October 2009

Monthly Archive

For-give-ness

Posted by on 30 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Church Fathers, Forgiveness, John Piper, Keswick Convention

Giving Away the Right to Get Even

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Col 3:12-14 (ESV)

For-give-ness is not getting even: it is giving away the right to get even. [John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 36.] We have committed grave injustices in the world. In fact, we have acted in such a way that we place ourselves above all others. By our behavior, attitudes, and actions we have turned the world upside down by making ourselves the center of attention instead of God and his glory. When God forgives us, he chooses to forget all the wrongs that we have done to him and all damage that we have done to others. Because of Christ’s awesome and bloody sacrifice, God himself gives away the right to get even with us.

Nothing could be worse than refusing to forgive our neighbor of even the smallest wrongs when Christ died for us.

Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, 33:14.

I can never gain greater victory over the enemy than when, in the full tide of love, I forgive. There is nothing the devil hates more than a man who can forgive, because that man is acting in the very power of the life of God, which is triumph over evil.

G. Campbell Morgan, Petition in Prayer (iii), Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 297.

Do the Right Thing!

Posted by on 28 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Christian Ethics

Making the Right Choices

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Deut. 19-20 (NKJV)

Moral Choices: Three things in moral theology that distinguish between good and bad: act (object), intention (motive), and circumstance (situation). The act is doing the right thing, the intention is the right motive, and the circumstance is the right way. All three must be in place for the action to be morally right. If the right thing is done for the wrong reason: giving money for the poor for the purpose of recognition, then my action is morally wrong. If I tackle a man to prevent him from preventing another man from reaching his goal in a football game then it is morally right, but if I do the same thing in a restaurant, the act is wrong. Each act done separately leads to error: legalism (keep laws to be right), subjectivism (as long as I am sincere, then it is okay), and relativism (because things change the situation dictates what is right and wrong).In summary, know the right thing while having the right heart making the right choice by discerning the right time and circumstance.

Peter Kreeft, Making Choices: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Moral Decisions (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 1990), 30.

What is Faith?

Posted by on 25 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Faith, Pope Benedict XVI

Faith

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Cor. 5:7 (ESV)

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God the Father has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.

Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Bernard of Clairvaux,” October 21, 2009

Pettiness and the Cross

Posted by on 22 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Sanctification

“I Am So Offended!”

Whoever forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever keeps bringing up the issue separates the closest of friends.

Proverbs 17:9

Pettiness takes a slight, hurt, or misunderstanding, and magnifies the gravity of that real or supposed offense to unrealistic proportions. This self-absorption brings with it pain and frustration for everyone.

Pettiness takes something of small importance and turns it into a grievance of monstrous significance. Pettiness creates a hardness of heart,  a smallness of thinking, and a distorted view of reality. Pettiness is marked by meanness of spirit and a lack of generosity, especially where offense has been taken and a grudge held.

Forgiveness releases the bitterness of spirit and the bondage of soul caused by pettiness. The Cross reveals our pettiness and gives us an eternal perspective and convinces us of the smallness of our hurts and pain. “Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13 NJKV).

Pettiness–of the heart, of relationships, of cares–does not leave room in the heart for God, it is truly demonic. The fallen world is a petty world, a world in which high vision is not perceived, a high note is not heard. In a petty world, even religion becomes petty. The perversion of Christianity does not come from heresies, but from the fall. A fall downward, and pettiness is down there.

Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2000), 41.

A Demand on You Is a Demand on Him

Posted by on 21 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Christ in You, Keswick Convention

Christ Lives in You

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Col. 1:27

Christ lives in hearts of believers by the power of the Holy Spirit. All that Christ is in the gospels, all that Christ is as the second person of the Trinity, and all that Christ is as Lord now lives in us. Since Christ lives in us, we are never alone. Since Christ lives in us, we have the power to live holy lives. Since Christ lives in us, we can respond (not react) to every life situation according to the will of God. Since Christ lives in us, we can daily experience Him intimately and powerfully. Therefore, we desire all of Him in all of us all the time.

And Jesus in all His sufficiency and completeness of power is our Alpha and Omega. There is no demand made upon your life which is not a demand upon the life of Christ in you; and if you claim, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” (Gal. 2:20) then this wonderful, glorified Lord is the One who dwells within you by His Spirit. He is my Alpha and Omega. There is no demand upon my life which is not a demand on His life in me.

Stephen Olford, “The Unveiled Christ,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 297.

Evangelical First and Foremost

Posted by on 19 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Charismatic Episcopal Church, Evangelical, Gospel, Timothy George

Why I Am an Evangelical First

For I delivered to you as of first importance (emphasis mine) what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 Cor 15:3-5 (ESV)

In the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.), we adhere to the biblical, historic theology of convergence. Convergence theology affirms the person and work of the Spirit (Charismatic), the beauty of Christ and his finished work on the Cross (Evangelical), and the historic church’s sacramental worldview with its Eucharist-centered life and Trinitarian worship (Sacramental).

I affirm convergence theology as the model and practice of the Book of Acts and the early church. However, the Charismatic and Sacramental streams are subservient to the message of the Good News. Why place the Evangelical stream at the head? We cannot enjoy the sacraments and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless we have experienced Christ first in all his saving work. We must be saved before we can know the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and experience the fullness of Christ at the Table of the Lord (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Therefore, I am grateful for Evangelicalism for without this movement, I would not have known the justifying grace of God. The Evangelical message is the message that saves, delivers, and heals. Evangelicalism preaches the Biblical gospel:

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered my greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transforming our entire beings making us a new creations in Christ.

In summary: the gospel is salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

So what is Evangelicalism or the Evangelical stream? Listed are two definitions: the first, focuses on Evangelical belief, and the second, identifies Evangelicalism’s historic roots.

An evangelical is someone who embraces the solas of the Reformation (salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, according to Scripture alone), resonates with the emphasis on the new birth and the reviving work of the Spirit found in the Great Awakening, believes in the complete trustworthiness of the Bible contra the liberals and modernists, accepts the responsibility of world evangelization and social engagement as modeled by countless missionaries and reformers, rejects the obscurantism that marked parts of fundamentalism, and, in distinction to the pragmatists and postmoderns, affirms the importance of doctrinal propositions and the knowability of truth.

Kevin DeYoung via Evangel blog

At its heart [evangelicalism] is a theological core shaped by the Trinitarian and Christological consensus of the early church, the formal and material principles of the Reformation, the missionary movement that grew out of the Great Awakening and the new movements of the Spirit that indicate “surprising works of God” are still happening today.

Timothy George, ”Foreword,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism

I am an Evangelical first and foremost because Christ and his finished work on the cross is the first and foremost message of the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Christ comes first in the Christian life because Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:17-18 NKJV).

HT: Evangel blog at First Things

Evangelical Essentials

Posted by on 13 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Evangelical

The Evangelical Essentials Post-by-Post

Since the first of July, I have been writing on the essential doctrines that are the pillars of Evangelical conviction and faith. To assist the reader in following my discussion, I have provided links to all the articles below for your convenience.

Part One: The Evangelical Impulse

Part Two: The Cross of Christ: Past and Present

Part Three: How Can Our Hearts Be Changed?

Part Four: What Does It Mean to Be “In Christ”?

Part Five: The Imputed and Imparted Righteousness of Christ

Part Six: The Divine Law Court

Part Seven: Pierced for My Transgressions

Part Eight: Standing Before God Himself

Part Nine: Grace Works and Faith Works, Too

Part Ten: The Two Priesthoods: Believers and Ministerial

Part Eleven: Sola Scriptura

Part Twelve: The Church Is Mission

Part Thirteen: We Should Never Assume

Conclusion: Christ, Cross, and Grace

Christ, Cross, and Grace

Posted by on 12 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Evangelical

Evangelical Essentials: Conclusion

For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

1 Cor. 2:2 (NLT)

Why is the Evangelical impulse important? Because in a world gone mad, the same Christ, who bore our sins, paid our debt, redeemed us from slavery and became our substitute in the heavenly court of law can still change hearts, renovate identities, and give new life to men and women who are enslaved by sin. The essentials truths of pervasive sin, unmerited grace, regeneration, penal substitution, justification by faith, priesthood of all believers, and sola Scriptura are the still the truths that transform. These Evangelical truths are grounded in the Scriptures, found in the writings of the Fathers, and articulated fully by the Reformers.

Therefore, we must renew in our preaching and pastoral ministry the need for the least, lost, and the lonely to come to the Cross. We must remember that the foot of the Cross is not only for the lost, but also is the place of repentance for believers who desire victory and freedom over sin. It is at the Cross where all grace is dispensed. It is through the preaching of “faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone” where life change can be found. As the Apostle Paul said, “For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t do it!” (1 Cor. 9:16). “For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross” (1 Cor. 2:2). The Christian life can be summed up in these three words: Christ, Cross, and grace. We must remember who Christ is for us today! Those who are drawn, motivated and compelled by the Evangelical impulse proclaim this Christ, the Cross and His grace.

This post concludes our discussion of the essentials of the Evangelical faith. Look for a summary page in the next couple of days that will provide the links for all the posts related to  this series.

We Should Never Assume

Posted by on 11 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Evangelical, Evangelism, Missions

Evangelical Essentials (Part Thirteen)

We persuade men [people].

2 Cor. 5:11 (NIV)

The Apostle Paul did not sit back and assume that people had grasped the gospel. He was actively engaged in overcoming their objections by persuading men and women to yield their lives to the Lord of creation. Paul actively participated with the Holy Spirit in attempting to win hearts to the loving Savior.

The Bible says that, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV). As Christ is living his life in us, we will be fruit bearers. People will want to come to us and pluck that fruit of the Spirit in order to be refreshed. That attraction is an opportunity from the Holy Spirit to bring them to Christ. We are called to “watch to see where God is working and join him.”

[Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, Preteen Edition (Nashville, TN: Lifeway, 1994), 11.]

We must tell others what motivates us. What If I run out of  a room as fast as I can, how do you know for what reason I run? Have I looked out the window and seen my automobile being stolen? Is the phone ringing and I need to answer it? Is the building on fire and I need to save myself? How do you know unless I tell you? In same way, how do families, friends, and neighbors know the reason for my service unless I tell them that I am motivated by God’s love for me and my love for him? I must tell them.

Brothers and sisters, it is not enough to say that the liturgy contains the gospel message; Christ calls us to be proactive in sharing the message of the Cross.

Primitive [Early Church] evangelism was by no means mere proclamation and exhortation: it included able intellectual argument, skillful study of scripture, careful closely reasoned teaching and patient argument”

[Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 160.]

We should be mindful of the advice of Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, and other notables of the Great Awakening, “Pastors should be faithfully working toward entirely converted churches.” We should never assume that everyone in our parish knows our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must not take for granted that just because someone was baptized in a church or raised in a religious environment that they have an intimate, on-going, dynamic relationship with Jesus. We cannot assume the salvation of our congregations.

“The Church Is Mission”

Posted by on 10 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: John Stott, Missions

Evangelical Essentials (Part Twelve)

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power. Be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Rev. 5:12-13 (NKJV)

During the early years of my Christian ministry, I desired to be a missionary to China. I read numerous biographies of James Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. I studied the lives of the great men and women of Evangelicalism who suffered the loss of their own family members, friends, and fellow co-workers as they attempted to reach the areas of the world that did not know the gospel. Names like Watchman Nee (China), Amy Carmichael (India), C.T. Studd (Africa), Jim and Elizabeth Eliot (Ecuador), and Oswald Chambers (Egypt) resonated deeply within my spirit as people who loved Christ, walked in the Holy Spirit, and communicated the gospel clearly and effectively. God did not create an opportunity for me to go to China, but he did use that desire to burn within me the importance of sharing the gospel both near and far. In our self-centered culture, we often forget that God is on a mission, and if he is on a mission, then we are on a mission with him to make known the saving work work of Christ to every person, family, and nation.

Mission is the people of God intentionally crossing barriers from church to non-church, faith to non-faith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ; this task is achieved by means of the church’s participation in God’s mission of reconciling people to God, to themselves, to each other, and to the world, and gathering them into the church through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit with a view to the transformation of the world as a sign of the coming of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ.

[Charles Van Engen, Missions on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997).]

There are the five parts of the Bible. The God of the Old Testament is a missionary God, calling one family in order to bless all the families of the earth. The Christ of the Gospels is a missionary Christ; he sent the church out to witness. The Spirit of the Acts is a missionary Spirit; he drove the church out from Jerusalem to Rome. The church of the epistles is a missionary church, a worldwide community with a worldwide vocation. The end of the Revelation is a missionary End, a countless throng from every nation. So I think we have to say the religion of the Bible is a missionary religion. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable. Mission cannot be regarded as a regrettable lapse from tolerance or decency. Mission cannot be regarded as the hobby of a few fanatical eccentrics in the church. Mission lies at the heart of God and therefore at the very heart of the church. A church without mission is no longer a church. It is contradicting an essential part of its identity. The church *is* mission.

[John Stott, “The Whole Christian,” Proceedings of the International Conference of Christian Medical Students, ed. Lee Moy Ng (London: ICCMS and Christian Medical Fellowship, 1980),  46.]

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