Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?
They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.
The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.
Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.
Among our fellowships, we keep it real.
We have to. We have no choice.
Continually, people are coming to the Lord through us from places of deep bondage and despair.
I came across this quote from professor Karen Swallow Prior:
“Christ belongs in places outside of my heart, too – indeed, in all places.”
Yes, indeed -
Over every square inch of creation…
Over all nations, societies and culture…
Over all spheres of human endeavor…
Christ now boldly proclaims “mine!”
On Saturday, over sixty people gathered for a mass baptism at our house, involving various fellowships and ministries relating together here in Virginia.
After we buried lots of old natures, and lifted lots of new believers up into that same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, we enjoyed a cookout and just hangin’ with each other.
Obedience is like the tug of war game that my second grade students play every year on Field Day. Each team musters their forces together and strategically places the participants where they will be the most effective. Then, when the whistle blows, each side pulls with all of their might.
Often I find that my obedience to the Father’s plans is like that. I line up all of my reasons why I probably should not do what I feel the Father wants me to do; then, I try and justify my reasoning.
Fortunately, I am usually on the “losing” side of that tug of war because my heart’s desire is to be obedient and to do the will of my Father. However, my response is not always as instantaneous as I would like.
A number of fellowships relating together here in Virginia have started a Sunday evening discipleship class, focusing on leadership development and laying a foundation of sound doctrine. Most of those attending have a desire to learn and grow in the Lord, so they in turn can help others.
Our initial topic is “Repentance and the Kingdom of God”.
This weekend, I met with one of several fellowships in our county that’s primarily comprised of men who surrendered to Jesus while in jail.
They are now out, and meeting weekly in different gatherings as they encourage, support and move forward together in the Lord.
Because they came to the Lord in jail, many of these men did not have an opportunity to be water baptized quickly after conversion. Some ended up serving the Lord – and the State of Virginia! – in jail for several years after becoming believers, and were only recently released.
As a result, they now want – and need – to be water baptized.
What is the church and it’s purpose, what is God’s grand design, and what is our calling in Christ?
Talking about those questions often is muddled by all the either/or, false dichotomies touted by various voices in the Body of Christ who want:
- the Living Word without the authority of His written Word
- grace without transformation
- relationship without discipleship
- fellowship without accountability
- favor without sacrifice
It often seems that these either/or false dichotomies are rooted in the prevailing existential, post-modern perspective of this age – which heavily influences many Christians and seems to stunt us from growing up and reaching out.
This produces a very self-content, “I’m OK, you’re OK” mentality that seldom breaks out of its insular cocoons.
With them, Jesus seems little more than a friend with benefits.
Yup. It’s true. I killed ekklesia (the Greek word often translated in the New Testament to mean a local “church”). Now, several years later, it’s time to finally come clean and confess.
Although we all love the “glory stories”, we also need to tell of our failures – because it’s our failures which often teach the most.
So here’s my sorry story of having killed a fellowship.
Maybe, by owning up to my failures, it will help others trying to form an organic fellowship, home group, simple church – or whatever you want to call an open, participatory gathering of believers ministering one to another in smaller, relational fellowships.
Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. By Greg Allison
This is a GREAT book. I’ve often used it as a reference when researching some of the crazy claims you see on the Internet – like the doctrine of the plenary authority of scripture originated with the Constantine church or the Protestant reformers. Wrong! It goes back to the earliest writings of the church, including pre-Constantine.
I highly recommend this book for those interested in understanding that the essentials of the faith have been consistently affirmed throughout the entire history of the church. We need sound scholarship to refute popular but unsubstantiated claims to the contrary, which are frequently touted on the Internet.
For the next several days, it is on sale for only $5.99 (it’s normally many times that price, and worth it!).
Gregg Allison is Professor of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is a recognized expert on historical theology.
The Seven Great Lies in the Church Today, by Steve Hill
Amen and amen. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Steve Hill on this important article.
If you’ve read Crossroad Junction for very long, you’ve seen me also tackle most of these same, out-0f-balance issues. I’m glad to see others raising identical warnings, now to a broader audience, regarding:
- Overemphasis of Prosperity
- Exaggerated View of Grace
- Deification of Man (or, as I put it, creating Jesus in our own image)
- Challenging the Authority of the Word
- Rejecting Hell
- Universal Reconciliation
Really, folks, it’s kind of simple: He defines what is ultimately true, real and right, not us.
He’s God. We’re not. Get over it!
Forty-eight years young in the Lord!
On Resurrection Sunday, 1965, I had a deep, deep conversion experience as I totally surrendered to the Lord. I’m told the tears on that old wooden floor made permanent stains.
Wow, how time has passed. It’s been – and continues to be – a wonderful adventure, and even during some tough times I never once regretted belonging to Him.
Through it all, I’ve always felt His hand on my life and was blessed with a solid foundation from Godly parents and mature teachers, which has served me well over the years.
In an age of crazy doctrines and postmodern spiritual angst, that foundation yet stands firm for those willing to surrender their sensibilities to the Living Word and His written Word.
Really, it’s just not that complicated, but it does mean letting go of your own impulse to define Jesus – and what ultimately is right, real and true – on your own terms.
My life is a living testimony to His sovereign Lordship, and His passion is my very life.
I invite you to also surrender, and find life.
- Conversion (crossroadjunction.com)
This is another timely and important blog by Miguel Labrador.
As he points out, the “Christ is All” crowd has a fractured view of Jesus and scripture.
As I’ve discussed in my own blogs, those who follow existential authors like Frank Viola and his fellow itinerant “workers” like Milt Rodriguez, Jamal Jivanjee and Jon Zens, often create a Jesus in their own image based on their own sensibilities.
They then elevate their very postmodern Jesus over His own written word of scripture, under the mantra that “Christ is All” – such that Christ (or at least their perception of Him) trumps scripture.
As a result, they sever the Living Word from His written Word.
When called out, they make feeble assurances that they have a “high view” of scripture and think it is “inspired”, while nonetheless rejecting its plenary authority.
In fact, they follow the existential “theology” of Karl Barth, which elevates our own perceptions of Christ as higher revelation than God’s own chosen revelation of scripture. The result has been a pattern of anemic churches, introspective faith, weird doctrines and practices, manipulative and at times exploitive “leadership”, and self-referential “truth”.
In essence, they eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – by choosing their own subjective perceptions of Christ and His Church over His sovereign authority to objectively define what, in fact, is true, real and right.
Fortunately, more and more are looking behind the curtain and seeing what’s what.
I look forward to Miguel’s new series on keeping the Messenger integrated with His message – and us in sync with both!
The low view of God in the Old Testament, found among those touting a so-called “Christocentric hermeneutic”, comes from too high a view of themselves.
They often take personal offense at how God dealt with humanity in the Old Testament – including His sometimes fierce display of holiness and punishment of sin and rebellion.
So they make God in the Old Testament an aberration. They substitute their own perceptions of Christ – rooted in their post-modern sensibilities – for the totality of scripture, and make their resulting “Christology” higher revelation than God’s own external Word of scripture.
They have joined Adam and Eve in choosing the moral autonomy of deciding for themselves what is right and wrong, and have the further hubris of then imposing it on God Himself.
Two recent blogs I liked are:
Giving in Simple Church, by Tim Day.
Like Tim, Marianne and I reject the idea that Christians are obligated to tithe or that the tithe carries over into the New Covenant. But like Tim, we still give at least 10% of our income because we feel that’s what God wants of us personally, as we help and serve others.
Tim’s blog provides some very balanced, practical insight on giving.
The Changing Face of Full-Time Ministry, by Alan Knox.
We need to move past the old mentality of “full-time ministry” and realize that we all are ministering Christ full time.
Both of these brothers, and their blogs, should be on your “must read” list.
Words have the power to not only define, but to create reality – for good or for bad. Too often, we forget the power of words: not only ours, but of God Himself.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that God spoke the universe into existence, chose to reveal Himself through His spoken Word of scripture, or came to dwell among us as the Word made flesh.
I also don’t think it is a coincidence that God still speaks to us today, or that He has empowered us to speak authoritatively on His behalf.
Miguel Labrador has posted another thought provoking blog, entitled Theology Precedes Practice, Vice Versa, or Something Else?
In it, he states: “orthodoxy (theology) & orthopraxy (practice) are ‘simultaneous.’” I think he’s right, in the sense that we must seek to keep both in balance – our walk must match our talk, and our talk must match our walk.
Sometimes, however, the Lord allows one or the other – our doctrine or our practice – to be challenged in ways that force us to then adjust the other.
Regardless, it is important to keep them in sync, as much as possible, and not let one get too far ahead of the other.
Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.
In it, he says this about the Great Commission:
Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.
His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.
Does God do what is right, or is it right because God does it?
Many think God is subservient or subject to external standards – that He does what is right because there is a higher moral code that even He obeys.
This denies God’s sovereignty, and as a result many today seek to hold Him to the standard of their own sense of right and wrong.
Jesus died on the cross because He accepted me, wholly and completely, just as I am…
So I could die to myself in order to accept Him, wholly and completely, just as He is.
This the true Gospel: Accepting me as I am cost Jesus His life, and accepting Him as He is costs me my life in return.
The mystery of the cross is that we die with Him to find new life in Him – but only on His terms.
Yet if you look at social media sites like Facebook, it seems that many Christians only know a Doobie Brothers’ Gospel.