Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Doubly Offensive Jesus

This post by Trevin Wax totally rocks!
The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is.
The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is.
The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity.
Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image.
Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.
The Offensive Inclusivity of Jesus
The Gospels portray Jesus as a Messiah who consistently and willfully angered many of the most religious in His day. His message presents hope; His miracles proclaim the kingdom.
But He celebrates with all the wrong people.
Jesus doesn’t kowtow to the religious elite. He won’t abide by their categories of who’s in and who’s out. He won’t join them in “writing off” the common sinners. He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. He’s not afraid of their houses. He’s not disgusted by their impurity.
Jesus’ inclusivity shocks the religious leaders. He throws open the doors of the kingdom to sinners of all stripes, and He rails against the religious for their self-righteous piety of exclusivity.
Evangelicals often talk about how the exclusive claims of Christ are offensive in our culture today, but we sometimes miss how the inclusivity of Christ was so offensive in his first-century context. And in missing that truth, we are unlikely to spot the ways we have thrown up barriers and erected walls around the gospel.
We say we are like Jesus in calling everyone to repentance, but often, we’re really saying, “Be like us.”
The inclusive posture of Jesus toward women, toward the sick, toward the outcast, toward the worst of sinners poses a challenge to the church today, just as it did for the Pharisees two thousand years ago.
The prostitute in church may be closer to God than the self-righteous prig, C. S. Lewis wrote, echoing Jesus’ words that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom before the Pharisees. Until the radically offensive inclusiveness of God’s grace seeps into your bones, you will never join Jesus at the margins of society, welcoming and blessing repentant sinners of all kinds.
The Offensive Exclusivity of Jesus
The same Jesus who calls the weary to come to Him for rest is the One who demands we deny ourselves and follow Him to our deaths.
This Jesus says He is the one way to God, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to God except through Him. Got that? His way is narrow. The gate is small. He is the Bread of Heaven, and unless you consume Him, you will perish. If you’re offended by the shocking nature of these exclusive claims, then you can walk away, just like the crowds did in John 6.
So, with one hand, Jesus is beckoning everyone everywhere to come to Him. With the other hand, He is pushing people away. Have you counted the cost? Unless you repent, you will perish! Are you willing to give up your rights and bow the knee?
Let’s be frank. Exclusivity is offensive when we are used to having choices, when we think tolerance must mean variety. Jesus seems to think He’s special, that God’s grace comes throughHim alone.
The only heart that can receive such grace is the repentant heart. Repentance is the trading of your personal kingdom agenda for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ, and that’s an agenda that includes all the spheres of your life – how you live, how you love, how you give, how you worship, how you behave sexually, how you speak, how you follow Him as Lord.
The Doubly Offensive Jesus
Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. The church is offended that Jesus’ call is for sinners. The world is offended that He calls for repentance.
That’s why the world minimizes His exclusive claims until Jesus is reduced to a social justice warrior who affirms people as they are. And that’s why the church minimizes His inclusive call until Jesus is reduced to a badge of honor for church folks who think their obedience makes them right with God.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letting the Bible Read You

Do you read the Bible....Or does the Bible read you? Good question from a post at Jesus Creed:
This set of images comes from a wonderful article by James Bryan Smith, at Friends University and with Apprentice Institute, and illustrates the differences of reading the Bible for information vs formation or reading the Bible vs being read by the Bible:Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.05.30 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.05.39 AM


Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/11/09/reading-the-bible-vs-being-read-by-the-bible/#ixzz3JKwjvMqY


The Next Big Thing

Is there a "next big thing" in Christianity? Jarrid Wilson says no,  - And I so agree with him! Why? Becasue Jesus is the only "big thing" and He is already here

It’s nothing new that we live in a consumeristic, media-driven, fast-paced society that likes to have the newest, biggest, and coolest the moment it’s available. We’re always looking to obtain the next big thing, and I cannot help but wonder if we are doing this very thing in the way we view Christianity, the church and Jesus.
There is no such thing as “the next big thing” in Christianity. Why? Because Jesus is already here, and everything else is subsidiary. We tend to get so caught up in what’s next, that we forget the reality of Jesus standing right in front of us. We need to stop seeking for what’s next, and instead give our attention to He who is already here. We need more substance.
I’ve found myself extremely convicted over the last few months. In opening up this conviction, I have begun questioning a lot of what many would call important in the realm of church, ministry, and Christianity as a whole. Conferences, books, lights, branding, marketing, albums, etc. None of these things are bad, but when they become the foundation in which our faith is built upon, we’ve begun building a theology that is contrary to that of the Bible. Many are currently walking down this road.
The day I stepped into ministry I was taught the following:
1. You need to have great branding.

2. You need to have great marketing.

3. You need to have great music.

4. You need to be ahead of the curve.
5. Your ministry needs to be attractional.
Notice the word “need.” And while I appreciate the leaders who took time out of their schedules to pour into me, I can’t help but realize how much I disagree with much of what I was taught in my early years of ministry. None of these things are wrong, but they aren’t a need. They cannot be what my ministry is founded upon. They cannot be what your ministry is founded upon. What matters is Jesus.
I understand the zeal to always dream of something bigger, newer, and more relevant than what is currently being done. In fact, I find myself doing this quite often in my own life. But while this attribute can be viewed as a ministerial strength, it can also be detriment to ones job of preaching and teaching the true Gospel of Jesus if not monitored. Sometimes all this fluff can get in the way of what really matters.
My Conviction
I’ve personally apologized to God for ever using his name in order to create an event, or portray “the next big thing” over the years. My soul longs to be like Christ, and I believe through the refining fire of conviction I will find this to be true.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greatest Source of Happiness


HT: Ziglar.com

Maps and Boundaries

Interesting and thought-provoking piece by Ed Welch - Our (Implicit) Theological Maps:
We live with implicit theological maps. No one lives merely with a mental outline of his or her chosen confessional statement; no one lives with a mental transcription of Scripture that is their sole guide to life. Instead, Scripture is dispersed into the internal topography of our minds. That topography takes its shape from Scripture, our pasts, our personalities, our sins, and dozens of others influences. These “maps,” whether we know it or not, guide our ministry. 
Let me explain using the topic of divorce. There are at least three ways to respond to someone who is proposing divorce. Each way involves a different theological map.
Map 1. Divorce is against God’s law. Here is the simplest map. All we need to know is contained in one biblical teaching. In a sense, this map is one “country.” It takes up a huge area and nothing surrounds it. Nothing needs to. The Bible says that divorce is sin. Period.
Pastoral care, using this map to guide your response, is straightforward. You don’t have to ask who did what. Divorce is wrong, and you advise the person not to divorce.
Map 2. Divorce is sinful. God is faithful even when it hurts. This version includes the predetermined moral judgment about divorce, but it is more personal. Right next to the territory on the map that is identified “Divorce is sinful” is another territory labeled “God is faithful.”
This simple addition changes pastoral care. This care will be sensitive to the hardships of a difficult marriage, and it will remember God’s sworn faithfulness to us and the power he gives to faithfully imitate him. Pastoral care will vary though depending on which territory you gravitate to the most. If your emphasis is on God’s faithfulness, you will spend more time in that territory. If divorce-is-sin is the more dominant terrain for you, then the moral prescription will dominate. You can see how boundaries,  size, and placement all yield different pastoral emphasis.
Map 3. Divorce is so hard, divorce could be sinful. God hates the violence that can be part of divorce, and he hates the casual discarding of a spouse. He wants us to live in peace..Here are just some of the territories that might abut or surround the moral judgment on divorce. We can easily imagine that as these proliferate, the judgment on divorce that was so easy using Map 1 becomes much more difficult. Pastoral care using Map 3 is less predetermined. We emphasize the various neighbors of Jesus’ words against divorce as they seem to be relevant to the story that is unfolding in front of us.
By defining these maps, I am trying to illustrate a recurring phrase in theological studies: theology limits theology. It suggests that biblical teaching and theological judgments cannot be dominated by a favorite emphasis (or one map) in Scripture. Instead our theological maps typically include neighbors. God’s sovereignty shares a border with human responsibility. Victimization shares a border with God’s righteous and future judgment against the oppressor. Our task is to identify the relevant theological neighbors in each ministry opportunity. Since that can be complicated, we are compelled to humility and are quick to ask for help to enrich our maps.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Golden Rule


HT: Ed Stezer

That Inward Curve

I love me some Martin Luther. I've been fascinated by his teaching summarized in the Latin phrase "Incurvatus in se" referring to humanity's tendency to be "curved in upon oneself" by sin. Here's a good summary of the idea from Alex Dean
Augustine may have introduced it. Luther certainly formed it. But the Apostle Paul wrestled openly with it as he penned lines he most certainly knew would be authoritative for the Church of Jesus Christ. When you read Romans 7, you most certainly identify with Paul’s struggle. If you are honest, no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, you must admit that, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).
Most people would agree that the battle with the flesh rages throughout the life of a believer. But the question is: Why would Paul so openly confess this here? Surely toward the end of his life, he came to understand that his writings were being circulated. He knew that the letters he wrote were authoritative (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul, this great church-planting pastor, the leader of a movement, the greatest missionary in Christian history. Paul, who endured countless beatings, imprisonments, and persecutions for the sake of Christ. Paul, who would give his own life under the persecution of Nero. Why in the world would he openly admit this struggle?
Incurvatus in se is a Latin phrase, coined by Luther and rooted in Augustine’s thought, which simply describes the primordial evil in the world—humanity curved inward on itself. And it is precisely this idea that Paul wrestles with in Romans 7. How do I know? Turn the page.
In Romans 7:24, after Paul has written himself to the point of frustration over his own struggle with sin, he is completely undone. He writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In other words, “I look within myself and I find absolutely nothing that is not wretched, depraved, and totally self-absorbed. I need deliverance from someone other than me!”
GAZING ON JESUS CHRIST
What happens next is stunning. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). And he doesn’t stop there. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1).
Don’t you see what Paul is doing here? Are you catching the whole scope of what is going on? Paul struggles, he wrestles, as he acknowledges his inward curvature. As he looks within, he is given over to despair because of his total depravity. But . . . do you see where Paul’s gaze turns? Upward! To Christ! To the gospel! Romans 8 is one of the richest expositions of the gospel in all of Scripture, and we so often forget that it comes on the heels of Romans 7.
Why does Paul do this? Is he just given over to his own emotions, carried along by whim as he is writing? Certainly not. Paul is giving his readers a picture of exactly what the gospel does. It redirects our gaze. It restructures our natural curvature. We move from inward to upward.
When we look within, we find nothing but condemnation and despair.But when we look to Jesus, we find a banner which reads, “It is finished. No condemnation.” And perhaps the most gloriously counterintuitive part of this message is this—it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
So how does a man go from being a self-absorbed Pharisee (Paul’s former life), to being a selfless missionary who leverages everything he has for the cause of Christ? The gospel redirects his gaze. He meets Jesus, and his eyes are fixated on the cross.
THE CHIEF ENEMY OF DISCIPLESHIP
Incurvatus in se (being curved inward on oneself) is the main enemy of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples. More than Satan’s plans to thwart our evangelistic efforts. More than the apologetic arguments of the leading atheists. More than the newest scientific discovery. Men and women curved inward will never desire to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.
This is why so many theologians have remarked about the power of the gospel especially for Christians. We need to have our gaze redirected every day. The gospel reminds us, over and over, that nothing good resides in our members, and yet, there is no condemnation because of the finished work of Christ. We are drawn to look on Jesus. We are moved to consider him. Something like worship begins to stir up in our hearts. And do you know what the automatic outflow of worship is? Making Disciples.
Christian, you are the chief enemy of the make, mature, and multiply mentality. You are not exempt from the natural curvature of all humanity. This is why being gospel-centered is absolutely necessary. It is not a catch phrase. It is not a buzz-word. It is the power of God for salvation.
LOOKING OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF
When your heart is set on yourself, you will never look outside of yourself. You’ll get home from work and retreat inside your home, where you’ll neglect your wife and children, owing it to the need to decompress after a long day. You’ll never engage in small-group discipleship because it’s all about giving of yourself, not getting for yourself. You’ll hardly care about the lost and dying around you because you are probably too busy checking who has commented on your most recent self-glorifying status update.
If the gospel captures your gaze, day after day, you’ll be reminded of the glorious reality of no condemnation. You’ll spend your time looking up and out. You’ll be free to serve everyone because you need nothing from anyone. You will live a gloriously counterintuitive kind of life in which you won’t care about your own power, position, prominence, or praise. You’re only concern will be the glory of Jesus and the praise of his glorious grace.
Christians, let us come before the glory of the gospel each day, that our gaze may be lifted upward and outward. Let us remind each other of the glorious reality of no condemnation with ferocious vigilance. Let us seek to make, mature, and multiply because our gaze is fixed on the One who told us “There is no condemnation.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Come As You Are


From @DailyKeller and challies.com

The Prison of Self Expression

Found a great piece by Trevin Wax entitled Discipleship in the "Age of Authenticity." The excerpt below is the closing paragraphs. I highly recommend reading the entire post.
....On the other hand, we should be the kind of people who have good news to offer in an age where “gospel” is “self-actualization.” The whole idea of discovering and being true to yourself can be rather exhausting. The narrative paints a picture of exhilaration in casting off society’s restraints and doing whatever it takes to be true to yourself. 
But what if the self you are true to is one that no one else wants to be with? What if the self you become is dastardly in its final form, not beautiful and attractive? What if, like Elsa in Frozen, you “let it go,” “turn away and slam the door,” only to find yourself in a lonely ice palace of your own making, a palace that is also a prison?
The church’s response must be to proclaim a gospel that comes from outside ourselves – no matter how countercultural this may seem. When people in our culture discover how exhausting it is to try to be “true to themselves,” when looking further and further inward eventually shows them they haven’t the resources to transform their own lives, the church must be ready to break in with good news that life change isn’t mustered up from within but granted through grace from without.
We are to challenge the narrative that happiness is found solely in self-expression. The biblical view of the self is that we are broken, twisted, and sinful. The self is something that needs redemption, not expression. And this redemption takes place within a redeemed community, not as spiritual individuals piecing together our own strategy for personal spirituality and fulfillment, but walking together with people who shape and form us into the image of Christ.