photos with my new Nikon D40 DSLR. This is a fantastic little camera and I'm really excited about using it to its full potential. I have some quality photos (at least I think they are!) up on (and more on my computer) that I had taken from my Canon Powershot "point and shoot" camera, but I'm really looking forward to adding galleries with photos taken from my new D40. Once I learn this thing and start taking shots, I'll post an update here. I know you all are getting really psyched about this now, so I'll try learning it quickly!

Also, I've been spending some time interacting on another blog (and now via email) that has given me an opportunity to consider a new perspective on the scope of the Gospel that I want to continue to pursue. My initial "conversation" over there was very frustrating (to say the least), but as I continue to read the material (and listen to some audio) and dialogue about these things with a new friend, I think I'm beginning to understand what they're trying to say. I want to keep an open mind so that I can understand their position as best I can. There is much here that I'm very excited about as a Christian, but there are too many unanswered questions right now for me to fully endorse this perspective.

My time and energy of late have been devoted to these two pursuits (with church and work bearing the bulk of my life), so I've been slow to update here and at greatgooglymoogly. Hopefully after the holidays (which by now includes Christmas, of course!) I'll once again be posting regularly. Mrs. Moogly and I will be traveling to Florida again this year, so I'll try to upload some posts and pics of our time at The Villages. Also, hopefully, we won't be so cold down there this time. Believe me--50 degrees and sunny in Denver is great weather (heck, 45 degrees and sunny in Denver is nice!); 50 degrees in Florida is fffreeeeezing!

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in some fine reading material check these titles out.

The Israel of God in Prophecy, by Hans K. Larondelle. This is hands down one of the best books I've ever read dealing with the meaning and purpose of "Israel". This is a hermeneutical "tour-de-force" that should be read by every professing Christian. Larondelle's writing is clear and concise and his conclusions are Scripturally and logically unassailable. This is a relatively little book but it thoroughly exposes as unbiblical the dispensational myth that has captivated Western Christianity for the past century. **Highly Recommended**

Don't Stop Believing..., by Michael Wittmer. With the "emergent movement" making so much noise in the evangelical community in this post-modern era, the Church needs to be reminded that the Scripture is God's Word and is sufficient to lead a person into godly understanding (doctrine) and holy living (practice). God has spoken. There is nothing new under the sun. The errors of "fundamentalism" need not lead to the excesses of what Wittmer calls "post-modern innovation". From a biblical standpoint there is no dichotomy between doctrine and practice--and we shouldn't let the "emerging" movement create one! **Highly Recommended**

Heaven is a Place on Earth..., by Michael Wittmer. I've already mentioned this book before, so I'm sure you all have already read it. :-) If you haven' it! **Highly, Highly Recommended** (that's right, two "Highly's")

In the immortal words of Arnold, "I'll be back"...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Best of Redemptive-Historical Preaching!

This is “redemptive-historical” preaching at its finest—both from the text itself as Stephen presents his defense before the Sanhedrin and in the sermon preached from the text (linked here and to the right). Like our Lord before him, Stephen has been accused of speaking against Moses, the Law and the Holy Place. And like our Lord before him, Stephen shows his accusers from the Scripture (the OT) that it is they themselves who are actually blaspheming God by not understanding the meaning of Moses, the Law and the Holy Place.

Many people have wondered about Stephen’s defense. Why isn’t he answering their charges? When we read Stephen’s “sermon”, it seems as if he’s just giving the people a history lesson. It doesn’t seem that he’s really answering the question, at least not directly. Ah, but he is! Stephen doesn’t simply give the Sanhedrin a history lesson—a history that they already know (in fact, they base their whole identity as a people on knowing their history). But Stephen takes them through their history to show them that they don’t know the meaning of their history or who they were as God’s people. Just as Jesus warned the people that they were in danger of missing the Kingdom because they didn’t understand the Scripture and what God was really promising, so Stephen is also showing the people that they have misunderstood the meaning of their own history and God’s purpose in it. The nation of Israel itself as well as the circumstances of their history point to Christ!

By accusing first Jesus Himself and now Stephen of blaspheming God by speaking against Moses, the Law and the Holy Place, the people are proving that they don’t know the meaning of their own history; they don’t know their own Scripture. They are the ones who are guilty of blasphemy because they don’t recognize the fulfillment of these things in Christ. Their own history condemns them, as Stephen is pointing out.

The Scripture isn’t concerned with the history of the tribe of Jacob in and of itself. Scripture tells the story of Jesus! Fundamentally, the NT is simply the interpretation of the Scripture (the OT) in light of its fulfillment in Christ—it’s all about Him! Stephen is doing the same thing that our Lord Himself had done, and that His Apostles/Disciples have been doing: they are proving from the Scripture that Jesus is the subject of the Scripture, that He is the promise of God! Stephen is preaching Christ from…the Old Testament!

And we must also preach Christ from the OT because He is what the OT is about! We have a deficient or incomplete understanding of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished if we don’t understand Him from the OT. As we see from the Gospels, the Epistles and the book of Acts (the entirety of the NT), the OT is about Jesus. Before the NT was written, Jesus was preached (to the Jew first, remember) from the Scripture. And this is especially evident in the book of Acts. The message of the OT is the message of the purpose of God in Christ; of the coming of the King—who He is and what He’s coming to accomplish. The OT is not concerned about the ethnic descendants of Abraham and a plot of land called Canaan—they and it are typological. The OT is the story of the King and His Kingdom—the Son of God and Sacred Space. Jesus is the fulfillment of the typological “Israel” and “Canaan”.

All is fulfilled in Christ! Contrary to the popular “Left Behind” mind-set and the false-teaching, judaizing Hagees of the world, the year 1948 means nothing with regard to OT prophecy. The OT (all of it!) finds its fulfillment in Christ Himself—the True “Israel” and Sanctuary of God. If the nation of Israel and sincere but misguided Dispensational Christians want to rebuild the Temple, all they’re doing is dishonoring the God they say they love and serve (as did the Pharisees and Saducees of Jesus’ day). The “Temple” has found its fulfillment; first and foremost in Christ Himself, and then in all those who are joined to Him by the Spirit who form the “house” of God—the Church! In Christ, we are (the Church is) the Temple of God, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit, the Sanctuary where God is present with His people. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed once and for all! There will be no more sacrifices (even in “remembrance”) because it is finished in Him. And in Him God has formed one new man consisting of Jew and Gentile so that there are not two peoples of God but only one—those who are joined to Christ by the Spirit.

Stephen’s sermon confronts the Jewish people with their misunderstanding of the Scripture. He’s not speaking against Moses, the Law and the Holy Place. He’s showing the people from their own history that God expects them to understand these things as speaking of and being fulfilled in Jesus, whom they crucified. They refused to believe Jesus. They are the ones speaking against Moses, the Law and the Holy Place. They are blaspheming God.

I encourage you all to take an hour and listen to this sermon (and read the notes here). This is only part-one of Stephen’s defense (so keep following the messages on SermonAudio), but we already have here presented to us an overview of the Sanctuary/Holy Place theme. Kit does a wonderful job explaining the Scripture and showing how it is that Stephen’s defense speaks directly to the accusations brought against him.

If you want more excellent redemptive-historical preaching, visit us on SermonAudio (linked to the right) and listen to all our sermons. We mostly exposit individual books of the Bible, but occasionally we engage in a topical series. I especially recommend our series on Sacred Space (God With Us) which tracks the purpose of God in Christ from the beginning of Creation through Revelation. This series is the absolute best that Biblical Theology has to offer. If you want to know the story of the Bible, what God is trying to tell us in His Word, then check this out. You won’t be disappointed!

As a side note (and the subject of a future post, Lord willing), Stephen’s message, though aimed at the Jewish leaders who refuse to believe God, should also convict the dispensational believer who fails to understand the complete fulfillment of the Temple/Sanctuary motif in Jesus. The similarities between modern Judaism and Dispensationalism should be a cause for concern within the Church.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"A Different King of Kingdom"--Greg Boyd

This message (audio available here: on the blog page) is part of a series that Greg Boyd taught a while back in connection with his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church.” This book and series of messages was chiefly responsible for, as Greg himself states: “approximately 20 percent of my congregation (roughly 1000 people) leaving the church.” The topic of the relationship between the church and government is a polarizing issue, and this message only adds fuel to the fire. But I find much (not all) of what Boyd says to be refreshingly Biblical.

While I don't always agree with Greg Boyd, I do appreciate his courage to challenge the politicized Christianity that is so prevalent in our day. For far too long Christianity in America has been identified with particular political parties, specific political/social policies and an ethical/moral distinctive rather than with the Lord Himself and the Kingdom that He has inaugurated. Oh, we have no problem attaching the name of Jesus or the character of God to our political/social positions, but our identity as “Christians” in this country is seldom (if at all) associated with the Gospel or the Kingdom of God but rather with political ideals and moral orientation. We seem to have lost our “first love” and have replaced it with a “love of the world” that manifests itself in a “nationalism” and political activism that in no way resembles the Kingdom that Jesus taught. For Christians to be identified by the world as a particular political party, or with specific political/social policies and ethical/moral persuasions rather than (or, at best, even before) being identified with Christ and His Kingdom is simply unbiblical—it’s “not the way it’s supposed to be”!

I’m not saying that as Christians we should stick our heads in the sand and have nothing to do with the direction of our nation or the promotion of moral excellence that God calls for. We should be good citizens of this country while recognizing that we are ultimately citizens of a better country, a “city” whose builder and maker is God Himself; fundamentally, we are citizens of the “Kingdom of God”. I realize that there is a fine line between living for Christ in the world while recognizing that we are not of this world, even as the Kingdom that we belong to is not of this world. But we must surrender the temptation to equate our Christianized “American way of life” with that of the Kingdom of God. It’s not!

The Bible speaks of two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God/Christ (light) and the kingdom of Satan (darkness). The kingdom of Satan is associated with all the kingdoms of this earthly “worldly realm” in distinction from the Kingdom of Christ which is associated with the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom that is “not of this earthly realm” (see John 18:28-38), though it will one day and forever rule over all the kingdoms of earth (Rev. 11:15; Isa. 9:6-7, Isa. 11, etc.). As Boyd points out, however, at this time we must not confuse the two. Until Jesus returns in the consummation to reign over all of creation, the kingdoms of this world are distinct from the Kingdom of God. Only when Christ returns and the creation enters into its own redemption will the kingdom(s) of this world be transformed into the kingdoms of Christ (though our cultural mandate as “image-bearers” is still in effect as we work with God to transform lives and promote “shalom” in this world). Until then, however, the Kingdom of God is in this world but not of this world, and it’s made up of people from every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 5:9-10; 1Pet. 2:4-10; Gen. 12:1-3 with Galatians 3:6-9; etc.). Constantine's "kingdom" was no more the Kingdom of God than is America or Iran or Nazi Germany.

I think Boyd is correct in principle but I think he goes a little too far with the dichotomy between the two kingdoms. As I stated above, there is a distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom(s) of this world that Boyd rightly points out; and Boyd’s overall point in emphasizing the preeminence of the Kingdom of God over against the kingdom(s) of this world and our identification as Christians with the one over against the other is very important to remember. Every nation on this earth, every government that rules a particular people group is part of the “worldly realm” and therefore a part of Satan’s “kingdom of darkness”. There’s a sense in which we as Christians have a “dual citizenship”; but our ultimate residence and loyalty is to Jesus, not “Caesar”. We are called to be “light” and “salt” in this dark and dying world and by our lives and activity in the world we should be promoting righteousness and Shalom. We must be faithful to our calling in both kingdoms.

But is there no sense at all in which we can see the Kingdom of God working within existing “worldly” kingdoms? The Kingdom of God is, at the present time, a “realm” that is distinct from the “worldly” realm, but in a very real sense it has broken into this world by the very fact of the incarnation and then the work of the Spirit as He builds God’s House. As Christians, we exist in both kingdoms. As “new creations” in Christ, we belong to the New Creation that is the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom that is made up of people from every nation under heaven and whose paradigm is not with political or social policies, but with light and life. And even though our lives are even now hidden with Christ in God, yet we also live in this world and live within the framework of “worldly kingdoms” that exist within the paradigm of darkness and death. But as “new creations” do we not have any influence in this world that would cause the Kingdom of God to be noticed more within one existing “worldly rule” than another?

As one writer put it, “Can't we see in-breakings of the coming (and present) kingdom (of God) here and now, better in some places than others?” Is the Kingdom of God, which is a present reality here on earth now, not able to be communicated in any way by existing “worldly” governmental activities? As Christians not only influence but also find vocation within existing governmental structures, isn’t it possible that aspects of the Kingdom of God would be visible and operative? Is the dichotomy so great that there can be no resemblance at all between the Kingdom of God and a kingdom(s) of the world?

As I understand Boyd, he suggests that there isn’t. While rightly causing us to consider the radical difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom(s) of the world, Boyd doesn’t seem to leave room for the work of the Spirit to transform culture. Of course, he would disagree with this and rightly so. His ministry is a strong voice in encouraging Christians to reflect Jesus by reaching out and engaging the world; to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to help the helpless, etc. In other words, Boyd is quick to advance the practical outworking of our Christian calling and its effect in the world. And if we are to mirror Jesus to the world, then our efforts should, in some measure (however small or seemingly insignificant), transform culture. After all, Jesus Himself transformed culture in a huge way.

But isn’t “government” a part of culture and a legitimate means to help effect cultural change? Why should we assume that our efforts within culture at large are manifestations of the Kingdom of God operating in the world but not so our efforts within governmental structures? Boyd seems to think that the dichotomy between the kingdom(s) of the world and the Kingdom of God is so tight that the Kingdom of God can never be witnessed in any way within any existing worldly power. I can’t go that far.

I empathize with Boyd’s concern with contemporary “American” Christianity’s muddling of the distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms (governments) of the world. We seem to think that if we “fix” the government, then the world and our lives as Christians will be better. That may be true. But unless we manifest the Kingdom of God and show people the way in, what does “better” really mean? I believe there is a balance here that allows us to remain faithful as citizens of the Kingdom of God while at the same time working toward expressing this Kingdom within the kingdoms of the world.

Of course, that begs another question…which I leave for you to contemplate.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Basic Christianity

A short post by my friend Chad over at The Road to Emmaus to help us understand, as he puts it, "What it means to be Christ-Centered and Gospel-Saturated." And to be "Christ-Centered" and "Gospel-Saturated" is Christianity 101.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cosmic Redemption--a brief post

Just some quotes and thoughts from a so-far excellent book by Michael D. Williams: "Far As The Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption"

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in this,” said Herman Bavinck, “that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God” (quote from, “Far As The Curse Is Found” by Michael D. Williams, pg. xi).

The above quote might be the most concise and profound statement regarding the purpose of God in Christ that I’ve come across. The only change I would make is substituting the term “death” with “Christ-event” (properly understood). I would do this because the Bible speaks of the restoration of all things in the terms of Christ as the fulfillment of all the Scripture. It’s not just His death but His subsequent burial, resurrection, ascension and enthronement as the King/Priest that the Scripture speaks of with regard to Christ. The “Christ-event” is the sum total of the Person and Work of Christ as the fulfillment of all the Scripture and it is this paradigm (not solely the “death” of Christ) that is the basis of God’s restoration of His creation.

With that in mind, however, Bavinck’s quote succinctly expresses the central theme and storyline of the Bible which, according to Williams, also forms the overarching literary structure of the Bible: creation-fall-redemption-consummation (ibid, pg. xi). And it is this theme that is so often missed by sincere Christians as they attempt to understand the Bible. As Bavinck points out, it is God’s intention to restore the fullness of His creation, not just mankind. The “Christ-event” is not just applicable to “man”, it is cosmic in scope. The curse has affected the entirety of God’s creation and Christ’s purpose to overthrow the curse is likewise universal—all of creation (though not every individual human being) will one day enter into Christ’s redemption so that the curse is nowhere to be found!

Speaking of the glory of Christ’s resurrection, Williams puts the cosmic nature of redemption this way: “God’s unstoppable goal is nothing less than the restoration of his good creation, the eradication, not of it (creation) but of the sin that has damaged it, even the triumph of the body over death itself” (ibid, pg. 2). As Christians, we need to see the Gospel in all its glory—Christ’s redemption restores all things to their created purpose and destiny. Again, not every individual person will be “saved”, of course; but Christ’s coming was to recover the entirety of creation, not just “man”. As the “Seed of the Woman”, when Christ crushed the serpent’s head at the Cross (with all that the Cross entails) it was to deliver not just “man” but the whole of creation from the curse of estrangement, sin…and death.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Greatest Mystery In The Existence Of Mankind Finally Revealed

Yes! That's right!! I have the answer to the greatest question that has never entered into the thought of man!!! Sorry Bob, the Ultimate Question is not about "Life, the Universe and Everything" (though it may come in at a close second!); and the answer is not "42". No...the Ultimate Question is why "Great Googly Moogly"?! And the answer is...

...because!'s not simply "because"; it's actually a two-part answer.

First of all, I've always liked that phrase since I first heard it uttered by that poet of poets, that master of elucidation, that genius of scalar musical inventiveness...yes, that's right...Mr. Frank Zappa himself. I admit, the music of Frank Zappa is one of my (supposedly) "guilty pleasures"; though, as those who know me will attest, I don't think there is much of anything about "life" to be particularly guilty about when processed through a proper grid. Some may not agree with me, but I believe that Zappa is a poster-boy for how a person can testify of his Creator through his own creativity as a cultural "image-bearer" while at the same time curse his Creator by not giving Him the glory and by not using his creativity to promote shalom. While there may be much to be questioned regarding Zappa the person and Zappa the music, I can appreciate the "goodness" of Zappa's music as I listen to it through the lens of our shared "humanness" as people created in the image of God. I enjoy listening to Zappa's creative use of his gift to manipulate sound waves in such a way as to make great music (to these ears, at least!). If I can see, appreciate and glorify God in the music of Zappa as I listen to it, then there is no biblical reason for me to shun it. Of course, so as to not make my brother stumble, I would refrain from playing Zappa in the presence of my "brother" if he were to be offended by it; but, "To the pure all things are pure"...and I still appreciate the musical genius that is Frank Zappa.

Anyone who can so naturally and fluently incorporate the phrase, "Great Googly Moogly" into a song and have it mean exactly what it's supposed to mean is...well...a "genius"! And "genius" can be celebrated by Christian and non-Christian alike!

The second reason I've adopted the moniker, "Great Googly Moogly" is in response to a friend of ours (Abinator) who despises exclamation points (!). She believes, among other things, that they are way over used! Can you believe that?! I've never ever seen them overused!! How else are you supposed to make your point emphatic except by the use of the exclamation point! She believes that the exclamation point is not simply over-used, but abused. Hogwash!! Great Googly Moogly!! At least I know that I'm not guilty of either of those charges!!...!

Anyway, in response to Abster I've adopted Great Googly Moogly because it so perfectly captures the "sense" of the exclamation point. Whether in frustration, exasperation, agitation, perturbation, trepidation or in stimulation, enthusiam or excitement, Great Googly Moogly is the spoken and literary equivalent of the (!) . And since I'm a walking (!), the personification of "frustrating" and/or "excitable", I thought GGM would fit rather nicely.

So, there you have it. The answer to the greatest mystery that no one has ever cared about! Ooops...sorry! Darn it, I did it again! Great Googly Moogly! Oh man...somebody stop me!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Culver Quotes

Before the quotes, however, I want to bring attention to another encouraging post from Bob Robinson at Vanguard Church. After identifying popular, contemporary evangelicalism's misuse of Scripture (yet again), Bob closes his latest post by reminding us of the cosmic significance and scope of the work of Christ in the Gospel. Why do we continue to force the Scripture to speak from the perspective of American Nationalism? After reading his latest post, scroll to the post entitled: American Patriotism and the Bible and read Greg Boyd's review of the latest "gimmick Bible" that has hit the shelves. This "Bible" would be absolutely ridiculous if it wasn't so potentially dangerous.

Christopher Culver quotes from his book, "Speak Lord: Learning to Listen to the Bible".

God’s self-revelation is historically framed and conditioned. The Bible is not a collection of religious, doctrinal, and theological statements; rather, it is an inspired record of and commentary upon God’s ongoing interactions with the world through the movement of human history. The Bible is an historical account, spanning all of history from the point of creation to the end of the present world and into the eternal state.

At the same time, it is not a haphazard and disconnected collection of historical events and people, as one might expect to find in a classroom history text. The Bible has a cohesive and purposeful storyline: From the opening verses of Genesis, it has a specific destination in mind, and everything it contains is recorded precisely because it contributes to the development of its “story” as it advances toward its predetermined goal (pg. 12-13).

The biblical text demonstrates that divine revelation is incarnate in history. It doesn’t simply occur in history. It has its identity and lives, grows and matures in history. Indeed, history is itself revelatory, for it is nothing except the observable outworking in time and space of God’s eternal and sovereign purposes (pg. 13).

To paraphrase Vos, Biblical Theology is the theological discipline concerned with God’s self-revelation in the Bible, but specifically from the vantage point of the organized and harmonious process by which God progressively unfolds it within the upward movement of human history (pg. 15)

…Biblical Theology seeks to examine God’s self-revelation in the Bible according to the structure and form in which the Bible presents it. Systematic Theology is concerned with categories of theological truths and the content that belongs in those categories; Biblical Theology is concerned with theological content as the Bible reveals and develops it within the movement of its own inspired storyline (pg. 15).

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part 5 (conclusion-end)

So, the answer to the question, “How Are We To Live?” is this: according to our (new) nature as "image-sons". We are to live into the reality of who we were created to be as “sons”(children) of God. But only Christians are who they were created to be by virtue of the “new birth”. Unbelievers are also called to live out the reality of who they were created to be, which means they must come to Christ by faith and be “born again” by the Spirit. Our lives are to reflect and express our very being as “image-sons”; and this can only happen when we come to Christ by faith and are made “new creations” by the Spirit. We are “sons” of God in the Son of God; and we’re to live out this reality not by doing but by being (by being conformed to our new nature as God’s “sons”). And how do we live out the reality of who we are? We "be who we are" not by doing anything, per say, but by walking in the Spirit, by yeilding to the Spirit and being led by Him as He conforms us into the image of Christ. If we’re led by commandments, then we’re simply walking according to the flesh; and this does not please our Father. If we’re directed by duty, by rules and regulations, then we are simply finding our identity back in “law”, not in Christ by the Spirit; we’ve placed the yoke of the Pharisees back on our shoulders. Our lives are not to be directed by the "imperative" but by the "indicative". Remember: "to do" is a pragmatic concept, but "to be" is an ontological concept. "To do" is the imperative and "to be" is the indicative. But if our doing, as Christians, is not a direct result or extension of our being, if what we do is not the product of who we are (as the Spirit continues His work of transformation in us), then our doing is at best, worthless (because it testifies of “me”, not Christ) and at worst, blasphemous (because it supplants the work of Christ with “my work”). If our “obedience” comes from duty (pragmatism) rather than love (the expression of who we are ontologically as God’s Children), then our “obedience” is simply another manifestation of sin—we are living as if we don’t believe God.

Are we called to obey God, to obey Christ? Of course we are. If our lives aren’t characterized by obedienc, then we are illegitimate “sons” who will take our place alongside the “moralists and legalists” (the “religionists”) who did the deeds of “obedience” but will be told by Christ, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” The issue is this: “What is nature of our obedience?” If our obedience is not the product and expression of our very being, of who we are as New Creations in Him; if it’s not the outworking of the Spirit within us as He transforms our lives from the inside, then our “obedience” is of the flesh and is another expression of sin. Do we obey because of commands? Or do we obey because it is an expression of our very nature as “sons” of God who love Him and are growing increasingly like Him through the work of the Spirit?

Jesus was always perfectly obedient to the Father; He even spoke often of the unity between Him and the Father: “I and the Father are one”, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father”, etc. Now because we know that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, we don’t always consider the human element of this “oneness”. Jesus’ “sonship” was on display in His humanness. He showed Himself to be God’s Son as much by His obedience to God (as a "son") as He did by His miracles (and I would argue, more so). But, as I’ve said over and over again, His obedience was Him simply being who He was. He was “one” with the Father in His humanness in the sense that He was like His Father—He always did the will of the Father because the Father’s will was also His will. Jesus lived out the idiom, “Like father, like son” completely. He didn’t have to set out to be obedient; He was obedient because He had the mind of His Father—Jesus was like His Father. And because Jesus was like His Father in His humanness as a "son", we should recognize the Father in Him. Likewise, when we are true to who we are as "sons" of God in the Son, if we are simply being who we are as "born again", Spirit-filled Children of God in Christ, then when people see us they will see Christ--not necessarily because of what we do but because of who we are!

And this is our calling! We’re called to have the “mind of Christ” so that everything we do is an expression of the united will of Christ and us! And this is the work of the Spirit in us as He progressively conforms us into His likeness. Paul goes on to say that “…it is God who is at work in (us) both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” When Jesus prayed that we would be one with Him as He is with the Father, He wasn’t speaking about some mystical absorption of our very being into God; He was praying that we would so find our identity as “sons” of God in Christ, as the true, fully authentic “son”, that our lives would testify of Him because the world will see Him in us. As Jesus rebuked Philip for not recognizing the Father in Jesus (a son reflects his father), so our lives should be a continual rebuke to the world for not recognizing Jesus in us. And, of course, this rebuke can be turned on us, can’t it? If the world doesn’t see Jesus in us, what does that say about the character of our lives? We are “sons” of God in the Son of God, and for our lives to testify of Jesus, we must do what Jesus did—live into the reality of who we are. He didn’t do anything but be who He was. We don’t do anything; we be who we are.

I close with a caution against the trite refrain that I just allude to above, “What Would Jesus Do”. I feel that this directive (as it’s popularly understood) misses the entire point of how we are to live our lives in this world. We don’t simply imitate Jesus in the things that He does. I’ve said it numerous times: anyone (with or without the Spirit) can simply imitate the behavior of someone else or follow a bunch of rules if he thinks it is in his best interest. We are not called to imitate Jesus (or Paul, for that matter) in their behavior; we’re to imitate them as they lived out their lives in integrity as authentic human beings. To have integrity and to be “authentic” is to simply be true to who you are. As I mentioned early on in this series of posts, God’s “perfection” is His authenticity—He’s always true to who He is. Jesus is the only authentic human being because He is always true to who He is as the true Man. And we are authentic human beings only as we yeild to the Spirit and live out the reality of who we are in our very being as New Creations in Christ, as those who have partaken of the new humanity that has come in Christ.

Christ was fully God and fully Man. He was truly God’s Son in His humanity as much as in His divinity. In fact, the best argument for the authenticity of His divinity is that He was fully conformed to who He was as a human being as He lived out His “Sonship”. His life as a human being looked as it should if He was who He claimed to be. Our obligation to “live like Jesus” is our obligation to live out the reality of who we are as God’s “sons”. We don’t simply do what Jesus did; we, pardon the grammar, be what Jesus be. He was God’s Son—and He lived as God’s Son. He didn’t set out to do anything, per say; He simply was who He was. We are God’s “sons” in Christ—and we’re to imitate Jesus by living authentically as God’s children. We shouldn’t set out to do anything, per say; we are simply to be who we are. We imitate Jesus by living by the Spirit as authentic human beings, by "being who we are" as God’s “sons”. The refrain WWJD should be changed to WWID (What Would I Do) or WWYD (What Would You Do) as a child of God.

Similarly, Paul (and the rest of the Apostles/Disciples) gives us direction in the same way. While not “perfect” (remember our definition) because the work of the Spirit is not complete, we’re to imitate them only as they express their integrity and authenticity as children of God. Again, as with Jesus, we don’t do what they do, we 'be what they be" as children of God, as authentic human beings. They inform us of how we are to live our lives by reminding us of who we are. Every instance of “imperative” in the NT is based on and grounded in the “indicative”. We’re to follow Paul’s example (and the example of Peter, James, etc.) by living out the reality of the New Creation, by living out the reality of our “sonship”. We don’t do it perfectly in this life, of course; but unless we’re living our lives as a natural expression of who we are as God’s children (albeit in the power and under the direction of the Spirit as He continues His work of transformation), then all of our doing is just Pharisaical (hypocritical). Doing deeds is not the call of the Christian—being authentic children of God (human beings) is the issue. And we are only being authentic as we “walk by the Spirit”. If we are doing instead of being, then I fear that we haven’t really understood the power of the Gospel or the power and work of the Spirit in us.

Let's quit worrying about our doing and concentrate on being who we are! This is freedom! And this is the only freedom that will always manifest the life of Christ in us and testify to the world of the power of the Gospel. So, to borrow another popular refrain, "Just do it"! Be who you are!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part-5 (Conclusion: Part 2)

...continued from previous post.

Most believers will readily agree that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (after all, He says so Himself, doesn’t He?), but generally they fall short in understanding the fullness of this fulfillment. We generally speak of Christ as the fulfillment of the Law in what He did rather than in who He was—sound familiar? Jesus certainly did do the works of the Law; He obeyed the Law fully. But He didn’t prove Himself to be God’s Son because of what He did in “obeying” the Law; rather He did the works of the Law in “obedience” because of who He was as God’s Son. Do you see the difference? The distinction between the doing of Jesus as God’s Son and the being (ontology) of Jesus as God’s Son in fulfilling the Law is understood more easily when we consider that Jesus came as the definition of the Law and the definition of “Israel” as God’s “son”.

The Scripture presents the Law as defining what it means to be God’s “son”. Remember, God called Israel His son based upon His choosing them as Abraham’s offspring. First Isaac, the promised “begotten” son and then Jacob, later to be named “Israel”, were initial fulfillments of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a son and that through his son, God would bless the nations of the earth. Jacob (“Israel”) fathered twelve sons (tribes) who collectively became “Israel”. Over and over again in the Scripture as God speaks to His people He refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He does this to reinforce their understanding of their heritage as the collective “son” (seed) of Abraham and their relationship to Him as His “chosen people”, unique among the nations of the world by being called out of the world as His “son”. When YWHW sent Moses to deliver His people, He told him to say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. Let My son go that he may serve Me’” (Ex. 4:22-23).

God calls “Israel” His son, though they had forgotten (and continued to forget) Him. So, in the giving of the Law, God defines for them what it means to be His “son”. God is not giving the people a bunch of hoops to jump through. He’s defining for them what it means to be “Israel”, His son. They are His chosen “son” consecrated to Him. They are not as the other nations; they are uniquely called “out of the world” to be Yahweh’s “peculiar” people. They are separate from the other nations and they are to find their identity solely in their relationship to God. In the giving of the Law, God is showing them that everything about their identity as His “son” is defined by Him—not themselves, not the nations around them, and certainly not the “gods” of the other nations. Israel was God’s “son” and they knew it because God gave them the Law which told them who they were. And the fact that they continued to fail to be who they were called to be as God’s “son” (evidenced by the institution of the sacrificial system, which also testified of Christ) showed them (and us) that their very existence was not ultimate, that “Israel” as “son” of God would be fulfilled in another Israel, the true “Son” of God (which I’ve written about elsewhere).

As with everything else in the Scripture, “Israel” and the Law were types of Christ and prophesied of Him. So when Jesus and the N.T. writers testify that He has fulfilled all of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (the entirety of the Scripture), they are testifying to the fact that Jesus, as the definition of the Law and Israel, has fulfilled these types in His very Person. The fact that He was obedient to the Law in His practice was due to the fact that He was the definition of the Law; He was the “Israel” that the Law defined. Jesus is what the nation could not be (and was never intended to be): the true “son” of God. And that’s because He is the true Son of God in His very nature. He obeyed the Law not because that’s what He did, but because that’s who He was. Jesus lived out the reality of who He was...that’s all. The things that He did were simply manifestations of who He was.

"To do" is a pragmatic concept; "to be" is an ontological concept. To do is the “imperative”; to be is the “indicative”. Jesus did the things that He did (He obeyed His Father, He obeyed the “Law”) not because He was commanded to but because He was perfectly conformed to His nature and simply lived out the reality of who He was as God’s Son. He could say of Himself that He came to do the will of the Father because as the Son of God it was His will as well.

So…what does that mean for us? We “obey” the Law by coming to Christ and finding our identity in Him. We are “sons” of God in the Son of God. As Paul stresses throughout his writings (and in agreement with Christ and the rest of the Scriptures—N.T. and O.T.), the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us because we are joined to Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law. We have no obligation to the Law as such. If we look to commandments to direct our relationship with God, then we are refusing to believe Him when He declares that we are His Children in Christ, born by the Spirit to new life. We have been “born again” and now have a new nature; we have been restored as His “image-bearers”, His “image-sons”.

As those who have a new nature, we don’t find our identity back in “law” (we’re not defined by what we do)—our identity is found in Christ. It’s the Spirit’s work to conform us into the likeness of Christ, not ours; and He doesn’t do so through the Law or commandments! Our sanctification does not rise or fall with our “obedience” to some code of ethic. Though we still struggle with sin (unbelief that manifests itself through the “flesh”), our sanctification is sure and progressing by the work of the Spirit in us. The promise of God in Christ (the New Covenant) is the promise of the Spirit. And we are “sons” of God in the Son only by virtue of the presence of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8) who will complete His work in us. Why would we walk according to commandment when we can walk according to the Spirit? The flesh profits us nothing; it is the Spirit who gives life! Let’s listen to Paul: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you (we) now being perfected by the flesh?” We’re called to walk by the Spirit. Our calling is not to do but to be. We are Children of God because we’ve been joined to Christ by the Spirit who now indwells us. We’re not called to do anything, per say, but to be who we are.

To be continued...(the final post!).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part-5 (Conclusion...finally!)

Well...almost. This post has become a monster that even I'm tired of looking at; the more I go over it, the more I add to it. So, I'm done. Any modification can come as a result of dialogue. And since this has become so huge, I've decided to post it in installments--hopefully only three.

But before I begin, I'd like to point you all to a wonderful sermon by my friend Chad Knudson over at "The Road to Emmaus" which you can find here (and on my sidebar). Chad delivers an excellent treatment on Hebrews 12:1-11 entitled, "Living as Sons of God". This is an important message that helps us understand the role that God's discipline plays in our lives. Our Western Chritian Culture has lost the sense of what it means to be children of God and how it is that our Father "perfects" His children. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the influence of the (false) Prosperity Gospel, it is assumed that suffering is antithetical to being a Christian, that as God's children we are to be Healthy, Wealthy and...well...if not Wise (with all apologies to the heretic Mike Murdoch), then at least smart enough to "name it and claim it". Because of this "anti-Christ" self-idolatorous mind-set, we in the West assume that suffering is the work of satan and betrays a lack of faith on the part of the person who is suffering (or even more heinous, a Christian lacks faith if he doesn't have absolutely everything that he wants); that God has nothing to do with the suffering of His people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Chad powerfully, yet with grace (an attribute I know I can work on :-), establishes the Biblical Theological foundation for the suffering of the Christian and provides for our encouragement by presenting Christ to us. I encourage you all to download the sermon, put it on your iPod or on a CD and plug it in. This is a message that all of us need to hear because it brings our focus back where it needs to be--on "Jesus, the author and perfector of faith."

Now, on with conclusion...the answer we've all been waiting for! Well, maybe not the answer that the Legalists and Moralists were looking for, but the answer, nevertheless, that I believe the Bible itself teaches: Be Who You Are. That’s it—simply be. If we are to live our lives to the glory of God, if we’re to “be perfect as He (our Heavenly Father) is perfect”, then our calling is not to do but to be! If “perfection” is conformity to something’s created nature, and if glorifying God is the natural response of a being that is “conformed to it’s created nature”, then simply doing what we think is commanded of us is not the answer—we must be what we were created to be. And what were we created to be?—sons of God who bear His image.

And what is it to be an image-bearing son of God? Is it something that we do? The Bible emphatically answers that question with a resounding, “No”! We can never do anything that would make us sons of God. Even if we were to obey the Law completely, we would not become sons of God. Why?—because, as I’ve mentioned previously, created humanity is incomplete apart from the True Man, Jesus Christ. We need a new nature. Jesus is the fountainhead of a new humanity and as such we are only fully (truly) human when we are joined to Him by the Spirit (see previous posts, esp. “Part-3 continued and Redemption Part-2). Christ is the destiny of humanity and we find our fulfillment as human beings who bear God’s image in Him.

So, to simply do commandments or “works of the Law” (Torah—“doctrine”, the whole of the Scripture) is not enough. Even if a person were to theoretically “keep” the Law, he would still not be what God created him to be. He would still be estranged from God, creation, humanity and himself because he would still be defined by his sin nature. Of course, no person can ever keep the Law because no one ever loves God with “all his heart, soul, mind and strength” or his “neighbor as himself”. Even as Christians who have the Spirit indwelling us, we often fail to “keep the Law”. But as Christians, we’re not called to keep the Law but to come to Christ (who is the fulfillment of the Law) by faith and then to walk by the Spirit. The Law points us to Christ because He is the very definition of the Law (which we’ll see later); and when we come to Christ, we’ve “kept the Law” because we believe in the One of whom it prophesies. Anyone with a sufficient amount of motivation can keep rules and regulations. To paraphrase Paul, law-keeping means nothing...the only thing that matters is a “New Creation”.

Paul says that the Law is a “tutor” to lead us to Christ because He is its fulfillment. The Law was never intended to give life. And this is not simply because it could never be obeyed, but because it spoke of Christ who is the One that the Law defined. This reality is evidenced throughout the life of Israel and the reason for their condemnation. The “sons of Abraham” failed to keep the Law time and time again. They did not keep the Law because they could not keep the Law; first, because it was non-ultimate, (it prophesied and served as a type of Christ, e.g. Luke 24:13-32; Matt. 5:17-19; John 5:39-47; Matt. 11:13; Hebrews, etc.) and secondly, because of the “sin nature” (Rom. 8:3-8; cf. Jer. 31:31-34, Eze. 36:25-27, 37:1-14, John 3, John 6, Rom. 8, etc.). In fact, for a person to do the works of the Law to endear himself to God in any way apart from the promise of Christ or in the light of Christ’s arrival only brings condemnation to himself because it is Christ Himself that is the fulfillment of the Law (not anything we do); a person fulfills the Law only in Christ (with respect to Christ) by being joined to Him by the Spirit. (For example: Matt. 5:17-19ff. where Jesus explains that it is He Himself, in His person, that is the fulfillment of the Law; so for a person to see in the Law his duty rather than his Christ is to defile and annul the Law; John 3:1-21 the great “born again” passage where Jesus explains to Nicodemus the “law-keeper” that it is those who do not believe in Him, though “obeying” the law, that are under judgment because their “law-keeping” was actually considered to be “evil-doing”; John 5:37-47 where Jesus chastises the “law-keepers” for not understanding their Scriptures which didn’t teach them to obey the law to have life, but to see in the law the Christ who is and gives life; and Romans 8:4 in context where we see that in our union with Christ by the Spirit, the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us already by the indwelling Spirit who applies Christ’s atonement to us. These relatively few examples of the overall teaching of the Scripture provide ample evidence that “by the works of the law shall no man be justified before God.”).

Now some may argue that of course our salvation is not determined by our doing, but our sanctification is. If we don’t purpose to do the “moral law” (or whatever “command” we see in the Scripture), then we are, at best, stunting our growth and, at worst, not a Christian at all. To have our sanctification or maturity governed by the “moral law” is Reformed Theology’s so-called “third use of the Law”. It is assumed that now that we are Christians, we must purpose to obey the “moral Law” for our sanctification. This idea doesn’t fully appreciate how it is that Christ has fulfilled the Law and what has transpired in the New Birth that has fundamentally changed our nature.

To be continued...

Previous posts in this series:
How Are We To Live? Part-1 (Introduction & Creation)
How Are We To Live? Part-2 (The Fall)
How Are We To Live? Part-3 (Redemption-Part 1)
How Are We To Live? Part-3 (Redemption-Part 2)
How Are We To Live? Part-4 (Consummation)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is This a Joke?

You've got to be kidding me! This is all we need; another Bible that distorts the meaning of Scripture and takes our eyes off of it's Subject--Christ! Is this really what the Scripture teaches?

Check out this idiocy (and idolatry?) over at Vanguard Church. Rather than having me "ranting and raving" about this (and believe me, it's difficult for me to hold it in), read Bob's comments, watch the video and then head to Greg Boyd's review of this travesty of Christian Commercialism.

When will we get it! The Kingdom of God is made up of people from every tongue, tribe and nation. The United States of America is not God's people any more than the old Soviet Union was God's people. The "people of God" is not Israel; it's not America; it's not Rome; it's not...any particular nation or Sacral Society. There is only one "people of God" and it's all those and only those who have been joined to Christ by the Spirit. And this "people of God" transcends nationalities because the Kingdom of God is not of this world!

The Kingdom of God has nothing in common with the kingdoms of this world. Even now the nations (including America) are "pouring their wealth into the Kingdom of God" as the Gospel penetrates into the world and the Spirit calls people from every nation under heaven to Christ and His Kingdom. But the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of the Spirit; the Kingdom of the New Creation! One day, when Christ returns, all the nations (kingdoms) of the earth will belong to Him as He takes up His righteous reign in the eternal Shabbat of God's Rest. Shalom will once again characterize God's good Creation and all kingdoms (redeemed people) will exist under one banner and King--Christ, the Lord. But until that day, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom that has no allegiance to earthly powers.

Can we be Christians in America? Yes! But is America a "Christian Nation"? God, I hope not!

Oh well, you got a "mini" rant anyway. Check out the links; we must be people of the Word...not the world. Can we not see the difference?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pentecost as the Reversal of Babel

As I promised last time, here is the second part of the sermon on The Event of Pentecost-The Outpouring of the Spirit. In this part, we see how the "curse" of Babel is reversed (in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant) as the Spirit comes and draws men from every tongue, tribe and nation together again under one Head, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Luke conspicuously tells us in Acts 2 that the people who are in Jerusalem at Pentecost during the event of the outpouring of the Spirit were there from "every nation under heaven". Now this is obviously hyperbole; but Luke wants us to understand this event as it relates to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in Christ. Remember, the promise to Abraham was that through him, through his "seed", all the families of the earth would be blessed. Paul makes it clear that this "seed" refers to Christ and that the blessing to the families of the earth is the salvation that is found in Christ. "Israel" the nation, as the "seed" of Abraham, was the first-level fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant...but as a type of the true "seed" to come. They were called to be the vehicle of God's blessing to the nations by drawing the nations around them to YHWH. They were called as God's "son" to minister the knowledge of God to all the nations so that they would find life in their God; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel, however, failed to be "Israel"; they failed to be God's "son". So a new "Israel" was needed; a new "Son" was needed to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant. And this must be the case because, as I've stated so many times before, the nation of Israel was a type of Christ (as God's chosen "son", etc.) and their very existence, as with all things in the Scripture, prophesied of Christ, the true "seed" of Abraham.

So Luke, in the continuation of his Gospel account, makes sure that his readers realize what is happening here. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (and by extension, the Davidic Covenant) because He is the promised Seed of Abraham and the true "son" of God, and it is in Him alone that this blessing comes. All the nations of the earth are to be blessed only as they come to Him as God's Son. In the history of Israel, when a Gentile wanted to come to the God of Israel they had to come to Him through "Israel", through His "son". To have YHWH as their God, they had to become proselytes; they had to join themselves to God's "son"--Israel. And since the nation was simply typological, the same holds true when the Promised Seed arrives. A person comes to God only by being joined to His "Son"--Jesus Christ. Luke (and the rest of the N.T.) makes this clear. And in the book of Acts we see how people come to the Son--by the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit is the effectual fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant because it is the Spirit who joins a person to Christ in the New Birth. Jesus has fulfilled the Abrahamic Covenant in Himself; but this fulfillment is applied by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who is calling people from every tongue, tribe, nation and people and it is by the Spirit that they are "born again" as God's "sons" in The Son.

So, as part of the Spirit's work in applying Christ's fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, the paradigm of Babel is reversed. Where once God judged the people and scattered them over the face of the earth by confusing their language, so now He, by the Spirit, unites them once again--not in a universal language, but in Christ! The emphasis that Luke places on the "every nation under heaven" and the fact that they all heard the Disciples in their own language, speaks to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and the reversal of the judgment of God at Babel. He doesn't restore a universal language, but He does unite the people under One NAME--not their own, but the Name of Jesus.

Well, enough of my own "babel"...on with the "Brief Sermon Overview" and the PDF notes. I encourage you again to listen to the audio message (top right) and read the Sermon Notes. I don't know what can be more encouraging for the Christian than to see the Scripture being fulfilled in our Lord and Savior!

Brief Sermon Overview (by our Pastor):

As the Spirit-filled disciples spilled out into the street in Jerusalem, the cacophony of voices proclaiming God's mighty saving deeds began to draw a crowd. These onlookers were Jews and Gentile proselytes to Judaism who had come to Jerusalem from surrounding regions to celebrate the Passover and Feast of Weeks as required by the Law of Moses. Very quickly they realized that the speakers were all Galileans, and yet every individual within the widely diverse crowd was hearing one or more of them speaking in his native tongue. This message examines the salvation-historical significance of this phenomenon as it implicates God's ancient judgment at Babel and His subsequent promise to extend HIs blessing to all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 11:1-12:3). What was transpiring that day in Jerusalem indicated that the day of fulfillment was dawning. God was reversing His judicial act of scattering and fragmenting the human race and entering upon the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham to reunite the world of men by recovering them to Himself in the patriarch's singular Seed (Gal. 3:1-29).

Listen to the Sermon at top right (Acts 007-The Event of Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Spirit-Part 2).

Read the PDF notes here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pentecost interlude

I know that I've promised the conclusion to my "How Are We To Live" series, but I've just been too busy lately to complete it. I almost have it done, but I've noticed that it is becoming a longer monster than usual (even for me). As I try to tidy it up, I may either a lot of material or make it into two posts. For those of you who just can't wait for it (I know you're out there!),'ll just have to be a bit more patient.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a couple of our sermons (one this week, one next week) from our latest series as we go through the book of Acts. This series comes on the heels of our Sermon on the Mount series which came on the heels of our Sacred Space (God With Us) series and for full effect they all should be listened to in order. The issues that we dealt with in the S.S series were fleshed out more in "salvation history" through the SOTM series which is being augmented further in the Acts series. The central topic of "God With Us" and the purpose of "redemptive history" is the key theme that is developed throughout. For all ministerial resources, follow the link to our SermonAudio page. You can find it on the links bar on the right. If you want to hear (and read) faithful, "redemptive-historical" preaching that takes Biblical Theology seriously for the glory of Christ, then I encourage you to listen to and download our sermons.

I've included an audio sermon from the series called, "The Event of Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Spirit-part 1" on the right (part-2 to follow) which helps explain the meaning and purpose of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Scripture. The next sermon also deals with this event as it deals with, among other things, the reversal of Babel. The outpouring of the Spirit is crucial in understanding this Gospel that we believe. His coming is in fulfillment of the Scripture--the promise of God in Christ is the coming of the Spirit! All the excesses of the Charismatic movement aside, we must recognize the importance of the coming and ministry of the Spirit if we are to understand who we are as the Church, the Body of Christ.

Here's the "brief sermon overview" from our Pastor (and I've included the link to the PDF notes from the sermon).

Brief Sermon Overview:

To this point in his account, Luke has documented God's preparation for inaugurating His kingdom. The Son of David had now entered into His glory and taken His seat at His Father's right hand; the enthroned King-Priest was poised to begin building His house (Zech. 6:9-15). Moreover, the apostolic foundation for that house was also now complete. Everything was in place and it was time for the Father and Son to send the Spirit. As the Scriptures and Christ Himself promised, He - the Creator-Spirit - would inaugurate the kingdom of the new creation and enter upon His great work of building Yahweh's everlasting house (Zech. 4:1-10). The Holy Spirit is the central figure in this new age of the new creation, and yet multitudes of Christians have no substantial understanding of His person or work in relation to it. This message examines the Spirit's self-manifestation in His coming, and especially how the particulars of it reveal His person and role in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

PDF Sermon Notes here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Don't Stop Believing

Having read Michael Wittmer’s excellent book, “Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters To God”, I was eager to read his latest, “Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough.” While the former title helps us to understand God’s cosmic view of redemption and our place (and responsibility) in this world by emphasizing the continuity of God’s creation (without denying the biblical aspect of discontinuity), the latter helps us to understand God’s redemption and our place (responsibility) in this world by showing us the benefits and deficiencies within the two seemingly opposing strands of theological thought: “Emerging” (Wittmer’s, “postmodern innovators”) and “Conservative” Christianity. These labels, of course, don’t do justice to all the practitioners of either “camp” (what labels ever do?), but Wittmer attempts to show us how the fundamental core beliefs of both groups can contribute to a more well-rounded and biblically accurate understanding of the Gospel by helping us see their strengths and weaknesses.

Wittmer successfully (I believe) accomplishes his task by asking and answering ten important questions (chapter titles) that either are either at the heart of the debate (e.g., “Must You Believe Something to Be Saved? and Is It Possible to Know Anything?), or are lightning rods that fuel the debate (e.g., Which is Worse: Homosexuals or the Bigots Who Persecute Them?, and Is Hell for Real and Forever?). In developing each Chapter/Question, Wittmer favors a more balanced approach between Emergents and Conservatives that seeks to combine right Belief with right Practice.

Of course, it’s easy to simply state that the dichotomy between the two groups is Practice vs. Belief; but nothing is ever really that simple (except the yoke of our Lord) and we can’t pit Emergents against Conservatives in this simplistic way—and, thankfully, Wittmer doesn’t do this. He recognizes that both groups believe something and practice those beliefs in some way. The nature of man is that we always do (practice) what we believe whether or not we are conscious of this relationship or are consistent with it. He recognizes that Belief and Practice go hand in hand and that even the most radical Emergent and Conservative live this way even if their rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise. But the rhetoric is “out there” and we, as the Church, must deal with it as we seek to live out the reality of who we are as sons and daughters of God.

In fighting the excesses of Conservatism that may imply (or teach outright) that doctrine is the most important (if not only) aspect of our relationship with God, Emergents are in danger of erring in the opposite extreme of denying the necessity of believing anything about God (as some “emergents” have affirmed) as long as we live lives of love as Jesus did and as Scripture instructs. Wittmer is gracious to both sides of this dialogue and shows how a biblically based understanding will not allow this false dichotomy to exist within the mind/heart of the believer. Without the right (true) belief (doctrine), we have no basis for even knowing what we are to practice (live), much less what the best practices actually are! And since we can all agree that the best practice is the life of love (which is to say, the “life of faith”), we must never stop believing because our practice can only be as good as the truth that we believe.

As I’ve said numerous times here, sin is at bottom unbelief. Even as Christians, our sin is fundamentally unbelief that manifests itself in our practice. Now the penalty or guilt of our unbelief has been born by Christ on the Cross and has been taken away from us through His death, resurrection, ascension, presentation (as High Priest) and enthronement. When Christ died, we died. When Christ was raised, we were raised to new life. Christ has brought His own blood into the true Sanctuary where as High Priest He presented Himself as our Propitiation before the Father. And upon the Father’s acceptance of the offering of His Son, Christ sat down on His throne (the throne of David) where He sends the Spirit to indwell His people and to conform them into His likeness.

So, even our practice of Christianity is contingent upon our knowledge and belief of/in God because the Spirit doesn’t work in a vacuum. He takes what is Jesus’ and gives it to us. He makes us partakers in the New Covenant through the knowledge of God (in Christ), as we read in Jeremiah, “I will put my law (teaching) within them, and on their heart I will write it…they shall all know Me…” (emphasis added). You can’t read far in the New Testament without seeing the relationship between Faith/Belief and Practice.

So, the question becomes: “What do we believe?” or “Must we believe certain things?” And to a large extent, Wittmer answers these questions. He reminds us (without necessarily saying outright) that doctrine is a necessity because we must know something about God in order to believe something about Him. And if we must “believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God” and be “born again” by the Spirit in order to be “saved”, then there must be something to know and believe. Practice is all fine and good, but it alone cannot “save” (see Matt. 7:21-24, etc.), and as the author states, even our “best practices can only arise from true beliefs” (back cover). And as I say, for the most part Wittmer answers these questions and shows us the biblical relationship between practice and belief.

My only (minor) issue I have with the book is his lack of development of the Penal Substitution model of atonement in Chapter Six. I know that this book isn’t a treatise on the Doctrine of the Atonement and that this is but one of several issues that he is dealing with. I also understand that he had limited his focus to the deficiency of Penal Substitution as the only legitimate or as the most important aspect of the atonement of Christ. I really appreciate this chapter and I’m in agreement with him that this theory doesn’t cover all the facets of Atonement and we need to have a full-orbed understanding to do justice to all that was accomplished by Christ.

Having said that, I still think he missed a golden opportunity to develop the Atonement of Christ (including Penal Substitution) along Biblical Theological lines. Other than a cursory statement at the beginning of the chapter (confined within one sentence) relating Penal Substitution with the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant, Wittmer doesn’t deal at all with the importance of the type/anti-type paradigm that gives meaning to this crucial doctrine. In my judgment, you can’t do justice to such an important doctrine and the resulting belief without explaining how the sacrificial system portrayed and was fulfilled in Christ…especially as it pertains to the title of the chapter: Is The Cross Divine Child Abuse?

All the talk of what the atonement means is…well…meaningless apart from the type/anti-type paradigm that is so painstakingly developed in Scripture. The sacrificial system, including the role of High Priest as well as the sacrifice itself, paints the portrait of Christ. To understand any aspect of the atonement one must understand the Old Covenant sacrificial system and how it speaks to and of Christ. He must be crucified because He is the Lamb of God of which the sacrifices speak. He must be crucified because He is the High Priest who brings His own blood as the sacrifice before the Father. Before anything else can be said about Penal Substitution or Christus Victor or Moral Influence/Example, etc., we must bring Salvation History to bear in our understanding. Whatever God was communicating in the Old Covenant Sacrificial System is crucial to understand the why of Christ’s atonement and the what that was accomplished in and through it.

As I said, I know that this book wasn’t written to give a full and detailed explanation of the atonement and I’m sure that Wittmer would have devoted much more time to the issue of type/anti-type had this been his purpose; but I simply don’t feel that his explanation for Penal Substitution in the section “Love Hurts” is adequate. I should probably devote an entire post to this particular critique and any other possible minor issues that I may have had upon a first reading. Of course, I’ll want to read it again before I commit to having any other “issues”.

And I do encourage a first and a second reading of “Don’t Stop Believing”. My reservations about Chapter Six aside, this is an important book in our “postmodern” age. Wittmer has written a very thoughtful and gracious book that should help clarify the important contributions of both “Emergents” and “Conservatives” as we continue to work together as His Body to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Neo-Calvinism? I can live with this

Before finishing off my series "How Are We To Live?" (and because I've been too busy lately to complete it), I wanted to share some more encouraging articles from my friends at Vangaurd Church and The Vossed World.

Bob, over at Vanguard Church, has some more excellent material (as usual). In these posts, he uses recent articles by Time and Newsweek to help us see what is taking place within the resurgent Calvinism movement in Evangelical Christianity. The distinction he sees between the two main strands of this "new" Calvinsim ("Neo-Puritianism" and "Neo-Calvinsim") is not just interesting, but helpful in understanding our Biblical roles as "culture-makers" (a term I borrow from the excellent book by Andy Crouch, "Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling") and the inherent dignity that still resides within God's created order, including Man, that should direct our thinking about how we're to engage the world in this life.

Once you check this out (and the related posts), stay there and search for these terms in the "search box": shalom, creation and redemption (to name just a few). You'll be blessed with some wonderful material that has been a great encouragement to me and very helpful in my ever-progressing walk with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Some more excellent posts can be found over at The Vossed World. As I've said before, Chad has a high grasp of Vos' thought and understands the progress of Redemptive History. His post on "Christ, the new Torah" is excellent! Also check out this short post reminding us that Christ is our Covenant.

I've been blessed by both of these sites in sometimes different ways and they remain high on my list of must-reads!

...conclusion coming soon!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part-4 (Consummation)

In considering the topic “How are we to live?”, I’ve attempted to show that:

  1. God created Man with a certain design for a certain function. Man was created as “image-bearer” (image-son) to be in intimate communion with his “Father/Creator” while “tending the Garden” (cultivating the earth) as God’s vice-regent, ruling over the works of His hands. Man’s “image-bearing” quality was his “humanness”. Adam was a “perfect” human-being in his typological role and he was expected by God to live into the authenticity of his created nature.
  2. But Man rebelled against God and took it upon himself to redefine what it means to be “image-son”. In the process, sin entered God’s “good” creation bringing with it God’s curse upon all of creation—including Man. The estrangement that the Bible calls “death” now marks all of creation and Man’s “humanness” has been “vandalized”; Man has become less than what he was created to be (what I’ve previously called “sub-human” or “less than human”). All of creation, including Man, needs to be Redeemed (recovered to its original design and purpose).
  3. And God has provided this Redemption through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Redemption was not an after-thought brought about as a result of Adam’s sin, but was purposed “from the foundation of the world” as the means by which all of creation, including Man, would reach its destiny and purpose. Adam, like the Garden itself, was typological pointing to Christ and His consummative work.

As an aside, in the above point two I referred to my previous use of the term “sub-human” (and also “less than human”) in reference to the effect of The Fall on Man, specifically in regard to his “humanness”. For the sake of clarity and continuity I will continue using the same terms as I close out this series, but please see my friend Russ’ aversion to and caution with regard to my use of these terms in his comments on my previous post here. I appreciate his comments and generally agree with his points on the matter, but I believe that the phrase “less than human” speaks to the reality of what the Bible portrays as the predicament that faces Man still in his unredeemed “sinful” nature apart from Christ (for all the reasons previously mentioned in this series).

My point in using such terminology is to stress that the Bible speaks of the New Birth as more than simply a forensic change that takes place with regard to our standing with God—it speaks of transformation. There is an ontological change associated with the New Birth and our transformation in Christ. And there must be because there was an ontological change that occurred at The Fall. "Original sin" is not simply a legal pronouncement on the human race--it's not just words that speak to our standing condemned before God. Original sin speaks to a change that has taken place in our very nature as human beings. The “sin nature” has infected all of humanity so that we’re “not the way we’re supposed to be” (see previous posts). We recover our full humanity only in Christ as we are joined to Him by the Spirit in the New Birth. We are transformed back into our created design and purpose as “image-bearers” (image-sons) through the continuing work of the Spirit in us as He conforms us to Christ-likeness. And when Christ returns, this transformation will be complete as we enter into the eternal state in our resurrected physical nature. Christ has ushered in the New Creation and we are a part of it now—all we (and the rest of Creation) await is the final fruit of this New Creation in the consummation to come at Christ's return.

The “natural man” (the person that is not joined to Christ by the Spirit in the New Birth) is simply not the same kind of Man as the “spiritual man” (the person who partakes of the Spirit by being joined to Christ in the New Birth). The Bible is clear on this. One kind of human being is incomplete because he lacks the Spirit; the other kind of human being is being made complete because he has the Spirit. This isn’t a “state of mind” or simply a “positional” reality. This is an ontological change as the “sin nature” is replaced by, as Peter calls it, the “divine nature”. This is not to say that the person joined to Christ has become divine; just that in regeneration a fundamental change has taken place within a person such that he has now become in essence what he was originally created to be—fully (truly) human! Of course, this is a process…a work of the indwelling Spirit in a person that will culminate with his resurrected body. But the truth of what God has done is always spoken of as a present reality even when aspects of its completion in time/space have not yet been realized; just as we can speak of the present reality of the Kingdom of God, yet we await its consummation at Christ’s return.

And this brings us to The Consummation! As I’ve already mentioned, what God has accomplished in the Person and Work of Christ is complete—in a sense. We live in the paradigm of the already/not yet aspect of the fulfillment of all things in Christ. When on the cross our Lord said, “It is finished”…He meant it! All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. There is nothing left for Him to do to accomplish His purpose in redemptive history. The curse is broken and Christ’s redemption is complete. In the mind of God, His goal has been realized…we just see this realization being worked out in time/space (as we must being dimensional creatures) as Christ’s redemption is applied to all those who are called. And at His return, this already completed work of God will be finalized in time/space with the ushering in of the consummative state—the Eternal Sabbath of God’s rest in the New Heavens and New Earth.

Much can be said and volumes written about The Consummation, but for my purposes it is enough to say that at Christ’s return, the New Creation that has already dawned with His first coming will set for eternity with the “fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” In The Consummation, all things will be as they were originally purposed from the beginning. To Paraphrase Plantinga again, “Things will finally be as they are supposed to be”. What “Eden” as a type spoke of or foreshadowed, will be realized in the consummation that God promised through the prophets—the New Heavens and New Earth. The Creation itself will finally realize its own redemption upon the revealing of the “sons of God” at the return of the Son of God! The curse is (even now) overthrown and the Shalom that reigns even now in our hearts through the Spirit (Jesus is our “shalom”) will reign over all of Creation as we enter into the eternal Shabbat of God’s Rest!

So how does all of this answer the question, “How are we to live”? Stay tuned for the conclusion….

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Tomorrow Never Comes

I just stumbled across this poem the other day as I was preparing my computer for an operating system reinstallation. I remember my Dad sending it to me shortly after my wife and I returned from my Mom's funeral, but I was in no mood at that particular time to give it much thought or contemplation. Poetry is a genre that I've never really care for, unless it's supplemented by an infectious beat, luscious chords, a righteous "low" end and delightful vocals--you know, everything that makes Metallica worth listening to! Or is that James Brown?! :-)

Although I do find myself enjoying the writings of my friend "The Righteous Rapper", poetry simply as poetry usually doesn't hold my interest. But reading this poem again made me think afresh about the loss that was experienced in our families with the passing of my mother, my aunt and my close cousin within last few years. When my mother died, this was my first real experience with the loss of a loved one. I vaguely remember as a child my grandmothers dying; and a little later, while still a "youth", my uncle died. But these events didn't affect me very much at the time and I moved on without much thought about it. I also lost a friend when I was in High School; but again, I was sad for awhile and then...nothing.

It wasn't until someone very close to me passed away that I realized the impact of "death"; of course, by the time my mom died I had been a Christian for some time. Maybe this is why this particular poem has struck a chord? I don't know. When I read this I also think about a young couple who have been friends of SGCC since before its inception. Pete and Jen were young and married only a few years before the Lord called her home just a few months ago. I know that Pete and the family are still grieving. And yet...

As Christians, we can grieve not only in hope but also in joy. Not joy because we're happy to lose them, but joy because we're happy for their joy...their gain. I know that it's difficult in the midst of grief to consider the joy that our departed loved ones are experiencing; but even as we're called in this life to "weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice", I think we can also "rejoice" with our departed loves ones who at the moment they leave us are "rejoicing" in the presence of our Lord and His Saints. It is good to grieve because we minister to one another as we share with others the sorrow of loss. But let's follow the call of the Spirit to be ever rejoicing--for those for whom we weep are also rejoicing "at home with the Lord".

When Tomorrow Never Comes
(author unknown)
When tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things we didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you;
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready
In Heaven far above,
And that I had to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away
A tear fell from my eye;
For all my life I'd always thought
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much yet to do;
It seem almost impossible
That I was leaving you.
But when I walked through Heven's gates,
I felt so much at home;
When God looked down and smiled at me,
from His great golden throne.
He said, "This is eternity
And all I promise you.
Today your life on earth is past,
But here it starts anew.
This is but one Eternal Now,
no future and no past;
For in My Presence, precious child,
This day will always last."
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart;
For everytime you think of me,
I'm right there near your heart.
And I, knowing now as God knows me
Will joyfully watch you serving Him,
'Till we are joined together in this wonderful place,
For all eternity.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Are We To Live? Part-3 (continued...Redemption Part-2)

(from previous post)…so what’s the point?

The point is that the “death” that we’re delivered from is estrangement. And this “death” that is estrangement has occurred because we’ve become less than human (sub-human) through The Fall. Remember, our nature as “image-bearers” is due to the fact that we were created as human beings. No other creature or aspect of Creation is said to bear the image of God. We are uniquely qualified as “image-bearers” because we are by nature (created nature) human beings. There are many aspects of what it means to be image-bearers, e.g. our rational capabilities, our creative ability, our moral bent, etc.; but they are all sourced in our humanity. It is our humanity that makes us image-bearers; and it’s in our humanity (not in the things that we do) that we testify of our Creator and enjoy intimacy with Him as our Father. And this is precisely our problem: because of the entrance of sin and death (estrangement), we have become sub-human. Our “humanity” has been “vandalized” by sin so that we don’t bear God’s image as intended and we don’t enjoy communion with Him as Father. We need a new nature—we must be “born again”!

Before the Fall, when Adam and Eve were simply being who they were (as human beings), they testified of God to each other and the rest of Creation by enjoying intimate fellowship with Him and living their lives in the freedom of their created nature; and this was the paradigm that was to mark all of Creation for all time. “Man” lived in intimate communion with God, with each other and with the rest of creation in the state of Shalom. They didn’t have to do anything but live out the reality of who they were. It’s when they decided to exercise autonomy and take upon themselves the definition of who they were created to be that they disobeyed God and brought “death” to themselves and the Cosmos. They became less than they were created to be (they became sub-human) by disbelieving God and taking it upon themselves to (re)define themselves. Like a fish that will only find “death” if it tries to redefine itself (what it means to be a fish) by jumping onto dry land because it thinks that’s where life and meaning is found, so Adam has plunged the entire human race into “death” by trying to redefine what it is to be “human”. Our communion with God is broken because we are not what God has created us to be—truly, fully human. Because of the entrance of sin, we have become “sub-human” and are said to be “dead” in our trespasses and sins. Estrangement (death) has replaced intimate communion (life) because we are not what we were created to be.

Oh, we still bear some marks of our humanity and thus, we haven’t completely destroyed our nature as image-bearers. But to borrow again from Plantinga: our humanity (as well as the entire Cosmos) has been “vandalized” by sin. And with the entrance of sin, Shalom has been broken as “death” has infiltrated the entire created order. Things (all things) are not “The Way They Are Supposed to Be” (Plantinga). We need redemption! The creation needs redemption! And so, Christ has come—Jesus the Christ, the last Adam and True Man! What was typified in the paradigm of the original creation has found its anti-type in the fulfillment that has come in Christ! It’s not simply that He restores all things (including “man”) to its original created design and function; no…Christ fulfills the typology of “Eden” so that all things find their purpose & meaning in Him. As I’ve mentioned before in various contexts, God’s purpose from the beginning was to have all things made complete in Christ. When I speak of “restoration” I’m speaking of the fulfillment of the purpose of God to “sum up all things in the heaven and earth in Christ”. The design and purpose of Creation (“Eden”) is fulfilled or completed in its purpose & meaning in Christ!

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about the concept of “life” out of “death” (see Redemption Part-1) so that we will realize that the Life that we’ve been granted in Christ is the “life” of true authentic humanity. As the True Man, Jesus Christ is the only fully authentic human being that has ever lived (remember, Adam was “perfect” in his humanity as a type of Christ—even Adam finds his true and full humanity in the True Man, Jesus Christ). And as the True Man, only as we are joined to Him by the Spirit through faith, only as we are participants in His life through the indwelling Spirit (new creations), only then are we “redeemed” to our created purpose and function as authentic human-beings who truly and fully (though not always or perfectly until the consummation) bear the image of God. Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of a new humanity because we have become “new creations” in Him. We now truly (though again, imperfectly until the consummation) bear the image of God as the Spirit works to conform us into the likeness of Christ. By God’s grace through faith, we now share in the Life of Christ! Death has been swallowed up in victory because it’s been swallowed up by the Life of Christ, by the Life that is found only in Christ. Christ has overthrown the curse and restored all things to their created design and function in Himself (the “summing up of all things in Christ”).

Redemption is so much more than simply “the forgiveness of sin”. There are many salvific ideas related to redemption (e.g. justification, propitiation, imputation, reconciliation, etc.), but redemption is not confined to any one of these soteriological aspects: Redemption is no less than re-creation! Beginning with Man, the first-fruits so-to-speak, Christ’s redemption is no less than the inauguration of the New Creation (what the Scripture refers to as the Kingdom of God-a concept that deserves its own “series”) in Himself. Eden has not simply been recovered, it’s been redeemed! It’s been fulfilled in Christ!

Of course, there is the already/not yet aspect to the work of Christ in redemption; He has already redeemed and fulfilled all things in Himself, though we still await the not yet of the consummation when His completed work will realize its full fruition. But the reality of what He has accomplished is certain and is even now present as the Kingdom of God continues to grow by taking into its realm people from every tongue, tribe and nation to glory of God our Savior!

So how does all of this speak to the issue of “How Are We To Live”? Stay tuned for the Consummation/Conclusion where I hope to tie it all together and show us that God’s calling upon humanity (all of us!) is the same today as it’s always been: “Be perfect as I Am (your heavenly Father is) perfect”—only the paradigm has changed.