Friday, June 29, 2007

Public & Personal

Across this nation there is a thought that gets expressed like this:

“I think that religion is a personal thing.”

or

“Religion is strictly personal.”

These statements may be translated:

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

or

“I don’t want you to talk about it.”

or

“Please get off my back!”

Well, really, religion has to be personal--Jesus Christ is a person. He loves people. That is personal. Also, in the last 50 or so years, there has risen in evangelical circles an expression that sounds like this, “Receive Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior.” This was a reaction to the impersonal deism of church membership.

Yes, Christianity is personal. After it becomes personal it must become public. Let’s look at how Jesus expects the “personal” to become public:

What I tell you in the dark (personal), speak in the daylight (public); what is whispered in your ear (personal) proclaim from the roofs (public). (Matthew 10:27 NIV)

If you do not wish to be publicly identified with Jesus and the Bible now, then He will not identify with you publicly later.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26 NIV)

Christianity is not personal in a private way. Christianity is personal in a public way. “The isolated Christian is an anomaly.”*

If a Christian were really private and private only and still a Christian, he would be like a finger removed from the body, existing by itself. It would have no source of food, sight, or smell. It could not continue to exist. If it could exist, it would be of no use to the rest of the body. So we say there is no such thing as a private Christian. He is part of the Church, the body of Christ.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16 NIV)

Christianity is personal and public. It is not possible to hide behind the words “personal and private” and still meet the minimum qualifications of a Christian given by Jesus.


* Quote from “Total Christian War” by Howard Guiness

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Church Growth

They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:3, 4 NIV)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. (Acts 9:31 NIV)


These two paragraphs have something in common. The church grew in numbers in both cases. There was a difference, though. In the first case, the church was persecuted, and in the second, the church enjoyed a time of peace. The conclusion is that church growth is not related directly to persecution or peace; it is related directly to preaching of the gospel in power. The church can die under persecution, but it does not have to. The church can die in peace, but it does not have to. The church died in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey because of persecution. The church, in this century, died in Northern Europe without persecution. The birthplace of first-century Christians and the birthplace of the reformation are now very needy mission fields. The church is designed by God to flourish under any form of government or religion.

Today we have prohibitive governments and religions: Communism, other totalitarian governments, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism (in Israel) and many animistic cultures. All of these, when in control, are very anti evangelical Christians. To ask those who do not believe to stop persecuting believers is not God’s way. It is asking the devil to play fair.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:2-4 NIV)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel… (Ephesians 6:18, 19 NIV)

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 NIV)

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:29, 31 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Preach as You Go

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 10:7 NIV)

At least in recent Christian history, preaching is something that takes place at a certain place, at a certain hour, not too often and not too long. It also requires much preparation by the preacher. This, however, does not seem to be what Jesus said. He said it again in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19: “…As you go, make disciples of all nations.” “Preaching” and “making disciples” should be a normal part of our daily life, not a special part. Nor should it be a normal part for special people. Here is a Biblical example:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (Acts 8:1, 4 NIV)

Everyone except the apostles were preaching as they went. This, if “all” means “all,” meant thousands of people and perhaps tens of thousands. Let us encourage one another to preach as we go.

We have been intimidated by people who say, “Don’t preach to me.” Who made them the authority on what we should do? The One who has all authority told us to preach as we go.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, June 25, 2007

God's Grace (part 1)

His love has no limit;
His grace has no measure;
His power no boundary known unto man.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
--Annie Johnson Flint

Here are a few phrases from the Scriptures describing grace in quantitative terms:

...how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:15 NIV)

...grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV)

...God’s abundant provision of grace... (Romans 5:17 NIV)

...Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2 NIV)

But he gives us more grace... (James 4:6 NIV)

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:16 NIV)

...and much grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33 NIV)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you... (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

...because of the surpassing grace God has given you. (2 Corinthians 9:14 NIV)

...in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us... (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)

God is not stingy with grace. He is not a miser. He does not dole out grace in driblets. As a result, we who know Him know Him as wealthy in grace.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Everlasting God

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)

I have no comment on the text.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Love

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. (Luke 6:32 NIV)

This kind of love is not a distinctively Christian trait. In fact, Jesus said that “even sinners love those who love them.” Many Christians love those who love them or love lovely people and think that they are evidencing Christian love, when in fact, they are loving in a humanistic fashion. In other words, they love in the same way every other human being loves. There is a distinctive love that only Christians have. They have it because they received it when it was given to them by the Lord.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

His love for us had nothing to do with our loveliness or our love for Him. It had to do with His nature and our need. When we share this love with others, it should have nothing to do with others’ love for us or their loveliness. Jesus said,

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35a NIV)

If you are not loving as Christ loved, you are either a disobedient Christian or you are not a Christian.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Our Nation Must First Be Righteous

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34

Since the Second World War the United States has been trying to replace dictatorships with democracy. The reason? One is bad and the other is good!

If you have a nation made up of Shiites and Sunnis or Hamas and Fatah democracy will elect one of the two. In Latin American where there is capitalism and communism, democracy will elect one of the two. In none of these cases do we get a righteous nation. Instead of exporting democracy we should export righteousness. In order to export it, we must have it to export.

We, as a nation, do not think we should export righteousness, so we export democracy hoping that will turn into a righteousness.

In order to have a righteous nation, the king (or government) and the people must be righteous.

The righteousness that Proverbs is speaking of is the righteousness that comes from God. That righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

“Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.” Romans 10:3

“For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15

It looks like it is up to the Christians with beautiful feet to tell kings and people of the righteousness that comes from God.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the British Isles sent out many great and productive missionaries to all parts of the world.

For some reason the United Kingdom now needs missionaries from Africa and India to help Britain receive the righteousness that comes from God.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Seek Righteousness

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17

Do you see the sequence, the cause and effect? Peace, quietness, and confidence are the result of righteousness.

We see it in the New Testament in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is the result of righteousness from God.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Purity comes first then peace.

Do you want peace in your heart? Seek the righteousness from God. Do you want peace in the world proclaim the righteousness from God.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mind of Man

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11 NIV)

One of the things I see often is people judging with absolute certainty the thoughts and motives of another person. To them, it is self-evident. The text quoted is a rhetorical question. Paul is not asking for a show of hands on who knows another person’s thoughts. He is saying that man cannot know the thoughts of another man. We could know if the man told us and we could know if we had the man’s spirit. We could also know if God revealed the man’s thoughts to us. Until then, we must not judge the thoughts of another person. We guess! We guess wrongly and then act on our guess as if we were right.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Faith and the Intellect

In a recent McLaurin Institute newsletter there was an interview with their campus minister at the University of Minnesota, Pete Lackey.

Here is one of the questions and Pete’s answer:

Institute: Can you describe your ministry to students at the Institute?

Lackey: The Mars Hill version is a really unique one. In a word, it’s all about assisting students with their “cognitive conversion.” That is, in the fragmented world in which we live, it’s really easy for students (and others) to embrace a faith that is “spiritually” robust but “intellectually” inadequate. The result is an unhealthy compartmentalization of faith, life and studies—and eventually vocation. My goal with the Mars Hill Students is to help students first to realize and then to actualize the truth that Jesus Christ exercises jurisdiction over every realm of thought and life—even the university! Together, we explore what this means as students and as future leaders in the various spheres of our culture.

Minnesota is in the Bible Belt of the north so there might be “faith that is spiritually robust but intellectually inadequate.” Here in the Northwest I have not seen much “robust faith.” In quite a few instances I have seen the opposite where the intellectual seems more than sufficient and the faith is non existent except in words.

I remember when Regent College was founded at the University of British Columbia. It had the same intention as Pete Lackey’s to being the intellectual understanding up to the faith. In the fall of 1979 I spent a semester there. I thought that the College did a wonderful job with the intellectual. The college was not addressing the need for “faith.” The faith was not there as thought in the premise. The students came there to become godly. Many were disillusioned. Salvation and godliness is the need. If intellectual answers meet the need for them, let’s go for it. I do not think it is the need or the solution to the need.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gospel Defined #6

“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea." When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Peter's Vision

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them." Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

Peter at Cornelius' House

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us." Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” Acts 10

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gospel Defined #5

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:1-17

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gospel Defined #4

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth."

The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” Acts 8:26-39

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Gospel Defined #3

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

" 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.'

"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

" 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." '

"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:22-41

Monday, June 04, 2007

Gospel Defined #2

“Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:35-38

Friday, June 01, 2007

Catechism and Emotion

In the many evangelical churches there are several different systematic theologies. Even though there are so many differences there is something common in all of the theologies. It is that truth which saves. If it were not there, none of these churches would be Christian. However, that is not my subject.

Many of these Christians, (I would like to say “most” but I have not talked with all of them) have at least two distinct theologies each.

One of them is their church theology, the one they were taught in Sunday school or confirmation class or catechism class.

The other one is an emotional one that has its origin culturally, movies, songs, Christmas cards, novels, gossip, lack of Bible reading or much Bible reading, and the Holy Spirit. The first theology is the one they use in arguments. The second one is the one they live by, the one they trust.

There is an axiom that says “Ideas have consequences.” There is another one that I will declare right now. It is: “Emotions have consequences.” These ideas and emotions are different from each other and they are in the same person. The emotions in most cases trump the ideas. The consequences are different.

In most people there is more truth in the catechism than there is in the emotion. But the emotion is still senior. In some cases there is more truth in the emotion than there is in the catechism. This is so when the fruit of the spirit is dominant in the believer. In most cases worry, impatience, and fear describe the believer.

This needs amplifying, don’t panic.