Saturday, October 27, 2012

The message of faith we preach; Confessions of a recovering evangelical 7... another view of election


Before you read this blog post, may I suggest that you read Romans NLT, 9-10-11 at the Bible Gateway? Please read it in its entirety. Keep in mind election. I think you will find that Paul is explaining why many, faithful, Torah observant Jews will be judged harshly in 70CE, and why some Jews and Gentiles will not. It does not support hyper-Calvinism. Most importantly, Romans 11:32 , plainly, unequivocally, supports the idea of universal reconciliation. This makes the pure gospel message… grace alone, faith alone, for the glory of God alone very important.
(Romans 10:8-17 NLT)  In fact, it says, "The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart." And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:  (9)  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (10)  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.  (11)  As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced."  (12)  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him.  (13)  For "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."  (14)  But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?  (15)  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, "How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!"  (16)  But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, "LORD, who has believed our message?"  (17)  So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
The above passage of scripture is from the New Living Translation. I would strongly suggest that you get a copy of that some way. You can get it through e-sword, a free online bible software that I highly recommend, or you can simply buy a pew bible, hardback for about $10. If you get it from e-sword there is a fee from the publisher for downloading because the rights to the NLT are owned by Tyndale House Publishers. At any rate, it is written in very understandable English, and it really makes some of the harder passages become crystal clear. While I admit that at times it is tweaked to support a fundamental, evangelical, orthodox view of scripture, the fact is that translators could not keep that going throughout the entire work because there are areas that there is huge disagreement among evangelical fundamentalists, and the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapter of Romans is one of them.

I suggest that at the very least you go to one of the online bibles and read Romans, chapters nine, ten, and eleven in the NLT version in one setting. There you will find the explanation of why God chose some Jews and some Gentiles to be saved from impending judgment. You can more clearly see that God elected certain ones for the judgment of 70CE among both Jews, and Gentiles, and that by reading Romans 11:32 -36 you will more clearly see the mystery of God’s great love and his ultimate universal reconciliation of all mankind.

This makes the passage that I have featured here all the more important. The good news should be proclaimed and believed. Believing the good news has great reward even while still on this earth. The good news provides eternal assurance of God’s love but, here and now it provides the method for completely resting and trusting in God. It provides the catalyst for the transformation… that is the transformation of fallen humans into reconciled beings that are able to love unconditionally. That will finally only come when more and more groups believe the real gospel in community… what is the real gospel you ask? Simply put it is this: “(9)  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (10)  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”

How beautiful upon the mountain tops…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical VI; Grace and ethics


When one looks at the religions of the world, I would lump atheists in that group... what is it that sets Christianity apart? Is it a higher standard of ethics? Not really, in this postmodern world ethics is held in fairly high regard by many of the groups. Some groups have pet issues that they elevate beyond others, but on the whole, especially in the western world ethics is held in high esteem. So then, it is not ethics that separates Christianity from other belief systems.

The concept that separates Christianity from other religions and belief systems is grace; that is, grace defined as unmerited favor. We live in a world chock full of ethics and ethical codes, and very, very little grace. All of the isms that have fairly high ethical codes really have no grace. Forgiveness is rare; turning the other cheek unheard of. And yet, the thing that truly sets Christianity apart is God’s grace. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting sin.” Read those words over and over and ponder them… that is simply an amazing and unbelievable concept. If we are to be Godlike, that is, emulate God’s behavior, first and foremost we must possess grace. We must be willing to pass grace on to others daily.

Grace produces the highest ethical behavior of all. Grace produces love… genuine love for God, and as a result of that love, a gracious love for others. We er'e greatly when we demand legal ethics over grace. When we focus on legal constitutional ethics we remove grace from the equation. In true Christianity, not the questionable facsimile known as orthodox evangelical fundamentalism, but in true Christianity which is synonymous with following and emulating Christ, grace, and grace alone is the catalyst for a much higher ethical position. It starts with God’s grace to humanity, embraced, trusted, and totally relied upon and it then flows through humanity to others.

The kind of grace I am writing about is stifled, retarded if you will allow the term, by the insistence on legal constitutional ethics and obedience. This legal constitutional ethics finds its most repugnant manifestation in the Christian right. If the proponents of the Christian right had their way there would be little difference between their form of rule and sharia law. The form of rule they would adopt is a legal constitutional moral code of ethics based upon their interpretation of the bible and would be VOID of grace.

Redemptive ethics works very differently. It is rooted in forgiveness and second chances. The God of Christianity is the author of 490 second chances… 70 X 7 really means unlimited chances. If we were to get that ingrained in our minds… renewed to our minds… I beseech ye brethren by the mercies of God… That is Grace my friend. The mercies of God, is God’s grace. It is unlimited, unmerited favor. Oh if Christianity would only truly preach the gospel and nothing else!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical 5; Trusting in Moses


John 5:45  Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.
Most of the first century Jews trusted in Moses.  They trusted in the Torah to help them find eternal life and right standing before God.  The scribes and the Pharisees were scriptural and hermeneutical experts. They even used the Torah to justify that Jesus was not their Messiah (John 7:47-49.) So then, the history of both Judaism and Christianity is filled with examples of people who trusted and rested in the scripture but were just plain wrong. Remember the Pharisees words, “have any of the scribes and Pharisees believed in him?--- but, this crowd who does not know the Law is accursed.” They were confident after rigorous scripture study that Jesus could not be the Messiah.  If you check out John 7:40-42 you will find that there too, they ruled out Jesus as Messiah because of the reading of the Torah, and interestingly, John 7:39 explains that the Holy Spirit had not yet been given.

On the other hand, Jesus and his followers taught that the Spirit not the scripture would lead one into all truth, and would bring out of the inner being rivers of living water (John 7:38.) If you fast forward to the twenty-first century you find within evangelical fundamental orthodoxy all to many… perhaps most… trusting Moses. When you read the words of John 5:39 through 46 it becomes clear that Jesus could have as easily been talking to the evangelical, fundamental, orthodox church as he was to the Jews. Today, the evangelical orthodox church has placed their real trust in Moses. They claim to be trusting the Spirit, but the real truth is they are trusting in Moses. They are trusting in the written code.

Most evangelicals believe that the scripture is so clear on many issues. They believe that it is crystal clear on sin, hell, marriage, homosexuality, obedience and on and on. Is that really so? I say unequivocally absolutely not. It may seem crystal clear when one reads it trusting Moses…. what I mean by that is reading it as a legal constitutional document that spells out obedience and disobedience. But when one looks at it through spiritual eyes it is not nearly so clear. The fact is that the scripture points to Jesus, redemption, and God’s amazing grace. When one views it that way many of the crystal clear areas become either not clear at all, or not really germane.

No doubt many will retort with the reminder that faith without works is dead, or they will ask the question should we sin so that grace may abound. That is not new… they were saying that in the days of the apostle Paul. Here is a question that one should ask. What does having rivers of *living water* flowing from ones innermost being look like? What is life giving water anyway? I will tell you plain and simply. Life giving water is the refreshing assurance of God’s grace as shown by the gospel message. God was in Christ not counting sin against humanity. He made Jesus who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might then be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. That produces the peaceful, life giving rivers of water flowing from the heart… the inner being. Living waters brings love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self control. Yes indeed, the living water is the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of trusting Moses is death!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Observations of a recovering evangelical 4; nullifying the grace of God


I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
(Gal 2:21)
When you stop and think about it… when you really look at it, evangelical orthodoxy has nullified the grace of God. That is a shame because when one does that according to Paul, Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is for nothing… no purpose… null and void. Yes, it is a shame. For the most part, evangelical orthodoxy only gives lip service to the righteousness of God. It does not receive much practical consideration. Why? the answer is simple; evangelical orthodoxy busies itself with establishing law righteousness. Each and every time one begins to establish righteousness by the law, grace is nullified.

Look carefully at Paul’s words from Romans 3:21-22  “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--  (22)  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:” This is the thing that distinguishes Paul’s message, he introduces *the righteousness of God* imputed for faith. In the original language it is “dikaiosune theou.”  Notice that the noun theos (God) is theou (genitive case) and it literally means God’s righteousness. This is the verse that liberated Martin Luther. And guess what… when I was driven back to Christ, twenty plus years ago, it is the verse that liberated me.

Yes, I had been raised a fundamentalist as a child up to young adult, and I had NEVER heard about God’s righteousness imputed for placing faith in Jesus. How many poor souls go through a life, in the church, and never hear about the righteousness of God, imputed? Dare I say most? Definitely without concern of being wrong I can say most… additionally, many of those who have would say that it does not really mean that one is imputed God’s righteousness as a free gift for all time.  See, evangelical orthodox doctrine and dogma is daily nullifying grace. They do not think twice about it. They think that they are doing God a service by nullifying grace. What does it mean to nullify grace? Simply make it ineffective. When graced is nullified it has no effect. That is so sad because in reality grace is what transforms the individual into a more Christ like being. Let me SHOUT THIS! IT IS NOT THE LAW AND LAW OBEDIENCE THAT TRANSFORMS… IT IS GRACE THAT TRANSFORMS!!!!!

How does grace transform you ask? Well, I can understand why you ask. There are so few people teaching about the transformation power of grace that it is a total secret from the people of God. Let me promise you this. It is on the heads and hands of the smug leaders that teach and preach. They are the ones that are nullifying the grace of God and making the cross of Christ of no effect! It is way past time to proclaim the righteousness of God. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting sin… He made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we then might be the righteousness of God!!! IT IS A GIFT… IT IS A GIFT THAT IF TRULY BELIEVED WILL TRANSFORM!

Are many evangelicals spiritual jihadists?

Notice right off the bat that I say many and not all evangelicals are spiritual jihadists. A Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Muslims,...