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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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The Buzz

Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, May 06, 2015
A Congregation of Repenting Sinners
One of the main differences between a healthy church and a dying or dead church is that the healthy church practices (biblical) church discipline. 

When the church at Corinth tolerated (in their midst) the unrepentant sin of a man had taken his father's wife, Paul judged the matter without needing to hear any more concerning it: they were to deliver that man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

In other words, they were to excommunicate the fellow. 

Interestingly enough, Paul qualifies what he said to this church in a former letter which history has fail to preserve for us, when Paul told this church not to associate with immoral people - he meant that they were not to associate with immoral people who were "in the church" - as opposed to immoral people in general - since if one was to attempt such a thing, one would hardly be able to associate with anyone outside the church.

The addendum is interesting because it shows that Paul isn't calling Christians to avoid associating with people who do not share their moral ideals - he is saying that they cannot associate with immoral people who claim to be believers.  Such as these are to either repent of their immorality, or be put outside the church.

I have evangelists describe the church with tongue-in-cheek as a sanctified sinner's club - trying to impress the notion that in a healthy church, people aren't going to look down their noses at a sinner who has just come to Christ - for we are all sinners.

But that only means that we are all tempted by sin daily.  It doesn't mean it is okay to sin if you're a Christian.

Paul makes it plain in his letter to the Romans that genuine believers continue to experience temptations to sin after having received Christ Jesus.  Having the mind of Christ means that you will desire to do the will of God as a believer, which you will experience as your own desires.  But you will continue to have the "default" sinful desires which spring from your sinful flesh (not the blood and bones, but the life-long self-reliant disposition that looks to self rather than to God for provision, and for the satisfaction of current desires).

As a Christian matures in their faith, they learn to overcome these sinful temptations more and more, by trusting and walking closer to/with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  No two believers are ever at exactly the same place - what may be a great temptation for one may not be much of a temptation for another, etc.

We depend upon our Lord to guide us into spiritual maturity through the process that scripture refers to as sanctification.  Sanctification is something that our "old man" or "flesh" or "default self" really wants to avoid, even as the "new man" or "Christ within us" wants us to pursue.  We are provoked by both our own flesh, and by the Lord Jesus within, to obey (or if you prefer, to follow through with) the desires they present.  Our flesh/old self desires pleasures, accolades, recognition, comfort, ease, etc. Christ desires our obedience to God - and we experience it all as a set of conflicting desires within ourselves.  We want one thing, but end up doing another.

Christians are imperfect - we fail to obey Jesus, even though we really want to (or to be precise, the life of Christ within us wants us to - though we experience this as personal desires, and may even believe that they originate in us) obey Him.  We feel like we're the fake-est, most inconsistent people there could be and wonder why the Lord would ever have saved someone like us - if we are able to even tell ourselves that this experience is "normal" - typically we mention it to no one, and pretend like everything is great with us - and we do this because everyone else in our church is doing this, so that we think we're the only ones who are struggling to obey.

But that is radically different than the person who professes to having a Christian faith, but nevertheless refuses to acknowledge the authority of scripture in determining what is and what is not sinful. 

The adulterer who claims that his or her carnal lusts are "natural" and that "God" wouldn't have given them such lusts if God didn't intend for them to act upon them - this "believer" is fooling (him/her)self.  Christ convicts His people of sin - He bears the punishment for those sins they have committed, but He does not absolve them of their sin.  They do not get a "sin all you want - it's okay!" card.

It is one thing to struggle against sin, and quite another to say that some sinful thing you want to do isn't really sin - or worse, to acknowledge something is sinful, but to refuse to repent of it.  That kind of hard-heartedness is called being unrepentant - and it is biblical grounds for being excommunicated.

When you're "caught" in a sin - that isn't describing being "caught in the act" like a thief - it is describing being caught in the sense of a "snare".  A loving person doesn't abandon a person caught in a snare, or judge them for being thus caught - the loving person does what can be done to help that person out of the snare.  This is the first purpose of church discipline - to help people out of those snares that they have fallen into.  The second purpose is to identify people who give no evidence of every having actually been in the church - that is, identifying counterfeit members of the body - people who claim to be Christian, but deny the Lord Christ in practice- these are the ones who find themselves in a snare, and either refuse to see the snare for what it is - or refuse to get out of the snare.  They are put outside the church, because they have given evidence to suggest they were never really a part of the church in the first place.

In any given "Church" we should expect to find some people (hopefully not many) on occasion, who have never really understood Christianity, but have jumped on the band wagon, and tried to make it work for themselves without ever having been truly born again, and thus without having actually received the Spirit of Christ from whom all our genuine obedience flows.  They don't have that soul deep desire to live a life that pleases God - they only have that other thing that every sinner has - a desire to avoid judgement, and to earn God's favor by doing more good than evil - purchasing for themselves, as it were, a "right" to escape judgment.

They may stay in a church depending on how spiritually shallow it is, for any number of years or even decades, without every coming to know that they were never saved in the first place.  If such a person were in a healthy church, and some inconsistency was discovered in their life, and those who would have helped them to overcome the sin that was besetting them find themselves ignored, so that discipline proceeds - these will either be forced to admit to themselves that they are not genuine believers (and hopefully come to Christ for real), or hold onto their false faith, and be set outside the church.

To protect the church, it is important to define church members as repenting believers.  Every dead and false church has this in common with the others of its ilk: they all believe "something".

Biblical churches are more than a collection of people who share a similar belief.  They are a collection of sinners who by God's grace, are repenting of all known sin.

That doesn't mean that they never sin - it just means they never tell themselves that it's okay to sin, and they never regard any sin as permissible - not in themselves, and not in others.  They don't judge one another as though everyone was supposed to be perfect, and the moment you show yourself to be normal, you're out.  They rather have Christ, and Christ has an interest in your sanctification.  He moves those who come alongside and moves the one whom they've come along side with, to the same place - restoration, and a path to overcoming a besetting sin, etc.

What do you do when someone joins your congregation for the express purpose of holding onto some immoral sin, in order to provoke the church to discipline them for their immorality, and in doing so give these people the platform they came to stand upon - the one where they paint the church as bigoted, medieval-minded hate-mongers whom they plan to sue for damages to their tender character.

Or what do you do if you refuse to marry two people whom you believe to be pursuing a marriage that isn't biblical? 

If your definition of church membership includes hard-hearted, unrepentant believers, then these things will be of no account.  But if you believe that someone who refuses to repent of their sin - that is, someone who outright denies that Jesus has any claim to their obedience, then you may want to have that in those articles that define what constitutes membership in your church.

You should also makes sure your congregation knows the difference between struggling with sin, as all believers do, and hard-hearted rebellion which really is the only grounds for excommunication in the church.
posted by Daniel @ 1:07 PM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Why I am not an Egalitarian (Part -II-)

In my first post (here), I explained that the verse most often cited as foundational in an argument for an egalitarian position, is Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [ESV]).  I explored the context of that verse to unfold for the reader, the point that Paul was supporting, and in doing so, to limit the scope of what Paul wrote, to the intention that Paul wrote it for, specifically, that every person whose faith is like Abraham's is a spiritual child of Abraham, and therefore an equal partaker of the promise God made to Abraham.  Paul was arguing that this promise was not dependent upon physical ancestry, so it didn't matter if you were a Jew or a Gentile (and for the sake of hyperbole, a free man, or a slave, a man or a woman, etc.), your physical birth adds nothing to your spiritual birth - that is the point Paul was making.

Once this is understood, it becomes self-evident that Paul is not jumping out of that context to arbitrarily suggest that Christians are unilaterally equal in all things. The implied equality in that verse is linked in the context the idea that the Jew and the Gentile are on equal footing with regards to becoming partakers of the New Covenant, i.e. entrance into the promise given to Abraham. 

Think of it this way, if you were a Jew and believed yourself to be a recipient of the promise given to Abraham, it didn't matter if you were a slave or free, a man or a woman - you were a "Jew" - and as such you were a partaker of that promise.  Paul is saying that the promise isn't based on ancestry, but on faith, so you're a "Jew" (by this definition) regardless of whether you're a man, woman, slave, free, or of Jewish ancestry or not.

This is not unlike what Peter is recorded (by Luke) as saying to the congregation at Jerusalem concerning the salvation of the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-35, "So Peter opened his mouth and said: 'Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

Like Peter, Paul is simply saying that God shows no partiality based on nationality, gender or  liberty when it comes to who is acceptable to Him - this lack of partiality is not connected to roles in the church, but rather to entrance into the church - where such circumstances are no hindrance whatsoever.

So when Paul states years later in a letter to Timothy explaining how church is supposed to be organized, that he (Paul) does not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. (c.f. 1 Timothy 2:12) he is not saying something here that contradicts what he said to the Galatians.  Christian women and men are equal partakers of the promise made to Abraham, because they are equally qualified through grace by faith.

But being equally partakers of the same salvific promise does not mean that women and men may hold the same offices in the church - and frankly, our culture frowns on such "archaic" distinctions.

Have you heard a preacher read more into Paul's words to the Galatians, in order to make less of Paul's words to the Church through Timothy?  They will say they are interpreting scripture through the lens of scripture, but rather they are taking a very clear passage, and attempting to obfuscate its clear meaning, by taking another passage entirely out of context.

Since it is almost impossible to do that with just these two verses - an appeal must be made to bolster the notion that men and women have always enjoyed the proposed "equality" that a shallow, context ignoring reading of Galatians 3:28 suggests - and this appeal is what I want to talk about today.

What about all those women in scripture who did great and marvelous things?

The teaching that God makes no distinction whatsoever when it comes to various ministries within the church, is easily frustrated by the text of 1 Timothy 2:12, and the context that qualifies it.  In order to dismiss the text, an appeal is made to Galatians 3:28 - which will inject into the text a foreign, but nuanced emphasis on gender equality in roles in the church.  Since that point cannot be made from the context the verse is being pulled from - the verse is held up outside its context, then bolstered with every (apparent) exception to the "rule" the scriptures can muster.

Many have been so influenced by the philosophies of our culture, that their default position is that Paul was being a bit draconian (at best) and more likely a little bigoted or even misogynistic.  He was a cave man, surrounded by other cave men, and these restrictions are not so much inspired by God as a product of the repressive culture of first century Palestine.

But even this notion, which sits right with so many, cannot easily wipe out the clear words of Paul in his letter to Timothy. 

I should say that a great many sincere believers are paying lip-service to the notion that scripture should interpret scripture.  They do compare scripture with scripture - but they compare the scriptures with the same care in which they read them - which is to say, void of, or at least with little or no regard to, context. 

Interpreting obscure scripture through clear scripture involves comparing what is being discussed, and not the wording of a particular snippet pulled from its context.  Proof-texting only works when the passage actually means what you are using it to prove. 

So consider with me the handful of passages that will typically be used to bolster the notion that women and men can hold the same offices/roles in the church "according to Galatians 3:28):

"Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment." - Judges 4:4-5 [ESV]

"So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her." - 2 Kings 22:14 [ESV]
"Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea." - Exodus 15:20-21 [ESV]

"And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;" - Isaiah 8:3 [ESV]

"And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin," - Luke 2:36 [ESV]

"On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied." - Acts 21:8-9 [ESV]

"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;" - Acts 2:17 [ESV]

You'll note immediately that none of these verses actually support an egalitarian position.  No woman mentioned in any of these verses is described in terms of being a pastor or an elder in a church - and you will note that not one of these verses has anything to do with how we are supposed to organize ourselves as a church. 

These verses show that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through various means - including *gasp!* through a few specific women in very specific situations.

Twice in the book of Judges we read, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (c.f. Judges 17:6, 21:25).  Consider in this light, that two women Deborah and Huldah, were judges in Israel.

Yes they judged Israel, and make no mistake - the Lord raised them up as judges - but what exactly was a judge?

In Exodus, Moses "judged" the people - that is, he sat down and listened to various legal complaints, and judged between the two parties as to what ought to be done.  He was, for a time, the only judge amongst the whole of Israel.  Finally when his father-in-law Jethro saw him doing this in Exodus 18, he gave Moses this instruction, which we can assume was inspired instruction, since Moses heeded it: 

"Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you." - Exodus 18:21-22 [ESV]

We see from Exodus 18:21-22, that from the beginning, the role of a Judge was supposed to be limited to men, yet many decades later, when Israel had put aside the teachings of Moses to pursue what seemed right in their own eyes, God raised a "prophetess" named Deborah the wife of Lappidoth to judge Israel.

Any honest reading of the account will suggest that Deborah was aware of Barak's call to deliver Israel when she sent for him.  The fact that Barak came at her summons tells us that she truly was given the respect and courtesy of a judge in Israel. We would be remiss to note that Deborah did not appoint herself a judge - but earlier in the book of Judges, we read that after Joshua died, God Himself raised up judges for Israel.

So one might be inclined to say, "Because God raised up Deborah to be both a prophetess and a judge in Israel, it shows that God makes no distinctions between men and women, and therefore the restrictions Paul makes concerning the roles of women in the church, should be relaxed."  But this is not a logical argument.

Recall from the opening passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews: that God spoke to the fathers through various means long ago - but now speaks to us through His son.  (c.f. Hebrews 1:1-3) In other words we can say, Yes, Deborah was a prophetess, and a judge.  It was exceptional because God called her contrary to the pattern given to Moses - but the pattern given to Moses was set aside by men who chose to do whatever seemed right in their own eyes, and so the fact that God raised up a woman to be a prophetess and judge in Israel, marks something God did, in His mercy, for His people who were ignoring the directives He had given them. 

It falls under the umbrella of God having spoken through a variety of means, none of which (we are told) represent the means that God uses today. 

We know even less about Huldah, but same goes for her.

Then we have Isaiah's unnamed wife, and Moses' older sister Miriam, both were called prophetesses, but neither uttered any words of prophesy.  It seems likely that their title was honorary, given their close relation to a known prophet.  We can say nothing of gifting or office, since neither of these is recorded as having either.  They are mentioned, but their does not nothing to support the claims that a womans ought to be allowed to become an elder in a church.

Having exhausted the Old Testament, we come to the New Testament.  Here we find Anna in the temple the daughters of Philip the evangelist - all of whom prophesied.  We also recognize that this period was unique in human history - the Old Covenant had been abolished, and the New Covenant was being established, the whole matter of which had been prophesied before, by the prophet Joel as being a time when sons and daughters would prophesy.

Think that through.  If it was "normal" for sons and (especially) daughters to prophesy, then (good gravy!) Joel's prophesy would be utterly useless - since it would fail miserably to identify the time of our Lord's coming.

The only way Joel's prophesy makes sense is if sons and daughters were historically -not- prophesying, such that one would know the time by the fact that something -exceptional- (out of the ordinary) was happening.

So even if we collect every text from the scriptures that might possibly bolster the notion that Galatians 3:8 promotes egalitarianism we find instead that most of the texts do nothing of the sort.  They show only that God has been merciful to Israel in spite of it's rebellion -  and that God has used women to do this.

That all falls under the same umbrella: "In various times and in many ways". Not to put too fine a point on this, but the logic being employed to make the Egalitarian argument is that if God has spoken through women in the past, He will speak through women in the future, therefore women should be allowed to be pastors.  The same logic is applied to this argument: God has spoken through burning bushes and talking donkeys in the past, therefore regular bushes and all kinds of Donkeys should be allowed to become pastors/elders in any church.

Do you see what I did there.  Not every bush burned without being consumed in the Old Testament, nor was every Donkey given the ability to speak - yet the fact that there are these rare exceptions in scripture cannot be funneled into a serious argument for a rule of conduct elsewhere.  To argue that the exception is actually the rule is a faulty argument.

God spoke through various (exceptional) means in the past, but the message to the church is not that what was formerly exceptional and rare is now common and plentiful.  The message is rather that God doesn't do that anymore.

Women and men stand on the same ground in Christ when it comes to their inclusion in the promises that were given to Abraham: they are standing in the righteousness and merit of Christ Jesus and they are fellow heirs with Christ.  Amen.

The New Testament teaching on who can and cannot become an elder in the church doesn't contradict the fact that we stand (in Christ) on equal ground.  Not everyone is qualified to be an elder, and if God Himself decrees that women cannot be elders, then the question before is not whether or not that agrees with our culture - it is a question of whether God's word has more authority than our culture.

The reason there have been no women pastors or elders until only recently (historically speaking), is not because our generation is more enlightened than previous generations, or even because our bible are better translated, or because this generation finally understands what the scriptures really meant.  There probably isn't any single reason above all others.  Certainly the fact that pastors are being academically qualified rather than biblically qualified plays into it.  The fact that fewer and fewer Christians are biblically literate is a large factor as well.

Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains - a great many people think it is okay for a woman to hold the office of elder in the church - not because of what the bible says or doesn't say - but rather because they are so sold out to their culture, or alternately afraid to offend it, that refuse to stand on the clear word of God, because that would mean rocking the boat.  The idea that only men can be elders is to them an antiquated, out of style notion that has no place is the "enlightened" church age.

If I go onto a third part in this series,  I'll address the appeal to modern knowledge - the kind that says, "oh no, the text doesn't actually mean what it says, it means the opposite, you're just misunderstanding it."

That is typically the third cord in the rope that binds this nonsense to some people's conscience.  No promises though.

posted by Daniel @ 2:52 PM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Why I'm not an Egalitarian - Part -I-
A couple of questions we should answer for ourselves as we consider this topic:

Is the bible true?
If we don't believe the bible is entirely true, then what we're saying is that it is only a somewhat reliable witness to truth.  it can be relied upon for some things, and not for other things.  How do we know what it can be relied upon?  We don't - and because we don't, we set ourselves up as the judge of what is true.  If something seems true to us, it is true, and if it seems false to us, it is false.  Said another way - we all do what seems right in our own eyes.  If I think the bible is only as true as it feels to me - then it may as well all be false, because I have no way of knowing which parts are really true, and which parts are not.

Is the bible the word of God?
If the bible is true, then it must be what it claims to be, the inspired word of God.

Are we as Christians subject to the word of God?
If the bible is true, and it is the word of God, it follows that it in matters of conduct, the word of God is mankind's ultimate authority - and moreso for those who claim that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, is their Lord (i.e. Sovereign King).  If the bible is the word of God, then Christians are obligated to obey its teachings in our personal lives, and in the corporate life of the church - as ordained and constrained by the word of God.

If we can't agree on these these three points up front, no discussion on egalitarianism is going to amount to more than a sharing of dissimilar opinions, and a polite agreement to accept each others position, regardless of whether or not they line up with the scriptures.

First - for those of you who hear such words and Egalitarian and Complementarian, and wonder, what do these to $20 words mean - I will quickly explain them:

An Egalitarian is someone who believes that woman can be pastors and justifies this believe by appealing to those passages in the scriptures which either seem to suggest that there is no distinction between men and women in the church, and/or which show women in the scriptures exercising (in various capacities) that seem congruous to an opinion that women can be pastors.

A Complementarian is someone who believes that men and women are equal partakers of the promises given to Abraham (concerning his Seed: Christ),  and therefore equal in their reliance upon God's grace for both their entrance into, and the health of their subsequent life within, the church are never-the-less allowed roles within the church which complement one another, but are limited in some cases by gender.

Why I am not an Egalitarian (Part 1)

OKAY HOLD UP!  If you haven't read the first three chapters in Paul's epistle to the Galatians in a while - you should give it a quick read before embarking on this journey with me.  Seriously, better to have these things in your head as you look at what I have set forth here, in order to confirm or deny the things I say.

Arguably, the "holy grail" verse for the Egalitarianism position inevitably ends up being Galatians 3:28:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [ESV]

Without knowing the underlying context, the only qualifying context available to us (in this small snippet which is all to often recklessly lifted from its much larger context) is found in the final qualifying phrase, "for (i.e. for this reason or because)  you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Note that Paul doesn't use the word equal here, but in saying that former distinctions such as ethnicity, gender, and citizenship are now irrelevant in Christ, the notion of equality is to some extent obviously implied - though nuanced in a way that is unclear from the snippet itself.  So Paul isn't saying that everyone is unilaterally equal, so much as he is saying that all distinctions are removed in Christ.

One thing that is clear from the snippet:  If Paul intends to say that God makes no personal distinctions, he intends to limit this equality to those in Christ - and whatever distinctions we feel God is ignoring in the church, we have no grounds to imagine that God ignores the same distinctions outside of the church.  Just because Paul has said that this is something that is true for those in Christ, we shouldn't (and certainly have no grounds to) imagine that this same thing is true outside the church.

In other words, if Paul is saying that God unilaterally makes no distinction between ethnicity, citizenship, or gender within the church, the only reason one would need to identify that this is something that is true "in Christ" - would be because it is not true for those who are not in Christ - if it were true of all, adding "in Christ" would be not only unnecessary, but somewhat confusing.

Without further context, we really can't mine much more out of this passage than that.

There is an implied equality amongst Christians - all are equally... something.  ...We don't know from the snippet what that something is.  Whatever it is, we know that it ignores external distinctives such as ethnicity, citizenship, and gender - things that might otherwise have been regarded or thought to be either an help or an hindrance.

It is not like God is hiding what the something is.  It is clear and plain from the context, but to understand what it and the scope of what Paul is saying (and to avoid the error of taking Paul's words out of context to serve as a pretext to ideas and notions that Paul was neither promoting nor even imagined) we need to look back in the text and see just what Paul was talking about when he wrote this snippet.

We know that after Paul had founded various churches throughout Galatia, certain Jewish converts visited these churches and taught them that Paul messed up the gospel (when in fact they were the ones who were messing up the gospel).  They taught that both justification and (subsequent) sanctification were all dependent upon keeping the Mosaic Laws (i.e. "Old Covenant").  These Judaizers regarded Christianity as a Jewish sect, and concluded that in order to join the sect you had to first become a Jew.

To be fair - this was how the Gentiles converts had always been proselyted under Judaism.  The Judaizers must have believed themselves to be correcting an oversight on Paul's part - since Paul was treating these Gentiles as though they were already Christians when they hadn't yet become Jews.  They didn't understand that Christianity (i.e. the New Covenant) was something God had promised would eventually replace Judaism (ie. the Old Covenant) - and in ignorance of this fact, they imagined that Christianity was just another Jewish sect. 

Of course, they didn't realize that the Mosaic Covenant was a place holder, and that Christ had ushered in this new and better covenant all according to what the prophets had said would happen, etc.  They regarded Christianity as a patch sewn into the fabric of Judaism or as new wine which was poured into the old wineskin of Judaism.  Christianity to them was a teaching to be appended to the Mosaic Covenant, it added to it, and clarified it a bit - but they didn't understand and/or believe that Christianity was supposed to replace it.

Their (i.e. the Judaizers) teaching demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of Christianity, Christ, the gospel, and the purpose of the Law. They didn't realize that they were corrupting the gospel, and polluting the church with their false teaching.  What Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia (his epistle to the Galatians) was written to correct (in whole or in part) the corrupt doctrine the churches had received from these false teachers.

It should be plain, from even a cursory reading of this epistle, that what these Judaizers had been teaching stood in stark contrast to the gospel of grace that Paul had previously taught to those new believers in Galatia when Paul originally planted those churches.

That is a sound starting point. 

Whatever Paul says in Galatians 3:28 should (and will) make sense in the context of a letter intended to correct whatever errors these false teachers had introduced.

In other words, if we understand the point Paul is making when he gets to Galatians 3:28, we will be able to understand how Galatians 3:28 satisfies or serves that point.  What we want to do is understand what Paul was saying, so that we don't make the mistake of reading something else into the passage - and running with that instead of the truth.

Paul opens his epistle to the churches in Galatia with a charge against these churches - that they were setting aside the gospel he had preached to them, in favor of the distorted gospel that these Judaizers had brought to them.  He introduces himself and quickly begins to defend both the (true) gospel which he had formerly preached to them and they received, and he defends also his ministry and his credentials as a genuine Apostle of Christ.

To demonstrate his genuine authority, Paul recalls the day that he had to rebuke the Apostle Peter - for giving into the very sort of thing that these Judaizers had been teaching the Galatians. In this retelling of the events at Antioch, Paul makes it crystal clear, that his authority is genuine, and that these Judaizers are the real charlatans.

He then goes on to correct the errors he suspects have been propagated.  We are made righteous by grace through faith and not through the keeping of the Mosaic Laws.  Paul summarizes the difference between the true gospel and the doctrine of these Judaizers by showing that if the righteousness we need for our salvation came through the law then Christ would have died for nothing.

Following Paul's line of reason (in typical Pauline fashion) the Apostle takes the teaching of the Judaizers to its logical conclusion to demonstrate how wrong it is. These false teachers had been teaching that you needed to become a Jew before you could become a Christian. So Paul explained to his readers what exactly a Jew was (and was not) and how entrance into the kingdom was neither dependent upon, or hindered by the fact that one was or was not a Jew.

Ethnically speaking, a Jew was a physical descendant of Abraham.  Many Jews at the time believed that they were partakers of the promise given to Abraham because of their ancestry, and irregardless of their conduct, faith, or anything else.

Paul argued that being a physical descendant of Abraham counted for nothing since the promise given to Abraham was referring to spiritual descendants and not physical ones.  Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations - which should make clear this one thing:  one doesn't have to be a Jew to count Abraham as his or her father.

As we get close to Galatians 3:28 - Paul is showing that being a physical descendant of Abraham counts for nothing insofar as being under the promise given to Abraham was concerned.  Paul explained that Gentiles become children of the promise given to Abraham through their holding to a faith that was like Abraham's.  He showed that the promise given to Abraham was received by the gentiles, not through their ancestry lineage, but through faith.  He shows that the Jews are no different: they also must become children of Abraham through faith (as opposed to depending upon their physical ancestry).

Here is the context then for Galatians 3:28 - Paul is saying that neither your ancestry,  your citizenship, or your gender contribute anything to becoming a partaker of the promise given to Abraham.  You cannot merit this promise, nor bring it into being through your ancestry, your gender, or your citizenship - nor will any of these hinder you in inheriting it - for the promise is received by faith, not by ancestry, citizenship or gender.

So Paul isn't saying, or trying to say/suggest that everyone is so unilaterally equal that God makes no distinctions between the roles of men and women in the church.

There are a great many people who feel that women should be allowed to be elders/pastors.  Most believe this, or strive to believe it, because it is culturally savvy to do so - and who wants to be thought of us insensitive or unfair (or worse, as a closet misogynist)?

Egalitarianism is becoming quite popular in those churches where scripture is routinely understood through the rose colored lens of our modern culture.  Today's lick-spittle generation bends over backwards to conform itself to the moral of the moment - and in our "moment", gender roles are bad, everyone should be "equal" - whatever that is - and people who think otherwise are just ignorant bigots.

Since we all live in the culture we are born into, it shouldn't surprise people that this sort of thinking finds its way into the church - and in doing so it clashes against those passages in scripture that I will discuss in Part II of this series.

The question you should be asking yourself if you still believe that this verse is unilaterally implying that God no longer makes distinctions between genders, such that what Paul writes elsewhere specifically disqualifying women from certain roles in the church - is how would declaring that God makes no distinction whatsoever between men and women prove the point Paul was laboring to prove in Galatians 3:28?

Think that through.

Would declaring that men and women are equal and as such can hold any office in the church really contribute to convincing a church that the doctrine they received from the Judaizers was in fact flawed? 

Remember, Paul was arguing that gentiles did not need to become Jews in order to become Christians.  That is the point he was making and supporting in Galatians 3:28.  He only mentions women/men and slaves/free to exaggerate the point he was making: it doesn't matter if you were born a Jew or a Gentile, a man or a woman, a free man or a slave - what matters is not what you were born into, it matters that you are born from above.  It matters that you become a partaker of the promise given to Abraham - and you don't become a partaker of that promise through being born into the right ethnicity, gender, or social rank. 

The notion that Paul (in the middle of an argument that is concerned with whether or not you need to become a Jew in order to become a Christian) decided to arbitrarily mention that all people Christians are so unilaterally equal that you should hereafter interpret everything that was ever written in the scriptures through this new and capricious lens - which has nothing to do with the point he is making -- is preposterous.  In fact, Paul had yet to write the epistles to Titus and Timothy at this point - Paul wasn't writing this to clarify what he would write - I say, if anything, he was clarifying this in his later writings which disqualified women from the office of elder/pastor, etc.

Surely dear reader, you see that being a Jew or a Gentile is neither a hindrance nor a help to your becoming a Christian - that is, to your becoming a partaker of the promise given to Abraham?  How would pontificating on gender roles in the middle of convincing you of that serve the point I am making?  This has nothing to do with gender roles, and no one reading it in Paul's day would have ever pulled from it the notions that people are trying to support from it today.

This passage has nothing to do with roles in the church. The only reason people go to this verse to support an egalitarian position, is because they want to use it as a pretext to dismiss other verses (which were written later on by Paul) which clearly disqualify women from the role of elder and pastor. 

In Part II I am going to show that most of the remaining arguments for egalitarianism fall under the umbrella of Hebrews 1:1-2

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." [ESV]

In Part III I hope to show what Paul's letters teach concerning the roles of women in ministry is neither complex nor complicated - it just counter-cultural and offends people because the bible teaches something that this culture (mistakenly) rejects.
posted by Daniel @ 12:48 PM   2 comment(s)
Monday, March 16, 2015

Finally updated my profile pic.

I trust the Internet can overlook the obvious effects of SnapSeed's™ drama filter, and the faux frame on the left - meant to look like this is some sort of film proof or something.

I just liked the shot because I didn't look an hundred years old (this was taken today), and I happened to be playing my latest acquisition, a black, 2005 Heritage 157CM.

For those who are not in the know, when Gibson decided to move their operations in 1985 from Kalamazoo MI, to Nashville, some of the former Gibson employees who had raised families in Kalamazoo, opted out of the move, purchased the old Gibson factory, and continues making guitars using the same machinery that formerly made Gibson products.

The truth is the quality of these guitars matches or exceeds the quality of Gibson's prior to 1985, and some would say, and I count myself in this group - the quality of their guitars since, exceeds the increasingly production-line quality of Gibson's recent efforts.  I have a 2005 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and this 2005 Heritage 157CM (the equivalent of a Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop), and this one plays and sounds better (not to mention is built better IMO) than my Gibson Les Paul Standard.

I am not paid to endorse the guitar - but I just want to be up front.  I think it is an amazing guitar, and though I am a brand-slave at heart, and have loved and owned Gibson guitars for 30 years - I can't deny that these guitars are every bit as good or (and often) better.

Anyway, I figure leaving the same profile pick up for almost a decade is a bit misleading, so I put this one up.

My daughter made that necklace.  You can't tell, but it is supposed to be a polar bear.
posted by Daniel @ 3:29 PM   0 comment(s)
Friday, March 13, 2015
Repentance (Should the Christian...? Part I)
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:24-26 [ESV]

I used to pray from this passage that the Lord would grant me the grace to repent. 

Let me not mince words or notions either.  What I am saying is that I would find myself from time to time depending too much on a sort of Christian auto-pilot. You know what I mean, right?  Having developed moral habits, in times of weariness where instead of repenting of my self reliance, I would beach myself on the shore of "I don't feel like dealing with this right now" island, and vacation there and let my moral habits do all the work. 

In other words, like every other believer, I would find myself at times unwilling to deal honestly and biblically with myself - justifying my spiritual stagnation with an inarticulate and delusional notion that it wasn't really my fault somehow.  

Having read in the scriptures that repentance was something the Lord grants, I concluded that unless and until the Lord granted me the grace to repent that I needed, I would be stuck in the rut, and so I would pray in this way. 

Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit within me was certainly willing that I repent, but my flesh being weak continued to rule over me through my own selfish desires - and my flesh did not want me to repent.   So I would ask for this same grace that enabled my first repentance, hoping to find in this "new" grace the strength to suddenly desire obedience over disobedience.

But it was hit and miss and mostly miss at that. Unanswered prayer such as this kind tell us that something is not right in what we are praying for. God is generous and lovingly kind, and desires our sanctification far more than we do. If God isn't answering a prayer that I think would result in my being closer to the person He calls me to be, there is probably something wrong with either my prayer or my heart. 

But since the desire to repent does not come from my flesh (which cannot produce a good fruit such as that) I know this desire is from my Lord who is in me through the Holy Spirit. His heart is right

So the problem isn't a matter of a wrong hearted prayer. I must be asking the Lord to do something for me that He is either not going to do, or that He has already done, and I am ignorant of. 

Let's figure out which it is. 

Given how our Lord commands believers to repent six times in the book of revelation, and the command to believers to repent is functionally identical to the command to walk in the Spirit, I became persuaded that while God does in fact grant that first repentance (that ended in my justification), it wasn't just a one-time ability to repent - it was the Holy Spirit quickening my "dead-in-trespasses" soul, so that I was able to believe and repent.  

In the moment I believed, this same Holy Spirit began to indwell my life - binding my life up in the life of Christ, who through the Spirit was now within me.  Since that moment I have, by way of the Holy Spirit within me, the ability to act upon the will of God which the Spirit within me makes known.  That is, I have the persistent grace of being led by the Holy Spirit - and in this way, I have all I need already to repent. 

Problem solved. 

I should pause here however to clarify that last part - lest some reader interprets what I wrote through the wrong lens. 

I don't receive private vocal instructions from the Holy Spirit, nor do I imagine that He is communicating instructions to me through random thoughts, signs, or goosebumps. I have no dialogue with the Holy Spirit whatsoever. The way I know His will is far from mystical: He causes me to desire to live a life that pleases the Lord; He makes me see my sin for the rebellion it is and causes me to hate it contrary to my own desires. He testifies to the truth of the scriptures so that I know them to be true.  It is a soul deep communion, but not the kind where I convince myself that every mundane happenstance in life is actually a coded message from the Holy Spirit that I must interpret by way of my "Spiritual maturity".  In short, I perceive these things as coming from my own mind and thoughts - recognizing that those thoughts which the scriptures make plain cannot arise from my fallen flesh (which can produce no good thing) must arise from the mind of Christ through the Spirit within me.  The bad tree of the flesh does not produce the good fruit of the Spirit. 

So I certainly don't mean to imply any mystical hocus pocus.  If that sort of  stuff is your bag, I encourage you to get honest with yourself. 

Getting back to my main line, I discovered that, when it comes to repentance, God had already granted me the ability to repent when I received the repentance that led to life.  What (or rather Who) I received in the first work of the Spirit, I received for the rest of this present life - the Spirit Himself. 

He has continued to give me the desire to repent of my disobedience - an ongoing grace which is more than sufficient for my temporary deliverance from temptations.

I am not suggesting that the Lord does not from time to time grant profound (seemingly effortless ) deliverance (He can and sometimes does!) but this is the exception and not the rule.

I have come to understand that repentance for the Christian means turning away from sin by faith through obedience to the will of God as revealed by and through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  

This is not a prayer request; this is commanded of us: Repent!  

Even if the old man, is incapable of unaided repentance, the Christian is able to obey the will of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is simply a matter of faith and genuine worship.

The bottom line for me when I saw this was to conclude that I shouldn't continue in my fruitless prayers for God to make me repent (against the will of my flesh), since the fact that I am asking that shows that I am in the flesh and not in the Spirit. This is being double minded. What I need to do is stop obeying the flesh and it's desires. I need to repent.

Obviously I, that is my 'old man' or my 'flesh' (not the meaty part of my body or even my physical form, but rather the 'me' that desires to slake ever passing desire) doesn't have the ability to repent, but Christ within me, through the Holy Spirit, has proven Himself victorious over both sin and the grave - so my job is to not walk (ie conduct myself) according to the desires of the fles, but rather according to the desires of the Spirit- in faith

That last part crowns all. Listen: when you want to do a thing you know is sin, or not do a thing you know you're called to do, and in that moment you reason that Christ is your Lord and so you struggle with finding some way to justify the sin you want to pursue - but instead decide to obey Christ over and against obeying you own desires- this hinges on whether or not you believe Christ has the right to expect and receive your obedience. If you believe Christ is your Lord, you submit to Him - and if you deny it, you don't.  Some people don't realize this struggle is a struggle of faith.  Listen: there is no magic key to Christian obedience - it just comes down to faith. 

You cannot truly repent except that you believe Jesus has the right to command your obedience. Walking by faith, walking by or 'in' the Spirit, and 'repenting' are all ways of describing the same thing - the 'How' part of being a right and proper Christian.  Your ongoing sanctification depends upon growth in truths such as this. 
posted by Daniel @ 9:54 AM   6 comment(s)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Hear ye, Hear ye, ye lovers of loaves.
Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. - John 6:11 [NASB]
You remember the scene.  Jesus took what little food was on hand and multiplied it to feed a crowd of at least five thousand people.  This was a sign, and the crowd concluded that Jesus was the Prophet "like Moses" whom Moses Himself had said would come into the world (c.f. Deuteronomy 18:15).  It was the right conclusion, since the Lord (though Moses) had given the Israelites manna to eat in the wilderness, and Jesus had just given them bread to eat.  They saw the connection - Jesus was indeed the Prophet that Moses had foretold.  Perhaps some even recalled the admonition Moses added in Deuteronomy 18:18-19, "I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.  It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which He shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him."

The magnitude of this event certainly was lost on some.  This was the fulfillment of a prophesy: the promised Prophet had come; God Himself was not only speaking to them through this same Prophet here and now, but what was being said to them carried this warning: if you don't listen to (i.e. obey) the words of this Prophet, God Himself will require that disobedience of you.  By extension, God will require the same of everyone who hears the words spoken by Christ on that day.
Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. - John 6:26 [NASB]
Okay, so we have a crowd of thousands who through this sign have come to know that Christ is in fact that  Prophet promised by God through Moses long ago that they must personally listen to.  It is significant that the first thing this Prophet says to them is that they aren't following Him because He is the promised Prophet, but that they are following Him because they desire the bread He supplied them with.


 I mean it is one thing for Johnny-with-an-opinion to say, "Hey, you're not following Jesus because He is the Messiah: you're following Him because you want a free ride!!" Anyone who is sufficiently full of themselves can shake off the opinion of another, even (especially?) if their opinion happens to be is bang-on.  But here is the Man they recognize as the One whom Moses told them they must heed, or else!  Yet the first thing this Man tells them is that their interest in Him was all messed up.


He tells them in plain enough language that they were only following Him for the free meal rather than following Him because He was the Prophet - the promised Christ whom God had finally sent.  Incredible as it may seem, in the light of this revelation and their knowledge of it, those five thousand persisted in their unwillingness to be reconciled into the only relationship mankind can have with his Maker: that of an obedient servant whose will is utterly humbled before the one whom he has surrendered entirely to.  Those Israelites were not only were slaves to their own wills and their own desires -they wanted to remain slaves.  They didn't want to be reconciled to God - they were content with, and in fact wanted no more than, the free bread that Jesus could give them.

Only Jesus explained to them that this was not really about bread...
I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. - John 6:51 [NASB]
In describing Himself as the living bread that came down out of heaven, Jesus pulls back the veil on the  object lesson of the loaves.  They wanted to receive the gift, and couldn't care less about the Giver.  This illustrates a spiritual truth when you consider that many desire eternal life, but do not desire Christ.  They were seeking the gifts Christ was giving them, without seeking Christ Himself. They were following Christ to get something from Him that they greedily desired (bread in the physical example, and eternal life in the spiritual example), and having pursued the gift rather than the Giver, they lost both.

Let that sink in. They were willing to follow Jesus in a way that was really using Jesus as a means to an end.  They wanted free food, and were willing to follow Jesus in order to get that food from Him.  Their devotion was self serving - they followed Christ in order to obtain a thing that they wanted for themselves.  Is that the kind of "following" that God accepts?  The clue is found in verse 36 (see below), "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe".  They knew Jesus was the Messiah, they partook of the bread, and yet they did not pursue Him in faith.  To put it plainly: They were willing to follow Christ for the foods sake, but were not willing to follow Christ otherwise.

Picture a marriage of convenience.  Is the mail order bride who marries the "American" (in order to gain through this union an US citizenship) marrying out of love or for selfish reasons?  She is using the American to gain the citizenship she desires.  The fact that the American is willing to be used like this doesn't change make her motives any less self serving.  In the same way, the proverbial young woman who marries the elderly billionaire for his wealth is not marrying out of love, but marrying out of a desire to secure an imminent inheritance.  She is serving her own interests in this marriage, and her motive is greed and not love.  She loves his wealth, and marries him as a way of obtain the only thing that drew her to this man: his wealth.

When Jesus (essentially) told the crowd that by following Him they were seeking the gift and not the Giver, He was giving them enough information to know that God was not fooled by their empty devotion.  He gave them enough to know also that it is a form of self delusion to continue pursuing something you know will never yield up the thing you pursue.  They were pursuing Christ for the bread, but they weren't going to get the bread because they weren't pursuing Christ, they were pursuing the bread.
Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. - John 6:35-36 [NASB]
Why did Jesus present Himself as the bread of life in the first place?  It was because they were pursuing bread that perishes (the gift) rather than the Bread that does not perish (Christ).

Jesus was talking to a crowd who collectively recognized in Him the Prophet that God had foretold through Moses.  These people were following Jesus now and intended to continue to follow Him, even though He gave them enough information to understand that they were not *really* following Him, nor were they truly desiring Him.  They were following the food and in doing so they were making a fundamental error:  They were seeking the gift rather than the Giver.

I want you to think about that.

The young person who marries an elderly billionaire in order to inherit that person's immense wealth is not pursuing the elderly person, but rather the elderly person's fortune.  It isn't the love that provokes the marriage but greed and selfish desire.  The same is true of the mail-order-bride I previously mentioned.  The desire for citizenship made the bride willing to marry the wealthy stranger - it was greed (the desire for personal gain), that motivated the marriage.  It isn't the marriage union that she desires, nor is it a spouse, these are inconveniences which she is willing to endure for the sake of obtaining the object of her desire (the pregnant hope of the kind of affluent life that a US citizenship might provide).

Just as these earthly spouses are not fooled into imagining their new spouses love them for themselves, so our Lord is not fooled by those who come to Him for eternal life, rather than for reconciliation. This was the error of the five thousand, they didn't want Christ for Christ's sake, they wanted what Christ could give them and could care less about being reconciled to Him through surrendering their will to God and accepting His rule in their life.

They understood that He was the Messiah, but refused to come to Him on His own terms.

Are you coming to Christ for Christ's sake - or are you coming to Christ because you want the free bread of eternal life?  Let me put that into an all too common example:  Having understood that the salvation of the Lord is eternal, and having become convinced that you are eternally saved, and cannot be un-saved, do you now find yourself desiring nothing more from Christ?  Are you content or "filled" (as it were) with the knowledge that you're life is secure in Christ?  Has this certainty made you more earnest in your obedience, or having convinced yourself that you've obtained what you came for, have you grown slack in all your devotions, worship, obedience, and witness?

Meditate on this.  A day is coming when the Lord will judge the living and the dead.  If you are trusting that eternal life is yours on the grounds that you have found the right Savior, and prayed the right prayer, and believe to be true the right things that one ought to believe - and yet know that you have no real love for Christ, and that you are not living in surrender and obedience, then let me suggest to you that examine yourself with judgment day honesty.  Are you pursuing the gift of the Giver?  Are you content with the inheritance you presume upon, or are you hungry to know Christ? 

Listen: If you have any concern about these things, that is, if you see in yourself, or suspect in yourself, a heart that isn't truly pursuing Christ, then amend this fault in your faith while it is still called today. 

Don't rest on the conviction that you have "arrived" - even if you have arrived. The only person who can be content with that, is the person who was never pursuing Jesus in the first place.  Consider how Paul the Apostle (who knew fully well that He was eternally secure in Christ) was not lulled into a contented slumber by this knowledge, but pursued Christ as if He hadn't yet attained to life in Christ.  Paul hungered for Christ, to know Him, to love Him more, to obey Him fully, and to please Him in all that he did.  Paul was only able to pursue Christ when he determined to stop pursuing his own agenda - which included pursuing and securing for himself a better after life.  He knew that desire for what it was: self serving greed.  It probably seems remarkable to some of you reading this that a man can so die to his or her own greed, that he is willing to pursue Jesus for no other reason that Jesus is worthy of that pursuit, and that it is good for him to do that for which he was created.

A lot of people think that Christ's last words to the church are found in what many label as the "great commission" - but Christ sent letters (by way of John) to the seven pastors of seven churches many years after he had given the eleven their marching orders.  The message given to most of these churches was that they needed to repent (i.e. they needed to turn away from their own agendas and instead surrender themselves fully and wholly to that obedience to which they were called).  So I repeat this last great message:  if you find yourself pursuing the gift of eternal life rather than the Giver of that life, you must stop that at once.  Commit yourself to the pursuit of Christ, and let Him worry about whether your life is eternal or not.  We pursue Christ by denying our own desires - even the desire to secure for ourselves a life that is eternal, and pursue instead what we know to be the will of Christ as expressed in the scriptures.

Christ's will is not a mystery.  He desires that you love Him, that you draw near to Him in obedience, and that you deny yourself in order that you may surrender your will to Him.  He desires that His life (which is righteous and begets life) be expressed in you rather than your own life which is condemned by your sin and begets only death.  He desires this for your benefit and not for His own.  He desires to rule you because you are not righteous and cannot rule yourself in righteousness - nor can you approach Him in your own unrighteousness.  He desires to rule you because you cannot approach Him otherwise.  In other words His call to obedience is a call for fellowship.  He loves the bride, and serves the bride, and calls the bride to love and serve Him - for the joy that can be found in that union.

posted by Daniel @ 11:14 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Sanctification 101 and 2 Peter 1
 Let's start this post with the text mentioned in the title - and do yourself a favor: read it even if you are already familiar with the text - nothing I write that follows it will be anywhere near as edifying.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- 2 Peter 1 [ESV]

Peter's salutation ends with a benediction which identifies where grace and peace come from, "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."  These come to the believer through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  The text goes on to say, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called..."  Peter believed that every Christian had already been given everything he would ever need to live a holy life that pleases the Lord. 

Have you ever overheard another believer sincerely and tearfully asking God to deliver them from some sin they were struggling with?  If what Peter says is true (and it certainly is), a prayer such as this betrays a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.  It is like a man who has a trillion dollars in the bank begging his own banker to give him the scraps off his table.  God has already provided every believer with all that he or she needs to live in obedience to God.  The reason a believer does not t make use of what has been provided is because the believer is either ignorant or more likely misinformed.

Most Christians know, or have met, at least one "solid" Christian in their life.  A person whose not only sold out to God in every aspect of his or her life - but full of joy, peace, patience and light.  They seem to have something that makes their Christianity viable and real in a way that makes our own paper thin and powerless.  If this were not so, Christian self-help books wouldn't be so popular. 

The Apostle James wrote, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" - James 1:2-8 [ESV].  

James was saying any believer who was experiencing those first century horrors that were being perpetrated against the early church ought to rejoice in what that experience was going to produce for them.  It was going to produce a steadfastness of faith which itself lead to spiritual maturity (being perfect and lacking nothing - which included the "wisdom" that James goes on to describe).

James' instruction for anyone who lacked that wisdom that instructed a believer in progressing from steadfast faith to spiritual maturity was to ask God to grant them that wisdom - for God does not reproach anyone who seeks this kind of wisdom, but gives to freely and generously to all who ask for it properly.  By properly, we mean those who honestly intend to use that wisdom to draw nearer to God.  

The main prerequisite to sanctification (assuming a genuine salvation of course) is genuine, ongoing repentance.  I think repentance is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the modern church, and that because sin itself is often misunderstood.  Every person, regardless of whether or not they are a Christian, has his or her own desires, and works to fulfill those desires.  They rule themselves, or to describe the same idea in another light, they obey their own desires.  The bible describes this as walking in the flesh, or as being carnal.  When you walk in the flesh you are obeying your own wishes, and everything that you do in this state is considered a "sin". Every last one of us in a kind of slave to our own desires.  We cannot turn them off or on at will - we experience them, and whenever it is within our power to do so (without causing us harm or embarrassment) we fulfill these desires.  This is what it means to be in "bondage" to sin - it means that we obey our own desires by default, and cannot shut them off even if we *really* wanted to.

Here we find something of a "rub" for many believers, primarily because so few believers are being given instruction in this matter.  Your "old man" (as the Apostle Paul describes it) remains in bondage to sin throughout your whole life.  The Christian however is in Christ and the life of Christ which is within in is by no means in bondage to sin.  Thus while the believer's desire to sin remains and always will remain, yet he or she possesses the person of Christ who is entirely free from this desire, such that the believer has access to two opposing desires - one which would incline the believer to pursue its own desires, the other (Christ) who inclines the believer (through the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit) to live an obedient life that is pleasing to God.  The two desires are in opposition so that the believer will never experience a unity in purpose between them - if he satisfies the flesh, he grieves the Spirit, and if he gratifies the spirit he grieves the flesh.

If we sin by obeying the desires that we ourselves are generating, we "repent" when we choose to obey the desires of Christ within us.  Every genuine believer chooses to obey the will of Christ over and against his or her own will, but immature believers do so less frequently - and in some cases the frequency is so rare that such a believer, though genuinely saved, gives no real indication of their salvation.  Just as an immature stalk of wheat looks no different than an immature tare, so also the immature Christian resembles the non-Christian in their daily walk.  How many Christians show up for church on Sunday, then live like non-Christians for the rest of the week?  It is as cliched as it is common (sadly).  Because immaturity is real and rampant, we must be on guard against deciding whether or not a believer is genuine based on visible obedience (or disobedience).   That doesn't mean we ignore sin in the church (if someone is found in their sin and refuses to repent of it, we discipline them, even to the point of putting them out of the church - not because we are judging them as "unsaved", but rather that we are judging them as unrepentant - and putting them out of the church for health of the remaining body, and for the Lord to work repentance in them from without).

To state it plainly again, because I can't say this enough: If sin is to be understood as surrendering your will to the fulfilling of your own desires, repentance is just the opposite - refusing to surrender your will to your own desires, and surrendering it instead to the desires of Christ.

Now, touching lightly again upon what James wrote, the greatest hindrance to Christian maturity is self deceit.  Think about the smoker who "wants to quit" but is convinced that he or she cannot quit.  They are being disingenuous.  The truth is that they do not want to quit, what they want is to keep on smoking - what they don't want is to experience the stigma, the costs, and the health hazards of smoking.  They like smoking, what they don't like is the various costs their addiction demands.  I am not suggesting that quitting smoking is physiologically easy - it certainly isn't.  What I am saying is that there is a superficial desire, and there is a soul deep desire, and though they are both aimed in the same direction, the one is impotent because the whole heart isn't in it.

My youngest doesn't like to eat anything green.  She will say that she is starving loudly crying for something to eat, but if you offer her something green to eat, she will not touch it with a ten foot pole.  She obviously isn't starving, and so while she is willing to eat on her own terms, she certainly isn't willing to eat anything she doesn't want to eat.  That is what the obedience of most Christians amounts to.  They are willing to swallow some of what God commands, as much as pleases them, but they are not willing to obey everything God commands - and the reason for this is that they are not really hungry for God.

Sanctification is a process by which God makes you hungry for Him - but it is a process that is also confusing and poorly understood by many believers.

I said I would touch lightly on what James wrote, before getting back to what Peter wrote, so here goes: James speaks about the way one acquires the wisdom necessary to mature in Christ - and the way to do that is to ask.  But James qualifies this by saying that the request has to be genuine (I am paraphrasing obviously).  In other words, if your mouth says you want to obey God, but you heart says that that isn't going to happen, God isn't going to be fooled by the words of your mouth. 

Our Lord described the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of great price - something you acquire by surrendering everything else in order to get it.  Likewise he describes it as a treasure hidden in a field, that one purchases by selling all that one owns in order to gain the field in which the treasure lies.  He speaks of counting the cost before one begins to build, etc. When our Lord speaks in Matthew 7:7, that  we are to ask, and it will be given to us, to seek, and we will find; to knock, and it will be opened to us - the seeking, asking, and knocking surely have the character described in Deuteronomy 4:29, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul." [ESV].  Do you know what this means?  It means that God understands that people are going to seek Him half-heartedly - and so He tells them up front that seeking Him half-heartedly isn't going to work.  The fact of the matter is that unless you are seeking the Lord whole-heartedly you aren't really seeking Him at all.

Just as this truth applies to the repentance required for genuine salvation, so also it applies to our sanctification.  As you received the Christ Jesus the Lord (i.e. through faith and a genuine, whole-hearted surrender to the will of God), so walk in Him (c.f. Colossians 2:6).  If we did not surrender our entirety to God when we come to Him for salvation - we did not get saved regardless of how perfect our theology or prayer may or may not have been.  God isn't fooled by the words of our mouths...  In the same way, we cannot grow in sanctification unless or until we learn to live in genuine, whole-hearted surrender to the will of God.

Like the child from our previous example who is willing to eat what he or she likes but refuses to eat that which doesn't agree with him, our obedience isn't actually obedience, it is the compromise of an unsurrendered heart.  We are not surrendering our will to the Lord's will, and so whatever "obedience" we manage to muster when our hearts are not entirely given to the Lord, doesn't actually reflect what is in our heart - such obedience is a lie.  Didn't Isaiah describe this when he said that our even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (c.f. Isaiah 64:6)?  

That paints an accurate but somewhat depressing picture - not because it is describing normal Christianity, but because it is describing something far more common: carnal Christianity  (i.e. immature Christianity that continues attempting to please God without first, and continually surrendering to the will of God).

James is saying that if you don't know how to mature in Christ, you just need to ask God  for the wisdom, but not to expect Him to answer you if you're heart isn't in it.

The carnal believer will rightly ask, isn't that the real problem?  How can I ask God and expect an answer if my problem is that I am half-hearted?  How do I get from half-hearted to whole-hearted? Well first of all you should remember the parable of the prodigal son.  He wasn't all the way home yet before his father saw him returning on the road and ran up to meet him.  In this parable, you are the prodigal son, and God is the father, and if you, recognizing your own spiritual bankruptcy, do what you can to return to your father - he will meet you on that road because he loves you and is full of tender mercies.  Count on that

The problem isn't that God has shut you out, the problem is always that you have shut God out, and the answer to that problem is always that you need to return to that same whole-hearted surrender that characterized your salvation.  If you've been genuinely saved, you know exactly what I am talking about, and if what I am saying confuses you, there is a fair chance that, all your religious experience aside, you aren't really saved (yet).  God will save you if you call upon Him with your whole heart - He will do it right now, if you do so - it isn't the prayer that saves you, it you accepting God for whom God is - your Lord and rightful Master.  It is you trusting God's character - that He will save you even though you don't deserve it, even though your prayer is going to be inadequate, and even though you've spent your whole life in rebellion against his rule - He will save you if you turn away from your rebellion and believe that He will do what He has promised to do (save you if you call upon His name).

So you just need to not only repent. but continue on living in surrender to the will of God in order to become a mature believer.  That's where we step from James, to what Peter has said.  As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, Peter tells us that we already have all that we need (if we are Christians) to mature in Christ (i.e. to live godly lives).

God grants us all things pertaining to living the godly life "through the knowledge of Him [Christ]".  Did you know the semantic range of the word translated "knowledge" or sometimes "real/true knowledge" includes the word recognition?  Here is the thing with a semantic range - we can't just flip through the list of English that can be used to express the nuance of the this one Greek, and pick one that we like best.  The list itself taken as a whole gives nuance to whichever word best suits the context.  The "knowledge" described here shouldn't be woodenly understood as merely possessing specific information - it describes knowledge as something one has recognized to as true.

I don't want to make more of this than can be found in Peter's text, but the knowledge of Christ that Peter describes, may it may help you to understand the fullness of what Peter is saying if you understand the "knowledge of Christ" as a first hand knowledge acquired through recognizing the person of Christ as the Source within us Who provokes our godly desires.

I hope I am conveying the point adequately.  It is easy for the new believer to view himself as so insignificant to God that the whole matter of Christianity is rather impersonal.  Yes "Christ is in us" and all that - but we don't really feel him there, and we have nothing of substance - nothing tangible to point to and say this is Jesus, and not just my own intuition, or what have you.  For this reason, many new believers flounder about in their faith, looking for something substantial, and interpreting all many of things (feelings, intuitions, and all kinds of superstitious nonsense) as being the presence of the person of Christ, or the provocation of the Holy Spirit.  How many would-be prophets imagine themselves possessed of the power to sniff out sin in someone else's life because they ave both an over active imagination and have mistaken their own (often misguided and wrong) intuition as something spiritual?  The enemy surely has a hand in this sort of deception.

But Christ -is- in every genuine believer (through the indwelling Holy Spirit), and the first work of any faith is to draw near to the person (rather than to the idea) of Christ.  When we learn that our "flesh" ("old man", "sinful nature" or whatever you choose to call our default and un-erasable disposition to pursue our own desires) is entirely incapable of generating anything godly, and we begin to recognize that those genuine godly desires we experience must come from Christ - we must recognize the person of Christ in these convictions if we are going to increase in our "knowledge of Him".

Peter tells us that the first step (and dare I say, the foundational step) we ought to take in our sanctification - is to grow in this knowledge of Christ.  This involves three things - an informed (i.e. biblical) understanding of who Christ is (which is cumulatively acquired through a sustaining study of the scriptures), constant (and not shallow) prayer, and the sound knowledge of one's own depravity - which grants discernment in the matter of where a particular desire is coming from (Christ, or us).

Peter describes the journey from unsanctified, to sanctified as being in murky darkness, but being able to see, and follow a light in that darkness, until the day dawns (in our heart).  It is a perfect illustration, for we all start off sort of clueless, spiritually speaking, and though we share Christ's desire that we live lives pleasing to God the Father, yet we start off ignorant of how to get from here to there.  The text of 2 Peter 1, describes that path like a map, and in seeing our own situation (we are in need of this map) answered in the scriptures, we find comfort, joy, and hope in the reassurance that fuels our perseverance.

Make no mistake: knowing Christ isn't some airy-fairy thing where we pray to him, and he answers us audibly or through emotions and feelings - knowing Christ is recognizing Him in our lives, and surrendering our will, not to an idea - but to a person.  It is recognizing that there it is a Person who is impressing us with the desire to live lives that are godly, and learning to draw near to that person through our obedience - for the sake of drawing near to that Person!

You won't get there through pew-warming.  You won't get there through mastering your theology.  You won't get there by doing good, attending church, or involving yourself in one or more ministries - not through charity; the only way you can draw near to God is through humility (i.e. the genuine obedience that flows only from a fully surrendered heart).  You get there through Christ, and not through your own efforts.  As Christ becomes a real Person to you, and not just a religious truth you are personally convinced of, or an idea that you subscribe to - but because a person with a real personality, and becomes a person that you actually talk to (rather than "at") in prayer, you will begin to recognize Him in your life, and to "know" him - and when you do, you naturally add on to that all the things from the well of God's supply that lay dormant but available to you even now.

Having said all that, there are probably dozens of ways one can describe this same thing.  I am not suggesting that this is the definitive text that portrays this reality - I am saying that this is one text amongst many that if mined will reveal the necessity of having a real, living relationship with Christ, and how your entire Christian life is supposed to be about that.  You cannot live for God's glory - but Christ can live through you for God's glory, and insofar as you share in that through you union with Christ - you will also live, yet not you, but Christ in you.
posted by Daniel @ 11:09 AM   1 comment(s)
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