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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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Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Talking 'Bout Love...
Often the first real hurdle of faith for the new believer comes the day that they get serious about being a Christian. They begin to wonder, even as the disciples did (c.f John 6:25-29) what they must do in order to be doing godly works.

Our Lord answers the question thus: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." [ESV]

I expect that some people read this answer and interpret it to mean that there was only is only one work that Christians should concern themselves with: believing on the One whom God sent (Jesus).

But that is not what Jesus is saying. rewriting the answer in a less ambiguous way, our Lord was saying that, "Believing on Christ is God's work". Paul echoes the thought in his letter to the congregation at Philippi (2:13), "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

The answer the Lord gave was that you don't do God's work; He does it Himself, in you. Now that wasn't the answer they were looking for. They wanted a checklist of things to do, but what they got was a theological truth, that they weren't doing God's work, but that God Himself was doing God's work in them.

Even as that must have seemed less than helpful to the disciples in Christ's day, I expect that seems equally less than helpful to the modern new believer, but the message is a simple one. "You" can't do God's work, only God can do God's work. If that causes your head to reel a bit, all it means is that it is wrong to think of the work of faith as something you do in order to please God, the proper mindset is to recognize that the only reason you want to please God is because God is in you through the person of the Holy Spirit.

One might ask how it was that a believer became a believer in the first place? was the crown of Christianity sitting atop a high mountain that the believer climbed by his own power, wrested from its secure place, and placed it upon his own brow? Was it the believer's mighty intellect that unlocked the gospel riddle, and the believers own great morality that saw the justice in the gospel, and by the guidance of his own intellect and superior morality he chose to believe? Not so. He was incapable of even comprehending the scriptures apart from an act of divine intervention. How did the new believer receive Christ? He received Christ when he abandoned his life long rebellion against God, and sought instead to put himself back under God's rule, by faith. Both the repentance (turning away from His rebellion against God) and his faith were gifts of God (c.f. faith - Ephesians 2:8, repentance - Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25).

We ask the question about how one becomes a believer, for this purpose, it answers the question about how one should walk as a believer, since Paul answers that question in his letter to the believers at Colosse (c.f. Colossians 2:6) when he writes, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,"

Do you get that? What am I supposed to "do" as a Christian? Do what you did when you first believed. What did you do? You surrendered yourself entirely to the work that God was doing in you. You didn't have a choice, God who cannot fail, was drawing you to Himself (c.f. John 6:44-45), and every person whom God thus draws to Himself, comes.

Yet it is clear that even as God drew you to Himself, you weren't a mindless puppet in the process. You (eventually) wanted to come to God more than you wanted to resist Him, and this was the work of God Himself. He was at work in you, providing you with the will and the means to come to Him: and so you came. Paul tells us that we should walk with God in the same way that we received Him.

That's something of a riddle even for well seasoned believers, or more accurately, even for those believers who have for years tried to Christians in some other way.

One of the greatest hurdles for believers of all stripes is learning to walk by faith. Walking by faith, or walking in the Spirit, walking in love, or putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, etc. is not something you can "do" so much as something you surrender to. Let me explain.

When you think of love, you are probably thinking of a bond of affection. The bible has words to describe this kind of affection. Eros is an "erotic" affection where phileo describes the affection between friends. Storge, appears only once, and then as a part of a compound word, but it means the affection between family members. When the New Testament wants to describe the affection of love, it uses the word phileo. But the word agape is not as affectionate, if it can be called affectionate at all. It describes an utter commitment to someone else, a commitment whose very nature obliterates and replaces any commitment to self. We use words like "sacrifice" or (rather dully) "charity" to describe it, because this kind of love is not characterized, or motivated by, affection, it is characterized by self-sacrificing service, and if it can be said to be motivated by anything, it would be motivated by character.  I am of the opinion that since the fall of Adam, only Christ has ever loved God (and therefore others) from a flawless character.  If something truly selfless should flow from a believer, be sure that it does not flow from the character of the believer, but rather from the character of Christ who is in that believer - and this, only in a moment when the believer is genuinely surrendered to the will of God.

But many see only the notion of a greater or superior affection in this word, and are confused therefore when the scriptures explain the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God. They think the command is to have a great affection for God - a warm fuzzy feeling, that is warmer, and fuzzier than any other warm fuzzy feelings you can muster. But what the command is saying is that you are to commit yourself entirely to God, mind, soul, body and strength. It is not a feeling, it is self sacrifice on the altar of God. That is how you became a Christian (you "repented" of your self rule, and accepted entirely God's rule), if in fact you ever became a Christian.

There are all sorts of people in the pew who have never surrendered the rule of their life to God, because they didn't know that doing was necessary to become a Christian. They called upon the king of kings for salvation, while their hearts were firmly set against His rule - and so their prayer deceived them, because they imagined that by it they became Christians, when in fact all that changed was their opinion of their own eternal destination.

If you find yourself in the place where you are questioning whether or not you surrendered to Christ, and are in fear that you perhaps have been living a lie, I counsel you today to see yourself as the unrepentant rebel you truly are, and to call out to the One whose right it is to rule you forevermore, and utterly and genuinely accept the yoke of obedience. You can't do that of course, unless God grants it to you, but the fact that your reading this, and see yourself in danger suggests that God is already working something out in you. Cry out to Him until you are able to call His name Lord, without lying about to yourself and Him. If you give up before then, you haven't lost anything, in fact you've gained an understanding about what sin looks like - it looks like a heart that even in the face of eternal damnation, refuses to accept God's rightful rule.

Oh my! You say. That is harsh! No, friend. That is love (agape). That is exactly what Christ did in coming to earth, that is exactly what Christ did in emptying Himself and becoming a servant. He was able to everyone else , because He lived utterly surrendered to God - at the expense of any concern for Himself. When Christ served others, He wasn't putting his life on hold for a while to do some religious work - He had no life to put aside, having surrendered all of it to God, or put another having "loved" (Agape) God. Listen if you could "love" God in this way, you would already be serving others with the same selflessness and utter commitment that Christ served others. But you can't do that because it isn't in you to do....

Well, that's not entirely true. If Christ is in you, then you are able to do it, or rather Christ is able to do it in and through you.

Did you see what I did there?

God is at work in the believer, to will and to do God's good pleasure. If Christ is in you, you may fellowship with Him by surrendering the rule of your life in this moment to His will. When you are thus surrendered you are "loving" God - it isn't an emotion, though you shouldn't be surprised if the certainty that you are right with God makes you feel warm and fuzzy. It isn't the feeling that is agape, it is the surrender, if some affection follows (phileo), and it always has for me, then that is great, but it isn't the goal. The goal is love, that is, surrender.

In closing, I should mention a thing or two about grace. have you seen in this post some truth you hadn't seen previously? If so it was not my explanation, nor was it your intellect that allowed you to see it. God was gracious. Period. If this is the first time you have heard these things, check the scriptures and convince yourself from them, and not from what I have written, that these things are so. If you find them to be false, then say so, perhaps I have misunderstood these things myself - I am fallible and I welcome valid correction when it is given for my benefit and not for another's pride. If you have questions, ask them in the meta, I will answer them as best as I can.

Having said this, I struggle to surrender my own life to Christ - that is, I struggle with the greatest commandment - to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. But I am not struggling with trying to muster up, as some do, a motivating affection - I am struggling with the primary Christian struggle, I, that is, my "old man" doesn't want to be ruled, it wants to rule. God's word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path, but I must walk that path, and it is not about what I "do" but about whom I serve, myself or God. Knowing where the struggle is, I can work out my own salvation (from rebellion/sin) with fear and trembling. I am simply inviting you to see that this is what normal Christianity should be focusing on.

I tell you the reason I am not a pastor today is because I am not there yet. How can I, in good conscience, accept a pastoral position, when it means that I haven't personally walked down the path it is my job to set others upon? How can I counsel the struggles of another, when I haven't overcome them myself? The scriptures are clear on this matter - except that a man is filled with the Spirit, he should not be an elder (pastor). One of the reasons the modern church is so impotent is because people are qualified according to their scholarship and personality rather than according to their love.

You who want to be a pastor... Do you even have a wife? If you do, are you truly setting your own life aside, having committed yourself to enriching hers at the expense of your own? How about children? Are you selflessly serving them - teaching your family the way they should go, by walking in surrender yourself? If you cannot do this for those whom you are most affectionate, how will you do this for those you have no affection for? It is good to desire the office of a pastor, but I think is a colossal mistake to enter into it while these things are still being worked out.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Consider this well known exchange:

Jesus: do you agapao me? (do you utterly sacrifice yourself to me?)
Peter: I phileo you. (I have a great affection for you)

Jesus: do you agapao me? (do you utterly sacrifice yourself to me?)
Peter: I phileo you. (I have a great affection for you)

Jesus: "do you phileo me?" (do you truly have a great affection for me?)
Peter: I phileo you. (I have a great affection for you)

Consider these passages also:
For Demas, in love (AGAPAO) with this present world (i.e. having committed himself entirely over to this present world), has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica - 2 Timothy 4:10 [ESV]

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved (AGAPAO) the darkness (i.e. having sacrificed given themselves entirely over to the darkness) rather than the light because their works were evil. - John 3:19 [ESV]

for they loved (AGAPAO) the glory that comes from man (i.e. they were utterly committed to seeking glory from man) more than the glory that comes from God. - John 12:43 [ESV]
posted by Daniel @ 10:43 AM  
11 Comments:
  • At 10:51 AM, March 06, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Just to stave off any concerns about the remark, "Do you even have a wife?" - I am not suggesting that one needs a wife in order to qualify for the office of pastor. I am just saying that the church who calls a pastor who lacks a wife, has less to work with in determining if the candidate is qualified. No man can serve his family selflessly, unless he is walking in love (ie.e walking in a way that is utterly commited to others at the expesnse of one's self.) It is easier then to qualify or disqualify a married man because there is more evidence to qualify or disqualify him...

     
  • At 12:15 AM, March 12, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are too hard on yourself. Even from here I can see that God is with you. HE has given you discernment & understanding. YOU will never be perfect. It is obvious to me that HE leads you & guides you. If you lived near me, It would be an honor, to hear you speak about what God has shown you.

    Just my opinion..... pastor.

    Chris Roath
    Monroe WA 98272

     
  • At 8:05 AM, March 13, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Thanks for the encouragement Chris.

    Well, if I have to be too hard on someone, it is best it be myself than others.

    Thanks again,

    Dan
    <><

     
  • At 9:12 AM, March 25, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Daniel, Do you have any thoughts on why Jesus changed from use of the word agapeo to phileo on the third question to Peter? I'm reading a bit on this now and there seems to be differing views, one of which suggesting that there really is not much difference in context here between the two words (even though there is in the Greek, but their original conversation probably was in Aramaic, which I'm also looking into in my Aramaic-to-English Bibles). Just wondering if you might have light to shed on the subject.

    I lament how the Church has, I think, adopted the contemporary understanding of the word "love" and inserted that understanding into the reading of the word in Holy Writ.

     
  • At 10:28 AM, March 25, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon,

    Peter had just denied Christ three times after boasting that he would never do that. HIs boast was, for all purposes, the boast of agape, but when the time came to apapeo, Peter was for himself.

    I don't think for a moment that it is coincidental that our Lord plies the question three times, and changes it up at the end. Remember, this conversation is taking place after the resurrection, but prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

    The Lord asks Peter twice, do you really commit yourself utterly to me, and Peter answers, I am honestly your friend. Peter was unwilling this time to boast more than he was able, having learned something of his true nature. The shift in the third question was, I think, an expression of Christ's own acceptance of Peter's friendship, Are you my friend? I am your friend.

    Now, if agapeo describes an utter commitment to another, a self sacrificing heart that leaves no room for itself in its ministries, it follows that this word would be used in hyperbole to describe a great affection (I.E. Are you willing to give up everything for me? An affirmative answer suggests a great affection). In this way I think the words are related, of course, so that the distinctions would not apply where the word is being used in hyberbole.

    Let me know if that helped, or if I should put a finer point on it.

     
  • At 10:40 AM, March 26, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Daniel,

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to explain your thinking to me.

    I don't understand the main point you are trying to make in your last paragraph with respect to hyperbole and how it would relate to distinguishing between Christ's use of agapeo and phileo.

    Similarly, I'm not sure if those words really are distinguished in the Aramaic (in which Peter and Christ probably spoke to one another), which the Eastern church recognizes as the original language for the New Testament. However, given that most of the West accepts the original language as koine Greek, I want to understand why the words are so distinguished in this exchange between Jesus and Peter. (The NET Bible doesn't see the difference of word usage as being of any significance, suggesting that in other places the two words are used somewhat interchangeably. I would guess that would be an area of dispute among scholars.)

    Still, if I accept that the koine Greek uses those terms for a reason – by the Holy Spirit's inspiration – then why would Jesus move from the greater to the lesser? The only initial reason I could think of is that Jesus is accepting Peter's lesser faith. Lesser love. The place where Peter was in his walk (aha – light bulb just went off – Peter without the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit – is that what you were saying?).

    So Jesus is asking Peter – in essence, prompting Peter – do you love me as you are to love God (with all your heart, soul, mind and strength) and interestingly, Peter does not reply with the boldness (or brazenness) of his earlier boast (I would never dessert you). Peter instead perhaps in some humility responds with what he knows he is. Is this what you are saying? Peter is saying and acknowledging in some sense his own lack.

    And Jesus, in His mercy and grace, asks Peter the final question which is where Peter is able to respond in kind to Jesus' query. I mean, Jesus knows who Peter is and what he (Peter) is capable of (without the Holy Spirit), but perhaps Peter doesn't and the downgrading of the question (from agapeo to phileo) is for Peter's (and of course, the eventual readers') sake(s).

    Am I close to what you were saying?

     
  • At 11:26 AM, March 26, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon - you're better than close, I would say.

    re: hyperbole. If you asked me how the game went yesterday, and I replied that we got slaughtered, you wouldn't imagine that I meant we were literally slaugtered, but rather I was using the word in a figurative sense to describe a rather disappointing defeat.

    If I wanted to describe a great affection, therefore, and the word agape was in our common vocabularly, Instead of saying I have a very great affection for you, I might say that I have agapeo for you - which I wouldn't literally have, but we would both understand to mean that I had a great affection for you, since I used a word that described an utterly selfless commitment to someone else.

    The point was that using the two words (apparently) interchangeably, does not necessarily mean that they were understood to be synonymous. It may mean that the word (like many in every language) had both a proper, and an improper usage. To the modern reader, such a nuance would be difficult to determine and even more so to prove. If I form a theological conviction that depends, in whole or in part, upon a unilateral assumption of the synonymity of agapeo and phileo, it is unlikely I am going to be inclined to entertain a more nuanced understanding. Why switch to a new wine if I am already happy with the old?

    Thanks again for taking the time to discuss this, and feel free to ask for more clarification if I have left anything foggy.

     
  • At 8:16 AM, March 27, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're not saying here, however, that Christ was using hyperbole. That's where I got confused when it was first mentioned.

    It's really just that Jesus was saying (for Peter's and all of His followers' sakes) - driving home the point through repetition - that we are to get to the love that God requires (all heart, soul, mind, strength), but we in our flesh can't.

    Hyperbole doesn't enter into the discussion because God command is that we have such love for Him, and in Jesus' questioning of Peter, He is letting Peter know that he doesn't have that love. We can, as Peter did, acknowledge same and that we require Christ for such love (agapeo).

     
  • At 8:34 AM, March 27, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon,

    I apologize if I have been expressing myself in a confounding way. I was not suggesting that our Lord was using hyperbole in this passage...

    What I was suggesting was that the word agapeo had a formal meaning, which Christ was using here, but that in other places where agapeo and phileo seem to be synonymous, it is because agapeo was being employed informally as an hyperbole suggesting a greater phileo.

    I hope that clears it up. I was simply giving an apology for the academic opinion expressed in the NET bible commentary. Indeed, Apageo and Phileo are often used interchangeably, but I do not conclude by this that the two are perfect synonyms. The main nuance of phileo is the affection of friendship, and the main nuance of agapeo is a selfless, commitment to another. We (apart from Christ) are capable of the one (affection) but not the other (selfless commitment to another).

    I hesitate to say that we who are in Christ are not able to selflessly commit ourselves to another, because that suggests that this is a kind of ability rather than a person. The reality is that Jesus is committed to selflessly serving others, and when we surrender to Him, it is His selfless commitment to others that is being expressed in and through us, not our own (as it were).

    In the one sense only then, are we able to serve another selflessly - when we are surrendered to Christ and walking in faith, we are able, yet not us, but Christ in us.

    Let me know if that helped.

     
  • At 8:36 AM, March 27, 2013, Blogger Daniel said…

    I said:


    I hesitate to say that we who are in Christ are not able to selflessly commit ourselves to another

    I meant to say:


    I hesitate to say that we who are in Christ are now able to selflessly commit ourselves to another

     
  • At 7:50 PM, March 30, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Daniel, I'm sorry it's taken me awhile to get back to reading this. I've been busy.

    Yes, your last clarification helps indeed.

    Thank you again, and may you and your family be truly richly blessed by our Lord as we celebrate His resurrection in the morrow.

    Χριστός ἀνέστη!!!

     
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