Category: Practical Theology is the only Theology


Paradox

Late last night as it was impossible to sleep in a strange bed, I reviewed the many voices I heard during the day at the CCEF convention.  My response at about 3 a.m. was a paradox. 

Sadness came first.  It is so sadness that God’s grace is so high, so long, so deep and yet, we run from it in our selfishness to be right, affirmed, fixed, and anything else that is far from the glory of God.  We will chase all the attributes and characteristics of being good people and even Godly people except for being living and visible expressions of God’s grace.  I was sad that even I struggle to realize that I too along with everyone else will give grace and receive grace as long as I am not the offended person.  Once someone offends me and causes me great pain, I want to run as fast as I can from them.  More than likely the people who will hurt us the most are those who we love the most.  It is our default setting to run to the law instead of being full of love and be driven to grace.  That makes me sad. 

Incredible contentment followed the sadness.  See, that is just it.  I am incapable of being a bearer of grace on my own.  I need the relationship with the Lord.  I need the time in prayer.  I need the time with the body of Christ, yes, the church.  I need to worship.  I need any aspect of God I can freely have.  Why?  Not to be right.  Not to be good.  I need it to have the attitude of Christ who humbled himself and came to give his live as a ransom for me.  I was a prisoner of my own sin.  He came to set the prisoners free.  Our real calling in life is to be the example of this grace not just in our obedience but in our outpouring of grace and love.  That means we are going to be hurt.  That means we are going to be trampled.  That means we are going to suffer.  That means it is unfair. 

Again, that is just it.  Everywhere I turn Jesus came to give a different life.  It was a kingdom life.  No, it is a kingdom life and he even told the disciples it is not and would not be like this worlds kingdoms.  It is about suffering and serving and sacrifice.  It is a life that Peter made mention that people would ask us of our hope.  In order to ask, people have to take notice of something different and it had nothing to do with dress, hair length and many of the other crazy issues conservative Christians have attached to the gospel over the years.  It has to do with how we love.  Love has always been thrown around in our world.  People talk about falling out of love.  Guess what, maybe you were never in love to begin with since real love does not turn on and off.  Christians are to be great lovers.  How are they to love…with unmatachable and unimaginable grace.

That is the key to our relationship with Christ.  I spent too many years thinking a relationship with Christ was a devotional and church attendance and many other THINGS.  While many of those things are good, they are not the object of our faith.  Loving God and then loving our brothers and sisters and then loving those who are not children of God are the objects of our faith.  It is how we love. 

How can we do this.  It always comes full circle.  The way of love and the outpouring of grace even to those who hurt us is only through Christ.  Christ alone.  We are not to worship the Bible.  We are to worship the author of the Bible.  We are free in Christ to truly love.  I am not saying that boundaries are not to be set.  I am not saying that gross sin is to be  let go without consequences.  I am saying that grace has to be the driver of all the above.  That grace can only come from the Redeemer, Jesus. 

If there is no movement in the heart concerning such a great salvation where we are recipients of such a grace and a lack of love is evident, we each need to take a moment in the presence of our Lord and come to him.  We are to open our hearts to the Savior is our only hope.  It is the only way to love. 

Yes, I am content.  I am content that it rests with Christ.  I can’t.  I know he can.  I also know he will.

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It’s late on a Friday night.  The wind is blowing and it is quite chilly up here in Virginia Beach.  While I long to be back in Bluff ton it has been an incredible 24 hours. 

I have been given the opportunity to be united with my best friend from high school, Bruce.  As he said walking down the street, we will always be family.  Bruce lived at our house his junior year of high school.  He was an incredible athlete as well as a truly decent person.  We went our separate ways after high school…somewhat staying in touch and somewhat staying out of touch.  Bruce and his family ended up in Knoxville while we ended up in Bluffton.  The amazing part is that after 30 some years while we took different paths we are on the same road. 

Bruce is a doctor.  I am an assistant pastor.  Both of us have moved beyond the theology and faith of our youth.  We come close in the Reformed faith and best yet…we both are in churches that understand that “knowing and being known” is indeed a Biblical principle founded on the gospel of grace.  Amazing.  Truly.  Two guys, two paths, same road.  We both had the same thought as we shared life stories and how God has moved…it was hard to believe that we were sitting together at the Christian Counseling Education Foundation Convention on Marriage Counseling.  All these years.  If nothing else, being reunited with my friend…no, my brother is well worth the trip to the frigid north. 

We just got singing It is Well.  My heart was moved.  It was moved in that I don’t know how anyone especially a Christian can turn their back on the grace that we are provided through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know the gospel is God’s.  I know he can do what he wants with it.  I just don’t know how the gospel has gotten so washed down and perverted with any type of works related theology.  Christ did all the work.  Our call is to worship Him.  We have to…it is the evidence of his grace.  Where else can we find this grace?  Where else can we be pardoned?  Where else can we find purpose in life?  Where else can we find hope?  In Christ Alone.  In Christ Alone.

It has been an exciting 24 hours to sit through 3 main sessions and 2 electives looking at Ephesians and Marriage issues.  Got to tell you, Ephesians is the bomb!  Got to tell you, looking at marriage and the various issues from adultery to communication makes one realize that we must…no make that have to have the lens of grace in order to live in union with a fellow sinner and bring glory to the Lord.  Works related theology doesn’t cut it.  We are too prone to take the place of God when we have our lists, demands and expectations that are anywhere except on the cross.

Without a doubt, the main issue in many Christian marriages is the lack of Christ.  Yup, I said it right.   We are guilty of placing the value of marriage over Christ.   We are guilty of placing the value of our spouse over a relationship with Christ.  We are guilty of a false image of marriage based on works instead of a grace based relationship with the living God.  We are simply guilty.  The aroma of our marriages stinks.  It is laced with “me,”  “my demands,” “my way,”  “my wants” and any other me or my you can find.  Meanwhile the gospel speaks of unity.  A unity founded in grace.  A unity founded in Christ.  The silent treatment, the angry argument, the “get out” is not the answer.  We fail to realize that regardless of what is going on with our spouse, God is in the process of molding you to his glory and desire.  Instead we cast non-Biblical ways to our sinful spouse as we attempt to be the god in their life.  We forget that unity in marriage is the micro or the macro unity in Christ as Christ loves the church.  Glad he doesn’t turn his back on me when I sin.  Glad he welcomes me home.  Glad that my hope is not based on my ability to please my wife or be the man  she wants me to be.  Glad my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

Ahhhh, it has been a great 24 hours.  24 more to go plus a little on Sunday.  Can it get any better?  Sure it can…when grace is taken to the heart. 

No doubt, we got to get the gospel message right in our relationships… Ephesians makes life and relationships and faith very clear.  Chapters 1 – 3 are the gospel plain and clear.  Chapter 4 and half of 5 is how we treat each other in Christ.  In other words, before we get to the nitty-gritty of each earthly relationship we have to see how we are called to treat each other as brothers and sisters.  Then half a chapter is the everyday relationships.  3 to 1/2 Christ.  41/2 to 1/2 Christ and the body of Christ the church.  No wonder we get it wrong…we skip the important stuff and demand godliness from sinful spouses.  No matter we have dull and meaningless angry marriages and families.  We want everyone else to change when the gospel says I have to change.  Why?  I haven’t reached the glory land yet.  I am prone to wander Lord I know it…prone to leave the God d I love.  When I change…and…there is always work to be done, than the gospel has life. 

Go in grace today.  Try tomorrow too.  Better yet, maybe you think Jesus came to keep you out of hell.  Broaden the gospel in your life and most of all in your heart.  Jesus came to display his grace and we are the grace bearers.  Now life has meaning.  Now life has hope.   Amazing grace how sweet the sound.  Live by grace.  Good night.  Tomorrow is another day.

The “Summer Reading and a blog” has changed name to “Books and a Blog…critical reading in an age of mediocrity.”  The format will stay the same but the emphasis is on reading critically and finding truth.  One of our problems today is that anyone can print and say anything including this blog and is can sound good, but it is not truth.  I want to use this blog opportunity to challange each other to look at books not as a form of information but rather as an opportunity to gain wisdom. 

The current book “Crazy Love” ends shortly.  All questions and summary have been posted.  They will remain on line until September 30, 2010.

Our next book is “When People are Big and God is Small” by Ed Welch.  The preliminary scheule is on the blog page. 

Join in on the blog and read for truth.  Share your thoughts in the comment section of this page.

Matthew 20: 20 – 28

What Is It?

  1.   A new Kingdom
    1. It is different
    2. It  is not like the kingdoms of this world.
    3. What is Kingdom living?
      1. Suffering
      2. Servanthood/slavery
      3. “You got to give it away”
        1. It is based in relationship, not duty
        2. Christ is the focus

 

Introduction:  Here at Grace Coastal Church we have 3 buzz words that describe our Biblical call and entail our body’s life in Christ.  The are:

Gathering

Growing

Giving

We have all three in this passage.

Gathering – the disciples are together and they are at the feet of Jesus

Growing – Jesus is teaching the disciples the gospel and how it is applicable

Giving – Jesus is describing and showing the disciples what life in Christ is…giving.

                Our focus today is on giving.  We are not talking about money today.

                We are talking about a lifestyle that is described as kingdom living.

                We are looking at the very words of Jesus and what is a life that has Christ as the center focus.

It is not a popular church growth strategy.  It is somewhat not understandable in our consumer driven culture of getting.  Regardless it is how Jesus teaches and then shows to be Kingdom living when we turn our focus on him.

The funny thing about this giving we are going to look at today, it really is not about the people we will give our lives to.  It is about the effect of giving on us. 

Review:  Review:  Last week we looked at the Zebedee family and their request to have the sons James and John sit beside Jesus in the new kingdom.     We looked at the truth from Ephesians 3 that we have received every spiritual blessing so therefore our call is to go live for the kingdom.  That kingdom is founded in Jesus Christ.  We are not to live in a hope of receiving a blessing.  It is already given.  We live our lives in response to the blessing of Jesus Christ in our hearts

It is a matter of living with Christ as the center focus, not us.  We cannot add anything to the cross even though we tend to do so.  Our identity is to be Christ, not all the works we tack to it to gain our significance.

This week we are going to answer the question:  If Christ and Christ alone is our focus what is the Christian walk?

 

  1. I.                     It is a new kingdom ( a kingdom that has come and is yet to come)

 

  1. a.      It is different.

                           In order to answer that question, we see that Jesus establishes that the His                kingdom is a different kingdom.

 

  1. The apostle John (who is one of the men asking for a kingdom position) writes in I John 3:16 – 18 that kingdom living is based in love.

 

John was listening back in Matthew 20.

            He defines love the same way Jesus did.  “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”           

–           In meeting needs of our brothers

–          It is not only nice words, but backed by our actions

  1. 2.       Jesus defines the kingdom in Matthew 22:37 – 39

Jesus does not abolish the law of the new kingdom, he fulfills it.

How does he fulfill it…by basing it on love, not duty.

Love the Lord…heart, soul, mind (love involving all aspects ofus)

Love your neighbor (love extending beyond us)

  1. Jesus makes it clear in John 15:13

    Greater love has no one than this, “that someone lay down his life for his  friends.”

   Now Jesus again describes the extent of that love.

    It is not a pick and choose kingdom. 

   Look at Matthew 20:26 – 28

      It is not self satisfying love…it is sacrificial love.

How is the Kingdom of Christ defined by the King:  Love

How does Jesus extend this love:  Grace

  1.  What now is kingdom living?

Jesus gives kingdom living two describers…suffering and serving.

If I took the time to review complete Biblical understanding of suffering and service we would easily be here around dinner time.  While the menu on the wall outside this room looks good, NHC is not prepared to serve us dinner. 

We could discuss suffering and what it looks like.

We could discuss the Biblical basis of service.

We could discuss living as Christ and leave here real guilty.

That is not the intent.  The intent is to allow us to see the greatness of the gospel story and allow God’s grace to lead us in his Kingdom.

For that reason, I want to look at a comparison with Ephesians 4:17 – 24.

Paul also says to no longer walk as the Gentiles.  Jesus back in Matthew 20 said the kingdom was not like the Gentiles.  Basically, both are calling believers to live a different life in a different perspective in a different kingdom.

When Paul says to not walk as Gentiles we immediately go to the list.  Here we go again, not only do we have our lists of what we think is “righteousness” we also have a list of what is “Unrighteousness.”

But Paul uses a phrase that tells the heart issue of the Gentiles (remember…everything is a heart issue) which is so important for us to understand the calling to live as givers.

In verse 19 he says “they have lost all sensitivity.”

In the ESV version it says “they have become callous.”

You know what Paul is saying…the real Gentile way of life is based on filling the senses because they have lost the ability to be sensitive.  Without sensitivity they have become callous.  Basically being callous means one thing…”I don’t care about you, I only care about me.”

Hold that thought for a minute.

Arno Gruen, research psycholosist, in his study “The Betrayal of the Self” writing from a non Christian view pointed out that “the actual source or our cruelty and callousness lies in the rejection of our own suffering.”

Do you see the connection is a calloused world?

           If Arno is correct (which I believe he is) than we are calloused because for some reason we don’t want to reveal our suffering. ? 

           It was said last week that the real sin is trying to be god.

           If I am god than I should not have to suffer…I can make it better.

           Let’s not stop there.  Usually as Christians we are trying to avoid suffering.

           Not dealing with suffering, makes one calloused.

           But, Jesus says in Matthew 20, kingdom living is suffering.

Earlier he says we will be hated because the world hates the gospel.

Let’s not stop there.

Paul in Philippians 3 says he wants to share in the suffering of Christ…why…

    So he can know the power of the resurrection and become like Christ in death.

    Death being the act of laying our lives down for the sake of a brother.

Well, that is not a gospel heard preached too often.

The reason the modern day church is losing ground is because it is not relevant.

Relevance is not trying to be liked.

Relevance is not making the gospel sound good.

Relevance is being in touch with the suffering.

Brothers and Sisters, when we avoid suffering we are actually becoming insensitive and calloused and that is the opposite of kingdom living.  It is the opposite of the gospel.

Why?  Why suffering?

The pattern is obvious.  We steal God’s glory.

Suffering leaves us no place to go but back to the cross.

The truth is we cannot fix us.  We can put bandaids on things.  We can fain obedience.  We can disguise ourselves on Sunday real good. 

Suffering rips off our false identities and brings us back to the only identity that redeems and that is Jesus.

Let me give you a four insights that help define “laying down our lives for another” as we suffer with and for Jesus. 

  Every time Family Promise roles into our building there is a family that volunteers to do whatever, whenever.  That is not the cool part.  They usually end up sleeping the night which most of us simply do not want to suffer through.  But that is not the point. They bring their kids.  They are leading their kids into a life of suffering.  They are exposing them to people who are needy and showing their kids what kingdom living looks like.  Instead of isolating the family from suffering and need, they are bringing their family and children into it. 

There is a family that has been through troubled times.  They have chosen to let the kingdom values of love and grace win the day.  To this day months and months later, the spiritual battle continues.  It is not that they are drawn back into their issues,  It is a battle for no time in my lifetime have I seen such a battle.  Why is there such a battle?  When we choose love and grace to win the day, the evil forces of Satan do not want to see it win the day.  Every day there is battle.  Every day there is suffering.  The gentile world tells this couple to toss it in, go your own way.  Instead, they are in suffering and what is at stake is the very essence of the gospel.

I want to tell you what truth and honesty looks like in a life of suffering.  There is a family of believers in which the four children had issues with my mom.  They never asked and they had never heard her story.  Basically, they did not know her and they did not respond gracefully to her regardless of her “issues.”  They waited too long to ask her.  Walls were built.  Hurt affected their lives.  Each learned to handle the problems with their mom in unique but not necessarily loving ways.    

When she was in her 70’s and damage had been done, after an hour of tears and battling, she told her story.  She told how her sister died at the age of 4 on Christmas Eve.  She told how there was no Christmas after that.  She told how her parents literally switched identities.  She told why she had trouble loving.  In those days there were not psychologists and counselors.  Families kept things to themselves.  As a young girl, she had to try and figure out life…a confusing life. 

Once she told her story, she changed.  I think it freed her to suffer this way.  The people that changed the most are the family members that heard her story.  
They can now look at their mom and with understanding and can now apply grace.  See, the suffering of such an honest loving meeting was not to change her, it was to change the listeners.  It was to free us to be graceful based on honesty and truth.  What is honesty and truth in kingdom living if we are not free to use it?  Everyone has a story.  It is in that story we can apply the gospel and literally display the grace God wants us to.  It is what Jesus did.  He listened.  He accepted the person for who they were.  Why?  He knows.  He also knew he was and is the only way to find relief from our suffering.  Crazy thing…in order to find relief from suffering we have to suffer.  That is the way it is.

There is a guy I see weekly.  He is a mess.  He does not respond to the gospel.  I have been told that he is a lost cause.  He has a mountain of issues.  He has lost everything in his life.  He is bitter, angry and more than anything alone.  I go weekly to give him a few minutes of my life as a friend.  A friend that lets him say what he wants.  I also get phone calls from him during the week about nothing.  Why?  He is lonely.  I have been told that it would be o.k. to drop him.  I can’t.  Why?  I have shared the gospel with him repeatedly.  Over the years many people have.  Every one of them are gone.  I want to be the gospel as well as speak the gospel.  You know what he does, he reminds me of the gospel.  I will simply wait to see if and when God wants to open that mans heart.  If he doesn’t that is o.k.  I learned more about the gospel by serving this man, than I would have reading Christian books and listening to Christian music.

Somedays it is suffering.  This man can be and usually is quite repulsive and arrogant.  That is o.k.  That is me with Christ.  He befriended me.

See, the gospel is not keeping our comfort zones as the sons of Zebedee wanted to sit by Jesus in the kingdom.

As we saw last week it is not adding our stuff to the gospel.

The gospel is found in sacrificial living and suffering. 

The best place to start is getting a grip on our own suffering or lack of it.  That is why we have small groups and purpose to be a people driven instead of a program driven church. 

That is why we look at parenting differently.

That is why we purpose to be relevant to our community by serving them.

It is not to make a name for ourselves.  Instead it is to give our lives away…we have every blessing we need as we saw next week.  Why keep anything of this Gentile world to ourselves? Nowhere in the Bible does it say to stop giving. 

Our new building is to be given away. 

We formed Crossroads Community Support Services to be an avenue for us to get into the community of need and give our lives away with the gospel as truth, deed and word. 

Let me tell you something no one else tells you in this world.

It’s  o.k. to suffer.   Jesus said in his first sermon second line

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Let us mourn for the King, let us be comforted in our giving.

I am working on a concept that might role into a thesis type document about a form of love that has planted itself in Christianity.  I call it “legislated love.”  I am throwing this out to you for comment and discussion.  I am really interested in hearing your thoughts.

Here is the premise:  Jesus takes the law and sums it up in two parts.  He says “love God” and “love your neighbor.”  We see all throughout the gospels and on into the various epistles an emphasis on the kingdom of God having the foundation of love.  Paul describes the fruit of the spirt (by the way it is only one fruit, not fruits) as love with the many definers that follow.  He goes on to say that against such there is no law. 

Stay on target a minute.  Love comes from the Holy Spirit.  Jesus describes his kingdom as love.  Now, we are told to:  love our enemies, love our wives, love our neighbors and so on.  Without any questions the western mindset has major issues as to what actually defines “love.”  The Scriptures point out that love is “laying down our life for another.”  This is all done in the context that while the law is defines as love God and love neighbor, it allows us to see the law as a means to love God and our neighbor.  We don’t steal.  We don’t chase after another mans wife and so on.  That is loving your neighbor.

But, there is alot more to love that moves us from law abiders as love to moving into “laying down our lives.”  That is a gospel issue.  That needs much discussion.

Now, here we go…as I meet and get to know more and more Christians I find often and usually with the husbands there is this expected love that is demanded from the wives under the word “submit.”  There is actually a book out the says women are to submit so their husbands can and will love them.  Once again, a “legislation” of the concept of love.  Don’t worry ladies you are not off the hook.  Wives have a legislated love as well.  It is surrounded by their desire to be “the queen” and inward need of “security.”  Thus, while men demand that love be expressed by a woman to meet his needs (you know where that one will go), a woman does the same. 

Meanwhile, the lists and the demands don’t work.  Once a husband and a wife have a list of what love has to look like for them, we have all missed the boat.  The problem…we have the lists.  We are legislating the love.  The crazy thing is we are legislating the love to be something called “Biblical” while at at the same time legislating how someone is to love me. 

Over time if I am not loved the way I want to be than a wall is built and often the spouse cannot ever satisfy the demands to overcome the wall since by now there have been so many things attanched to it. 

In some respects movies and a very magnfied romantic love has swayed the concept of “laying our lives down for the sake of another.”  It gets worse.  Once this pattern is established in the parents, it filters down to the kids.  Thus we become more angry with them when they somehow don’t quite get what I want done to know you love me.  It is easier to manipulate the kids to get the love I feel I am not getting from others which is usually my spouse.  Thus we see unhealthy parent to children relationships which usually result in a spoiled, demanding, narcissistic form of love. 

So…that is just the introduction.  I could bore you with a lot more introductory thought.  I am interested in what you might think.  Maybe I am off my cracker.  End of the day, when love is legislated, grace (the engine of love) has a  hard time winning the day.  But, honestly, we tend to resort back to “the list.”  We resort to it so bad we are unable to see how someone is loving me.  I know all about the 5 love languages.  Yes, we give and receive love differntly.  However, when I demand love my way, is that “laying down my life for another?” 

Comment away…this could get interesting.  Either that, or I have been out in the sun too long.

Scripture:  Matthew 20:20 – 28

Is There More?

A.  When good doesn’t cut it.

      1.  A respectable request
      2.  When “good” is not “God” 

B.  A Matter of Perspective

      1.  Living to be blessed?
      2. Blessed so go live

C.  In Christ Alone

    1.  Identity Crisis
    2.  A life in Christ

 Introduction –

Our Christian walk is like my golf bag.  I call myself a golfer even though I have not earned one cent from playing.  In my bag are 19 clubs.  You are only supposed to have 13.  I have clubs that have never touched a ball.  I think they are called “irons.”  I have a 9 wood, and other various clubs to make my game better.  I have various types of balls that are supposed to prevent a slice, spin better and go farther.  Regardless of how I play, the truth is along with most average golfers is that we only need 5 to 6 clubs.  That’s right.  We will shoot the same score with our 6 clubs as we would with our 19 clubs.  Our golf bag is full of things that are supposed to make us better golfers but they don’t.  But, we sure think they make us better golfers.

That is our Christian walk.  Just like our salvation, sanctification (the long walk to glory) is founded in Christ alone.  We add so much to it.  Many of those things are good, but, they do not add to my faith one iota.  The only thing that matters is the worship of Christ. 

Review of context
  In the preceding verses, Jesus declares his gospel a 3rd time.
  James, John and the mom (very possibly Jesus’ aunt) ask for a special place in the kingdom.
  Jesus says it is not his call but that they will suffer. 
   He establishes that for glory with him one must share in his suffering (Phil 3:10)
  The disciples get mad.
  Jesus explains a new kingdom pattern.
      Greatness is in serving
      To be first…you must be last.
      Serve – giving your life away.

A.  When good doesn’t cut it.
      Regardless of our view, this is a noble request.
      A mom is looking out for her children.
      If it is Jesus’ aunt, she may also be looking out   for the family.
      It also looks like they get the idea of a new kingdom.  At least they are listening to Jesus.

      There is obvious issues in that mom had to make the request and the grown boys were still holding on to her hem.
      There are obvious issues since we are getting down to the final days of 3 year training and somehow, they still don’t quite get it.

      On a side note…Jesus does not get frustrated with them…he handles them with great grace and love.  He knows the gospel is a process.
He knows that there is not to be judgment at any specific time in our walk with Christ since it is a process not an end result.

Regardless, this “good” act is not “God.”.
    The Zebedee family has the same issues we have.
    They are not hearing the centricity of the gospel.
    They are adding to it.
    They are adding personal preference.
    They are adding a thirst for position.
    They are adding a personal comfort.
    They are also implying that due to their status (family or group) they are better and deserve it.
    The mom is actually kneeling ( a form of worship and respect) to Jesus but her worship is focused on men not the gospel of Christ.

Bottom line: Sola Christo
        Christ alone is not their life pattern at this time
        They along with us have the natural tendency to place themselves into the center of the circle.
          While good may be the motive…good is not the gospel.

William Hendrickson, theologian and author wrote “It is a simple matter of childlike faith in God coupled with loving service to men for the sake of the gospel.

B.  It is a matter of perspective.

Is Christ the focal point of Biblical living or am I.

I am reading a book titled CRAZY LOVE by Francis Chan.  It is one of the best sellers in evangelical Christianity today.  It is one of the worst books I have read.

Why?

The entire emphasis is on man.  In chapter 5 Chan says that mediocre Christians cannot be real Christians.  What?  Since when is the gospel of grace been replaced with a gospel of perfection and expectation?

That is just it.  Modern Christianity has made its rules and judgments about what a Christian does.  Instead the Scriptures teach that it is what Christ does through us.  It is the work of Christ that should get the attention.  It is the focus to be on Christ and Christ alone, not my response.  That is in the hands of the Holy Spirit under the Sovereignty of God. 

My Christian walk is not about my love response.  IT is about a love that has already been expressed in the cross.  My walk is the response to the cross.  It is a matter of my heart. 

There are two dominant and opposing biblical/life views that affect our walk and relationship with Christ and others.

1.  Are we living to be blessed

Or

2.  Are we blessed so go live.

It does not sound like a major issue but it is.  In one Christ is the soul purpose of life.  In the other I am in the center and I am trying to wrap myself with Christ to prove I am a Christian and thus get something we call a blessing. 

I am speaking of a Biblical mindset call Blessability Theology.

Blessability Theology is a view that the sanctifying work or otherwise known as our daily walk is an attempt to clean ourselves up, adopt certain standards of acceptable moral behavior and adopt Biblical habits to gain a blessing from God which is usually applied to our income, health, attitude, personality and anything else that we view as being Godly.
The focal point is what I determine to do to make God so happy that he shines blessings on me.

Be careful…each one of us has had a moment or moments where we adopt that functional theology and quickly leave the gospel.

The result is often:
A judgmental spirit – if I am blessed there must be something wrong with you. 
A false sense of spirituality – my blessing means I have arrived.
Imprisonment by guilt – when I don’t make it to the blessing stage, it must be my sin. 
Inability to move out of constant failure – my sin is constant.  I cannot make it to be blessed.  I quit.

Grace is left out of the picture.

As I refer to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is our Bible primer I read the following on sanctification.

Refer to Westminster Confession of Faith (Sanctification)

There is no reference to my particular behavior.

The emphasis is on the work of Christ for me.

That is the heart change that is to bring real change.  It is one that relies only on the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about real change instead of religiosity.  It is also the foundation of grace that is to be applied in our lives as we relate to one another and the world.

Did you catch the process in the defining articles of sanctification.  It talks about a process.
We have adopted the Western mindset where it so easy to look at a person right now and only deal with that person in light of this exact moment in time instead of seeing a work in progress.  When we only see our spouse, our children, our neighbor as a finished work, grace disappears and imprisonment begins.

Our biggest issue in gospel focus, living, evangelsim is our individualism.

When we for various reasons are not known nor care to know, we are forced to live by gospel snip its instead of the fullness of the application of grace.  Yet, it is clear in the Scriptures, Christ came to give us freedom and set the prisoners free.   Grace functions not in the arena of isolation but rather moves the heart when we do exactly what Jesus refers to here as serving. 

Serving without knowing is good works.  Serving to know and extend grace at the heart level is only done by knowing.

This is the issue in broken homes, broken kids, broken family relationships, and broken communities.  Grace must have an arena that exposes God as the lover of our souls not because we are morally good but rather when we are fallen, failures, and dependent upon his grace.

We spend too much time talking about behavior instead of talking about Christ.

Why is it that Paul spends 2 to 3 times the amount of time writing about Christ and less time writing about our behavior, yet, we spend 2 to 3 times the amount of time talking about behavior and less time talking about Christ?
We spend too much time trying to fix our issues instead of worshipping God and living to see what he is going to do to receive the glory due his name.

When our heart is driven to glorify God instead of chasing some sort of self made righteousness…our lives will change.

2.  That leads us to the 2nd and accurate Biblical view of our walk in Christ.

It is based on the already blessed…so go live.

Ephesians 1:3
  We have already received every spiritual blessing.

Bingo!  Christ established a heavenly, spiritual kingdom.  The blessing is no longer on earth.  This is not our home.  It is a spiritual blessing.  Christ is that spiritual blessing.  We already have it.  There is no living to be blessed.  We are blessed, so go live!

Paul constantly is teaching what Jesus was saying to the Zebeedee family.  This is a new kingdom, and it is different.  It is based in me and it is spiritual.

We have a hard time understanding that:

When we are his children, the new kingdom of Christ affects our life. Our life does not affect the kingdom.

The Christian life is already about the spiritual kingdom.  We have what was to be given.
Thus it has been said…if you are a true child of Christ…you can do nothing more to increase his love and you can do nothing less to separate you from his love.
Just the fact that you are a child of God is the blessing.
Since Christ and Christ alone has done the work and continues to do a work even when you don’t feel it, now, go live a life based on Christ not seeking to gain favor.

How than do we live?
It is based on the relationship.
It is based in God’s love.

What is Bible reading…no longer a duty but rather a reminder.
What is prayer…not a duty but a means to relationship.
What is honesty, truth, and any other Christian value…they are reminders that we have been set free. 

We are free to talk about our failures.
We are free to be known.
We are free to be a work in progress.
We are free to live a life as an expression of what has been done and as Peter said a hope of what is to come.

We tend to taint that freedom.
We taint it when we talk more of expectation instead of a focus on Christ. 

Michael Spencer, the creator of the Internet Monk in his book Mere Churchinaity exposes how we taint our freedom to live in Christ.  We have attached various adjectives to define us.  Words like victorious, on fire, vivacious, successful, vibrant, dynamic, awesome, spirit filled and so on. 

When we attach them we imply that there are actions we do to make it acceptable.

 We also set a written and unwritten set of behaviors that make us this way.

 Again our attention is on what I do. 

What we end up doing is moving Christ from the head position.  We talk more about what dynamic looks like instead of resting, talking and focusing in on the Biblical truths wrapped in Christ. 

A lady once said that she was told if she received Christ as her savior she would no longer want to do the things she used to do that got her between a rock and a hard place.  That is treating Jesus as a pill.  Just keep taking the Jesus pill and you will be o.k.
That is not the gospel.  The gospel is the truth that in each one of us is a continual battle to be god.  The effect of the fall is not only sin but an overriding desire to be god. 

 We battle for control. 

 We even adopt our American mentality of business, hard work and moral living to feign control. 

Colossians 2:21

“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch (referring to the things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

The answer:  chapter 3:1

“ If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above…”

 You will see clearly Paul’s discussion on this very issue.  We are so tainted we will use the Bible to justify our seeming good behavior.
Jesus is not interested in making good people.  He has done the work to move our hearts into a perspective that our only hope is Christ and Christ alone…so live that way.

That life is wrapped in servanthood and sacrifice as Jesus once again defines then life walk.

We will pick up here next week…what really is a life in Christ?

It is no secret that the majority of Christians seem to have lost the fruit of the Spirit.  What happened to joy?  Peace seems wrapped up in stock accounts and the economy?  Patience, not today?  Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol…where is their power?

They are founded in the gospel.  When we turn to all our stuff to give the gospel its significance, we extinquish the flame. 

Our call is always to return to our first love.  It is Christ. 

He has done a great work, so now disciple of Christ, go live better yet, go worship. 

Sinclair Fergusen summed it up in his book IN CHRIST ALONE:  “If you are a Christian, then you are rich in Christ, enjoy and share the riches.”

Note:  Sermon did not encompass the third point, C.  In Christ Alone.  We will pick up there on Sunday, August 1, 2010.