"Justification by faith only is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide [by faith alone] is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia [by grace alone]; . . for to rely on one’s self for faith is not different in principle from relying on one’s self for works."
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Both heaven and earth were created by God and He said "it is good." Both eternity and time were created by God and that also was, and is, a good thing. In Adam’s fall, sin came into the world, but it was sin, and not creation, that was bad. Creation is cursed because of sin, but creation is not inherently sinful. This is an either/or problem. We tend to think it is either heaven or earth. I do think we need to prioritize eternity over time and heaven over earth but I do not think we have to (or even should) choose either one or the other. Fallen man tends to always go to one extreme (so heavenly minded, no earthly good) or the other (so earthly minded, no heavenly good).
The problem we have in Christianity today is that so much Gnostic or platonic thinking has permeated the Church. Plato taught that the body and all things physical were a distraction and a disadvantage to reason and the other so-called "real" world of forms and essences. Death, according to him, was not an enemy (as the apostle Paul taught 1 Cor 15:26) but a friend that released you from your prison of flesh and earthliness. If the material world is inherently bad there is no reason for Christians to redeem it. This is why monasticism and a dangerous form of pietism entered the church. Many retreated and withdrew from this present physical world. They were not seeking to claim the material world for Christ the King. They were escapists rather than stewards of God’s world.
We see this today in Dispensationalism and the "Left Behind" phenomenon. Christians are supposed to rebuild, not retreat. We are redeemed for dominion, not desertion. One of the reasons or results of the first coming (incarnation) of Jesus was "that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" (Luke 1:71). Jesus, the Head of the Church, is sitting at the right hand of God and He is ruling and reigning right now putting all enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:25). Again, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (v. 26). The Christian Platonists are not seeking victory, they are seeking escape. Jesus did not tell us to pray "Our Father in heaven… your will be done in heaven when we get enough people saved and escape from earth" No, He told us to say "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven." We should be more concerned about the Kingdom of God being "Left Behind" than ourselves being left behind. We must have a zealous passion for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the earth and not just a fear of being left behind on earth
C. S. Lewis wisely wrote: "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither." The problem is that many Christians wouldn’t know what to do with the earth after it was "thrown in." In the parable of the ten minas it is said: "Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:13). The problem is that many Christians, I fear, might reject the ten cities and say "oh no, this world is not my home; I’m just passing through. I can’t be involved with cities; I’m just waiting for the heavenly city." In the same parable it says "Engage in business until I come" (v. 13). Christ is coming back, but He has already gained the victory. It’s time for us to start acting like it. He is seated on the throne right now and "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:15)
We, Christians, look forward to a new heaven and a new earth; not just heaven. The thing that gets us through the hard times is not just heaven, but resurrection. "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:8-11). Platonic Christianity sees our hope in escape from all things physical. The Gospel of the Kingdom puts our hope in resurrection and restoration. "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom 8:19). Christians are not called to be mere survivors but more than conquerors.
The Gnostics hated the doctrine of resurrection. Some taught that Jesus only appeared to have a physical body. They could never believe that God would put on something as evil as human flesh. John warned about these Gnostics when he wrote, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist" (1 Jn 1:7). In eternity, we will not be disembodied spirits floating around heaven. We will inhabit our glorified, resurrected bodies as we enjoy the new heaven and the new earth. "The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man" (Ps 115:16). "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt 5:5). As N.T. Wright said, "Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world."
Monday, August 25, 2008
The following quote is written by N. T. Wright from an article entitled The Road to New Creation:
"God is not going to abolish the universe of space, time and matter; he is going to renew it, to restore it, to fill it with new joy and purpose and delight, to take from it all that has corrupted it. ‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom, and rejoice with joy and singing; the desert shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.’ The last book of the Bible ends, not with the company of the saved being taken up into heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, resulting in God’s new creation, new heavens and new earth, in which everything that has been true, lovely, and of good report will be vindicated, enhanced, set free from all pain and sorrow. God himself, it says, will wipe away all tears from all eyes. One of the great difficulties in preaching the gospel in our days is that everyone assumes that the name of the game is, ultimately, to ‘go to heaven when you die’, as though that were the last act in the drama... Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world; God will make new heavens and new earth, and give us new bodies to live and work and take delight in his new creation. And the ‘good news’ of the Christian gospel is that this new world, this new creation, has already begun: it began when Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead on Easter morning, having faced and beaten the double enemy, sin and death, that has corrupted and defaced God’s lovely creation"
“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying. Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”
~ John Stott
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
“Evangelical Christianity is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. Our models are successful business men, celebrated athletes and theatrical personalities. We carry on our religious activities after the methods of the modern advertiser. Our literature is shallow and our hymnody borders on sacrilege. And scarcely anyone appears to care.”
~ A.W. Tozer
Can you be “filled with the Holy Spirit” and have the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” without also being led and changed and sanctified and purified and convicted and controlled and governed and made holy by the Holy Spirit? Can you be filled with the life of the Holy Spirit while your life is filled with the works of the unholy flesh? Can you be full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and also full of the works of the unholy flesh? Can you love the Spirit and also love the sin? Can you love the Spirit while also suppressing the truth? Can you eat from the table of the Lord and also the table of demons? Can you be the temple of the Holy Spirit and also the temple of idols? Can you experience the Spirit while enjoying the flesh? Can you feel happiness without finding holiness? Can you have the presence of holy fire and also the passion of fleshly flames? Can the Spirit of God be your leader without the Son of God being your Lord? Can you hear the Spirit and ignore the Word? Can you be controlled by the Spirit and uncontrolled? Can you be swimming in the Spirit and soaked in sin? Can you have the gifts of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit? Can you love what is holy without hating what is unholy? Can you be Spirit-led and flesh-fed? Is, or is not, the Holy Spirit Holy? The apostle Paul said “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)