Sunday, April 12, 2015

FAITH AND OBEDIENCE

Paul reminded the Roman Christians that they had been set free from being a slave to sin and now they were to, "obey from the heart that form of teaching which was delivered you. " [Romans 6:16-17]  We need to understand that there is absolutely no conflict in the New Testament between faith and obedience. There is a genuine conflict between living by faith and living by the Law, as there is between Grace and Law, but none whatsoever between faith and obedience in the life of a believer.

In fact, were one to attempt to separate faith and obedience one would effectively destroy both. There is no real biblical faith without obedience and no real biblical obedience except it flow from the reservoir of genuine faith.

The biblical message of Christ and His Cross work is to be understood two ways. There are those things declared to be accomplished and you can bank on them being true. [Generally written in the Indicative mood] Then there are those things commanded that are to be obeyed in light of His accomplishments. [Written in the Imperative mood.] The only thing we do with the accomplished things is believe them. [Rest in their genuineness] It is impossible to obey a fact declared accomplished. It isn't even addressed to our will but to our mind or understanding.

Likewise, a command is not to be believed but obeyed. It is not addressed to our mind or understanding but to our will. We can certainly trust it is a wise thing commanded and is best for our lives, but it is to be obeyed.

The Christian life is to be lived with this duality in mind always. As we believe who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf, we are to then obey what He commands in every realm of life whether it be marriage, family, work, ministry or whatever a day may bring. Christianity is not a thing of religious activities to be performed, but a way of life. As we choose to obey what He commands, trusting who He is and what He's done to be real, we will find the power and authority for the living of life. Troubles, trials, good times alike, will come and go, but life will be meaningful and abundant BECAUSE He is alive in and through us.


Study the New Testament to know the ways of God and obey the will of God as you see it trusting that the ways you've learned are true. This is obedience flowing from that reservoir of faith in His accomplishments which was mentioned earlier. Do this as a way of life and a "well done" will be heard for your living of life in this, the year of our Lord, 2015.

Monday, March 30, 2015

IT CAN'T BE SAID BETTER THAN THIS!

[This is from Wade Burleson's blog and is exceptional.]


What You Believe Does Dictate How You Behave: Old Covenant Theology vs. New Covenant Theology





I've often said the greatest - and most overlooked - evangelical theologians of the past two millenniums were early 18th century English Baptists who penned the First London Confession of Faith. It's not my purpose in this blog post to go into all the details as to why this is so, suffice to say I am follower of Jesus Christ affiliated with a Baptist Church because of my agreement with these preeminent theologians. In short, they (and I) believe the New Testament to be the apex of God's self-revelation because in them is revealed how "the righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

My wife and I recently enjoyed some fellowship with a woman in her seventies. She was raised Dutch Reformed and is now active in the Presbyterian Church of America. She is a delightful lady, one with whom we enjoyed visiting. However, through the course of our conversation there arose a stark and pointed difference between what she believes as a Presbyterian and what we believe as Baptists. She is a "Law person," and emphasized over and over that "God blesses obedience."

Of course, nobody would disagree with this statement. God does bless obedience. The question is "Whose obedience?" Our Presbyterian friend seemed to be emphasizing her and her husband's personal obedience. My wife and I only emphasize Christ's obedience (i.e. "His fulfillment of the Law"), and God's blessings freely given to us because of our faith in Christ.

This is the fundamental difference between Old Covenant Christians and New Covenant Christians.

Baptists historically have been New Covenant Christians. The early 18th century Baptists were uninterested inturning sinners into Mosaic Law-keepers and solely concerned with turning sinners into Christ believers. When Jesus Christ told us He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, He meant it (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled the Law with His life, death and resurrection, and then He abolished it and became a new Law Giver for His people. He said:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Some might wonder about the practical differences between an Old Covenant believer as compared to the New Covenant believer. One of the best illustrations of the differences between the behavior of Old Covenant Christians when compared to the behavior of New Covenant Christians is given by my friend Jon Zens.

Jon points out that the Puritans (Old Covenant Christians) came over to the New World and found themselves facing the Native Americans (Indians). Old Covenant typology dominated their behavior toward the Indians. The Puritans saw their exodus from England paralleling Israel's exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament. The Puritans viewed their crossing of the Atlantic as a parallel to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea. The Puritans believed that their arrival in the New World paralleled Israel's arrival and entrance into the land of Canaan. The Puritans hoped that the New World would indeed be a land "flowing with milk and honey."

But now came the mistake the Puritans made because of their emphasis on the Old Covenant.

The Puritans believed that the Native Americans they met in the New World paralleled Israel meeting the heathen nations in the land of Canaan. How should they respond? Old Covenant typology pointed to casting out the Native peoples by force, precisely as Israel cast out the heathen nations in Canaan. However, New Covenant theology commands believers in Christ to love their enemies. Should the Puritans follow the Law of Christ by loving and evangelizing the Indians, or should the Puritans follow the example of Old Covenant Israel and kill the native dwellers? According to Zens, the Puritans behaved in a manner consistent with their Old Covenant beliefs. Over time they removed or exterminated the Indians, claiming the New World for God.

Now, back to the Presbyterian lady we met. Her husband was not a believer. She had been married to him for over fifty years, but it had been "exceedingly difficult." She so desperately wanted her husband to be 'obedient' to God's Laws (worshipping on the Sabbath, tithing on their income, etc...) because "God blesses our obedience." I was worn out listening to her.

I would suggest that what her husband needed was a wife who was so full of Christ, so appreciative of the perfect righteousness that has been given to her because of her faith in Jesus, that she loves her husband exactly the way Christ loves her. It seems to me that if the New Covenant was the foundation of her theology and philosophy of living, then she would set aside any emphasis on her husband's performance--or lack thereof -- and simply love him without expectations or conditions.

Obviously, this post has simplified some very complex issues, but my goal is not so much to convince anyone of this truth as much as it is to encourage the beginning of a journey toward truth. It's an axiom that if there is maladjustment in one's behavior toward people, it's usually because of a problem in one's beliefs about God.

We need more New Covenant theology preaching in our churches so that our behavior as believers toward others will match our beliefs of God's behavior toward us in Christ - as taught in the apex of God's self-revelation, otherwise known as the New Testament.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A SNAPSHOT OF HUMAN NATURE AND THE NEED OF THE GOSPEL

I've noticed something. People are just people. Our biggest problem may be that we are human beings. I have a friend who said one time that he could get along with people, it was just human beings he couldn't stand. [Funny I thought.] It generally doesn't matter if folks call themselves Christians or atheists or Democrats or Republicans or ministers or Americans, they still act like people and they are still human beings.

Case in point. [Actually a kind of "snapshot."]

I've seen people angrily react to what they perceive as failure in someone and then go to the opposite end of the spectrum in order to correct that perceived failure. For an example of this I'll use my experience in church life.

A congregation perceives their pastor as not being a good people person, [though he is a great bible teacher] and, upon his leaving for another congregation, the people decide they want a people guy with a winsome personality and they find one. Now his preaching is geared toward feeding milk [spiritual pablum] to the people, who are children biologically and spiritually. No ability in the pulpit really but all the kids of both kind [biological and spiritual] love him. It's wonderful.

For a while.

Then he's in trouble because he can't preach a lick. [The attention span of children being what it is.] Yet he is the same as he was at the beginning of his pastoral ministry. He's just himself. But now he's not enough for them and they are angry about it all. [People being just people.]

On the other hand, to prove my point, a pastor can be a great people person but is as weak as motel coffee in those two cup packets in the pulpit. [That's weak, trust me.] But when he leaves for a new congregation the left behind people are glad he's gone because they wanted some real preaching anyway and were angry he couldn't. So, they go after a thunder and lightning orator who curls their hair with fire and brimstone.

He's a REAL preacher you see. They are now hearing real preaching for the first time in a long time. [Since a sane conversational style by any man in the pulpit doesn't qualify as real preaching, I guess.] It's wonderful because The thunder and lightning guy has arrived. It's great.

For a while anyway.

But they then begin to notice he winds up disappearing from the flock from Monday to Saturday except for those chosen few [usually wealthy] who are admitted into his presence on occasion. So he's soon in trouble too because he just doesn't like being with people. Although he hasn't changed an iota since his loud arrival the people are still mad about it. It's human nature you see. [People being just people.]

But it's not just church people. One need only to observe the current political landscape as evidence. When Bush was President the people got to where they didn't like his shredding the Constitution [their words] with his blustering swagger. If Bush said it, did it, thought it, it was wrong. After two terms the people wanted it different. Those running for the office of President even ran on not being Bush-like in anything. Trust them, they said. They will be different, they assured us.

Enter Obama!
 People were confident that in Barack Obama things would be different with a quiet, gentle, bringing people together sort of President tenure. But division is greater than ever and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that. The problem is it [bringing people together] can't be done with human nature being what it is, I promise. People will be angry and want it different next time too. There is something in human nature that never is satisfied, at rest, at peace, in touch with reality and it's been this way since the fall. [People being just people.]


A snapshot of fallen nature.

I could show other snapshots like people accepting what costs them nothing and under-appreciating it ultimately because it was free. [Have you noticed how people do that?]

Or people who are sure they know why someone holds a different view about something, take women in ministry for example, so they trumpet the perceived motive of the one who holds that view which they are sure they know as fact, "They are just afraid of going against culture," people say.

But they don't know really know of course since they are not God and can't see another person's heart, yet they then ask you to trust their opinion over the other person on the issue. I could go on and on. [People just being people.]

I can let it go in politics. I really expect little else. But I'm thinking that judgment may need to really begin in the House of God. [Kingdom kids are by nature different remember.]

I realize I'm drawing attention to the problem of human nature.

The need of a pastor who is good with people AND can and does preach the word is legitimate. A political administration that DOES know how to deal with the need for housing and feeding the poor AND creating a good business working environment is needed as well. All these issues do need thoughtful and deliberate actions and people who do them.

But human nature [being what it is] needs the gospel. As believers my hope is that we'll leave all other things as important, but secondary, and stay primary on presenting the gospel because that's the only thing that can change human nature.

Paul B.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

THE MAKING OF LISTS


Lists!!  I've never been a fan, but at my age and with my failing memory they are almost indispensable. EXCEPT when that list is used as a measuring stick of my commitment to God or things that are suppose to evidence my being spiritual or my being pleasing to God. That kind of list winds up robbing me of my memory of grace and what a grace relationship with God is all about. 

You've heard them. Those people who list the way your attention, time and money are to be prioritized. God first, then wife, [or husband] family, church work, job, recreation, etc. This is premised on the idea that God has to be first and you have an ever declining list of what is important for you to do each day. That list winds up being a measurement and revelation of your commitment and spiritual growth for the day.

The only problem is that list fails in it's idea of Christian living entirely. This is not because it's wrong to make a list of what you wish to do on any given day. That's quite often helpful. It's wrong because God isn't FIRST in your life as if He's something you've added and now make Him priority in all things you do. God isn't something you DO period. He IS your life. Not a THING in your life, not even the FIRST thing. 

Rather then thinking of God as the first on a list of things to do or even to hold as the important things to remember, think of God as the hub. Remember that old bicycle you use to ride? The wheels had a hub. From it went the various spokes that enabled those wheels to create what was necessary for that bike to function according to it's purpose or intention. That is an inadequate yet much better way of thinking about our relationship to God than is the list. It moves us from what we DO in life to who He IS as our LIFE. No illustration is adequate. But moving from "doing" to "being" when talking about the Christian life IS fundamental to the scriptures.

He is the hub [source] from which every other thing in my life finds the ability to function__ in tandem__ with NOTHING failing to have it's good and proper place when time, emphasis, money, needs, are all evaluated and done. Every spoke [remember the wheel] of my life is important and held together because of my resting in the Hub [God] who is my source of ALL of life.

It's interesting that that the word, source, [Gk Kephale] is what is used in Eph. 5, 1 Corinth. 11, Col. 3, when Paul talked about our relationship to God, Christ, husband, wife, and even to the Church. God is the source [Beginnings] of it all and the man is source [beginnings] of the woman. So to think of the hub as the source or beginnings of what is needed for the bike wheel to fulfill it's purpose is how I'm to view God. He is the source for ALL I need for life to be life eternal, even abundant! 

My suggestion is to see all things__including this world__ as Paul saw them and stated to the Corinthians. He told them in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 that they were to see all things, including this world, as gifts from God. He had just been saying that the Corinthians were to see all their former Pastors as God's gift to them, whether it was Paul, [himself] or Apollos, or Peter, but he doesn't stop there.

He goes on to say the world [of all things to say] or life, or death, or the things present, [whatever those things or moments are in life] or things to come, [whatever those things or moments might be]  ALL ARE YOURS.  Church attendance, giving, are some of those things that are your opportunities and gifts from God for sure. But don't rule out the NBA finals, or a national championship run by your University of choice [just different spokes in your life] as things that are your opportunities and gifts from a God that are just as real as well.

So, all things were theirs to embrace and enjoy because they are given to them by God. That's because life ISN'T divided into the SACRED and the SECULAR as if what you do is EITHER a sacred thing OR a secular thing, and if you really love God you will not spend a great deal of time or money on the secular at all.

Simply put, the things that have some connection to a church institution ARE NOT to be seen as sacred and things that have to do with baseball or a school concert or some other activity in which you participate, ARE NOT to be seen as secular. ALL ARE YOURS AS A CHRISTIAN. Enjoy!

Remember, when viewed in this fashion, church attendance, offerings, things of that nature [spokes in your life] will NEVER suffer but will never CONTROL either. They will have a place in life that is good and reasonable, but they don't measure your commitment or spirituality as a believer. That measurement is based on who God is to you and who you are to Him because of the grace relationship you have based on the merit, work, sacrifice, and presence of Christ in your life.

I'm going to mix metaphors here but bear with me. [From bicycle wheels to water jars.]

Think of a one gallon jar. Think of a number of stones laying beside it. Each stone is named. Wife, [or husband] kids, job, church attendance, financial giving, recreation, physical exercise, school, paying debts, social activities, favorite sports teams, you name it, it's there. Now place all the stones in the jar. [Our assumption is it will hold ALL of them although the stones may be of differing sizes.] 

Now, [in your mind] slowly pour water in the jar until it is full to the brim. What you have is a jar, stones, water. Now the interpretation.

The jar is God. He IS your life source. He's all and in all. The stones are things you do and relationships you have with people and possessions like money, time and so forth. The water is the Holy Spirit who permeates every thing and relationship that is part of your life. He touches everything. There is no separation from anything that is you. ALL OF YOUR LIFE IS SACRED.

Everything in your life is related to God and is a gift from Him to experience. No one thing is ever MORE important than it should be, thus, no one thing is to ever control you. You are living out of the abundance of your life and the source of your life is God Himself.

 Always remember, if ANYTHING, even attending church or reading your bible regularly, [a quiet time] becomes a substitute for God being real in your life, the thing you're doing can be an idol as surely as the idols the Romans bowed before in Paul's day.


Paul B.