God’s Plan for Your Life: The Second Apple

As we recuperate from a week of Turkey and Stuffing (or was it being stuffed like a turkey?) I spent some time on our long, multi-state drive home thinking about being thankful. I came across this video that really hit home, and maybe not in the obvious way you would think:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsZr4bEhKbQ

Books? For Christmas? No, books are good, but I’m looking for something “more”  for Christmas. That seems to be the message from the boy:

“That’s not toys, that’s books!”

Now this article may take a bit of work to follow, but stick with me.  This problem is HUGE in the church right now.  We’re given a gift, we look at it, seem to shrug our shoulders, and move onto the next gift… like the kid at Christmas.. “what else did I get?”

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of Rick Warrens’ “Purpose Driven Life”.  In the past 10 years there has been a near-obsession in the church with understanding “God’s Purpose for Your Life” which is then coupled a misreading of Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)  What we end up with is a completely self-centered, “me” focused search for the holy grail of God’s plan for my life.. and it must be EPIC since he wants to prosper me and give me hope, right?

Wrong.

I’ve written previously about to whom Jeremiah 29:11 was written and what it actually means in context (here: Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say, Part 2).

This week I’ll work through why we get this wrong, the impact from getting it wrong, and end with refocusing on Christ, and a proclamation of Christ’s atoning for this “purpose driven” idolatry.

How we get this wrong:

Like the kid in the video, we’ve been given a gift. THE gift. The ONLY gift that addresses our greatest need; Christ’s righteousness applied to us to save us from God’s just wrath.  We’ve been declared righteous.  Get this, because it will help you guard against the “Second Apple”)

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Adam and Eve were handed creation; God made it, declared it GOOD and gave it to them.  It was far more than everything they could ever need and, in an act of incredible grace, it was made to be beautiful and enjoyable.  They were, literally, given the world.. and?  They wanted more. Absurd, right?  They wanted that other fruit.. the “second apple” which paled in comparison to everything else they had been given.  But hey, if i’ve already got “this stuff”, I’m missing out if I don’t have “that stuff”!

They looked past what had been declared good, to want that which was not given to them. They didn’t need it. It was, in fact, forbidden.

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Several New Testament books record what is perhaps Jesus’ most famous sermon. His first big crowd, His first major speaking event.. most of us know this Sermon on the Mount for the “beatitudes”.  I could write weeks of articles on this sermon alone, but i’ll point out something you may not be aware of in today’s blog:

Contrary to what many people take from the beatitudes, due to translation into english, they aren’t commands.  They’re not imperative, they’re indicatives!  Jesus, standing in the midst of oppressed people hoping to hear how this leader would lead them out of bondage opens His mouth and declares:  Blessed are you, poor in spirit. Blessed are you, mourners. Blessed are you, persecuted.

It makes no sense. It’s absurdly counterintuitive.  They aren’t blessed, they are POOR, and PERSECUTED!  But that’s where they, and we, miss it.  We can’t judge our standing before God based upon our worldly state.

Adam and Eve were handed, through no work of their own, the good garden.  And we, the church, have received the good news that we are made righteous, through no work of our own.  Our greatest need has been met, and placed in  our empty hands….

And yet, today, we’re obsessed by the fruit of the world and the “second apple” of epic purpose, adventure, world-changing goals, and power/prestige/money.  Be honest, when you hear people talk about looking for God’s purpose, doesn’t it sound an awful lot like what their dream would be if they had a genie in a bottle?  Good spouse, great career, influence, “prosperity”?  How many people have you heard claim that God’s great purpose for their lives is to be, well, average? Or poor? Or slaves?

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Well, in a single blog, I’m going to give you what you’re looking for.  What Rick Warren never delivers, and what your purpose-driven-pastor vaguely aludes to.. your purpose. Why you are here.

Ready?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Salvation? Got it, thanks. What else you got for me, God? What do I get to DO? What am I supposed to do with my life? What’s God’s plan for my LIFE?”

Live in the land, take a wife, build a house, plant a garden… LIVE!  If you’re a carpenter, work at it as your vocation to God, giving thanks for your vocation and present the gospel to those around you.

Wait, that can’t be it! It’s not EPIC!

What on earth would make you think it’s supposed to be?  And more epic than living as an ambassador for the king of the universe?  Don’t get it twisted, this place is temporary. It’s going away. The kingdom is at hand, and if you confuse your mission with the priorities of this world, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

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The Apostles were martyred. The early church was persecuted and fed to lions. Onesimus was sent, by Paul, BACK into slavery.  Only in a prosperous, first world country like the United States could you sell people the drivel that God wants for you an epic, prosperous journey in this life.

So why is this so damaging?

1. Because it’s, at best, a wrong FOCUS on us and our awesome purpose (the second apple) instead of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross for our sins (the good gift).  I hear this constantly in evangelical, purpose-driven churches.. like “getting saved” is a box you check and then begin to seek out this great “purpose” for your life. This error is so glaringly obvious, only our narcissism could blind us to it. God gave you a mission (see the Great Commission above), and instead you’ve set off on another mission, a mission to find your great purpose.  So you’ve been given your marching orders by your King and have jettisoned them in favor of finding your epic purpose in life. Huh,  That can’t end well.

2. Because it creates unbiblical and unrealistic expectations.  Not only are we so naturally narcissistic as to expect this epic adventure, but when we are met with the reality that we might be, well, average and live a life of devoted vocation… we become disillusioned with God.

For those who misapply Jeremiah 29:11 as their “life verse”, here’s a thought for you;  The people that Jeremiah was writing to in that verse? They were in bondage.  How did they get there? God PUT them there. He raised up the Babylonians to punish them for their idolatry.  For those who didn’t think captivity was their “best life now” and didn’t go into captivity? God drove them out and killed them. Huh. Not so “best life now-ish” is it?  So, they stay in captivity for 70 years. Many of the original readers of this letter lived and died in captivity. And God’s instructions for how to live their lives?

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 29:5-9 ESV)

3. I see the wreckage left behind the purpose-driven movement every day; narcissistic, self-focused “Christ followers” who never speak of Christ, but of their latest self-help (or church) program or the “new thing” God is doing in their life. The latest fad-theology being sold at the christian bookstore (Prayer of Jabez ring a bell?) Some fuzzy, warm feeling they have of a not-yet-seen epic plan God has in store for them. I wonder what the captives in Babylon would have thought about this?  I’ve heard “pastors” talk about “shaking off” people who aren’t helping you move toward your purpose.  If there’s a less Christlike sentiment, I can’t think of one.

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So to wrap it up, stop chasing the second apple. God isn’t doing a “new thing”, nowhere in the Bible does God say that your youth group, or college and career group is a “chosen generation” to do great things for God.  You are never, never, ever given the direction to “change your world” or “impact the world” in scripture. Never. The harsh, and beautiful truth is that you are an empty-handed beggar who was given the greatest gift of all, through no work of your own.  Your call is to spread the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, to live a life of quiet obedience, and to ply your vocation to support your family and help the poor.  That may be in a position of great influence, or in quiet obscurity. It may be in Babylonian captivity, or the prison cells of persecution; Lions den, or Palace.  Epic, or pedestrian.

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The gospel frees us form the sin of purpose-driven idolatry. From glancing past the greatest of all gifts to those “treasures” of a perishing world. Christs’ atoning work on the cross frees you to serve Him faithfully with little or much.  Epic or lame, the purpose remains the same.. The glory of His name.

Marc

Eating at the Kids’ Table: A Thanksgiving Post

I remember growing up that sitting at the “Kids’ Table” was both blessing and curse. When you were young, it was an oasis of laughter and childish chaos away from the more formal “grown up” table.  Things were spilled, crazy dares were made (“I dare you to put green beans in your milk and drink it!”) and on that most awesome of occasions, you could get someone to shoot milk out of their nose.   As you grow older and “more mature”, being relegated to the Kids’ Table was an insult; not quite an adult, but long past the days of eating off of character plates and having your food cut for you.

These memories bring to mind a dinner that Jesus attended:

            [14:1] One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. [2] And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. [3] And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” [4] But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. [5] And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” [6] And they could not reply to these things.

            [7] Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, [8] “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, [9] and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. [10] But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. [11] For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            [12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. [13] But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, [14] and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”           

(Luke 14:1-14 ESV)

So to set the scene, Jesus has been invited to dinner with the Pharisees. These were the  “good guys. Yes, we see them as sanctimonious blowhards now, but 1st century society saw them as pillars of the community. These are the guys you wanted to be associated with. And in the middle of a nice dinner with the respectable people of the community, who is there? Dropsy guy.  Dropsy is a disease which involves retention/pooling of water in the body. The point is, he was sick, and it was not only dinner, it was the Sabbath!  To further set the stage, this guy wasn’t simply in the room, he was  εμπροσθεν, or right in front of Jesus.  So with all eyes on Him, what does Jesus do? I mean, this is the sick guy, at dinner, on the Sabbath! Keep in mind, sick people were viewed a bit differently at the time:

            [9:1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. [2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. [4] We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

(John 9:1-4 ESV)

So what does Jesus do with the sick guy at the sabbath dinner? He has compassion on him and heals him.

Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking. It’s what any of us would have been thinking at the time.  “Wait, that’s not OK Jesus” and he responds by asking them if they would save one of their children or even one of their animals if it fell into a well on the Sabbath.

Jesus wasn’t looking for the approval of the VIPs and is pretty insulting to the hierarchical structure of the Pharisees when he says “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.  OK,  Jesus, this is starting to get awkward.

Jesus drives the point home when he turns to the man who invited Him and gives guidance on who to invite to dinner (which I’m sure was received well, I mean who doesn’t like having a dinner guest lecture you on who you should invite next time, pointing out that you need to not be so concerned with how important they are)  Yes, Jesus is making the point uncomfortably clear.

          [12] He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.

 (Luke 14:12 ESV)

What kind of warning is that? Lest you be repaid?  You should intentionally seek out those who can’t repay you?  What kind of upside-down logic is that?

“”Don’t invite your friends and brothers and relatives and rich neighbors to dinner, lest you be repaid in kind.” What an unearthly argument! “Danger! Repayment ahead!” “Warning! This repayment may be dangerous to your health!” Who on earth would talk like that? Probably somebody whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); somebody who knows that 1,000 years on this earth are like yesterday when it is gone (Psalm 90:4); somebody who knows that our life is but a mist that appears and in a moment vanishes away (James 4:14); who knows that he who saves his life now will lose it later, and he who loses it now in love will save it later (Mark 8:35); and who knows that there will be a resurrection unto eternal life, a resurrection of the just to live with God a million millennia of eons, if indeed he was our God on this earth. Jesus is the man. No man ever spoke like this man. And the people who call him Lord ought not to be like any other people.” – John Piper

Yes, much of what Jesus said in this text speaks of the Church.  But there is much to be applied here as we join our earthly families tomorrow in this fallen world… I want to sit at the grown up table. I want to be important. I want to brag about what great kids I have. To be honest, I want my family to be proud of my accomplishments and am usually dangerously close to playing “dueling resumes” with those around me. I want to sit on the couch next to the interesting relative, the happy relative, the sweet relative.  Yes, I’m the Pharisee in this story.

So today I’ll watch; Watch for the person who it might not be “OK” to engage because of something they’ve done; the black sheep, the sullen relative, the son or daughter or ox fallen in the well.  I need to stop trying to sit in the place of honor today and give that seat at the dinner to the one more deserving, and let Him be seen by all.  Because the truth is, I’m the one invited to The Banquet who could never repay Him.

I’m called to invite them all to The Banquet, to the true Thanksgiving Feast for those who are His, to join together in ευχαριστια (eucharistia)/eucharist.  Sound familiar? Yes, Eucharist (which we also call communion) is the greek for “thanksgiving”:

So, as it always does, this blog will call me/us back to mission tomorrow; use this temporary day of Thansigiving (eucharistia) to seek out the lost and the hurting and all men everywhere so that they may join us as brothers and sisters in eucharist today, and in that true Thanksgiving Feast for those that love Him.

Marc

Enter Sandeman: A Thanksgiving Post

As you gather together today with friends and family and feast on delicious plates (yes, plural.. go for it, it’s Thanksgiving!) of food and dessert, I’m sure you’re mind isn’t wandering on obscure 18th century Scottish theologians. However, Robert Sandeman has much to teach us on this day of Thanksgiving.

See, Sandeman taught, in error, that faith in Christ was merely something we intellectually acknowledged; something we simply believe.  Or as Sandeman himself put it, “Bare belief of the bare truth.”  To Sandeman, faith in Christ was simply an intellectual assent to what Christ has done.

As I’ve written several times on this blog, while it is important to understand the what Christ has done, it is equally important to understand it in light of who Christ is.  (Imperative and Indicative).

So what does that mean on Thanksgiving? I mean, seriously, after 3 plates (c’mon, be honest) of food and a couple of stealthy ninja trips to the pie table, am I really supposed to be working through this?

Well, here it is:

Theology leads to Doxology

While most of us would quickly see Sandeman’s error, our human nature seems to repeat it as we focus today on what he has done (given us) and less on who he is.

Gift over giver may be a stretch, but not my much.

Being thankful is not telling God you appreciate the fact that your life is not in shambles. If that is the basis of your gratitude, you are on slippery ground. Every day of your life you face the possibility that a blessing in your life may be taken away. But blessings are only signs of God’s love. The real blessing, of course, is the love itself. Whenever we get too attached to the sign, we lose our grasp on the God who gave it to us. Churches are filled with widows who can explain this to you. We are not ultimately grateful that we are still holding our blessings. We are grateful that we are held by God even when the blessings are slipping through our fingers. 

Craig Barnes

Theology leads to Doxology

By understanding who God is (Theology) we are driven to thank and praise Him (Doxlogy).  While thanking God for what He has given us is good, it is imbalanced if our gratitude is on gifts and not giver.

This was certainly the norm for the Apostle Paul as he finished great theological sections with great doxological sections (Romans 11, 1 Timothy 1).

[33] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

[35] “Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

[36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

[17] To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

(1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)

So as you sit down today and list the things for which you are rightly grateful, remember that every good gift comes from the Father above.  Thankful? For sure, Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!

 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Joel Osteen and In-N-Out

If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating an In-N-Out Burger, you are missing out on one of the little, artery clogging,  pleasures of life.

As for the name, it’s about as basic and simple as you could get.  You come in, get your burger, and go out.  Fast, easy, and well.. tasty.

Inside of you is hunger, outside of you are tasty burgers for your enjoyment.  You go there, get one, and satisfy your hunger. There are no burgers inside of me, so I go out, where there are burgers.  Simple. Not exactly deep theology here.. right?

Can you imagine the absurdity and utter confusion of getting that basic premise wrong?

Would it be absurd? Would it be mocked?  You would think so, but I recently saw this obvious error applauded and treated as if it was the deepest, most philosophical, life-changing truth imaginable by no lesser names than media mogul Oprah Winfrey and “christian” Pastor Joel Osteen.

Before you think I unfairly listed Osteen as “christian” (in quotes), let’s watch his latest appearance on Oprah’s “Lifeclass”:

Did you catch the quote?

“You’ll never rise any higher than you see yourself.” – Joel Osteen

Hmm.  So, how high I rise (externally/out) is based upon me (internal/in) and how I see myself (internal/in).

So the answer to the external is from within.. how I view myself, and as he states later, what words I speak about myself.

You’ve got to see this… Joel Osteen’s view, his teaching in the role of “Pastor” is that the external is determined by the internal (You, your view, your mindset, and your words).

Sounds good, and boy, does it sell.  Oprah has built a multi-billion dollar media empire. Joel Osteen “Pastors” the largest church in the United States, it’s also helped sell books like “The Secret” and spin up careers of Oprah’s other Lifeclass speakers.  But what does scripture say?  Is THIS the message of Christianity, that the internal controls the external?  That it’s IN that controls OUT?

The written word of God, inspired by God the Holy Spirit is clear.. it’s not the SOLUTION that’s in us, it’s the PROBLEM!

(I’m going to intentionally quote a LOT of scripture this week. I want the sheer weight and volume of scripture which speaks to this core issue to blow you away.  While Joel Osteen doesn’t quote a single verse, here is a mere sampling of God’s word on the issue. Read them all now, or later, but they’re here for your reference.)

1. Men are born in sin:

  • Psalm 51:5 – Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  • Genesis 8:21 – the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  • John 3:6 – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh”

2. As all men have sinned, they are slaves to sin:

  • John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
  • Galatians 4:8-9 – Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
  • Romans 6:6,16,17,19,20 – We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
  • Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

3. The heart of sin is UNABLE and UNWILLING to do good. It is, in fact, HOSTILE to God:

  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Romans 8:7-8 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God
  • Colossians 1:21 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds
  • Psalm 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb;
  • Ephesians 2:12-13 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:3 – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
  • Proverbs 15:9 – The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord
  • Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (c.f. Proverbs 21:27)
  • Proverbs 28:9 – If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
  • Isaiah 64:6 – We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please [God]
  • Romans 8:7-8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • Psalm 10:4 – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  • John 3:20 – “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
  • Isaiah 65:1 – “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
  • Isaiah 64:7 – There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
  • Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

So, if we are born in sin, slaves to sin and hostile to God, unable to do good works… is the heart a good place to be looking?

Yes, for those in Christ, He has changed their heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  But.. where does that come from? IN or OUT?

Our righteousness? OUT! It is an external (or what some call “alien”) righteousness. Our only hope in life and death is the external/OUT righteousness of Christ!

“The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without.  This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith, as it is written in I Cor. 1:30:  “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  In John 11:25-26, Christ himself states:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…..shall never die.”  Later he adds in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant.  Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh[Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Eph. 5:29-32].  Thus the blessed God and Father of mercies has, according to Peter, granted to us very great and precious gifts in Christ [II Pet. 1:4].  Paul writes in II Cor. 1:3; “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

– Martin Luther

So, do you see the completely backward message of Joel Osteen? Not only is it not biblical (Did you hear a single mention of Jesus, or a single passage of scripture in his dicussion?) it’s the polar OPPOSITE of biblical Christianity.  And he’s telling unregenerate sinners (who the bible says are slaves to sin and UNABLE to please God) that they are blessed and victorious?  That’s not just incorrect, it’s rank heresy. He’s speaking peace and victory to people who in their unregenerate state are destined for hell.  Smiley face and sweet voice or not.. that’s the cruelest act I can think of a man committing, and to do it while presenting himself as a “Pastor”?  God have mercy!

False teacher much?

So, the takeaway here is this:  Get the In-N-Out right, your only hope is OUT, through the external/alien righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith in Him for the forgiveness of sins.

Marc

Teaching my Dog to use His iPhone!

OK, it’s getting a big frustrating.  About a month ago, I bought our family dog, Boomer the Pug, an iPhone.  I’m trying to get him to use it and he’s just not getting it.  I’ve tried everything, treats, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, begging, pleading, ANYTHING.. but he’s just not getting it.   Maybe I’m a bad teacher. Maybe he’s just not very bright.  Maybe it’s the lack of opposable thumbs. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating for both of us… and I spent a lot of good money on that phone!

Absurd?  Of course it is, dogs don’t use iPhones. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE DOGS! To expect a dog to use an iPhone would make me a lunatic, right?

Yet, we do this daily with those around us.  How?

[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)

There are a couple of things I want you to notice here:

1. Paul is speaking in Galatians 5 to a specific group of people, “us”.  Who is “us”?  He defines “us” as those who Christ has set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; 
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

2. Paul then contrasts “us” (those who Christ has set free) with those who Christ has not set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

3. Paul says then sets these behaviors in contrast to each other.  (Flesh and Spirt)

[17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(Galatians 5:17 ESV)

4. And finally, lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit:

[19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)

So, those good things?  The fruits of the spirit? They’re fruits.. OF THE SPIRIT.  They come FROM the Holy Spirit to those who are set free in Christ.  The bad stuff?  Those are works of the flesh.  Do you see it?

Those who have not been set free in Christ will not, in fact CANNOT manifest the fruits of the spirit!

[8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

(Romans 8:1-8 ESV)

Those who are in the flesh will not, in fact CANNOT submit to God’s law. They CANNOT please God.  Get that. It’s crucial. Those things we’re demanding of our kids? Of those around us at work?  If they are not in Christ and set free by the spirt, they are still slaves to the flesh.  We’re demanding something of them which they CANNOT do, and getting frustrated with both them and ourselves when they don’t!

It’s as absurd as trying to teach a Pug to use an iPhone!

What are the implications?  Well, this is a major problem in the modern church.  We start our kids early by teaching them how to be “good”, we tell them to be “nice”.  What is nice?  We tell them to be patient, kind, gentle.. and to exercise self-control. To put others ahead of themselves, to share, to be considerate.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

New guy at church. He hangs around a few services because he likes the sense of community, digs the music, and well, there are some really cute girls.  He gets the message loud and clear: Be happy, be faithful, love each other.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

The problem?

Neither of them have been confronted with the weight of their sin, and been called to repentance and faith in Christ for forgiveness. The Apostle Paul tells us, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that they cannot manifest the very fruit we are demanding of them!

A stunning example of this happened recently when the creator of the most popular christian children’s material in history (Veggie Tales) said the following:

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart.” – Paul Vischer, Creator of Veggie Tales

So, as much as people give me good-natured grief for somehow bringing EVERYTHING back to the gospel, here goes.. I’m bringing iPhone  Training for Dogs back to the gospel….

I’m not concerned about teaching my kids to “be good”, I’m concerned that they’re in Christ.  Because without being freed by Christ, they are unable to do the “good” at all.   Will they sometimes act like little heathens even after they are in Christ? Of course they will, and so will I in this fallen world. But we are freed, in Christ, to please God.

So as you go into your world today, don’t get frustrated that those in the flesh produce the fruits of the flesh.  Be aware that demanding that they manifest the very fruits of the Spirit is something they are entirely incapable of doing.  They’re still slaves. Their problem is that they aren’t in Christ.. and that’s something you can (and are commanded) to engage. Gospel much?

Marc