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The God Who is – Pt. 2 April 6, 2011

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The doctrine of the Trinity also allows us to make sense of the statement: God created the Heavens and Earth to express His Glory.  If God were single personed this would appear to be pride and completely in character to be so.  But the Bible teaches us that Jesus, who is God, is meek and humble of spirit.  How would we reconcile that with an act of prideful self-expression?

When speaking of the Trinity, the desire to glorify the Godhead through the creative act is not pride.  The reality is the Father ordered the creation to honor the Son and Spirit.  The Son created as a service to the Father and to show His love for both the Father and the Spirit.  The creation becomes the expressed love and admiration each member of the Trinity has for the others.

There is evidence in the Bible that the creation was also a desire to expand their eternal environment of loving fellowship beyond themselves.  John 14:21 & 23; 17:20 &21 are two passages that clearly express God’s desire for close fellowship with us.   A single personed God who has known only eternal loneliness might seek a creation, but likely for purposes less noble.  We have examples of how such a God would be perceived by how men in other monotheistic religions describe their god.

The doctrine of the Trinity may be hard to explain, but it should not be dismissed as being of secondary importance.  The first commandment God gave Israel was to honor the God who is.  Denial of the Trinitarian God of the Bible is to make God less than He is which is idolatry.

 

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The God Who Is II April 6, 2011

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The doctrine of the Trinity also allows us to make sense of the statement: God created the Heavens and Earth to express His Glory.  If God were single personed this would appear to be pride and completely in character to be so.  But the Bible teaches us that Jesus, who is God, is meek and humble of spirit.  How would we reconcile that with an act of prideful self-expression?

When speaking of the Trinity, the desire to glorify the Godhead through the creative act is not pride.  The reality is the Father ordered the creation to honor the Son and Spirit.  The Son created as a service to the Father and to show His love for both the Father and the Spirit.  The creation becomes the expressed love and admiration each member of the Trinity has for the others.

There is evidence in the Bible that the creation was also a desire to expand their eternal environment of loving fellowship beyond themselves.  John 14:21 & 23; 17:20 &21 are two passages that clearly express God’s desire for close fellowship with us.   A single personed God who has known only eternal loneliness might seek a creation, but likely for purposes less noble.  We have examples of how such a God would be perceived by how men in other monotheistic religions describe their god.

The doctrine of the Trinity may be hard to explain, but it should not be dismissed as being of secondary importance.  The first commandment God gave Israel was to honor the God who is.  Denial of the Trinitarian God of the Bible is to make God less than He is which is idolatry.

 

The God Who Is April 4, 2011

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A.W. Tozer opens his book “Knowledge of the Holy” with the following statement:

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”

How a people group perceives God (or not in the case of an atheistic society) is the main factor in how that culture establishes its values and beliefs.  I believe that is also true for the individual.  I don’t believe a person can reach their full potential without a clear understanding of the living God.  William Temple, the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury, put it this way:

“If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout your are, the worse it will be for you.  You are opening your soul to be molded by something else.  You had much better be an atheist.”

What I believe about God may be the single most important influence on how I will relate to others and myself.  That makes my study of God vitally important.

So, let me be upfront about this:  I believe it is Biblical Christianity that gives us the highest expression of God’s nature in the Trinity.

It is only in the Trinity, the infinite God existing as 3 persons in one shared life, that we find a context for the virtues of love, compassion, selflessness and justice.  A pure monotheistic single personed God would have no experience of fellowship, humility or service to others.  Living eternally alone he would know only self and power.

The God who is lives in an eternal state of fellowship, love and humility.  We see in the Bible each member of the Godhead seeking to always honor the other two.  The Trinity gives us the rationale for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

More later.

 

The Best We Can Do? March 30, 2011

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“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher….”       Matthew 10:24-25a

Jesus spoke those words as part of His instructions to the 12 disciples as He was sending them out to minister in the communities around Galilee.  I believe if you were to ask any Christian if they wanted to be like Jesus Christ the chances are pretty good the answer would be yes.   Taken out of the context of the rest of Jesus’ instructions vs. 24 & 25a do not seem to be too extreme.  Well, other than trying to be like the infinite God who created the universe that is.

Here is the rest of verse 25 – If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much morewill they malign the members of his household!

I have to admit the context of Matthew 10 gives me pause when I consider answering the call to be a disciple.  The leaders of Israel hated Jesus.  The priests were the ones who colluded with the Romans to execute Him.

Does being a disciple of Jesus Christ mean risking security, popularity and even be thought a little weird?

You would think God would try and paint a rosier picture if He wants us to be disciples who make disciples.  This does not seem like the best image to put on your advertizing.  Anyone want to read all of Matthew 25 and see if I missed something?

 

 

A diversion March 22, 2011

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I have been resisting the temptation to weigh in on the Rob Bell discussion visible on various blogs and Face Book.   But, I grow weak in that resolve.  We have all seen this movie before with other books.  A book comes out and controversy raises its ugly head.  If the author is popular then anyone giving it a critical review is likely to wish they had not.  If the book has an emotionally appealing story line then no matter how bad the theology we must tread lightly or risk being deleted from the discussion.

The purpose of a pastor’s instruction is love generated from a pure heart, a good conscience and Biblically held faith.  (Ugh-Lee’s paraphrase of 1 Tim 1:5)  Paul advises Timothy to confront those who spend their time promoting myths, useless speculations and controversies rather than advancing the redemptive plan of God (1 Tim. 1:4).

I have no plans on reading Bell’s latest book beyond the free introduction available on Kindle.  That is not intended to persuade anyone else from reading it; I just don’t have any interest.  The illogical construction of that intro was enough to tell me I would not like the book even if I agree with his conclusions.

It is always a good idea to stir the pot when you are cooking beans.  It keeps them from sticking to the pan.  Not sure how well that works in the church when the pot that is being stirred is our unity.

Back on topic next time

 

The Call to Revolution March 19, 2011

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The challenge of Mark 8:34-38 is basically a call to break with society.   To put it more directly we are called to be revolutionaries.  After all, the largest segment of the society in which we live is likely to be people who do not know God.  The norms for culture are based on values other than those found in the Bible.  Making the break falls right in line with the Bible and the way Jesus lived.

Revolutions must be disciplined if they are to be successful.  The American Revolution succeeded because people understood the objective, were willing to stand for the cause and were convinced the reward was worth the sacrifice.  I believe that sums up Mark 8:34-38 pretty well.  So, how do I measure up against those standards?

Do I understand the objective?    Jesus said make disciples. How do I do that?  I am still trying to figure it all out.

Am I willing to stand for the cause?  Well, I do have other commitments.  Life is pretty busy with work, soccer and some time for myself.

Is the reward worth the sacrifice?   I believe in Jesus so I have eternal life.  Is there something else beyond that?  What other rewards are there?

How do we measure up?

 

The Discipleship Challenge March 15, 2011

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Continuing or abiding in Christ’s word is more than being knowledgeable of the content.  James hits it on the nose when he speaks of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer.  It is the word of God affecting a change in how we think and behave.

Mark 8:34-38 has always seemed to me as the discipleship challenge.  Jesus starts with decision point statement.  The disciple of Jesus must understand the requirements, Jesus first before all else.  The only people you saw carrying a cross in that day were going to their execution.   That is the picture Jesus was painting – follow me – prepare to die.

Remember this is not salvation.  Deliverance from the penalty of sin is based believing in Jesus.  He died for our sin and rose from the grave so that we could have life on the basis of faith.  Becoming a disciple is always based on actions or works and therefore is not strictly based on faith.

Jesus went on to explain it is a willingness to lose one’s life for Him and a mind set on eternity that marks the disciple.  The disciple understands the question of Mark 8:36.  He has the answer; there is no profit in gaining the entire world when you die.  The word usually translated soul in v. 36 is the same word translated life in v. 35.  Temporal life is its normal meaning.

The disciple takes the long view.  Living forever means I have all the time needed to complete my “bucket list.”  If I view my life as an investment then what kind of return on it do I want to gain?  That is the point of v. 37.  Do I want the kind of dividend that pays out for a lifetime or only what I can use while occupying this earthly body?  Hmmmmmmmmm; temporary gains or permanent?

Maybe I need to focus on furthering the ministry of the Gospel and hold off on that other stuff until I have more time.

 

Discipleship: What else do I have to do? March 11, 2011

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Luke 14:25-35 gives us a picture of what it takes to be a disciple that would not be my first choice as a recruitment poster.  But, then Jesus is not looking for just anyone to apply.  Verses 28-32 make it clear He wants people to understand the cost of being a disciple.  If you are not willing to lay it all on the line (v. 33) then stay in the bleachers.

That is a bit harsh, but I am not sure there is any other way to understand that passage.  That was the entry fee to be a disciple of Jesus during the period leading up to the Cross.  As I have already suggested, the rules must have changed after the ascension.  It does appear Jesus left us some instructions that address the present period.

John 8:30-32 is one of those passages.  I realize that some people try to make this passage a question of salvation rather than discipleship.  However, taken in the greater context of John’s Gospel to understand it that way becomes a gross contradiction of everything else John records about initial salvation.  Jesus clearly is telling people who have come to faith they need to take the next step and become disciples.

The condition of discipleship in John 8:31 is to continue or abide in His word.  That is not really that much different from the passages in Luke 14 and Matthew 10.  Mainly, it allows one to be a disciple without actually having to walk around Israel with Jesus.  It does not negate the principles of discipleship stated in those verses.

A believing Jew would find this instruction completely consistent with the Shema having come to the realization that Jesus Christ is God.  Love of God, placing loyalty to Him ahead of every other human association is the commitment of the disciple.  WOW, what are the chances any of us will take that step?

 

Discipleship: The New Paradigm March 8, 2011

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If we are to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ today we must discover the principles of discipleship behind the criteria Jesus placed on His disciples.  Without a firm Biblical foundation we are less likely to shed the influences of contemporary culture on our objective.

The 21st century western ideas of church, community and family differ greatly from the cultural context of the Bible.  This shift has been guided by our spiritual enemy to redefine our view of relationships within the Body of Christ as well as with non-Christians.  This will not stand.  God will still have His way.  He is countering with a growing movement within the church to bring us back to our core values – making disciples who make disciples.

Jesus laid very specific criteria for being a disciple.  One was placing the proper priority on family relationships.  A companion passage to Luke 14:26 which I reference in my last post is Matthew 10:37.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

It is a good commentary on Luke 14:26 and is easier to grasp (but not by much) than the idea of hating family.  My family is the most precious earthly possession I have.  How much risk am I willing to undertake with family in serving God?  Just asking that question suggests a problem with my priorities.

OK, just so we keep it real I am not going to use the old canard about hitting the mission field with kids in tow.  Any study of the NT epistles will show that is not normative for the Christian family.

The risk I have in mind is confronting the pressures of the American dream and our ideas of success.  What am I preparing my children for?  Am I more concerned they do well in sports or school so they can have a successful career than I am their relationship with Christ.  What is the future vision for our later years – retirement or more time to disciple others?

 

Disciple: Before Pentecost March 6, 2011

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Being a disciple of Jesus during His time of ministry in Israel was nothing like what we call being a disciple today.  The main reason is that Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God waiting for the time when all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet.  Jesus used the word disciple in the strictest sense.  That is to be a disciple you had to live in close proximity to your master, which meant on the road if you were to be a disciple of Jesus.  We can no longer do that.

If we examine the criteria Jesus put on being His disciple it becomes clear He meant follower in the most literal sense.  Luke 9:57-62 records three encounters with men wishing to sign on with the 12.  To the first Jesus tells the man he must give up his home and live as a homeless person.  To the second man Jesus graphically insists he abandon his duties to his father.  The third man is forbidden to return home and say good-bye to his family.

Jump ahead to Luke 14:26 and we find Jesus telling the crowd that to be His follower means rejecting the normal family and social associations.  He uses the word hate for effect, but the meaning is we have to put family and friends behind discipleship.

Luke 14:27 takes it to the next step and makes the willingness to die a criminal death a requirement.  The summary statement is in v. 33.  A disciple must give up everything he has or it is no dice.

Jesus was not using figurative language in these passages.  He literally meant what He said.  The 12 actually did give up their lives to follow Jesus.

But the requirements of discipleship changed after the day of Pentecost.  Let me correct that, the literal requirements changed.  The principles on which those criteria were based remained.