Friday, June 18, 2010

True righteousness and holiness; exploring the righteousness of God.- Part II

Yesterday we began to look at true righteousness and holiness. Here is the passage that we quoted; Eph 4:22-24 “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Notice the phrase true righteousness and holiness. In order for Paul to speak of true righteousness and holiness... he must have been aware of false righteousness and holiness.

True righteousness is the righteousness of God or, more accurately stated, it is imputed or accredited righteousness. One of the interpretative rules for understanding the scripture is called the rule of first mention. This rule is especially instructive with the term righteousness. The first mention of the word righteousness in the bible is found in Gen 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Here we see that God accredits, accounts, imputes righteousness to people who believe what he tells them. God made a promise to Abraham. Abraham believed God’s promise. God then, accredited righteousness to Abraham based upon his faith in God. Imputed righteousness is very important in true transformation and true holiness. Imputed righteousness is the foundation of our trust in God.

Paul said this about Israel; Rom 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (2) For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Israel was ignorant of the way God declared Abraham righteous. Being ignorant of God’s righteousness is in reality, not understanding imputed righteousness. Seeking to establish ones own righteousness is practicing self righteousness. I could say what Paul said about his fellow Jews today about most of evangelical Christianity. I wish that they could be saved; I wish they could rest in God’s righteousness... His righteous provision. I wish that they would rest in the righteousness of God. If they would trust in imputed righteousness it would make them truly love God with an incredible, indescribable love. This love would then be spread abroad to others. Any obedience, any good works, any brotherly love would be the result of spiritual transformation brought about by believing in God’s love. The saint, resting in imputed righteousness is set free, given peace that translates into love works that are the result of faith.

It is not that God does not desire transformation in his children. He most definitely does and, he has provided for that transformation in the gospel. One must believe the gospel no matter what.... no matter what one sees in fleshly behavior on any given day or at any give period of time. Transformation is a process that *will* happen over time if faith in the gospel remains all the time. Resting in and trusting in imputed righteousness is the foundation of transformation. If the world needs to see anything in these times it is the love of Jesus being manifested in transformed saints that exhibit true righteousness and holiness.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

True righteousness and holiness; finding the key to real transformation.

Look at what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Eph 4:22-24 “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Notice the phrase true righteousness and holiness. In order for Paul to speak of true righteousness and holiness... he must have been aware of false righteousness and holiness.

If there is anything lacking in Christianity today, it is real... true... transformation. Real, true transformation is genuine spiritual transformation brought about by a deep abiding faith in redemption. Current evangelical doctrine causes this transformation to be still born before it can ever take a hold. The reason is that most evangelical assemblies demand read and do obedience. Read and do obedience is fleshly obedience. The current way that evangelicals are taught about transformation motivates fleshly reformation rather than spiritual transformation. Look at the two words and compare and contrast them. Reformation is the act of one reforming themselves and is primarily a fleshly endeavor. Transformation happens as the result of an outside force. In the disciple of Christ, the outside transforming force, is the radical love of God manifested in the gospel of grace. The gospel is the only thing that will bring about true transformation.

When Paul penned the words “and be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” what did he mean? Renew the mind to what? The answer... renew the mind to the gospel! Renew the mind to the mercies of God. How then does this work? How is it transformative? Well, quite frankly it is simple when you think about it. When one focuses on God mercy love and grace... especially in view of humanities great need... it actually causes one to love God very deeply. It produces peace from the realization and experience of forgiveness. This love and peace operates to cause us to feel closer to God. We acknowledge our connection to God via the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is precisely the way that we begin to participate in the divine nature. Participation in the divine nature is the source of transformation... real transformation.

Unfortunately, far too many saints are caught up in reformation... trying desperately to meet the standards set up by other saints and their particular denomination and leaders. This effort is 99% fleshly and this causes spiritual burn out and anger. It seems to me that so many saints end up being judgmental and very angry. They lack the life of Jesus in their day to day demeanor. Again, the reason is that they can only be *truly transformed* by their faith in the gospel. It never changes. We cannot outgrow this. It is not a one time thing. We did not get saved spiritually and then begin to reform ourselves by self effort after reading the scripture over and over again. Instead, we must realize God’s mercy and grace... really experience it over and over to have love consistently produced in us. God’s love for us is the transformer. It transforms us into loving people.

Here is where the body of Christ becomes important. When we meet it should be to reinforce the knowledge of God’s love and grace. That’s why Paul was determined to not do anything except preach the gospel. Yes, “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is another way of Paul saying I determine to teach and preach nothing but the gospel. We will look deeper into this transformation process over the next few posts.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why am I interested in Ted Haggard’s new ministry anyway?

You may ask yourself why a person that has embraced the idea of home church and is quite anti institutional would be so interested in Ted Haggard’s ministry. Ok, that is a fair question that needs an honest answer. First off, I have come to the conclusion that whether one has a home church or, one that meets more formally in a building designated for that purpose, the crucial ingredient is their doctrinal focus. What are they teaching about the kingdom of God? How do they view the kingdom of God? Is their focus legal/biblical or is it redemptive? Therefore, I am interested in St. James Church for its redemptive focus. After all, Ted’s story can be and, thus far appears to be, a story of redemption. It is the redemption of a man, the redemption of a family and marriage and, it is the redemption of a fellowship of believers. Especially when one considers that many of the prospective members are quite likely associated with the old ministry before the fall. Since I believe that the bible teaches that Jesus ministry and focus was solely redemptive in nature, it seems only natural to me that I would be interested in this particular ministry.

With that in mind, I would like to conduct a brief SWOT analysis of the new ministry and for any that may not be familiar with the acronym, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The threats are obvious. There are many evangelicals that are dead set against it and, vocally demonstrative of their disdain and scorn. However, I would like to focus on the opportunities.
1. They can teach the redemptive focus that Jesus taught his followers and can begin to treat the bible as the story of redemption and not a rulebook whereby God exacts penalties for non-compliance. The can be inclusive and truly present the gospel as it is simply stated over and over in the bible. The gospel is the story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and how that event brought about the forgiveness of sin and redemption.
2. They can begin to teach the focus of scripture that identifies three aspects of transformation of the Christian. These three aspects are in order Need à Rest à and reasonable service. Paul teaches that this is the only way and only order that believers can be spiritually transformed.. They must recognize their need... they must rest completely in the finished work of Jesus and then, without fear but, with loving accountability they can get on with reasonable service. In the process... they will experience transformation. There is a big difference between loving accountability and judgment based accountability and I seriously doubt that there is a fellowship today that even understands loving accountability but this one would have the chance to develop it.
3. They can model the full message of the Jesus. They can show that loving one another, their neighbors, the poor and disadvantaged, and the difficult to love. They can bring their best selves to Romans 7 and, realize, that all of us do not do the good we wished... but instead often times... we end up doing the very thing we don’t want to do, whether it is loosing patience or offending someone.... you fill in the blanks for yourself.
I will continue to follow, and blog and, offer any insight that the Lord may have given me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ted Haggard’s return to ministry; Is there a way it can be biblical?

Ted and Gayle Haggard announced yesterday that they would be starting a church fellowship, Sunday, June 6, 2010. The name of the new fellowship is St James focusing on the phrase from James’ epistle “faith without works is dead.” I personally would have chosen the phrase “mercy triumphs over judgment” but, that’s me. Ted had a very public fall three and one half years ago and he himself admits that many evangelicals would think him unqualified to be a pastor.

So on to the question; is there a way that this could be biblical? Well, if one adopts the normal grammatical historical hermeneutic and sees the entire bible as the word of God the answer is definitely not. However, if one adopts the hermeneutic that Jesus taught his followers... then, I think the answer would be yes indeed. It has been my contention in this blog that Jesus taught a solely redemptive purpose to scripture. He taught that the entire scripture pointed to him and his redemptive work and he redefined the phrase “word of God” to mean either himself/Jesus the living word or, the gospel. This reinforces the redemptive purpose.

One can legitimately see the bible as the story of redemption, a narrative about God’s mercy, love and, grace. As that, it should not be used as a rule book for faith and practice. You can find the proof of this through out the various articles on this blog. It is a very complex idea (especially with the current evangelical lens) but when it is explored thoughtfully as I have tried to do in this blog, the evidence becomes overwhelming. There is so much about current evangelical doctrine that is off the mark and this saddens me and yet, I rejoice in seeing Jesus as my savior and, as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let’s face it, there are many people who have a relationship with Jesus and trust him as their Lord and Savior who do not square very well with the ideals of evangelical doctrine.

In fact, I am certain that Ted would testify that he is acutely aware of the Holy Spirit anointing that is on his life even now. He would admit that even when he was living a dual existence, that the Spirit of God was still, then, working mightily in and through him in his ministry.

My prayers are with Ted and Gayle. They have a celebrity status among many people in this country and, can bring a lot of influence on the thinking of evangelicals around the world. I would hope that they would look a little more deeply into this redemptive hermeneutic and, using it, become a force that will help to bring Christianity a little closer to the redemptive purpose of Jesus of Nazareth. This new fellowship could become a great voice in advancing the gospel of the kingdom of God and, the gospel of Christ. This is for all of those that see the hypocrisy and error of evangelicalism and yet still love and worship Jesus.

The two overriding messages of the scripture

While this blog is dedicated to my paradigm shift it is also about the way in which evangelical Christianity is off the mark in doctrine and...