Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’
Surrender: “Let’s Go Die with Jesus”
Reading: John 11:9-16, 25-26 <> Psalm 31 <> Luke 9, 14, 22
The past few days I’ve been thinking about what it means to “surrender” to Jesus. I wonder about how surrender might be defined. It seems, in our society, there is a desire for this word to have cultural impositions placed upon it. Sometimes I get the impression from the words of others that “surrender” is similar to tolerance. Other times I get the impression that surrender is conditional and given only until it reaches a certain point of a person’s predetermined limitations; “I surrender this amount of me or I surrender only certain of my rights.” It seems rare that I encounter the idea of surrender being full and unconditional.
I wonder how Jesus interpreted and defined surrender.
We have the Bible to provide us with what Jesus said and while his words seem indisputable, they must be… disputable, because there are so many variations and degrees to how people interpret them. We have interpreted “Carry your cross…” from the wearing of a tiny charm/pendant to literally nailing ourselves to wooden crosses and everything in between those extremes. We’ve interpreted “Deny yourselves” from not eating chocolate to punishing, deathly ascetic lifestyles and every point in between those extremes. I’m reasonably sure other instructive commentary from Jesus; “You must lose your life to save it” and “Follow me…” have equally colorful interpretations as well. So, the question remains; “What does Jesus require with regard to a surrendered lifestyle?”
Over and over again, I am reminded of how Jesus emptied himself and provided us with the ultimate explanation and visible expression of surrender. I find these defining moments in many places throughout Scripture, but I think a few of the primary passages that bring substance to “surrender” can be found in the following:
All of the above verses represent a very radical commitment to the way of following Jesus, and in many cases, can be very different from what is taught to people attending Christian churches in North America. It is not my intent to slam or criticize anyone or any organization, but the message of radical surrender to the person and mission of Jesus Christ as Jesus described, taught, and modeled is a rare message in our churches today… even more rare in our society at large.
I don’t know what “surrender” means to other people, but when I read the call of Jesus from the Gospels, I cannot come to any other definition or meaning other than total and complete loss of and abandonment of self. Not only do I find his words crystal clear, but the example shared by the apostle Paul (Phil. 2:5-8) is difficult to argue against; “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The MSG Bible)
Surrender is what I encounter when I look upon the night of Jesus’ arrest as he prayed earnestly to his heavenly Father; “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want… Again, he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’” (Matthew 26:36-46 NRSV).
“Those who in fact risk all for God will find that they have both lost all and gained all… Everything other than pleasing God is nothing” -St Teresa of Avila
I think when it has all been considered… maybe Thomas had it pretty well defined. Jesus had announced to his disciples that he was heading back to Judea (where he had been threatened by stoning)and his disciples tried to change his mind, fearing for Jesus’ life and their own… I’m sure. After a few more words, Jesus is undaunted and begins to head back to Bethany… and Thomas adds; “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” (John 11:16) NLT. Surrender. I think this captures the definition as well as can be described. Surrender is to “go too—and die with Jesus.”
I suppose the question we live and die with is whether or not we are truly willing to surrender according to Jesus’ definition and terms or do we constantly excuse ourselves from surrender with efforts to redefine what it really means?
It’s a tough call…but in the end, these are His words; “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me…” (John 12:24-26 NRSV). Maybe even more specifically, I should ask what losing my life looks like as I live my life for Christ day to day.
[16MAR2012] Lent 2012: Day 24—Reflection and Meditation
♦ Gospel - Mark 12:28-34
“By the cross of Christ, sustain us in the struggle of continual conversion. With contrite hearts, we pray You lead us in hope to the Easter day of resurrection.“
What is freedom? Freedom is as freedom does…
Reading through the song of the psalmist in Psalms 136:10-26 we hear of the mighty delivering Hand of God. This is the God who brings freedom to the oppressed and who sets the captive free, but what is freedom? What does it mean to be free? What is it that we are “freed” to do?
I think the answer to what our freedom is about can be found in the refrain of the psalm; “His faithful love endures forever.” I think the oppression we are freed from is more than the relief given to immediate felt needs and extends to the great losses experienced as a result of the Fall… our ability to truly be loved by God and to truly love Him in return. I think this is freedom.
In the midst of this great and “freeing” gift of God to us, most especially found in the work of Jesus Christ, is our struggle with actually receiving and realizing the gift of freedom and love. Recalling the gift of freedom to the Israelites in their release from Egypt, they were called the chosen people, God’s very own. Even in the throes of this great love, they had trouble with receiving God’s pure love…they also had trouble returning it as well.
We can fast forward through the centuries and the millennia until we arrive upon our present-day doorsteps. We have not changed much from the struggling and floundering Israelites of old. The problem of realizing freedom and acting upon it is still our plight even though we have experienced the reconciling gift of Christ’s resurrection and Holy Spirit power. We say that we have received love and we say that we give love in return, but so many of us proclaiming to be “redeemed” live in a state of oppression living love in a half-hearted fashion…receiving and giving love tenuously.
Humanity is in a state of servitude. We frequently do not notice that we are slaves, and sometimes we love it. But humanity also aspires to be set free. It would be a mistake to think that the average person loves freedom. A still greater mistake would be to suppose that freedom is an easy thing. Freedom is a difficult thing. -Nicolas Berdyaev; Russian Orthodox Theologian
I’m sure there are few that would find agreement with me, but look closely at the structure of how we live out the span of our lives. So many people live with worry and regret. So many people live out their lives fearful that they are not getting their fair share… Relationships are shallow because people are afraid to be open and honest with one another, fearful about how they might be perceived. We are born into bondage and it is bondage that feels normal to us. Even when we are freed, the majority of people return to what feels normal because the alternative that is freedom is so foreign and daunting. Many would argue this point, but millions of people are working jobs they hate, in relationships they dread, spend their money on things they don’t want, and try to change themselves into something they are not because others tell them what they are supposed to be. Freedom? I think not. The word of God tells us “Perfect love cast out all fear.” Why then do we continue to live oppressed and not free if we profess to have received the gift that promises freedom?
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
[14MAR2012] Lent 2012: Day 22—Reflection and Meditation
♦ Psalms 119:97:120
“Let us not receive the grace of God in vain, for this is the acceptable time, this is the day of salvation.“
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do…
“Awake, O sleeper,
Rise up from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
Ephesians 5:1, 14
I shudder at the urgency and the somberness of Christ’ words as he warns his listeners in the account from Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 5:17-20). Jesus says, “Not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until it purpose is achieved. But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” And, we hear the Apostle exhorting his audience to “Imitate God!” Later, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus again warns his “would be” followers not to hesitate in following him…don’t even bother to look back…or you will be unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we sense this urgency? Do we follow with this sense of earnestness? How much of our devotion have we personally determined is optional? I think we might need to rethink what we consider the meaning of wholehearted disciple and “following” Jesus really is.
[01MAR2012] Lent 2012: Day 9—Reflection and Meditation
♦ Gospel - Matthew 7:9-12
“I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!“
Whether it is intentional or not, I think many of us fail or fall short of the first and greatest commandment. The LORD Almighty tells us we should “have not other god” but him. The details of that command are also given to us in another form; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” If we were to follow through (successfully) with that commandment, we would effectively have no other god(s), but we fall short—we miss the mark.
I have heard it said from God-fearing people that humans are incapable of loving God with all their hearts. I disagree with this position for several reasons; one, God commanded that we do it. Therefore, it must be possible. Secondly, God promises that he will “change our heart, so it will love Him—having his commandments written on it.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 see also Deuteronomy 30:6-14). And third, Jesus promised and delivered the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers. There is no doubt that God the Holy Spirit will love God the Father and God the Son in a whole and holy pure love—certainly unobstructed and uncluttered with the affections of any other god. Subsequently, I believe that we are fully capable of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The question then is this: “Do we want to love him fully and wholly, more than we love ourselves or the idea of something other than God?”
When we miss the mark of “loving God the most and with our all” we effectively are “mocking the justice of God” (Galatians 6:7-8). The reason I believe this is because when we miss the mark, especially knowingly, we sin. When we fail to turn from our sin we are sowing to the fleshly or sinful nature and invariably we harvest what we plant. The apostle writes the harvest of this “planting” is death and decay—eternal separation from God.
It doesn’t have to be this way, Praise God. If we live to please God by loving Him with our all and with every facet and form of our lives, we sow to the Spirit and we harvest everlasting life from the Spirit as a consequence.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” -Matthew 7:9-11
I believe the thing we need to remember is that God has nothing but good planned for us. He wants nothing but us to be reconciled to him, restored to our God-created perfection, and dwelling in his holy place for all eternity. He can be trusted in this. In this season of Lent, we can focus our hearts on clearing the clutter from our lives and simplifying the order of our days in ways that make space for our attention to be squarely placed upon our God—loving Him first and loving Him most. Really.
In mercy hear our prayer, Lord Jesus, and grant that we your servants may be renewed by the discipline of Lent. Teach us to persevere in sincere obedience to your commands and come safely to your paschal feast. Make me know your ways, O God; lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be—world without end. Amen.
[23FEB2012] Lent 2012: Day 2–Reflection and Meditation
♦ Gospel - Luke 6:27:31
The LORD is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? Our souls are waiting for God, our help and our shield. Our hearts are glad in you, LORD, because we trust in your holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we wait for you.
I wonder how strong my ties are to this world and the comforts it holds for me. I have been thinking about what it means to me to be part of the citizenry of the Kingdom of God. The word of God tells me that as a member of his family, the kingdom of priests, that He is my inheritance… my portion… my reward. God is my cup of blessing. I do not need anything else. I need no other identity. The LORD alone is my portion and reward. My head believes this, but I wonder how much my heart does. I know I have not really been tested, but while reading a portion of Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount I am convicted and question my integrity as a kingdom citizen. Here are some of the words of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel:
“But I say to you that will listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
To what extent do I believe and live that God is my portion? This is God’s promise to us (to me) from Scripture; that He alone is the inheritance and blessing to those who believe and follow Him. Truly embracing this promise will enable me to live as Christ in the world…living out the tenets of faith that Jesus teaches: Loving my enemies, doing good to those who hate me, praying for those who abuse me… Yes, if I really believe the gift of God to me is Himself, then I will be able to live as Christ has directed through this Sermon on the Mount teaching. I want to believe; I know that my head believes, but I want the rest of me, my heart, to follow. Lord Jesus, help me to grow in your grace so my heart and my life might live out that you are my portion… all that I really need.
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. (Psalm 16:5)
You guide me with your counsel, lading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. (Psalm 73:24-26)
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline. (Lamentations 3:24-27)
We can think of Lent as both a sojourn and a journey. We have two opportunities to identify with Jesus, one at the start of his public ministry and one near the end. The sojourn occurs in the desert as Jesus spends forty days alone in self-reflection and discernment of God’s way. The journey takes place on the road to Jerusalem as Jesus moves toward his dark destiny. The sojourn causes us to look inward and acknowledge our human and spiritual vulnerabilities; the journey bids us look outward and weigh the costs of discipleship. Both involve turning.
In the solitary sojourn, we turn away from our sins and temptations and toward God and his great mercy. This is otherwise known as repentance. And while we usually don’t put ourselves in a desolate environment for forty days, we can choose a posture of humility and undertake practices that sharpen our spiritual awareness. These include prayer and Scripture meditation, moral inventory and behavior change, fasting and other forms of abstinence, acts of generosity and service. As Jesus entered the desert keenly aware of his baptism, during Lent we too rehearse and reaffirm our own baptismal promises: to renounce Satan and all evil powers and sinful desires, to trust in the grace of Christ as our Savior, to follow him as our Lord. As we turn inward and turn Godward, we can trust him turn toward us with spiritual grace (Ps 138:6; Jas 4:6). Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year; p.128
Lord Jesus, for forty days you fasted in the desert and were tempted, yet never sinned. Guard us with your power as we seek to follow you. Hear us as we pray: Lord, be our strength and salvation.
Book Review: Speaking of Jesus
By: Carl Medearis ISBN: 9781434702104
Publisher: David C. Cook
The timing of this book was providential, this I know. Before I proceed with my review, I should say that I truly enjoyed this book. I don’t think it is the stuff of earth-shattering revelation, but it is probably one of the most practical and timely reminders of what the gospel is all about that I have read in quite some time. The other book that stands with this one in the same “most practical and timely reminders” status is The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. This is where the providential part of this review comes in… I read Scot McKnight’s book immediately before picking up Carl Medearis’ Speaking of Jesus book. In my estimation, these two books provided me with a “one – two” punch of divine proportion.
There are parts of this book that I might not completely track with, but on the whole it is masterful in message and mission. Every part of the book is clear: The message, mission, and ministry of our faith is about Jesus… only Jesus. How often we forget this… it is the lost message of Christianity. Medearis makes a strong case for his thesis that the message of Christ has been derailed by the Western Church. He points out how the message of the gospel has been complicated through our reinterpretation of what the gospel means; depending on the doctrine of a particular people group the “good news” might mean many different things. These different things are not the gospel and are certainly not “good news;” these reinterpretations are false messages and most often complicate the way of people to finding and being reconciled to Jesus.
Medearis’ writing style is very down-to-earth and easy to understand. I read this book over the course of a four hour flight and caught myself several times with my head shaking with “yes” affirming nods. He weaves a number of stories from his years as a missionary to the middle east as a means of explaining and illustrating his points. I found these stories engaging and pertinent to the point of the book and the evidence that Medearis had put into practice the things he was presenting to the masses.
The most beautiful part of my experience with this book was the experiment I engaged in upon completing it. I have started sharing my journey through the lens of Jesus. In the most recent opportunities I have had to champion my faith, I have shared by retelling lessons and stories of Jesus. I have pointed to Jesus through the Old Testament narrative, I have made comparisons to my present life as interpreted through the teachings of Jesus, and I have paralleled present culture with the life of Jesus from the gospel accounts. I have done this in the settings of people who are unchurched, churched, and anti-church. In every instance my words have been received openly and deeper discussion has ensued. The conversations continue to this day.
I am thankful for the reminder to keep the story Jesus-centered. This is a good book and a very timely read. I believe this will challenge your thinking in areas, but if you are willing to try telling the Jesus story instead of teaching Christianity, you might find renewal and excitement that you have only dreamed of. I highly recommend this book and also The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight. Reading these together build a more complete picture of where this teaching is based.
By: Scot McKnight ISBN: 9780310492986
I’ve started on a couple of occasions now to write out my review for Scot McKnight’s latest book and it’s been difficult to know where to begin. I should get one thing out of the way and in the open before proceeding further; this is an important book, especially so in circles of Protestant Evangelicals and even more so with those struggling to answer questions about how to develop spiritually deep and enduring-persevering disciples of Jesus Christ in the world we live today. I realize the boldness of my statement, but I believe the content of The King Jesus Gospel supports the claim completely.
The premise of the book suggests that the Church has strayed from the gospel as it was preached by Jesus and the apostles. From this premise, McKnight lays a biblical foundation for the original gospel and methodically builds his case and reasoning for why anything less than the original gospel short circuits and short changes the mission of God for the Church. Personally, I think his work is remarkably insightful and prophetic and I am hopeful that it sparks the revolution that it proposes.
I started reading Scot’s Jesus Creed blog at least six years ago; it may have been longer, although I’m almost positive it was around 2005 shortly after his book The Jesus Creed was published. Since that time, I’ve read almost every book that has followed it. I mention this to make a point that all the while I was reading The King Jesus Gospel there was never a single “Aha!” moment; it’s almost as if while I was reading the book, I was having a déjà vu experience the entire time. This confession isn’t a negative commentary about the book whatsoever. My point is meant to support the belief that this work hasn’t just “burst onto the scene,” but it is a thoughtful progression of deep analysis about where gaping holes in our theology have created the culture we now lament in our churches (apathy, exclusivism, inclusivism, passivity, narcissism, and individualism to name a few issues). I think from The Jesus Creed, to A Community Called Atonement, and then One.Life, readers might be able to see development of The King Jesus Gospel…I was certainly able to see it and I believe this is the reason for my déjà vu experience. It was not as much that I saw the book coming as I just “got it” and resonated deeply with its message.
My copy is heavily highlighted, underlined, and annotated with margin notes. It’s hard to tell which chapter or chapters had the most impact on me, but chapters two (Gospel Culture or Salvation Culture) and four (The Apostolic Gospel of Paul) definitely set a strong tone for the remainder of the book. Hear these words from the opening paragraphs of chapter two; “Personal faith is both necessary and nonnegotiable. The gospel doesn’t work for spectators; you have to participate for it to work its powers” (pg.28). And, this statement follows on the succeeding page (28):
“…we evangelicals (as a whole) are not really ‘evangelical’ in the sense of the apostolic gospel, but instead we are soterians. Here’s why I say we are more soterian than evangelical: we evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word gospel with the word salvation. Hence, we are really ‘salvationists.” When we evangelicals see the word gospel, our instinct is to think (personal) ‘salvation.’”
As a pastor who has struggled with getting people engaged with their faith and actively involved (and personally responsible) in the work of their discipleship, I realize the fruit of a salvation culture is the passivity and apathy that is so prevalent in our churches today. As painful as it might be to admit it, I do not think we can deny the problems so many of us have recognized. McKnight mentions the polls, surveys, reports, and statistics we have read from the Barna Group and other church data organizations, reporting divorce rates climbing amongst Christians, youth who leave the Church as soon as they are able, and biblical illiteracy to mention a few… clearly there is a problem and I find myself in agreement with McKnight’s proposal that our gospel has been hijacked. One of my margin notes reads as follows:
I believe the gospel is more about re-imaging than about salvation. “Re-imaging” is a process of being while “salvation” is defined more as a single event. -j. borden
Chapter four moves pretty quickly to providing the working definition of gospel for the remainder of the book. I was intrigued with this chapter for several reasons. One reason is the simple clarity of the gospel message, at least as perceived and presented by the apostle Paul. Also, I believe Scot’s presentation and position is very strong, and it would be difficult to successfully argue against. This leads me to a second reason for my intrigue with this chapter. In light of the clarity of Paul’s recounting of the gospel, I wonder why we have so many different interpretations of what the gospel is. If you ask ten different people what the gospel is, I believe you would get ten different answers. Yes, you might get some similarities and you might hear a lot of the same words/terms, but the end interpretations would probably all be uniquely different. If this is true, it means (a) the gospel isn’t clear or (b) we have a failed understanding of the gospel. I believe we have a failed understanding of the gospel and this is a problem of larger proportion than many pastors and churches are willing to address. The problem with a failed understanding of the gospel is that it opens the church to a host of problem, not the least of which heresy, which can lead to unpleasant ends (Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 10-11).
As mentioned earlier, McKnight hones in on the biggest pretender gospel, the salvation gospel, as the greatest problem with our understanding the pure gospel today. He identifies the departure from the pure gospel or How Did Salvation Take Over the Gospel in chapter five. Once more, I think the work presented in this chapter is laudable, and considering the supporting historical evidence, it would be difficult to discount. McKnight places responsibility on the shoulders of the Reformation for augmenting and reframing the gospel; he writes:
The Reformation did not deny the gospel story and it did not deny the creeds. Instead, it put everything into a new order and into a new place. Time and developments have somehow eroded the much more balanced combination of gospel culture and salvation culture in the Reformation to where today a salvation culture has eclipsed the gospel culture. (pg.72)
He goes on to express how the progression of the salvation gospel has degraded the pure-original gospel as follows:
Even more so with Calvin (and William Farel) than with Luther, the gospel story is set into a new framing story, the story of salvation. Contemporary evangelicalism, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, has absorbed this Reformation (salvation) story. To put it lightly, in many cases it has not only absorbed but done plenty of subtraction and reframing. There are huge pockets of evangelicalism where this profound Reformation reframing is little more than four simple (and thin) points: God loves you, you are messed up, Jesus died for you, accept him and (no matter what you do) you can go to heaven. My contention is not that the Reformation created that sort of gospel, but that the Reformation’s reshaping of the gospel story has made it a pale shadow of what it ought to be. (pg.73)
McKnight quotes Dallas Willard’s comment that this salvation gospel is a gospel of sin management—
“Gospels of Sin Management” presume a Christ with no serious work other than redeeming humankind…[and] they foster “vampire Christians,” who only want a little blood for their sins but nothing to do with Jesus until heaven. (pg.76)
Chapters six (The Gospel in the Gospels), seven (Jesus and the Gospel), and eight (The Gospel of Peter) continue to build and bolster the case for returning to the original gospel which is so very different than the myriad of gospels (including the salvation gospel) that are preached to us today.
After laying a solid foundation and building a brilliant case for his thesis, Scot moves ahead with contemporary application of “Gospeling Today” (chapter nine). This chapter unfolds a series of six comparisons of the King Jesus Gospel and the salvation gospel professing the purpose, strength, weakness, and expected and/or realized results of them. As an example of what this chapter has in store for the reader, I share from Comparison 1: What Gospeling Seeks to Accomplish. McKnight writes the following:
There is a huge difference between the gospeling of Acts and our Plan of Salvation approach today, and alongside that difference, the gospel of Acts has almost no similarity to our Method of Persuasion. The difference can be narrowed to this single point: the gospeling of Acts, because it declares the saving significance of Jesus, Messiah and Lord, summons listeners to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord, while our gospeling seeks to persuade sinners to admit their sin and find Jesus as Savior.
We are not creating a false alternative here. The latter can be done within the former, but much of the soterian approach to evangelism today fastens on Jesus as (personal) Savior and dodges Jesus as Messiah and Lord. If there is any pervasive heresy today, it’s right here. (pp.133-134)
The remaining five comparisons in chapter nine are just as sobering as the first and serve as a wonderful summation of the work that precedes it.
The final chapter, Creating a Gospel Culture, is (in my opinion) the money chapter. It alone is worth the purchase price of the book. What flows from this chapter is the evidence of a man whose heart is to see the Story of God and man realized in this generation. There are considerations and suggestions for what we might do to create a true gospel culture and there are warnings against the false stories that compete for preeminence in lives of Christians today, stories that need to be countered and destroyed, so they do not destroy the gospel story.
As I said, this is an important book. I anticipate it will receive a lot of push back. The salvation gospel has had several hundred years to deeply entrench itself into our culture; for many people, it is all they understand and all they wish to know. This is sad; the gospel of Jesus is a story that brings with it life today and not only life tomorrow… and I often wonder if we do not learn to live life today as Jesus offered to us, will we see the life He promised for tomorrow.
If all you have known is a gospel that focuses on salvation alone, you owe it to yourself to read this book with an attentive ear and open mind. Be sure to read it alongside your Bible and take your time reading it asking God to reveal truth to you as you read. You might be surprised to find something you’ve been missing in your faith as you have attempted to walk with Jesus; you might find the original Good News.
Free Resources from Thekingjesusgospel.com
During the time I am away, I will reposting older entries from the icrucified blog. The following post was an entry from Nov. 30, 2009
Yesterday was my rotation for leading the congregation in hearing the Word of God. I felt strongly inclined to “do something different.” Something in my deepest self feels a sense of remorse over the lack of attentive reverence given to Scripture. I’m not an advocate of Bibliolatry…pushing for the worship of God’s Word; however, it seems to me that since the Holy Scriptures are a primary means that God speaks to humanity, we should give more attention to it…reverence, awe, and worship for the Giver of the Word. It is for this reason that I do not care of the typical (at least what I am used to) contemporary worship service…if you can call it that. It seems almost sacrilegious to call it “worship.” Sorry…it’s a pet peeve, but I take it as an affront to Christ for people professing to “love him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength” to give Him such little attention. Here’s an example; the typical modern service lasts approximately 1 – 1.5 hours in length. This service will generally consist of a welcome, announcements, a few hymns/choruses, and a brief reading of the Word and sermon. The sermon, most often, is more of a devotional thought (at least in the contemporary setting) with a few “relevant” points and a “what I’m supposed to do with this” to do list for good Christian boys and girls. I know I’m sounding cynical…but we’re talking about the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE here! I hear of people sitting down and watching an entire DVD series of a TV show at one time, playing console games for hours straight, and/or waiting in traffic jams and long lines for a sporting event and then sitting through inclement weather for hours to watch said event. Conversely, we are told repeatedly that people don’t have the attention spans to sit through much more than a 25 minute sermonette in a worship service. Baloney; people will sit through what they want to sit through provided they find there is value in it. Personally, I cannot find anything of more value than hearing the words of my God…He is indeed, the Pearl of great price.
Enough of my rant…
So, yesterday I read a letter, a letter to the church. This letter was compiled by me from eleven of the church letters and epistles comprising the New Testament Scriptures. There were thirty-four passages of Scripture taken from the letters each annotated and foot-noted in my manuscript. I believe the letter is contextually true and is as relevant for us today as it was when it was originally written/read.
I shared with the congregation that the ancient church would often go months or longer before they might hear from one of the apostles and when they did it would be with great excitement they would gather to hear the reading of the letter. This is the letter I read to my church family yesterday. A copy of the letter (here) and small group discussion points (here) are included for download.
My thinking for this letter was to simply let the Word of God do what it does; teach, inspire, challenge, rebuke, correct, and convict. I assumed that God did not need me to tell the people what to think on this occasion. I know this is a lot of information in one letter, but I am under the conviction that people would walk away hearing only what God the Holy Spirit wanted them to hear. Time will tell; feedback from this Sunday was rather sparse…dunno what to make of that, but I feel I was true to what the Spirit laid on my heart. Amen.
During the time I am away, I will reposting older entries from the icrucified blog. The following post was an entry from August 9, 2008
I hold the belief that a follower of Jesus should be able to speak with confidence to a fellow human being these words; “Follow me as I follow Christ…I may not have all the answers to life, but I can show you the way to the One who does have the answers.” I often get a substantial amount of pushback against this position that I adhere to. Well meaning people often tell me they are not “good enough” or “mature enough” in their Christian walk to make this statement and others have told me that it is arrogant to say such a thing. (Long Post Warning)
Most recently, I asked a group that I lead in my local church if anyone felt they were able to make this statement to someone. As I recall, no one answered. I responded to the silence with the following comment:
“If you are unable to say to someone, ‘Follow me as I follow Christ,’ there is something desperately wrong with your own relationship with Jesus Christ. Every believer should be able to speak those words…”
The stillness and silence that followed my words was even more pronounced than the silence that had followed my original question. A much abbreviated discussion followed the silence, but not many people participated in that discussion. I got the feeling that my comments were grossly misunderstood, terribly miscommunicated, categorically rejected, or some combination or variation of all of those. My heart was heavy at the close of the gathering. Later that evening the small home-group that I lead met and the some points were brought up regarding the earlier class when I made the above comments. While discussing the concept of telling another person to “follow me,” I believe that God helped me to clarify my point and gave me a better means of communicating my intent. My thoughts on this idea follow.
We call ourselves “Christians” or “Jesus Followers;” what does that mean, what are the implications, and what does that end up looking like? Let’s explore these questions. First of all, with regards to becoming or being a disciple, we know Jesus was a teacher and it was His desire for others to “follow” His teaching. Therefore, considering the statement, “Follow Me…,” what else might we know according to scripture? We know the following:
Jesus said it. -”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
- Jesus is our model
- It’s how we make disciples
- Paul, the apostle, said it.
- Paul modeled it for others
- It is implied in other Biblical teaching
One of the last things Jesus said to his followers was “Go and make disciples of all the nations; teaching them to obey everything I taught you…” The subject of this imperative order is “disciples.” What exactly is inferred and implied by disciple(s)? My understanding and breakdown follows:
DISCIPLES (what about them?)
- Go and make them
- Make them from all the nations
- Teach them (to obey)
- Teach them (what I taught you)
- LITERALLY; a learner
- VINE’S Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words: “one who follows another’s teaching”
- AN ADHERENT; supporter, follower, (sticking to or attached)
- Because “disciples” were learner-follower-adherents, they were spoken of as imitators of their teachers.
- Acts 11:26 shares that the disciples were first called Christians (from the Greek Kristianos); literally the meaning of which is “little Christs.” It is believed that this nickname, or label, was coined by the Romans for people whose actions and beliefs were sufficiently recognized as those in keeping with their Leader.
- Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines IMITATE (Latin “imitatus”) as:
- To follow as a pattern, model, or example
- To appear or appear like (resemble)
- To produce a copy of (reproduce)
As Christians, this is exactly what Scripture teaches. We are to pattern and model ourselves after Jesus. We are to live as His examples here on earth; “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). (See Also: 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 5:1; 2 Peter 1:3; Romans 8:29). It is difficult to dispute the clarity of scripture to become like Christ. God has given every soul the ability to become transformed into the image of Jesus; “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The only challenge that stands in the way of a disciple’s ability to become “Christ-like” is submission and obedience to Christ’s call to deny self; “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).
What does it mean to be a “Christian;” what does it mean to be a “Disciple?” The goal in being a disciple according to Jesus himself is to be like the teacher; “Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40). According to Jesus, becoming his disciple, then, is to strive to become like Him. Continuing this same thinking, the apostle Paul affirms this as God’s goal in the redemption of mankind; “…those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). To be a Christian is to be set apart by God; regenerated from death to life through the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus on the cross. The Christian is a new creation and capable of living the “Christ-filled-Holy Spirit-led” life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). We are called to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), and we are completely empowered to do exactly that; “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
Thus far we have discussed that the call of Christ is to follow His teaching and become His disciple. We are to learn His ways and imitate His life. Additionally, we are to go out into the world and make other disciples teaching them everything we know about the life and person of Jesus Christ. Further, we have not only been called to do this, but we have been divinely empowered and equipped to engage and complete the mission assigned. One last question remains; do we have Biblical precedent established to support this concept of calling others to follow us as we follow Christ? My study indicates that we do. Let us first examine the earlier mention from the apostle Paul.
- Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:16)
- Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
- Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance… (2 Timothy 3:10)
I believe we have additional evidence that supports others agreeing with Paul to set the “Christ following” example for people to chase after. We see this in his letters to the Thessalonian church(es) in the following verses:
- You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
- For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews… (1 Thessalonians 2: 14)
In the above examples Paul makes reference to “others” being imitated; “you became imitators of us” and “imitators of God’s churches.” I believe this is an obvious indication that “Jesus-following-believers” other than Paul were capable and willing to be examples for “others” to follow. Finally, the writer of Hebrews states that believers (and anyone else reading the letter) should consider the life and ways of living from those believers that set the example of a Christian / Jesus Follower for them; “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7).
C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Mere Christianity, that the church “…exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.” He also wrote about the role of the believer in similar fashion; “We shall love the Father as Christ does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
“Follow me as I follow Christ…”
What then, do we do with these words? We speak them with confidence to those who struggle with hearing, seeing, and living the life of Jesus. The call to “follow me as I follow Christ” is not a declaration of arrogance, or rather, it should not be. This call must come from a heart of humility (consider the Beatitudes of Christ) and sealed with an assurance of faith that an intimate relationship with the Creator of all things fosters. The questions I posed to my small group follow:
- Do you hear from God?
- Do you spend time with Him in order to develop and foster a deepening relationship?
- If the answers to nos. one and two are “yes,” are you obedient to the direction and leading of God in your life?
The next question that begs asking (if the above answers are in the affirmative) is, “Why wouldn’t you be confident to invite someone to follow you as you follow Christ?” Consider the following illustration…
Let’s say you are on a small plane with a few other passengers flying over a mountain range. Your plane crashes in the mountains and there is only you and a couple of people who survive the crash. Now, once you gather your senses, you realize that your safety (salvation) lies beyond the mountain on which you have crashed. In order to survive, you must cross the mountain…scaling cliffs, traversing glacial streams, forging through forests, and fending off dangerous animals. These challenges are enough in themselves; however, you have no mountain climbing experience, minimal survival skills, no equipment, and no provisions for food or shelter. The risks for climbing and crossing the mountain are very great and complication (in the least) or failure (at the worst) is sure to be encountered should you attempt the crossing. On the other hand, if you do not attempt to cross, death is imminent.
The most prudent option is to forge ahead regardless of the risk as you count the cost with the realization it is death to remain where you are. The dilemma you now face are the remaining survivors from the plane crash; what do you tell them? You alone are knowledgeable of the truth that safety and salvation is literally one mountain away. Complicating your dilemma is the fact of your other survivors being challenged even more than you for making this journey; one survivor is blind, and the other survivor does not speak your language. Your options are limited; knowing the risks are great for yourself, you can tell the survivors to “follow you” as you climb and cross the mountain or you can tell them to figure it out on their own…a blind person and a communication challenged person.
The only real answer is to boldly encourage the survivors to follow you. While the risks are great and the journey itself uncertain, the destination is sure; salvation lies “on the other side.” There may be pitfalls and unexpected setbacks along the way to the “safe side;” however, there is strength and encouragement in the shared journey. The fact that we may feel underequipped for the hazards that lie ahead should not be a deterrent for inviting others along for the journey. So, do you leave them behind?
The journey we are on is not about completing it perfectly. While perfection is the model as well as the goal, if we are indeed following Jesus, the journey itself is about trust, obedience, and perseverance. If we falter or make mistakes along the way, we have a loving mediator acting as our advocate and intercessor (1 John 2:1-6). We do not have to fear failure; we should fear not engaging the journey in earnest and not inviting others along.
In closing, I would like to return again to my original statement, “If you are unable to say to someone, ‘Follow me as I follow Christ,’ there is something desperately wrong with your own relationship with Jesus Christ. Every believer should be able to speak those words…” The point, I think, is a little clearer now. If we are hearing from God, spending time with Him in order to develop and foster a deepening relationship with Him, and obedient to His direction and leading then there should be nothing that stands in the way of our reason to boldly call out to others… “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Conversely, if there is failure in any of the criteria mentioned, then there is something wrong with the relationship. Our desire must be to remove any obstacles that would hinder our relationship with our Lord and Savior always seeking to know Him more intimately and always quick to obey Him. Having the assurance that our relationship with Jesus is healthy enables us to invite others to honor Him through obedience to His command to “make disciples” and “follow me.”
During the time I am away, I will reposting older entries from the icrucified blog. The following post was an entry from July 2, 2008
Continuing my journey through the gospel of Luke this morning and I was captured by the way the New Living Translation phrases a passage. The verse in question is Luke 10:42. Most versions translate the sentence to read this way; “but one thing is needful…” or “one thing is necessary…” The NLT chooses to translate this verse as such:
“There is only one thing worth being concerned about.”
I must admit that the NLT choice of words for this passage sparked my thinking much more than did “one thing is needful.” I don’t think that either interpretation is any more or any less accurate than the other. I think both of them are faithful to the original text, although I haven’t attempted to verify that in the Greek. I simply feel that according to my use and familiarity with our language (in other words, what I’m comfortable with), the New Living Translation conveys a much greater sense of urgency in what is being spoken by Jesus.
Here are some of my thoughts spawned by, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about…”
- This translation seems to reflect Jesus’ teachings concerning discipleship that are recorded elsewhere in the gospel accounts.
- This translation causes me to think more intentionally about what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus; taking to heart his call to “count the cost.”
- I am urged to look up supporting teaching from Jesus and to ensure that what I find as support is contextually accurate.
What I found (I included the verse references in context, but excerpted the portion that caught my attention) -
Matthew 6:25-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life– whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
Matthew 10:32-39 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
Luke 9:23-25 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”
Luke 9:57-62 “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 14:25-33 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison– your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters– yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”
I happened to run across some thoughts that are similar to my takeaway from this passage of scripture while reading a devotional piece from Oswald Chambers, who writes as follows:
If the closest relationships of life clash with the claims of Jesus Christ, He says it must be instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between devotion to a Person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted love-slave of the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not devoted to Jesus Christ. No man on earth has this passionate love to the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Ghost has imparted it to him. We may admire Him, we may respect Him and reverence Him, but we cannot love Him. The only Lover of the Lord Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and He sheds abroad the very love of God in our hearts. Whenever the Holy Ghost sees a chance of glorifying Jesus, He will take your heart, your nerves, your whole personality, and simply make you blaze and glow with devotion to Jesus Christ.
What then is my takeaway? Being a disciple, a true follower of Jesus, is serious business. I don’t think a casual approach is acceptable. I’m not judging or condemning anyone else; they will have to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions about what Jesus meant when he spoke these words. I do think; however, that if these words were set aside for a moment and we looked at another set of words:
“You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT)
I am prompted to ask another question; “God, how much is all ?”