Friday, May 20, 2011

Replacing the Joy of Knowing God with a Place

We have made the issue of the afterlife about heaven and hell. Jesus didn't come to offer us heaven or hell. He came to offer us life. The choice isn't heaven or hell but life and death (see John 3:16-18).

What type of life did Jesus offer? Eternal life. What is eternal life? Jesus Himself told us, "This is eternal life to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent" (John 17:3).

So the real issue is about knowing God now and forevermore not about a place we go to after we die. Once again we have replaced a person with a place. We have removed God from the question about what happens when we die and made it about a destination. Jesus, who is life, came to offer us Himself, a life where we get to know Him and His Father in love from now to eternity.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Already Holy

God has already made us holy. The word "saint" means "holy person." In fact it is the same Greek word used for the holy in Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:15 says "as He who did call you is holy, you also, become holy in all your behavior." So since we are holy our behavior should be holy.

Calling a child bad for doing one bad thing leaves the impression that you think they are bad instead of just what they've done is bad. That is a very damaging thing. Our behavior is not who we are. So we need to realize that we are holy even though we do not always behave holy.

Conversation about Christ

Because Christ is our life we should easily be able to talk about Him with others. I think that training and preaching are part of the problem. Churches give expectations and instruction about something that should be natural. People who want to share Christ with others are stricken with fear and burdened with pressure because of the "standards" they feel like they need to live up to.

Talking about God should just be a natural talking just like you would naturally talk about sports. Imagine if someone came along and said to you that you have to talk about sports "just so" and you have to learn and include these certain facts and questions into the conversation. Talking about sports becomes a performance that you can either succeed or fail at depending on if you can transfer your love of sports to the other person. It is no longer fun, spontaneous, and natural because of the standards.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Commit Yourself to God?

God is the one committed and dedicated to me. He who began His work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ's return (Philippians 1:6). Will I finish His work for Him? It is God who works in me to desire and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). If I try to commit or dedicate myself to doing good for God I put myself under law like obligation, I try to live by external obligations or expectations rather than trusting God to live through me and guide me.

The idea that "God wants all of our life" is short sighted. Jesus Christ is our life as Colossians 3:3 states. We were dead in sin before He gave us life through new birth. God already has all of our life. God is our life!* (*Note that this is a rejoiceful tone not an angry tone).

We think that we need to live for God but the truth is that we need God to live for us. We need to trust the indwelling God to live through us. We can do nothing apart from Him and Jesus lived this example. He said that He could do nothing without the Father.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Intellectual Knowledge vs. Relational Trust

In some sense I don't think it does matter what I believe. It does matter who I trust. If you as my friend have some wrong information about me that doesn't mean I will disown you. Neither will Jesus disown those who trust Him if they are wrong concerning facts about Him. God values our relationship with Him more than us knowing a checklist of facts about Him. The Holy Spirit will lead God's children to all truth. Of course it is better to know the truth (facts) about the Truth (Jesus) but we should never let what we believe cause us to be less loving towards others.

There are only a handful of  falsehoods that disqualify someone from being able to know Christ. The bible says in various ways that whoever trusts in Jesus will have eternal life and Jesus defines eternal life as knowing The Father and The Son. Jesus came first to the Jews so they had some idea of who He was. Still Jesus nor the apostles handed out a written test to see if someone could earn grace by their knowledge of God.

Trusting Christ is the qualification. Jesus said that the will of the Father is to trust in the Son. Jesus even once answered the question "What should we do that we might do the works of God?" by saying, "This is the work of God that you trust in Jesus Christ whom God sent." The very work of God is trusting in Jesus! I would hate to have to take a works based or knowledge based test to earn grace from God.

We can only know the real Christ through the spirit not through doctrines and facts. Paul said, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Falsehood is terrible but none of us know God fully and all of us are wrong about Him in some way at least in the sense that we don't know Him fully yet.

Focus:  Essential Doctrines or Essential Person?
I guess the question for those who push essential doctrines is, "Is it more wrong to be mistaken about Jesus or to be ignorant about Jesus?" Truth is very important to live and grow by but I think God examines the heart far more than the head when it comes to salvation. Did the thief on the cross know that Jesus was born of a virgin?

The facts/truth about Jesus does not replace knowing Jesus spiritually as the basis of whether someone is a Christian or not. We can know the right things without knowing God. The right things are very important but not as important as the right One, Jesus. You could know a lot about me but if you've never encountered me in your life then you don't really know me at all.

How do we define what is essential? If someone trusts Christ in their life but gets even one of these "essentials" wrong or is ignorant of one of them does that mean they are not a Christian? This mindset is similar to being saved by works but instead of a checklist of deeds to do it is a checklist of facts to believe.

Those who push for essential doctrines as the basis of unity are really looking for a non-relational agreement between entities (church institutions, denominations, organizations). Our focus should be on the essential person of Jesus. We can "believe" all of the essential doctrines and not know the essential person of Jesus Christ. You can have all the essential ingredients of a pie but if no one makes the pie out of those ingredients having "the essentials" doesn't mean squat. Belief in doctrines doesn't produce salvation, trust in Christ does.

There is a grave danger in a "gospel of doctrines" that says "if you consider this list of things to be true then you know God." To expose that absurdity here is a comparative saying, "If you believe these 3 facts about George Washington then he is your best friend."

Agreeing vs. Loving
We look so hard at "who is Christian and who is not" & "who is wrong and who is right." We are so preoccupied with 'Christianity at large,' the 'church in America,' and tons of people we have never and will never meet. The only thing we should be looking for is "Who does Christ want to love through me today? How do I follow the Spirit of God in me today so that I may love whoever God puts in my path today?"

I'm not talking about compromising the truth but I don't think every occasion a falsehood comes up is my opportunity to correct someone. Jesus withheld truth from people. It was in His wisdom. We are in Christ just as Christ is in the Father so we can determine when to do this too. We should "accept one another as Christ has accepted us." That means, like Jesus, we meet people where they are. It means we humbly understand that no one has it all figured out despite our systematic theologies.

God wins people by His love. One way of loving is telling people the truth about God but you don't have to "have it right" or even accept my words about God for me to love you,  whether you are a Christian or not. If the truth (facts) causes us to love someone less then we are not following The Truth (Christ).

If I'm more concerned about someone agreeing with me about facts than I am about enjoying the Father with them then I have a problem. We don't need to get our facts\truth straight we need to get our faith\trust straight. God will get us to the facts in His wise timing if we go to Him in faith.

It is the same thing when Paul said, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." At first glance that doesn't sound like much but Jesus is the illimitable God and He is all we need to know. In the Truth there are all the many little truths that God desires we know.