Christianity

Reason #ILostCount - I'm not going back"I'm not going back" is a refrain at our house, and we have reasons...we usually make up a number (reason #848) but I just lost count.

And I'm not going back.

My daddy died last week and  I know that he's with Jesus.  I heard another refrain:  If you want to see Jesus, you need to be holy.

Here's the thing - if you're holy enough to get yourself into heaven - raise your hand.

I'm not.

I'm not holy enough - far, far from it.  To paraphrase Mark Driscoll - this kind of teaching leads to either pride or despair.  Pride (I got this) or despair (I can't do this.)

Reason #ILostCount

When Dad got to heaven, I know that he lived his life in faith in Christ.  He never pointed at his works; he pointed to Jesus and the cross.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28 ESV)

What is "law?"  Law (simple explanation) is God's character codified.  In the law, we learn God's character, and His standard for holiness.  God is perfect and His law is perfect.

We are not and we cannot be, this side of the grave.

Since we are not perfect, how do we see Jesus?  How are we justified?

We are justified by faith, and not by works.

Yes, sanctification is a thing and for a person who is justified by faith, that faith will be evidenced by sanctification.

I asked a Sunday School student - do you do your chores because you are part of your family?  Or do you do your chores in order to become part of your family?

Do we obey the law because we belong to Christ?  Or do we obey the law in order to belong to Christ?

The difference is worth an eternity.

So...we're starting this book club thing...and the first book is Athanasius' "On the Incarnation of the Word."  The questions in this post are "pre-book" questions and will hopefully stay in our minds.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS:

Q. Who wrote the book?

St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria

Q. To whom was it written?

"Incarnation" was written to Christians who were being influenced by various heresies undermining the understanding of the life and death of Jesus.

Q. When was it written?

4th Century

Q. Where was it written?

Alexandria

Q. Why was it written?

The book explains why God chose to approach his fallen people in human form and defends the incarnation of Christ against the derision of 4th century non-believers

Exploratory Questions
  1. Why would one's view of creation influence one's view of incarnation?

All things were created by and through the Word. The Word created man, the Word became Man; because He because one of us, those who walked with Him gave testimony about Him

  1. Why is Christ's incarnation necessary anyway?

When we were separated from God by our sin, our very nature changed from one of perfection to one that is permeated by sin.

  1. Equally, why are his death and resurrection necessary?

Only the perfect could satisfy the Perfect.  Jesus’ death was the payment for sin, and His resurrection was proof that the Father accepted the payment.

  1. Should the death of Christ be seen as a triumph? Why or why not?

Absolutely.  When Adam sinned, the very nature of mankind was changed and without hope of reconciliation.

Because Christ died and was raised from the dead, we who are in Christ have hope for eternity.

My dad died a week ago today.  Because Jesus died, I know I will see him again.  Right now, my dad is reunited with his mom and dad, and his sister that he knew, and is getting to know his brothers and sisters who died before he was born.

That is a triumph.

 

  1. If Adam had not sinned, would God the Son have become incarnate? Why or why not?

I don't believe Jesus would have walked on earth to save us, if we didn't need saving.

  1. Has Jesus achieved anything since his incarnation that is not directly related to dealing with the consequences of sin? (You might like to take a look at Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:5-8.

Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power.

  1. “Jesus died with his arms outstretched, showing his desire to draw all men to himself.” What do you think of this kind of exegesis? (THESE ARE NOT ON TheCity)

Jesus died with His arms outstretched because that fulfilled a prophesy that He would die on a tree (cross.)

I think this is not exegesis at all, rather it is eisogesis -

Exegesis takes what is in the text and allows us to determine what it means, and so it steers our beliefs.

Eisogesis starts with what we believe, and allows us to read into the text what we want it to mean, steering what we think is in the text.

 

Last week, we sang this at my dad's funeral, and we will sing it at my mom's funeral...remember...When We All Get to Heaven

my brother-in-law (Michael) reminded us that those who are in Christ will see each other again, "here, there, or in the air."

1. Sing the wondrous love of Jesus;
sing his mercy and his grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed
he'll prepare for us a place.

Refrain:
When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we'll sing and shout the victory!

2. While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
clouds will overspread the sky;
but when traveling days are over,
not a shadow, not a sigh.
(Refrain)

When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we'll sing and shout the victory!
3. Let us then be true and faithful,
trusting, serving every day;
just one glimpse of him in glory
will the toils of life repay.
(Refrain)
When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we'll sing and shout the victory!
4. Onward to the prize before us!
Soon his beauty we'll behold;
soon the pearly gates will open;
we shall tread the streets of gold.
(Refrain)

When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we'll sing and shout the victory!

Okay, at the beginning of yesterday's sermon, the pastor showed a PowerPoint slide of a yogurt foil label.

I took that visual in a different direction than I think the pastor intended.

Stirrers, skimmers, diggers...We have all of these types in the Christian body.

STIR,

Those who stir, those who skim, and those who dig.  The beauty is that each of us shows all of these tendencies at some point or another.

When you hear "stir" - what do you think of?  Is it the negative "stir up bottom muck?"

Or do you think positive?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (Hebrews 10:24 ESV)

As believers, do we stir up one another to look more like Christ?  How does this work?  For me, getting into the fringes of something, then finding another person, taking that "something" and running with it...with that other person, pulling more and more people into this "something."

Or simply encouraging another into a deeper walk.

Or

STIR,

I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, (1 Peter 1:13)

what was Peter "stirring?"  The list begins... faith, virtue, knowledge.

I see (rightly or wrongly) a lot of anti-intellectualism in a lot of people.  "Knowledge" is third on Peter's list and knowledge is what leads to self-control,  steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love.

They're in this order for a reason, and each acts a foundation for the next.

How do we stir our spiritual siblings to greater faith, virtue, knowledge?

Then...

SKIM

Merriam-Websters has one definition:

to look over or read (something) quickly especially to find the main ideas

Yeah, okay.  That works.   Why would a Christian "skim?"

We may skim a chapter of Scripture, then settle on the "main idea" and go for a deeper study of that idea that the Holy Spirit is laying on our heart and mind.

We may skim the church bulletin and rest our eyes on something that intrigues us.

We may skim community groups until we find one that we really click with.

Somebody may ask a question and we skim material looking for information.

These can show good fruit.  I know a little bit about a lot of different things.  Enough so that if somebody asks me a question, I can point them to good resources.  A lot of these things I have not dug into deeply.

I pass over a lot of ministry opportunities that are not in my range of interest...

Waiting to find the right place is good.

but...you if you stay in that "skim" place, or if ALL of your places are skim place, that shows a shallowness that does not show good fruit.

You have to

DIG

I can skim Philippians, then land on "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,"

What does the Bible say about persecution?  Start digging...

I can skim the church bulletin, then land on one opportunity that screams at me...start digging.

But we don't exist in a vacuum.  Help others dig!

So, in some things, I'm a skimmer, others places a digger.  In still other places, I can stir up others to do their own skimming and digging.

And...that's where I took that PowerPoint slide...

First - It's HARD for me to memorize Scripture when I'm out of my routine.  But I'm wrapping up being able to quote the first chapter of Philippians.

But...what have I learned?

Summary of the "OIA Method" is here.

  1. Observation – what does it say?
  2. Interpretation – what does it mean?
  3. Application – how do I need to change?

The absolute basics:

thanks for believers, advance the Gospel, live to serve Christ.

But deeper - we (believers) are spiritual siblings - brothers and sisters in Christ.  More than that, we share grace.  Paul wrote, "You are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment, and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel."

When a spiritual sibling is persecuted for the sake of Christ, we should feel that grief along with them, and we are partakers with them of grace.

When we support a missionary in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, we are partakers with them of grace.

It puts a different spin on the "children of Christ" aspect and reminds me yet again that it is "all of grace."

I am starting on a task: to memorize the book of Philippians. So far, I have chapter 1, verses 1-7 (7 is shaky)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

It struck me again, the "why" - it's the Gospel.

Why does Paul thank God for the Philippians? Because of their partnership in the Gospel.

What is the good work? the partnership in the Gospel.

Why does Paul hold them in his heart? they are partakers with him of grace (the Gospel)

I am puzzling over verse 7.

NIV renders it

whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

vs the ESV

or you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

It seems a little thing, in the NIV Paul comes first, in the ESV, the Philippians come first.

But it is a big thing:

In the NIV Paul puts himself first, and (given the lack of punctuation in the translation, is taking the credit for himself.

whether I am in chains or [whether I am] defending or confirming the Gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.

The two acts are as one - in chains or defending and confirming

In the ESV, Paul puts other first:

YOU are all partakers with me, BOTH in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel

the "both" specifically makes them two different acts.

The Philippians shared grace with Paul while he was imprisoned and they shared grace when they defended and confirmed the Gospel.

To me, that becomes important in knowing the character of Paul.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

This time around, one line stood out: "Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace."

Peace is a big word.

In this passage, "peace" is peace with God.

God is a God of love; He is also a God of justice. That's not contradictory: perfect love demands perfect justice, and that doesn't mean justice for me, it means justice for everybody.

Justice doesn't mean that the person who wronged "me" gets what they deserve: it means that the God of justice demands payment for each sin committed.

Only when justice is satisfied, can peace begin.

Jesus was pierced for our transgression; THAT chastisement brought the elect peace with the Father.

Next in the "More than 100 things every religious liberal should know"

The “Four Vedas” are sort of like the holy books of Hinduism…only more like an “order of worship” or “common book of prayer.”  Like Christianity, Hinduism has sects (denominations, as a parallel) and like Christianity, the Vedas are considered by different sects has having different levels of authority.

The Sanskrit word “veda” means “knowledge” or “to know” – like our Bible, the Vedas contain the knowledge needed to follow that religion.  Each “Veda” contains a different type of knowledge.

“Rigveda” – “praise or verse” + “knowledge.”  Some of the verses have been recited in worship since they were written, and are still being used today, making it one of the longest running religious texts in history (although not the oldest.)  Unlike Christianity, these Hindu texts are dedicated to various deities, each reflecting the beliefs of what that god has done and how Hindus honor that particular god.

“Yajurveda” – “sacrificial formula” + “knowledge.”  These writings are the “liturgy” or mantras used during sacrificial rituals.

“Samaveda”– “melody” + “knowledge” are the hymns that are sung.  Half (75) are from the Rigveda, the other half are specifically to be sung by priests in rituals were the juice of the soma plant (along with other ingredients) is offered to various deities.

The last Veda, Atharvaveda, is a combination of writings.  Spells and magic, hymns and poetry, rules and regulations.  This work includes healing (physical and spiritual, including diseases via demon possession,) writings on the nature of the universe and humanity, "household codes" (rules for running a smooth home,) marriage and funeral rituals, and more.  This seems to be the "how then shall we live" book of Hinduism.

I'm learning that all religions have a few things in common, yet all are different, and they cannot all be "true."

C.S.Lewis said (paraphrased) - all truth is God's truth.  We should be able to see what is right with other religions, and reject what is wrong with them, in order to embrace our own.

“When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son! We cannot measure such love by any other standard. He is saying to us: I love you this much.

The cross is the heart of the gospel. It makes the gospel good news: Christ died for us. He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat. He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that he loves us.”

~Sinclair Ferguson

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As I sat at a picnic table, one of my favorite places to stretch after a walk, and I heard a rustling in the trees behind me. Always aware that wild pigs hang out in this park, I always check those rustling sounds. I've never seen a pig, but lots of deer, and Phil and I saw a bobcat once. This time it was a wild turkey.

Anyway, I noticed the grass. The deer and other grass eaters that live here like the meadow areas, and this one has trees around for shelter from human (and predator) eyes.

See in the photo, the clear line of shade and sun...and how the grass stays short and a little sparse in the shade, but grows with wild abandon in the light.

The grass grows best where the sun shines most.

I had read in "Everyday Prayers" how we should start each day with the gospel, letting the Holy Spirit minister grace to us each day. Then came to mind "justification." - the moment we are declared righteous by the blood of Christ, to become the righteousness of God. The grass is planted.

Tullian Tchividian says (roughly) that our sanctification is being pointed back to our justification. Partly, but I think that's only part of the story. We use our justification as motivation for our sanctification.

I believe in a monergistic justification, but Scripture does speak of working out (not for) our salvation. It speaks of the works that are prepared for us in advance, it speaks of studying, of becoming more like Christ.

This is sanctification.

We will fail; we will sin. We should (and must) remain secure in the knowledge of our justification. This, the gospel, should stay in our minds each and every day.

We should have more than living in the past set in our sights. We are rooted in the past, our justification. Our justification - being found in Christ - causes our sanctification.

I believe in a synergistic sanctification. Growing in Christ takes our work - powered by the Holy Spirit, granted by God, grown by Christ.

Christians grow best where the SON shines most.

Only when we continually bask in the love of the Saviour, and yes, pointing ourselves back to our justification, only when we bring ourselves out of the shadows of our sin, only when we walk in His light, and His Word, do we have the basis for the works that He has prepared for us.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7 ESV)