Archive for the ‘examined faith’ Tag

Truth on Trial   2 comments

This is Part 6 of a series What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

Jesus stood accused before the Roman governor, who had the power of judge, jury, and executioner. Pontius Pilate was accountable to no one on earth but Caesar himself, and his singular thought was how to handle this thorny local issue in such a way as to please Caesar and advance his own cause. Pilate was a typical Roman politician–skilled, devious, educated, and thoroughly cynical in his approach to life, not unlike today’s politicians and administrative state officials. Pilate was likely feeling a little grumpy, because this time of year was always a tense one for every Roman ruler of Judea. Jerusalem was viewed by the Romans as a miserable, grimy city full of trouble and troublesome people and the Passover forced Pilate to leave his comfortable residence in Caesarea. The Jews were gathering for one of their interminable religious festivals where they worshiped their strange oriental God, their uniquely solitary deity who was so jealous that He wouldn’t even let them make an image of Himself. Passover was the center of their feasts, so Pilate was in Jerusalem, where he did not want to be, and he had been awakened very early in the morning at the summons of the Jewish religious leaders, to handle the case of this prisoner, Jesus. Pilate had tried to avoid making the decision by sending Jesus to the appointed king Herod, but that wily old fox had deftly sidestepped the issue and landed it back in Pilate’s lap. So here they stood, an inscrutable Jewish prophet and the Roman governor.

So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me.What have you done?

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38 – NET)

We know the rest of the story. Pilate didn’t really have anything against this solitary prophet and he’d been warned by his wife to avoid making a decision, so he tried to worm out of the situation, but when faced with a political threat to himself, “. . . If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12), he turned Jesus over to the executioners. Pilate’s words to Jesus, however, ring in our ears, because they sound so current, so “now.”

“What is Truth?”

Pilate, the cynical politician, probably had no idea of the answer to his own question–he most likely wasn’t sure there was such a thing as truth. He wasn’t very different from those in our own society. We live in a civilization that will admit the existence of “little truths,” and technological facts:

  • 2+2 = 4
  • elements have certain chemical and physical properties
  • bodies in motion behave in a predictable way

However, our civilization officially denies the existence of ultimate Truth–the concept that Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” For the Christian, however, Truth exists, and it is ultimate, rational, and real.

Your first step in developing and using a Christian worldview is to realize “your word is truth. ” (John 17:17).

As believers, we are blessed by God with such a glorious gift. While the rest of human gropes in the dark for answers about the most basic questions of life, we have them all bound up in one book–the Bible. We can know where mankind came from, how we got to be where we are today, and what the future holds for us. For the cost of some hours of reading, you can discover principles and laws that will tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you want to know Who God is, what He is like, and what He wants from you, you can find that out in the Bible–the Bible can even guide your steps in getting to know Him personally. The history of God’s dealing with mankind is founded in literal, historical events–they really happened, and they are recorded for us in the Bible.

You can know the truth and the truth can set you free … if you will let it.

Part 7

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In the Kingdom of the Blind …   1 comment

This is Part 5 of a series on Christian truth and the truth claims of Jesus. Check it out.

You have a worldview. Some people deny that they have a worldview, but everyone has one.Many of you might deny that you have a worldview, but you have one. If you say, “Hey, all I want to do is party, I don’t have a worldview, and don’t need one,” then that hedonism is your worldview. The Bible describes that way of thinking as “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” Philosophers would probably call such a view of life “hedonistic nihilism,” which is a fancy way of saying “have a good time and don’t care about anything.”

Your worldview might have been shaped by what you learned at Mommy’s knee as a child, or from Sesame Street or Mister Rogers, from religious belief and tradition, by occultism and superstition, by humanism and rationalism, or wht you view this week on “Dr. Phil” and “Oprah.”

You have a worldview that can either be clearly thought out or almost totally subconscious, it may be brutish or noble, it may be sensible or weird, but you have a worldview and, whether you know it or not, it is very important to you. It governs the way you think and live and guides your decisions about everything you do.

If you are a professing Christian, you have an obligation to think out your worldview. You are pledged by your covenant with the God of the Bible to learn His ways and to follow Him (John 10:27). If you are going to follow Christ, then you need to be aware of how God wants you to view the world, and you need to learn to live by His worldview.

Historically, the Christian Worldview has been determined by the answers to two questions:

  • What is Truth?
  • Why are we alive?

These two most basic questions focus on what it means to be human and what is the nature of reality. Of course, for us to even ask these questions flies in the face of the common modern worldview which denies the existence of truth, purpose, and direction in the universe. In fact, if we think it makes sense to ask these questions, it is evidence that Christ lives within us.

Part 6

Posted May 30, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Messiness   Leave a comment

This is part of a series. Check it out.

The pursuit of holiness has prevented many of us from ending it in places we would not have enjoyed, but have you ever considered that it might also lead you to keep some pretty bad company?

Jesus, as God in human flesh, is our example for holiness. His life serves as the best measuring rod for what divine holiness looks like when reflected in humanity. His critics called him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) and Jesus wore that badge proudly.

So what are we to do with a God-man who associated with the most blatant nonbelievers of his day?

I can hear Christian friends saying now “B-b-but, He was God Almighty.”

Yes, I completely agree, but hear me out. When Jesus hung out with unbelievers He was not just going with the flow of society. He wasn’t looking for a good time, a buzz, an opportunity to defy convention, or to grow His reputation. There was no passivity in Jesus’ approach to friendship evangelism. He was there on a mission to the unbelieving household or the party. He was activity seeking the salvation  of the sinners who were right there in front of Him. Associating with unbelievers was part of a strategic plan to call for repentance.

 

Scandalously, [Jesus] associates with the notoriously wicked, but he is willing to feast with the scrupulous religious leaders as well. Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners reflects his willingness to associate with them at an intimate level, but not merely for the sake of defying convention or enjoying a party. In each case various textual clues, if not explicit statements, demonstrate that Christ is indeed calling them to repentance and summoning them to become his followers. Craig Blomberg, Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners (page 167)

Yes, Jesus hung out with sinners, but He didn’t coddle sin. He was getting close enough to confront their unbelief in exactly the ways they needed to receive that confrontation. When Jesus engaged sinners (Mark 2:15, Luke 7:37-38), He was honest in naming them as sinners (Mark 2:17, Luke 7:47-48) and He also made it clear that it was for their sake that He came. The man known as “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) also, in the very next verse (Matthew 11:20) “denounced the cities that did not repent.”

His close proximity to sinners doesn’t mean he’s coddling sin, but that he’s getting close enough to confront unbelief with precision and grace. When he engages sinners (Mark 2:15; Luke 7:37–38), he’s honest that he sees them as such (Mark 2:17; Luke 7:47–48), and that it’s precisely for their sake that he has come. The man known as “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19) is said, in the next verse, to “denounce the cities [that] did not repent” (Matthew 11:20).

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, 29  a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors 30  and sinners!’ 31  But wisdom is vindicated 32  by her deeds.” 

Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent.

Jesus exhibits a “contagious holiness,” Blomberg called it. “Jesus discloses not one instance of fearing contamination, whether moral or ritual, by associating with the wicked or impure. Rather, he believes that his purity can rub off on them, and he hopes that his magnanimity toward them will lead them to heed his calls to discipleship” (page 167).

Having your purity “rub off” on nonbelievers isn’t automatic, and won’t come from passivity and nonchalance. It requires sustained intentionality to connect with nonbelievers where they are and, with God’s help, point them toward saving belief in Jesus. The power to clearly and explicitly share the gospel, and to gently but firmly call for change, won’t come from the worldly desire to nestle up to sin. It must come from holiness — that sense that you belong to God first and foremost and that you will obey Him rather than the world no matter what.

But Jesus was God incarnate, perfect, sinless God-man, so — yes, He could go it alone in His earthly ministry, though He often had His disciples with Him. We shouldn’t try to storm the gates of hell alone. Jesus sent His disciples out in twos (Luke 10:1). We should not that, use caution for our own sake, and proceed with accountability.

The apostle Paul acknowledged “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33. We can’t say we weren’t warned. However, we should not miss the evangelical guidance that infuses the same letter.

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters,since you would then have to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy,or an idolater, or verbally abusiveor a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

We’ve look at this before — about the required reaction of the churches when they find Christians openly sinning and we may come back to this, but Paul was clear here that Christians are to associate with non-Christian sinners. Don’t confuse the requirement to separate from an openly sinful “brother” with a summons to stay away from the lost. We call them “lost” because we hope they’ll be found and it is our job to provide them with illumination to find that path. In an increasingly post-Christian culture, non-Christians aren’t likely to be “found” without someone risking some reputation to take the gospel to them in uncomfortable ways and inconvenient places.

There is a vast difference between someone who confesses Christ and continues to embrace sin and someone living in sin who has not yet confessed Christ and we are told by the apostles to put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations in hope of rescuing the lost.

How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.” Romans 10:14-15

Maybe the call to holiness has kept you from eating with the tax collectors and sinners of your town, and in certain circumstances, that may be necessary for your own good. On the other hand, eating with tax collectors and sinners could be the very thing we’re called to do more often.

Christian holiness is not the avoidance of darkness at all costs. It includes going into the darkness, letting our Light shine without compromise, and bringing people back from the darkness by the power of God.

Sent   1 comment

This is part of a series. Check it out.

My look at politics in the run-up to the March primaries does not mean I’ve lost sight of my main topic. I’m still looking at how Christianity ought to interact with the world.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14-19:

I have given them your word (or message), and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world (or “because they are not of the world”),  just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe (protect them)  from the evil oneThey do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart (consecrate or sanctify)  in the truth; your word is truth. (Jesus had already introduced the idea of practicing the truth in John 8:32)  Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. (see John 10:36, Exodus 40-13, Leviticus 8:30 and 2 Chronicles 5:11 for more discussion).

In a real sense Christians are aliens in this world. Accepting Christ’s salvation sets us apart from the rest of humanity. We are no longer dead in sin, but made alive through Christ. That changes how we see the world and it should very much change how we interact with the world. If it doesn’t, we may need to go back and look at that time when we “accepted” Christ’s salvation. Did we … really?

Jesus was pretty clear here that He doesn’t not want His followers to be “of the world”. He wasn’t and we should follow His example.

But Jesus was equally clear that He wasn’t asking God to take His disciples out of the world. He prayed for them to be “sent” into the world.

In a very real sense, we are not of this world, but we have been sent into this world with a mission to the world. In other words, we can’t disassociate from this world. While it is not our job to save the world (that is far too God-like for our puny humanity), we are ordered by the Great Commission to do certain things in God’s name. We are sent into the world on mission to advance the advance the gospel through disciplemaking.

Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to point the way to freedom for others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back into the world to rescue others.

Paradox   2 comments

This is part of a series. Check it out.

A paradox is a true statement that is either contrary to conventional wisdom or is seemingly absurd. They can be a useful tool in teaching because they require careful thought to understand, but most people initially reject a paradox as untrue because it offends their presuppositions. That shows a lack of thinking and I’m all about examining my presuppositions.

Chew on a paradox for a bit and you begin to realize your assumptions are not necessarily correct.

An example of a paradox is that something must die before life can emerge. Well, that sounds absurd. Death is the end of life, so that statement can’t be true.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38 reminds us that a seed must be buried (die) before it can germinate into a plant. Paul uses this paradoxical concept of death preceding life so that Christians might understand that in order to gain eternal life, our mortal bodies must die. Paul reused the concept to describe Christian conversion in Romans 6:3-7 and in Romans 5:18 to explain why God chose to die as Jesus.

The Bible contains many paradoxes and some people find that confusing, but they exist to make us think and learn.

Which brings us to my subject – in the world, but not of it. I ran across an statement on the Internet where someone said “Jesus never said that.” Well, actually, He did. His prayer for his followers in John 17:14-16 was that His followers would not be part of the world. Later, His apostles reiterated this concept (see 1 John 2:15-17, James 4:4, Romans 12:2). We are not to love the world or the things of it. Friendship with the world separates us from God. Christians do not conform our lives to the ways of the world.

But we live in the world and we’re here for a reason. Our exemplar Jesus came into the world of humankind (John 1:10), but He did not become of the world (John 17:14). Rejecting the sinful lifestyle of the world does not mean we reject the sinners trapped in those lifestyle (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

We live in this world, but Christians cannot let the world influence us.

But so many of us do.

There is a strong trend in churches today to exist in the world and be accepted by the world by adopting the world’s attitudes. Denominations change their doctrines to be more acceptable to the world. Tolerance of sin is now advanced as a virtue. Apologists for this new paradigm twist the Bible and ignore whole passages in order to cozy up to the world.

The Bible foretold this would happen. Stay tuned for the discussion.

 

 

How Do You Know the Difference?   1 comment

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So have we cuddled up the world so tight that we no longer see a difference between Christianity and the world. Do we think there should be a difference?

Well, Jesus certainly thought there should be and it wasn’t based on some phony concept of love your neighbor (although that was part of it) or turn the other cheek (that was part of it too). His words, recorded by His followers and then given cultural context after His death echo down to us through the centuries.

How do we tell the difference between real Christianity and syncretic phony love of the world?

It has to happen, as does salvation, on an individual level, but we can cast light from our own experience to help others. Ask yourself a few questions to evaluate whether you love the world or love God.

  • Which do you seek more fervently — the wealth and honors of the world or the riches of grace and the approval of God?
  • Which has a great attraction for you — the pleasures of the world, which are only for a season, or those pleasures offered by God, which are for eternity?
  • Where does your confidence lay — in the money you have in your bank account or investments, or in the living and faithful God, Who has promised to supply all your needs?
  • Which causes deeper sorrow for you – a temporal loss or a break in your fellowship with God?
  • Do you get more joy from spending money for personal comforts and luxuries or spending money to further the gospel?
  • What takes center stage in your mind — thoughts and schemes after worldly advancements or resolutions and efforts to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord?

It comes down to a basic choice.

Will you love the Father or love the world?

Most of Christians have made that choice, but we need to maintain it. Do not yield to the temptations of the world, but do the will of God … even when it is inconvenient, even when your neighbors don’t understand, even when your government threatens to ruin your life if you obey God rather than man.

Illustrated Man   1 comment

This is part of a series. Check it out!

 

So lest we think that I’m perfect, I’m going to tell a tale on myself and I hope I’ll make you laugh while I’m proving a point about obscuritism in the Christian faith.

 

Brad and I love to go to Chena Hot Springs, a natural hot springs near Fairbanks that has been developed into a resort. The last time we were there, I had the opportunity to obscure the Christian faith with some cultural baggage of my own … but I didn’t … accidentally.

 

I was sitting in the hot tub when a man came out of the dressing room who deserved the title of Illustrated Man. You know the type. He was covered in tattoos. I consider tattooing to be a form of self-mutilation. I don’t have any and I don’t get why anyone would want to have one. If there’s an image you especially love, put it on a t-shirt and wear it. If you love it a lot, have multiple t-shirts made. Tattoos are painful and while they’re no longer exactly permanent, they aren’t easily removed. They also are implicated in some auto-immune disorders and, since my dad had psoriasis, tattoos are a dumb idea for me. I just don’t get the entire fad.

This guy’s tattoos were artistically lovely, by the way. Really nice colors and well-drawn images. But my brain was silently judging him as he sat down on the edge of the hot tub. The water was particularly hot that night as CHS is a variable spring and it took him several minutes to acclimate to slide into the water. This gave me an opportunity to actually look at his tattoos and be corrected by God just a little bit.

Every image — and he had many — was Biblically-based. He had Daniel in the lions’ den, the three amigos in the fiery furnace with the angel, Paul the apostle holding the cloaks at Stephen’s murder, then blinded on the road to Damacus, being stoned outside of Lystra, preaching on Mars Hill …. I didn’t mean to stare, but I couldn’t help myself.

So, just as I was working up the courage to ask him about his ink, a college student came over to do just that. This kid had tattoos too, but they weren’t nearly so uplifting. The Illustrated Man then shared the gospel with this kid using his ink. I sat in awe, judging myself, as I listened to him. According to Brad, the two exchanged phone numbers in the locker room and the Illustrated Man was going to take the kid to church on Sunday.

So, I’m still not going to run out to get a tattoo or three and I still hope my family members don’t either, but it was a lesson in obscuritism for me.

My cultural bias is against tattoos, but God apparently doesn’t care and this guy is using his ink as a means for evangelism. Sometimes we need to re-evaluate our positions based on what God is trying to teach … which does not mean we should go so far to the other direction that we enter into syncretism.

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