Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dead Faith

In Tim Keller's commentary on the book of Romans, he asks the following question: "How can we tell if our "faith" is empty, dead, and under God's judgment?"

He goes on to say that there are two signs of a "dead faith":

  1. There is a theoretical-only stance toward the word of God. The moralist or dead orthodox Christian loves the concepts of truth, but is never changed by them. They often see how a sermon or Bible text ought to convict others, but they seldom (if ever) let it convict them. A real Christian finds the Bible "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12); when they hear it or read it, they are convicted, comforted, thrilled, disturbed, melted, slammed down, lifted up. 
  2. There is a moral superiority, an in-built bragging. If you are relying on your spiritual achievements, you will have to "look down" on those who have failed in the same areas. You will be at best cold, and at worst condemning, toward those who are struggling. Rather than speaking words of encouragement to the struggler, helping to lift them up, you speak words of gossip about them to others, to show yourself in a comparatively good light. A sign of this condition is that people don't want to share their problems with you, and you are very defensive if others point out your problems to you.
Do either of these two signs fit your "faith"?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Worthy of Your Calling

Yesterday at our worship gathering, we spent time looking at Ephesians 4:1 where Paul says: "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called". A parallel exhortation we find in Philippians 1:27: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ". Walking in a manner worthy of your calling in Christ is walking in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

I was particularly intrigued by the word "worthy" during my study. One idea carried by the English word is "something that is of equal weight". So, in that sense, we are to walk, conduct our lives in such a manner that gives the proper weight to the calling we have received in the gospel of Christ. Another idea carried by the word in the original language, axios, is that of something that is axiomatic, something that is self-evident in nature. In this sense we might say, "well, of course, I'm going to walk worthy of my calling in Christ, look at everything Jesus has done for me (Ephesians chapters 1-3)". It's the most obvious thing to do: live a life worthy of the gospel.

What a challenge to conduct our lives----home, work, personal, on-line, public, private----in such a way that gives the proper weight to the gospel! It is an awesome challenge. The question for Christians today is: are we? Are we walking to the beat of the world's drum or the cadence of the gospel of Christ?

Just something to think about...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Ambiguous "They"

"Did you hear what "they" said?" You're probably like me, thinking, "who in the world is THEY?" It's almost like we have given some kind of authority to THEY. When in conversation, as long as you use THEY in some profound way, it's as if it carries some kind of weight.

But, you know, when "the ambiguous THEY" is used in a church, it seems to carry a different meaning. In church life, it usually goes something like this: "well, THEY decided to do such and such" or "THEY chose that" or "THEY wanted that kind of carpet" or well, you get the idea. I'm sure you've heard it, and we've probably all said it at one time or another. Usually, not always, the person saying that is either trying to avoid taking responsibility as a church member for the decision that was made because that person did not take their responsibility as a church member serious enough to show up when the decision was made. OR, the person saying it is trying to distance themselves from the decision because that person did not agree with the decision. OR, the person saying it is fishing to see what the other person is going to say before that person shows whether or not they agreed with the decision (whatever the decision by "THEY" was).

Granted, sometimes in church life, there is a clique of people that very well could be referred to as "THEY". Everyone knows who "THEY" are because "THEY" try to control everybody. I get that. But, that's a topic for another post.

But, I've wondered, could something else a little bit deeper be happening with the pervasive use of "the ambiguous THEY" in church life? Whatever happened to "WE"? I mean, aren't "WE" the "body of Christ"? Aren't "WE" the "household of God"? I wonder if the pervasive use of "the ambiguous THEY" reveals a lack of connection and the superficial nature of our relationships in church life. Sure, we'd like to think we have deep relationships, and truly, there are some in church life. I wonder if the pervasive use of "the ambiguous THEY" reveals a misunderstanding of what it means to be a church member and the great responsibility Jesus and the NT writers place on what it means to be a church member? Could it reveal the lack of true commitment and investment people have to the church and her mission of making disciples in such a way that using "the ambiguous THEY" somehow lets them off the hook?

WE are the body of Christ. WE are the household of God. WE are the chosen people of God. WE all have responsibilities. WE need a little more WE instead of a THEY; regardless of what "THEY" said.

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Hey, Make Yourself at Home"

Have you ever told someone that at your house? And, then, they started to re-arrange the furniture, go through your junk drawers, throwing things away, putting up their own pictures...most of us would go nuts if someone did that in our house.

In Ephesians 3:17, Paul writes, "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith". To dwell or to abide is the idea of "making yourself at home". Paul is referring to Christ "making himself at home" within the Christian's life. That Jesus moves in. Many Christians are ok with that part of it, but Jesus, when he makes himself at home in your life, he does begin to re-arrange the furniture. He opens the junk drawers of our hearts and begins to clean them out. That's the nature of the indwelling of Christ. That's the nature of true conversion. That's the nature of true salvation. The transformation of the human heart. A "spiritual renovation" begins to take place. That is the evidence of the "indwelling Christ", that he is re-arranging the furniture and cleaning house.

It's easy to see...many who claim to be Christians don't want any part of that. They want Jesus to stay around long enough to "make them happy" by giving them what they want on their own terms. No sacrificial obedience, no surrendering, no denying, no cross-carrying, just "my best life now" based upon my definition or some Christianized version of the current culture's "american dream" (oops, where did that come from?) One of three things is true: a shallow understanding of the gospel, a mis-understanding of salvation, or a false conversion. Or, all three of those could true.