Posts Tagged ‘judgment’

Friends,

Since not all of you will happen to visit CRN.info, I have decided to re-post my latest entry here at Life Under the Blue Sky. While the catalyst for the post was Ingrid Schleuter’s compelling review of the Inspiring Excellence pageant at Tinley Park, Illinois, the bulk of the essay concerns unity in the church and the eschewing of the sort of judgments that exclude the majority of Christians from God’s grace by other Christians. This unity is not manufactured by the things we do and say but rather by the grace of God and because of the blood of Christ. Furthermore, we are not well situated to make the sort of judgments that some bloggers make about other Christians and their work or standing before Christ. If you would like to follow the comments and conversation, please use the big blue link. As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged here at LUBS.

jerry

Concerning Discernment and Birds

Posted by Jerry on Jul 23rd, 2008
2008
Jul 23

Friends,

Good morning! It is a glorious Wednesday morning here in Northeast Ohio. My wife and I woke up early this morning–well, I did ) anyhow. I walked to the bathroom and washed my face and then down the stairs from my bedroom where I would meet with the Lord in prayer and Scripture. What I learned this morning is that the Lord was already speaking in His Word and that He was waiting on me to listen. Surprisingly, and much to my dismay, the the Lord got along quite well without me while I slept.

I want to begin this rather short post by first reminding everyone to continue praying for Jim Bublitz, Mrs Schleuter, and Pastor Silva among others. I did that very thing this morning and also remembered Pastorboy and Samuel Guzman (the nice young man from Reformata and Always Ready). I also prayed for CRN.info and asked the Lord to help me understand how the prophet Isaiah used the word ‘justice’ (KJV, ‘judgment’) in his preaching. Finally, while reading a small book Disciplined by Grace by J F Strombeck, I was reminded that

“Grace, then, is God’s provision to bring into being, sustain, and perfect His new creation in Christ Jesus. It is the operation of his infinite love on behalf of such as are worthy of everlasting punishment. This outpouring of God’s infinite love is possible only because Jesus Christ, by his death, fully satisfied the demands of God’s justice. As grace came by Jesus Christ, only those who receive Him are under grace.” (19)

Now, on to other issues, not nearly as important, but equally confounding.

I have been following rather closely the posts made by Mrs Schleuter at SOL concerning the so-called ‘Word of Faith’ at the inspiring excellence conference in Tinley Park, Illinois. I was actually rather surprised that Mrs Schleuter would attend such a conference after so roundly rejecting the invitation to attend a conference by Rick Warren. But I’ll leave that alone for now.

Actually, in my estimation, Mrs Schleuter has nailed it down with her latest post on John Avanzini. Those ‘preachers’ are hucksters and it is good that someone is pointing this out to people. Sadly, no one is taking steps to point it out to the people who are actually being taken in by these hucksters and I was a bit dismayed that at the end of her rather well written essay that she actually offered a link back to the Family Harvest Church so that her readers could implicitly support the Word of Faith movement by buying CD copies of the conference speakers. Hmmm. But I’ll leave that alone for now.

Here’s the point of my morning conversation with you. It seems there is a very low threshold of tolerance for orthodoxy when it comes to certain ODM’s. Do you know what I mean? I fully grant that Mrs Schleuter and others are dead on when it comes to ‘word of faith’ ‘preachers’ because it is so patently obvious that those preachers are not preachers of the Gospel at all. Frankly, my sons could make those sorts of discernments and judgments. What gets me is that, at Slice for example, everyone gets lumped into the same category. I wonder then if I can trust the discernment of Mrs Schleuter when, for example, the same criticisms that are leveled against Mike Murdoch and Robb Thompson are leveled against Rick Warren or Rob Bell or Ray Comfort or Doug Pagitt or (insert name of favorite Slice heretic).

Seriously. Is  it really so easy to lump together a World Harvest Church and a Granger Community Church? Is it really so easy to lump together all things Emergent with all things Word of Faith? Is it really so easy to lump together all things Name and Claim It with all things Purpose Driven? Is it really, gulp, so easy to lump together all things Health and Wealth with all things Roman Catholic? Do you see my point which is that if you are outside that small, narrow, myopic, Spurgeon, Edwards, Washer, MacArthur, Piper worldview then you are automatically outside of the possibility of God’s grace? Is it really so easy for people to dismiss the large majority of Christians on the planet just because they don’t see things exactly the way ‘you’ do? Is it really so easy to dismiss what the grace of God might be doing in the lives of others? Is it really so easy to sit back and make such judgments about people for whom Christ died?

I come from a church that has traditionally been a part of a movement called the “Restoration Movement” (even though for a good part of my life I was Methodist). You know what the hardest aspect of being in a Restoration Movement church has been? Allowing God to remove the mindset from my heart that believed I belonged to THE ONE TRUE CHURCH, that ‘our’ way was the only way, that ‘we’ had all the right doctrines and that if anyone didn’t belong to the Restoration Movement then they were simply lost. It was my job, so the mindset goes, to convert the heretic Baptist, the recalcitrant Lutheran, the wayward Methodist and to avoid the hypocritical Catholic and so on and so forth. What I learned a few years back was this: It is not my job to convert anyone (Thank God!). Rather it is the job of the Spirit to convert the heretic jerry, the recalcitrant jerry, the wayward jerry, the hypocritical jerry and so on and so forth. Ironically, one of the ways the Lord has done this is by putting me in communities where there are very few Restoration Movement preachers. My first preaching ministry in Brandywine, WV was in a town of 500 that had 6 or 7 churches: Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Brethren, etc. (There was even a female preacher in the next town over. That took a while too, but that’s another story.)  In my current location, there are other Restoration preachers, but my two best friends here are an Anglican priest and a retired Pentecostal Methodist. Both decidedly saved by the grace of God, and both ridiculously sold out for Jesus Christ. Isolation from same feathered birds has taught me about grace. [Edit: Upon reflection, I thank God that RM churches are not the only Christians. To be sure, one of ‘our’ slogans has always been ‘we’re not the only Christians, but Christians only.’ In my estimation, this has not been practically applied, evenly taught, or theologically embraced. I think that is, and has been, gradually chaging as more RM folks start to see God’s grace at work in the church. Nevertheless, in some corners it is still thoroughly rejected which is why some Church of Christ folks are viewed more as a cult than a church. Sad.]

A lot of this is about maturity and growing up and taking Doctrine of Grace (TTH 560 at CCU). The thing is, God’s grace is evident and present in all sorts of places and ways. This is why, for example, there are 4 Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) instead of one; we get the complete picture by seeing four views. This is why there were 12 apostles (or 13). You can’t tell me that Matthew the Tax Collector always got along well with Simon the Zealot! But, from 12 points of view, He gains a more complete mission. Matthew could minister to a group of people that the Simon could not and vice versa. Likewise with Paul, the Pharisee! It’s not that they shared everything in common, but that they held One Person in common: Jesus Christ. Ironically, in the Gospel, Paul wrote this: “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” What he didn’t say is this: There is one opinion; one point of view. Here I tread carefully because this can be taken too far to the extreme. Some things are purposely ambiguous; we have to learn to live there.

This is true also of the ongoing efforts between churches of Christ a Capella and not a Capella to forge some sort of unity. In reality, all that needs to happen is for Christians to acknowledge the unity that already exists by virtue of the grace of God. As it is, two different congregations can reach two different groups of people: One that prefers musical instruments and one that does not. That’s just one (post) modern example. Fact is, I would have a hard time worshiping in a place like Granger on a regular basis and I would probably be left unsatisfied listening to Rob Bell every week. To me it (Granger) would be like Church camp every Sunday. I am much more comfortable in my tradition. But that doesn’t mean Granger is wrong or outside of God’s grace any more than it means John MacArthur’s church is right or has an inside track on God’s grace. It means they are different while being the same. It means that God has created them with red and yellow feathers and he has created me with blue and white feathers and still others have been made with red and green feathers. It means that where Christ is King, we are all different and yet all the same.

In conclusion, I will say this: If Mrs Schleuter or Pastor  Silva are right about WOF, this does not necessarily guarantee they are right about everything. And the problem is that they hold to a monochromatic view of God’s grace: all they see is Crows and not Birds of Paradise, Goldfinches, Parrots, Peacocks, etc. The God of Creation, however, made flowers, and animals, and a thousand different kinds of birds and trees and fish. So creative is He, so fascinated with diversity, that no two of us have the same fingerprint profile. He didn’t make one, but many; and yet many are also one. A fascinating picture of this is in Revelation 7 where from God’s perspective there are 144,000 Jews and from John’s perspective there is a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language. One; yet many. The same; yet different. 

What I’m asking for is more discernment in the way we discern. It is not right to lump all people together the way certain ODM’s do. And the sooner clearer distinctions are made, the better. Does this mean every single Emergent church pastor is among the wheat or sheep? Nope. But neither does it mean that every single Spurgeon toting, Washer quoting Reformed church pastor is either. What it means is that every single one of us is dependent upon the grace of God. What I am asking, pleading for, is that grace find a way to insinuate itself into the online discernment ministries and conversations. As I said in a reply yesterday, God could have given us straight-forward Levitical law type instructions about the church. But he did not. Some things He left purposely ambiguous and sometimes I expect He did so precisely because He wants to see just how much we really love one another and how much we love Him. Or maybe He has a sense of humor and likes to see us trip all over ourselves in our efforts to ‘Lord it over’ one another while Jesus remains enthroned at His Right Hand.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS–Poor Ray Comfort. The man cannot win for losing. Everyone is on his back now and all he really wants to do is love God and people and share the Kirk.

Day 7, Colossians 1:7-8: Love in the Spirit
You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Grace is not merely something they heard about and signed up for. Rather, it was something they understood. They made an intellectual, cognizant decision to participate in the grace of God. It was something that was preached to them as truth, it was something they believed, it was something they comprehended, it was something they accepted and believed, and it was something they incorporated and practiced in their lives as believers in Christ. What defines us as Christians is not the mistaken idea that we have all the answers to life’s questions but rather that we are a people full of all sorts of questions. We have found the world’s answers lacking; we find grace filling. And this grace compels us, moves us, changes us. It causes us to love in ways we never imagined possible a people we could never get close enough to under our normal circumstances. Grace has that sort of power to enable us to love the unlovely, the unlovable, and the unloving. The irony is that God doesn’t even wait for us to go to ‘them’. Instead, he brings us all together in one place (‘in Colossae’) and plants us in one person (‘in Christ’). There, in Christ in Colossae, we learn how to love.

So love works itself outward towards others. In the context of the church: it IS worth talking about, love, that is. Jesus made it clear that when others see our love for one another demonstrated they would know beyond doubt that we belong to Him. And it is probably possible that the sort of love Paul is talking about is only possible within the context of congregation of grace, empowered by the Truth, and filled with the Spirit. If he mentions earlier that we are ‘in Christ,’ here he mentions that we are no less ‘in the Spirit.’ This prompts Dunn to write, “The love that mirrors the love of God in Christ can only be aroused and sustained by the Spirit of God. The phrase carries overtones of an inspiration that wells up from within, charismatically enabled, and that depends on continued openness to the Spirit if its quality of unselfish service of others is to be maintained.” (65)

This is what was being demonstrated at Colossae: A love for one another because of Christ and in the Spirit.

Sadly, Christians are known more for what they are against than for what they are for. We Christians make it impossible for ‘sinners’ to get near us not because we put up fences or walls or traps (even though we do!) but rather because we fail to love one another. Instead, we hold up placards denouncing one another, judging those for whom Christ has died, lambasting those who might otherwise have a heart or an ear towards the Gospel. In my estimation, the greatest single cause of unbelief in this world today, is the church because for all the church’s talk about love and compassion to the world at large, we fail to love one another sacrificially in the way Christ would have us to. Give away all the food you want, but who wants to be a part of a group that cannot love one another? No one will convince me that the proliferation of judgment ministries around the country via the Internet, radio, television is doing anything to attract people to the Gospel of God’s grace. Those ministries are not protecting the Gospel, they are cheapening it. Those ministries are not protecting the ‘saints,’ they are pushing away the ‘sinners.’

I am always amused by this story from Mark’s Gospel:

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. (Mark 8:38-41, NIV)

Or the Message:

38John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.” 39-41Jesus wasn’t pleased. “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.

In our world, doing something in the Name of Jesus is not enough any longer. Nowadays, if it is not done in a manner prescribed by someone else (see my post on ‘modern gnostics’) then it is just not enough, not good enough, not holy enough. Nowadays in the church, love in the Name of Jesus is the last thing we ask of or see when we are considering someone else’s faith in Christ or their work in the kingdom. But this is what Jesus said: “Do not stop him.” Jesus told us not to stop the person doing something in His Name. Our problem is that we tend to act like his Name is somehow our name and that we must protect our name from any stains and blemishes that those a little less sanctified might taint it with. Love gets thrown aside, grace is cast out, in favor of protecting something that even Jesus didn’t protect (that is, he did not retain the exclusive rights to usage; he was happy that love and grace were abounding when power was recognized.) I suspect that those who used his Name knew about love and grace and had a burning passion to demonstrate it in the only Name that they could: Jesus’ Name. Thus, “Don’t stop them.”  Jesus did not seem too concerned, did he? (This isn’t to say that every use of the Name of Jesus is righteous or valid or blessed. This isn’t to say that we should ‘take the Lord’s Name in vain’ which means a lot more than just uttering a curse when we hit our thumb with a hammer.)

My point is this: If Epaphras told Paul about the love the Colossians had in the Spirit then it seems rather clear to me that this was something Epaphras saw with his eyes. I do not imagine a scenario where Epaphras conducted interviews: “Well tell me, member of the Colossian church, do you love in the Spirit?” No. I imagine a scenario where this love was visibly demonstrated before his eyes. He saw it and when he told the apostle about it, it was no mere, “Oh, and by the way, they love in the Spirit.” I imagine an enthusiastic, ebullient, child-like explosion of, “Oh you cannot imagine how much they love! I saw it all over the place! It was everywhere! They withheld their love from no one! They love Christ the Lord! They love one another! They love their neighbors! Husbands love wives! Wives love husbands! Children love parents and parents children! You cannot imagine the love these people have!”

It’s that, isn’t it? He doesn’t specify who or what they were loving in the Spirit. It just says, “your love in the Spirit.” Truth be told, does it matter? Our love is not something we have to brag about to others, but if we love like Scripture says we should then it will be visible to others. “By this will the world know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Why? Because the world will see our love being demonstrated. Would that the Body of Christ could be marked by our love in the Spirit instead of marred by our hate and contempt.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS–If you would like to more fully appreciate what I have written here about love and grace, I would recommend you click this link and read the post. Here’s a taste:

I sit back a little stunned. I want to argue but can’t find anything that counters the simplicity and elegance of Papa’s words.  “Okay, I think I get what you’re telling me; that we aren’t very good at loving, but a lot better at defending our turf.”

“See, another great reason for mystery. The ambiguity of belief, of doctrine, reveals the motives and the dark places of the heart…the places that need to be healed. Religious self righteousness and intellectual snobbery are kissing cousins. Intelligence was never created as a justification for the absence of kindness and respect and love. Do you remember the community of faith at Ephesus. I wrote a letter to them in which I commended their ‘orthodoxy’, that they wouldn’t put up with the Nicolaitans…”

“Yeah,” I interrupt, “I have been meaning to ask about them…”

“Not important right now, “ she cuts me off and continues. “The point is that they were all about theology and doctrine, but I removed their light, their influence, their very life; not because of doctrine but because they no longer knew how to express the love who is Truth that indwelt them. Ambiguity and mystery constantly raise real questions. In the face of uncertainty and differences of idea and belief, will we stop loving? Will I descend to the acquisition and defense of territory and turf? Will I even stop loving my enemy, let alone my brother or my sister?”

“How come I haven’t understood this?” I shake my head.

“Like you stated yourself, it is because love doesn’t come naturally to you. The closest you have is how you love your own children but even that is only a reflection of what love truly is. Turf and territory have always been about independence, while love is only present in dependence.” 

We are silent for a few minutes while I try to organize the jumble of thoughts crashing around inside my paradigm. Papa, aware of my struggle, speaks first.

“Not everything is ambiguous or a mystery. There is much that is clear and evident. I even wrote it down for you. Very clear, very unambiguous. It is all over the scriptures. Start with I Corinthians 13…clear as the nose on your face. The question is why have you turned the clarity of love into something ambiguous?” (William Young)

Friends,

Here’s a thought from someone you might not guess. Take your best shot:

Our kindness ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of life, for here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his devices to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness…, spurn the fellowship of all people in whom they see that something human still remains…For seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit of life is not in accordance with its doctrine, they at once conclude that no church exists there…But in this those of whom we have spoken sin in their turn, by not knowing how to set a boundary to their offence. For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity.”

I think you will be surprised by the answer and it is probably not who you think it is. Please take a minute and guess the author of this most outstanding observation.

jerry

Friends,

This is part 5 of my current sermon series based on Colossians. In this sermon, I am dealing with the issue of people who want to pile rule upon rule upon rule as requirements for salvation. The apostle says, “don’t let anyone judge you.” Sound words in our age of internet ‘discernment’ (read: judgment) ministries. What people fail to recognize is that when we add to the requirements of salvation, we are not judging others but Christ and we are, in effect, declaring that Christ’s work is not sufficient. I do apologize for the poor audio. I am working on that. The sermon takes around 30 minutes. God bless.

Click here: Colossians 2:16-23 Sermon Audio

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Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

The following is from James D.G. Dunn’s commentary on Colossians in The new International Greek Testament Commentary, Eerdmans1996. Dunn is commenting on Colossians 2:16: “Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you over food and drink or in the matter of festival, new moon, or Sabbaths.”

“More noteworthy still is the use of the verb KRINO [a Greek word meaning ‘to judge’ pronounced kree-no-jerry], as in Romans 13:3-4, where it clearly indicates the tendency of the more scrupulous to pass judgment on others who do not live according to their scruples. Those who insist on a more restricted lifestyle for themselves do so because they think it an essential expression of their belief and identity as believers. They observe because they think God requires such observance. That conviction will inevitably result in them criticizing or even condemning those who claim the same fundamental faith loyalty but who practice a less restricted lifestyle. If God requires observance, then he disapproves of nonobservance, and those who ignore God’s requirements are to be condemned and avoided, despite their claim to the same fundamental faith. Such was the logic of the devout Jewish traditionalist, including the traditionalist Christian Jew. It is this attitude which is most probably in view here, judged to be more dangerous than the equivalent attitude critiqued in Romans 14 but requiring less forceful response than in Galatians, presumably because the circumstances in each case were different.”—173-174

 Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I have been discussing how one properly uses the Bible with my friend Jeff at atheocracy. He has this happy little post concerning the recent lawsuit filed by a father against the Westboro ‘Baptist’ ‘Church’ who protested his son’s funeral. Jeff seems to think that all Christians who elevate the Bible to the place of infallible will end up with a message similar to those at the WBC. He wrote:

A couple of days ago, one Christian commenter didn’t agree with my assertion that all Christians who elevate the Bible to “unquestionable” status bear some responsibility for people like the ones at this church, but I’m holding to that statement unless someone can explain why I’m wrong.

You can read his entire post and the numerous responses by clicking: If there’s a God, He Hates these people.

Well, I wondered why Jeff would come up with such lousy logic. Then I stopped by A Little Leaven and read this post: You are a Hero… This post is about a church in Corona, California where a new sermon series is about to begin (or has already). Some topics include:

• How courage can help YOU conquer a storm (Noah)
• How faithfulness can keep YOU from quitting (Abraham)
• How generosity can multiply YOUR impact (Rebekkah)
• How commitment can take YOU beyond YOUR limitations (David)

The Curator at Leaven wrote:

Reducing these Biblical stories down to morals or virtues (like Aesops fables) that we can somehow apply to our lives so that we can be heroic completely misses the point. The thing that we all have in common with Noah, Abraham, Rebekah, and David is that we are all wicked sinners. We are not virtuous, courageous and faithful. Instead we are faithless, heartless and ruthless. We are not heroes we are all villians  (sic). The Bible tells us that all of us are sinners in need of a savior. In other words, NONE of us ‘has what it takes’. We, like Noah, Abraham, Rebekah and David NEED a hero and a savior to redeem us and save us. That’s why those Biblical stories are NOT about Noah, Abraham, Rebekah or David, they are ultimately about Jesus Christ.

I don’t think I could possible agree more with that statement. And the truth is, if this is the sort of slop that Christians are being fed by preachers on Sunday mornings, is it any wonder Jeff thinks that all Christians are of the same pattern as those at the WBC? Is it any wonder he thinks the Bible only creates people who do the things that WBC does? You may not see the connection, but it is this: What happens when the message of Scripture (viz., Jesus Christ) is ignored? What happens when theology goes unchecked? What happens is the WBC, and sermon series like that at the Corona church: Stupidity.

I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of Christianity, but, even though I argue with him, I do think perhaps there is a point: What is the Church preaching? It is horrifying the things I read at Leaven that are being preached on Sundays at churches around this country. WBC has been saying that God is judging America because of things like homosexuality. I want to correct that: I think God is judging the Church because we have dumbed down Scripture, we have inoculated people against the Gospel, because we have assumed favored people status, because we (the church) are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have settled for some sort of pseudo-relevance (see 4 Weeks of Sex) instead of the faith once delivered. We are more interested in numbers than we are in truth.

God is not judging the United States because of homosexuality any more than he is judging the United States because of global warming. God is judging the Church because of her failure to preach the whole council of God, the truth without compromise; for her failure to be One as He is One; for her failure to love one another and thus demonstrate our allegiance to His Son; and for her failure, her utter failure, to be the Church, the Body of Christ. (And don’t even get me started on pedophile priests, adulterers, thieves, Ted Haggard, The Inspiration Network, Benny Hinn, Brian McClaren and Joel Osteen.) Let me remind you of what Peter wrote to the Church:

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

WBC has it very, very wrong. In their arrogance, they have neglected the Word of God, they have failed to love their neighbor, they have forgotten to take the log out of their own eye before they presumed to remove the speck from that of others. But so also has the Eastlake Community Church and the South Hills Church. And, lest I forget: So have I. So, to the Church, if you really think we are being judged because of sin, I suggest that you examine the sin in your own backyard before you presume to dump the entire load of s*** on the doorstep of your neighbor: Christians are without excuse!

I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of the Church because I don’t think he understands theology, I’m certain he knows nothing of grace (and I might also question his logic 🙂 ), and because I don’t think someone outside the church has a right to make judgments about what goes on inside the church, but I do agree that Christians and ‘christians’ have thoroughly misrepresented the Word of God and that to that end, I agree with Jeff that the Church needs to examine why it preaches, what it preaches, and how it preaches the Gospel–that might mean that we need to know what the Gospel is in the first place. In short, we need to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith we profess because I have a suspicion that it is folk like the WBC who are keeping folk like Jeff from the Gospel, the true Gospel of Christ Crucified.

And I think more Christians ought to condemn the actions  and theology of WBC so that Jeff won’t have to take up valuable blogging space doing so.

And I think more Christians ought to ‘examine themselves’ before they ‘eat of the bread and drink of the cup.’

jerry

John 10:1-10

1″I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

It’s a world of liars and thieves out there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other. Who should we listen to? Whom should we follow? How can we tell the difference between the good ones and the bad ones? Jesus begins, he says, by telling us the truth. From that point we can gather a lot of information. First, it means he is not telling us a lie. Second, he is putting his statement out for anyone to test. Third, and this is perhaps the most significant, he tells us the truth about ourselves. We, I hate to say it, are not a very pretty lot. There is a lot that he says about us in this Gospel. We are not sights for sore eyes. We are, actually, quite a pathetic group of people—something akin to sheep. Perhaps we would rather not hear the truth about ourselves. Jesus said that people hated him because he told the truth. I don’t suppose us moderns are any more interested in hearing that the things we are inclined to do are evil, worthy of hell, and cost Jesus his life. Nah. Who wants to hear that? If we do, we might be accountable for what we have heard.

And we live in an age where the only god we answer to lives inside our shoes: Me. Sadly, this is the sort of preaching that is being done today as well. There is a large movement going on inside the church right now, being headed up by ‘Executive Pastors’, that is designed to eliminate any such preaching of the truth; that is, the Jesus of Scripture. This takes many different forms. It takes the form of preachers who are more interested in teaching a sort psychological gospel. It takes the form of preachers who want to preach a watered down Gospel that includes no call for repentance from sin, not facing up to the fact of God’s impending judgment, not pointing to the Holiness and Righteousness of God. Instead, we have preachers, indeed entire denominations, repressing the truth, exchanging the truth of God for lies, and actually approving of those who sin.

But all those who are not Jesus are liars and thieves, robbers, mere hirelings who care nothing about the sheep and only about themselves. And all those shepherds who do not follow in His footsteps are liars, thieves, robbers, and hirelings. They have no share in the Righteousness of God. Yet these are the ones we seem inclined to entrust ourselves to, to follow, to listen to. As we will see in chapter 18 of John, we sheep are much more interested in listening to the lie than we are the truth. Sad lot we are!

Take this example:

The largest Lutheran body in the nation caused a stir Saturday after controversially deciding not to punish homosexual clergy who are in sexual relationships.

At its annual assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed by a vote of 538-431 a resolution urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in “faithful committed same-gender relationships”.

A day earlier, attendees voted down a measure that would have ended a ban on non-celibate gay clergy. Saturday’s vote, however, means those who violate that policy can no longer be tried or punished.

“The Church … has just said ‘Do not do punishments’. That is huge,” commented Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within ELCA.

The 4.8-million member church body had previously allowed gays to serve as pastors, but only under the condition that they abstained from any sexual relations. (From www.christianpost.com, http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070812/28866_Lutherans_Urged_Not_to_Punish_Gay_Clergy_in_%27Faithful%27_Relationships.htm)

There is a picture accompanying this article. It shows those members who are voting on this issue in prayer, praying. One must wonder, after such a decision has been reached, to what or whom these people were actually praying. They were not praying to the God of Scripture who opposes sin at every possible instance. Thankfully, there was some sense spoken:

The Rev. Mark Chavez, leader of Lutheran CORE, a group that says non-celibate gays should not serve as pastors, called the decision “tragic.”

“This decision will be an excuse for bishops to disobey ELCA policy,” he said. “This decision does not reflect the will of the people, but of bishops and clergy who disregard God’s word.”

Jesus said that his sheep would never listen to or obey the voice of a stranger. The sheep ‘will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Is this only so clear to me? What is going on in the church? What is going on in the Body of Christ when people start condoning sin? Just exactly whose voice are these people listening to because it is not the voice of the Jesus of Scripture!

Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” There’s only one gate. His Name is Jesus. This means that we have to ‘play’ by his rules. We can’t expect to follow some other path and get in, and those who think they can are nothing more than brigands, criminals, robbers—none of whom have the best interest of the sheep in mind: ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.’ These false gates and shepherds evidently do not even realize that they are killing the flock, destroying the sheep, stealing that which belongs to Christ.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Not so the others. Not so at all. Jesus’ statement means that there is no other place to find life. Let me put it another way. There are only two things we can have or seek: Life or death. If Jesus came to give us life to the full, then shall we not expect that all others have come to give us death to the full? Do people yet realize that the church is being pillaged and savaged by people who do not have the interest of the church in mind, people who do not have the things of God in mind?

We have much to repent of, and the Scripture says that judgment begins with the house of God:

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NIV).

I fear these churches are listening to bad shepherds, false shepherds, liars, thieves, robbers, hirelings whose interests are not the Lords. Friends, the church belongs to Christ Jesus, not us. He is the Head of the Church. From what I can tell, this is the beginning of judgment: Every time a church passes this sort of resolution justifying, perpetuating, and condoning sin, the judgment is exposed. Soon the Lampstands will be removed. Does the Scripture say that Christ walks among His church for no reason (Revelation 1:12-16)? Are these churches really being so careless? Do they really think that the Good Shepherd doesn’t care about His sheep?

This is a very troubling development. Troubling indeed.

God have mercy!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends, these verses are tough. I hope I have done well by them and not obscured the meaning. I have checked my understanding against a couple of commentaries and found that I am not un-orthodox in my interpretation. Nevertheless, I apologize if I have made this more difficult than it needs to be.–Jerry

 

John 4:11-26 

 

11″Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17″I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19″Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

I have read this story a hundred times (that is, a lot). Tonight, for the first time, I noticed something I have never noticed. Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Why did Jesus say this to her? Was it a simple social courtesy? What was it for? Was he rude? Was he trying to make her feel bad because he knew the answer to the question? What was he hoping to accomplish with such an in-your-face demand?

 

She wanted the water, I think. But she also, at the outset, thoroughly misunderstood what Jesus was talking about. When she asks, “Are you greater than our father Jacob,” I wonder if she would have believed the answer. But Jesus was not talking about the sort of water that is comprised of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms. Clearly this sort of water was in no way able to supply this woman with what Jesus was talking about; nevertheless, she was eager to have it. She did want it; at least she seems eager enough for something. Jesus clears matters up for her essentially saying, “I’m not talking about this water which could never satisfy you as completely as the water I am offering.” Everyone who drinks that water will indeed be thirsty again. The water Jesus offers is different in every way, “The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It satisfies more than the thirst; better than water; beyond this earth.

 

It is ‘living water’. It is ‘water that springs up to eternal life’. Still she did not quite get it: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Translation? “I’m tired of making this daily trip. I’m tired of this work. I’m tired of all the complications of daily, redundant, life. Make it easier on me by filling my jars with water that never run empty.” Sometimes it’s true that this is the approach people take to Jesus. You know those ones who are convinced that Jesus’ goal is to make life easier, to eliminate all the stumbling blocks, to take out all the hurdles, to lower mountains and raise valleys. Well, who doesn’t want that sort of Jesus? “Peace, peace in our time.” That’s a nice, domesticated Jesus—at our beck and call, ready to serve when we ring our little bells. Maybe it’s the sort of Jesus who eliminates all the redundancy of life so that we can spend our time on our pursuits that certainly will not involve the everyday hard work of everyday hard work, and most likely will not include the demands of holiness.

 

If the woman had no idea what sort of water Jesus was talking about then I suspect that neither did she have any idea the sort of man she was speaking to. “I can see that you are a prophet.” Jesus will tell her that this is not enough that he is a prophet. Forsyth says that Jesus was here as more than a mere prophet, but in fact as the Creative King of the Kingdom. “And Christ went to His death in His function as King, not to become King” (Forsyth, The Justification of God, 176). She did not yet realize that Jesus was unfolding before her the identity of the God of the universe. So when he says to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back…’ I don’t think Jesus was merely showing off his ability to know things about her that she had not told him—no, Jesus is more than Prophet; Prophet though He may be. I think he is sitting (he had sat down by the well, v 6) there by the well, talking with this woman, as King, Judge. His demand for her husband to be present was his demand that she confess her sin. I think it was his demand for her to acknowledge her un-holiness, an un-holiness that was more important to her than worship. Forsyth again, “We are all standing before the judgment-seat of Christ. And one day we shall know it. We end where we began—in Him” (The Justification of God, 187).

 

She did not want to talk about this aspect of her life. I agree with the NIV study note here, “His presence exposes sin and makes people squirm…” But squirming is not an end in itself. People can squirm, be very uncomfortable and never actually get to God. Jesus is getter her to God. That is, he has other designs for her confession. Bruce Milne notes, “The deeper point is that Jesus brought to her awareness the relational desert in which she was living” (John, BST, 84-85). And not just with men, but with God.

 

Yes she changes the subject and starts talking about Jesus’ status as a ‘prophet.’ Then she changes the subject again: “So, you are a prophet. Well, perhaps then you can tell me why you Jews say that the only place where anyone can worship is in Jerusalem.”  Remember the garden of Eden? “Uh, it was the serpent. He made me eat it.” “Uh, it was the woman, she gave it to me and I ate it.” “Uh, it’s everyone else’s fault.” “Uh, it’s you Jews that prevent me from worshiping.” Jesus had cut to the heart of the matter: This woman had no relationship with God whatsoever. “She…had been furtive and unwilling to open her heart to God” (Tenney, John, 56). The evidence of her unfaithfulness to God is found in her continued unfaithfulness in marriage (regardless of the reasons why the marriages hadn’t worked). Oh, I’m sure not all those husbands were gems. But five, plus one more?! Was she Liz Taylor? Here was a woman, for all her better qualities, who was simply an unfaithful person (and not merely in an allegorical sense). Jesus brings all this out and then says, “There is no excuse for you not to be worshiping the One True God. There is no reason, certainly not the Jews, for you to be flitting around from place to place, person to person, god to god.” She was blaming someone else’s argument about the place to worship for her pathetic attitude towards worship altogether; toward God. Jesus has opened up the entire history of this woman and confronted her with her real need: It is God she is lacking. It wasn’t water. It wasn’t good marriage. It wasn’t friendship with the other ladies in town (why was she at this well, at that time of day, alone if not because she was somewhat ostracized because of her lifestyle?). Jesus was pointing out to her that her life reflects a surprising lack of God-interestedness. That was her real problem in life.

 

It is in this context that Jesus makes his most startling announcement yet: “I who speak to you am he.”

 

This is the great need of our day too. People are flitting about, like bees going from flower to flower. They gofrom person to person, relationship to relationship, god to god trying in vain to find something or someone that satisfies them, trying to find some place to perch. In the process of doing so, they alienate all those around them and they end up alone by a well in the heat of the day. They end up godless, submitted to no god, irreverent towards any god; unfaithful in all cases. They end up blaming everyone on the planet for their problems and accusing everyone else for their lack of worship and reverence for God. You’ve heard them: “Well, I don’t go to church because I can’t stand hypocrite Christians. It’s their fault I don’t worship.” And are they sinless? I think not. (There’s even a new movement going around of churches being planted with this slogan: “A church for people who hate church.” This is a rather impolite way of condemning existing churches and the people who comprise them. And, in my judgment, blaming them for other people’s lack of God-interestedness.) They’ve been hurt, burned, tricked, manipulated and angered and they take it out on God. Jesus comes along, takes all that blame and says, “I am the One who changes all that.”  Jesus says, “In me, there are no more excuses. In me, there are no acceptable excuses for not worshiping God.”

 

But of all these verses teach us I’m settling on this: Jesus does not accept our excuses for not worshiping God. He points out that if this woman blamed Jews for their insistence on the place of worship, she herself is no less guilty of excluding herself because of her sin and flitty, flirty unfaithfulness. In other words, no one has a right to be in God’s presence, and all should be uncomfortable before Him; all are judged in Christ. Slowly, but surely, this awakening is dawning on this unnamed Samaritan woman with whom Jesus spoke that day. So if all are judged in Christ, all are also welcomed in Christ. If freedom to worship is what one looks for we have no excuses; instead, we have Jesus.

 

I hope this 14th Day is Blessed for you in the Lord.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 2:12-25

12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. 13When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. 23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

Friends, after today, you will have read two chapters in John’s Gospel. This is good progress. You have taken your time, read slowly, and chewed on only a few passages each day. You have allowed them to sink deep into your heart and there take root as you learn about the Jesus you follow, and learn about how to follow the Jesus you know. Congratulations! This is not small thing in our hurry up world. The hurry up world says it has to be done today and delights in large, massive quantities. We are taking the long stroll, the far look, and the slow journey. We are not tourists visiting interesting sites; we are disciples on the narrow road, on a ‘long obedience in the same direction.’ Also, please feel free to leave me your thoughts by clicking the ‘comment’ link.

The (physical) place of worship had turned into a place of economics; the practice of worship has turned into an empty, hollow, market place where God is not at the center. As such, worshipers were marginalized, worship was de-sacralized, and other less vital functions were elevated and imperialized. It sounds strange to say it in such a way, but consider this: what dominates us controls us, what is important to us takes precedence. Here in the temple clearly what dominated people’s lives was not theology, not worship, and not the Presence, but economics, power, and control. It was a market, Jesus said, a place where buying and selling, bartering and bickering, haggling and harassing were taking place not necessarily to the exclusion of worship, but more prominently than worship and in distraction of worship. In other words, the place of worship, the atmosphere of worship, the spirit of worship were all subjected to the whims of humans. Human interraction, human function, human beings and their needs and wants were centralized; God was marginalized. Does this sound at all familiar?

Imagine you invited a friend over to your house for a nice dinner and conversation. Imagine you had planned out a nice afternoon together of fellowship, eating, drinking, making merry and simply enjoying one another’s company and conversation. Imagine, now, that your friend arrives and sets up a yard-sale in your front yard and begins hawking and hollering at other guests you had invited. There would be no fellowship, no companionship, no conversation that would be enjoyable. Intimacy would turn into rape. And, I suppose, you would be jealous that you had to compete with your guest for the affections of your friends and neighbors–in your own house! It’s not the best analogy, but I think it suffices. In the house of God there is only One Master and He is not keen on sharing the limelight. It’s His House. Now whatever else this passage teaches us I think it certainly teaches us this: Jesus’ purificaction of the temple was an act of judgment against those who had been invited guests. He wasn’t angry with a building, but with people; people he knew all too well. And His point was clearly this: The God who lives here will not tolerate competition. Would that such zeal would consume many of those who are invited guests in the house of God today. But I suspect that the same exact thing happens in many ‘temples’ today: There is competition for attention, competition for Centralization, competition for Glory & Praise. This is what happens when God is marginalized, when worship is economized, when the sacred is trivialized. God is moved out and man takes over; can man keep anything pure and righteous?

David Wells wrote, “It is hard to miss in the evangelical world—in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift from God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational. And it would have made few of these capitulations to modernity had not its capacity for truth diminished. It is not hard to see these things; avoiding them is what is difficult” (No Place for Truth, 95). I think what was happening that day is this: Jesus was not only purifying the temple, creating space, centralizing God once again (we say ‘cleansing’), he was also emptying it of all that deadness that inhabitited it and preparing it for new life. This is precisely why he ties this action to his resurrection: Destroy this temple, he said, and I will raise it up again in three days. He was saying, through actions, that the true purpose for the temple will never again be found in Jerusalem’s physical ediface, but will be found in Himself. He was telling the people, through word and deed, that the temple would be destroyed: His was also an act of judgment. But no matter! The true temple would be raised up and the function and purpose of the temple will be reestablished and never again corrupted. Jesus is the true temple and in Him, the Resurrected Lord, God will never again be marginalized, man will never be centralized, man will no longer control and ‘change’ (‘you have turned it into…something you desire’) the purpose of the temple and worship will continue freely and unabated by those who seek God. (Why do we prefer busy markets to worship?)

I think it is no wonder that Jesus would not entrust himself to man. The Bible says, “He knew what was in man.” I don’t suppose that has changed. Man has found a way to corrupt the church, to ‘turn it into something it was not intended to be’, the make man the center and life of the church, and, worse, we have found a way to do this to Jesus. I hate to say it, but man, within whom lies so many evils and ills, has found a way to corrupt the temple once again. We have found a way to make Jesus serve our purposes. We have found a way to use him. If man could not rightly serve in the physical structure the Presence inhabited, do you think we can or will rightly serve the Lord Jesus who inhabits us? Or do you think that we, like the temple rulers then, will once again turn the temple into something we can control, corrupt, and use? I cannot help but wonder if this is not already the truth. David Wells again:

“This is why we need reformation rather than revival. The habits of the modern world, now so ubiquitous in the evangelical world, need to be put to death, not given new life. [This is essentially what Jesus was saying in his judgement of the temple that day. And a new temple would be established in Himself.] They need to be rooted out, not simply papered over with fresh religious enthusiasm. And they are by this point so invincible that nothing less than the intrusion of God in his grace, nothing less than a full recovery of his truth, will suffice…In this regard, the death of theology has profound ramifications. Theology is dying not because the academy has failed to devise adequate procedures for reconstructing it but because the church has lost its capacity for it. And while some hail this loss as a step forward toward the hope of new evangelical vitality, it is in fact a sign of creeping death. The emptiness of evangelical faith without theology echoes the emptiness of modern life. Both have elected to cross over into a world in which God has no place, in which reality has been rewritten, in which Christ has become redundant, his Word irrelevant, and the Church must now find new reasons for its existence” (No Place for Truth, 301)

Judgment. Destruction. Resurrection. I wonder if it would take this much for the church to realize afresh that we are slowly killing ourselves by removing God from the Center? What will it take for Jesus to entrust himself to us? Woe is us if we try to turn the True Temple into something we can manage, manipulate, and master. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And judgment begins with the house of God.