The Christian Bookstore is a Minefield

“What should I read?”

I get this question almost every week.  As someone who typically reads a book a week on average, I appreciate that people value my opinion.  I love to read, I love to learn, and I love to discuss what I’m learning. I like to work through what I’m learning with people much smarter than I, and I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned to those it may help.  In short, I want to study to show myself approved, and to rightly handle the word of truth!

So, here’s how the conversation typically goes:

“I’m looking for a good book (possibly inserting category of book here).  What have you read lately that you like? What do you recommend?”

The problem with the question above is that the three parts don’t often work together.  If you’re looking for a book on a subject I don’t read much about, or have much interest in (like eschatology in my case), then it’s hard for me to make a recommendation.  Secondly, what I’m reading may not be a good fit for you. Maybe I’ve recently had great discussions with a Hindu at work and have decided to spend a couple of months working through vedas, agamas, or puranas in order to interact with them and present the gospel in their context. I certainly wouldn’t recommend any of them if asked.  Or, I might be reading a book on a subject that isn’t applicable or interesting to you at this season in your life. Finally, what do I recommend? That’s tough if I don’t know you well, what you’re struggling with, where you need growth, or what your interest are.  With that, here are some basic recommendations:

1. Know why you’re reading before you decide what to read:

Have a game plan and a goal for your reading.  Most voracious readers I know read intentionally.  Find a subject that interests you and read deeply. Read footnotes, read the source material for those footnotes.  Invariably, you’ll end up down the road having read multiple books.

2. Read primary sources:

If you want to know what Islam believes, the proper source is the Koran, not Fox News, and probably not your favorite evangelical pastor.  Strive for accuracy and truth as you engage subjects, and try to understand various sides of the issue.  There are very few things less effective (or attractive) than someone who believes what they believe because they believe it (and have no ability to see it in the larger context in order to defend or present it).   In this regard, I rarely trust even “big names”.  I’ve seen respected pastors and academics misrepresent and absolutely butcher beliefs which differ from theirs.

3. Categorize:  Finally, I recommend you keep the lines of your categories well-defined and guard against encroachment.   If you want to read something for “spiritual development”, understand what scripture says about your current state (fallen), your problem (sin), the solution (the atoning work of Christ) and the continued work ahead (scriptural study, prayer, and the daily battle of sanctification).  Find books which use these terms and work from these biblical categories.  If you don’t, you’re going to end up with some extra-biblical (and often non-biblical) “solutions” to “problems” which are not really the core problem at all.  THAT is how you end up off mission and far removed from scripture.

As I start to read, I read in several categories:

The Bible:  I know this is the pat answer, but only the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, word of God.  The word used in scripture is theopneustos; literaly “God-breathed”.  If you’ve got something you think is more worth reading, we need to talk. 😉   I would challenge you, if you are an adult who has been a Christian more than a year or two and haven’t read the entire bible, you need to get after it. Seriously.  The “M’Cheyne” bible reading plan takes about 10-15 minutes a day and will work you through the ENTIRE bible once, and the New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs a SECOND time.  You spend more time than that on facebook. You can do this.

I list the bible separately from the categories below.  I’m not a proponent of “solo scriptura” or ONLY reading the Bible, but understand that anything not found in the Bible is not theopnuestos.  It may be good, it may be accurate, but it’s always at risk of leading us away from the gospel, and that default is usually law. Be careful.

1. Pure leisure:  These are good airplane books. Good books to read while sitting and waiting for the kids, on the beach, or well.. in the restroom.  These books are almost never scriptural or academic.  Examples of things like this for me might be Readers Digest (yes, I’m probably the only person under 70 on the planet that loves RD!), comedy books by guys like Bill Bryson, or even an old Calvin and Hobbes book.   I’d say this makes up less than 5% of my typical reading, but I do enjoy it!

2. Classics:  I think there is great value in reading the great classics, both great American authors and great historical authors:  Mark  Twain and Ernest Hemingway are favorites of mine. One of my 3 favorite books of all-time is “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. I’m glad to see schools getting back to some of the classics. If you haven’t read “Lord of the Flies”, you’re missing out.  If you’re interested in how to get started reading some of the classics, let me know. I’ve got shelves of them and would be happy to let you borrow one!

3. Spiritual Development/Self-Improvement:  Yes, I bundled those two together on purpose.  If there is a landmine for the Christian, this is it.  There is more nonsensical garbage (is that direct enough?) in this area than any I’ve seen.  Look, your problem is sin, the solution is Christ, and the ongoing work is sanctification.  If you get the problem wrong, you’re going to get the “solution” wrong.  Go into Walgreens thinking you have athlete’s foot when you really have skin cancer and you’re going to waste your time, and the results could be fatal.

How do we get this wrong?

I feel empty, like I’m not growing. My kids are horrible and I feel “unfulfilled”. So, I go to the local Christian bookstore and see a book that speaks directly to my “need”.  (Which is a subjective/FELT need. Your view of your need may not jive with your need as defined in scripture): “3 Steps to Living Your Best Life Now, and How to Have Better Kids!”  It’s got a nice, smiling pastor on the front of it.  Bingo!   The book then gives me 3 steps, which all boil down to the seemingly comforting and simply  “Just begin to put God first in your life” and “just love on other people”.  Huh.  Sounds familiar.  Wait, I  know!

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

So, how’s that working out for you?  I’ll give you a hint; you aren’t doing it. You never have, and never will.  Really? ALL your heart? ALL your soul? ALL your strength?  And you love your neighbor as yourself?  There’s a word for this requirement; LAW.  Guess what? You can’t do it, and Jesus knew that. Paul spoke of this in Galatians; If you attempt to live by the law, you inherit the entire law, and are separated from Christ. Ouch.

So the entire “solution” laid out by smiley-happy guy is guaranteed, in scripture, to lead to your failure and land you in hell.  Nice, huh?

So the solution to the problem of sin is repentance.  Have bad kids? Guess what, your kids are fallen little people being raised by fallen big people.  Your spouse is awful? Well, your marriage is a union of two fallen people sinning against each other… maybe we look to repentance to each other and to God, and show the grace that He has shown to us?  I know that won’t sell many books, but it sure sounds a lot more like the gospel than “Just begin to…” and then a list of law, no?

In short, you’re going to view the problem as sin, and the solution to be EXTERNAL to you  that has been DONE (grace/gospel), or you’re going to view the problem as your felt needs/better life and look for the answer INSIDE yourself through things you need to do (law/works).  In theological terms, the real solution is extra nos (outside of us), in other words, it is an alien righteousness. Read the books on the shelves of your Christian bookstore (or your church bookshelf) and see if they point to the problem as sin with an external solution of the gospel and grace, or if they ID the problem as not living your best life (often hidden as “God’s plan for your life”) and the solution as works, or “to do” steps.

4.  “Christian Fiction”:   There is, apparently, an entire genre of Christian fiction that I’m not much aware of. I’ve read “The Chronicles of Narnia” and nearly everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote, but I’m not very current on these areas and must admit I’ve never read an “Amish Christian Romance”.  I’d view these as leisure reading with the possibility of some theology and “Christian” undertones thrown in. I’d be careful of what this message is, and our natural default is law and generic “be nice to people and the good guy wins in the in end” spirituality. I would include in fiction (thought it’s often marketed as “theology”) any book which unveils some new “mystery”.  Seriously, do you actually believe that the pastor at your local seeker-church has been given special revelation to unveil a truth in scripture which the church hasn’t understood in 2 centuries?  You figure the odds are better that he’s reading something into the text that isn’t there? A good example of this is, well, anything written by Mark Batterson. Circle Maker? Good grief.

5. Theological books:  I know, I know. Theology is “boring” it leads to dead, dry Christians.  (None of which is true)  But theology is, literally, the study of God.  I bet you know and read a TON about your favorite sports team, celebrity, band, etc.  Why is it considered so “dead” to learn more of God as he has revealed Himself to us?  I, seriously, can’t think of anything more thrilling.  God has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation through a book.  We are a people of the word, and of words.  Spend time understanding them!

As I close, I’ll just say that I’m really, sincerely, deeply saddened by the what I see in most “Christian book stores”.  The absolute garbage being devoured by people who may not know better is truly a tragedy.  As an example, I’ll look at the current Amazon Top 20 “Christian” Books in part 2… stay tuned!

The Five Solas: Solus Christus

We’ll continue this week with the fourth of five “Solas”, Solus Christus (sometimes written as Solo Christo)

I think Mark Bell has done an outstanding job of summing up how the other Solas tie into Solus Christus:

“Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Christ Alone are tightly connected.  Notice the prepositions in the following sentence: Salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone.  That is solid, biblical Christianity!”

Solus Christus is the belief that our salvation comes ONLY through Christ:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – the words of Jesus in John 14:6.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” – Acts 4:12. (The Apostle Peter)

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Tim. 2:5 (The Apostle Paul)

Can’t get much clearer than that! There aren’t multiple paths to heaven. (Other religions, spiritualities), there isn’t even anything which HELPS Christ save you (works, saints, priests, money, good intentions, etc.).

Christianity is incredibly *inclusive* in that all are called to come to Christ, and all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  However, it’s entirely *exclusive* in its path:  Solus Christus.

While few of us would argue that something or someone other than Jesus is capable of saving us, or that “all religions are paths which lead to truth/heaven” (Oprah Winfrey’s generic spirituality), how we live this out in our daily lives (and unfortunately even in our church lives) is often at odds:

Do we view Christ as central in our view of scripture?

1. The Bible is about Jesus:

“And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” – Luke 24:27.

“You diligently search the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” – John 5:39.

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” – John 1:45.

It is evident in these and other passages that Jesus claimed that HE was the major subject of the Old Testament Scriptures—from Moses all the way through the prophets. He believed that they were all writing about him! This is either grandiose monomania, or he was giving his hearers the key to understanding what the whole Old Testament is all about. (Rod Rosenbladt, Christ Alone)

So when you read the story of David, you aren’t David. David was a real, historical, man who killed a real, historical, giant. Your problems aren’t your “Goliaths”.

You aren’t Daniel. Your struggles are not your “Lions Den”.

Jesus is the better David. Jesus is the better Daniel.  Jesus is the hero of the Bible. The scriptures, according to Jesus himself, are about…. HIM!

The problem with seeing yourself, rather than Christ as the hero of these stories? It’s not only narcissistic (all about you), and legalistic (commanding you to *do* rather than focusing on what has been *done*), it’s setting you up for failure.  Be honest with yourself, if you truly face giants in your life, you don’t kill them with your stone, you miss. Often. Repeatedly.  Rather than tell you to throw more stones harder, turn your focus to the better David, Christ. Christ, who conquered the giants of sin, death, and the grave!

Let that sink in. When you read the bible, are you looking for Christ and his supremacy, or are you looking for “life tips” and seeing yourself as the hero? Big question. Big difference. If you don’t get what Jesus was saying about being supreme in scripture, you’ll begin to see yourself in the storyline, and you’ll focus on your giants, and your performance… or you’ll see Christ as supreme, see Him as the hero of each story, the better Adam, the better David, the better Daniel, the better Jonah.. and you’ll give Him glory for what He has done and for the grace he extends as victor over death, sin, and the grave.

Think about it.

Marc

Stuff The Bible Doesn’t Say Part 4: “Binding the Devil/The Spirit of….”

If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them.  Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”.  How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?”   Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word.  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is.  Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible.  If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start.  Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God?  Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.)   Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say.  In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

I’ll warn you ahead of time, this one might get a bit bumpy.  I’ve seen so much abuse of these verses that it makes my blood boil, so I might get a bit worked up here.  With that, today’s installment:
 

[18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

18Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητεἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.

(Matthew 18:18 ESV)



Here’s how I typically run into this one;   Someone confides to a brother or sister in Christ about something they are going through (illness, heartache, misbehaving child) and the response is “I bind the enemy right now, in Jesus name!” or “I bind that spirit of alcoholism/cancer/disobedience/sadness/etc. in Jesus name!)

What a great thought! We can bind bad stuff? I mean, just completely limit it’s impact on those around us?  That’s quite a promise!

The text does say that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, right?  Who is we? Does Whatever mean anything?

As always, let’s look at context:

In Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking with his disciples about the new kingdom. In this chapter are 5 sections of scripture, each of which deal with sin and how it is viewed/dealt with.  Let’s look at each to show the clear pattern here:

First, this passage:

[18:1] At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [2] And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them [3] and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
[5] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, [6] but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Sin? Causing “one of these little ones” to sin.

Treatment:  It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and drowned in the depth of the sea.

Second text:

[7] “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [8] And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. [9] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Sin? Sensual (Hand/Foot/Eye)

Treatment: Better to lose a limb than be thrown into hell.

Third Text:

[10] “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. [12] What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? [13] And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. [14] So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(Matthew 18:10-14 ESV)

Sin: Going astray

Response: He will seek out the one that went astray.

Note: The fifth text follows this same line (Sin: Unforgiveness. Treatment: Not being forgiven).  However, our focus will on this fourth text:

(Matthew 18:1-6 ESV)

[15] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

(Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

The sin here is unspecified, but it is against the apostles to whom Christ is speaking.

Treatment? They are to go to him alone and discuss the error. If the man listens, they have “gained a brother”, but if he does NOT listen, go back with witnesses. If he STILL refuses to listen, tell it to the church.  if he won’t even listen to the church, consider him as a Gentile or tax collector and deal with him accordingly.  And here we find our text.

So let me ask you. Do you see anything in that text that speaks to binding and loosing of the devil, demons, sickness or spirits? Is it what the chapter is talking about at any point?  Had you not ever heard of the practice of “binding spirits” would you have ever seen that in the plain reading of this text?

What is this verse speaking to?  Church discipline.  How Jesus was instructing his disciples to deal with people who sinned agains them and who would not turn from their sin.  You will often see people quote Matthew 16:19:

[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:19 ESV)

This makes it easy to make that verse say nearly anything you like, because the context is not very detailed.  However, we see that this subject is laid out in much greater detail in Chapter 18, and again in John 20:23 ”

[23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:23 ESV)

At this point you might be thinking. Fine, that’s your opinion, but it’s not what I believe.  This is more than one interpretation over another; church history and greek grammar both make the “binding the devil” position untenable.

1. The greek verbs used here; δεω (to bind) and λυω (to loose) are used in a rabbinical context. As Jesus is laying out the authority of the disciples to Peter, Jesus uses rabbinical language of the day which Peter would have understood easily.  The 2 major schools of rabbinical thought were the school fo Hillel and the school of Shimmai. It was said “The school of Shimmai binds, the school of Hillel looses.”   In this context, Jesus is telling Peter that he will have authority to legislate in these affairs (as the example of the unrepentant church member shows in our text.)

2. The greek verbs of δεω (to bind) and λυω (to loose) are future perfect passives. A more accurate translation of the greek here (although not very easy to read in english) would be “What you bind on earth must be already bound in heaven and what you loose on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.”    (This isn’t simply my opinion, it’s the only way the greek works here.  The top greek scholars all agree; William D. Mounce, A.T. Robertson, William Hendriksen, et al.)

3. So, what we have here is not an action on the part of the apostles which then bound heaven to accept it. (Can you imagine the consequences of such a thing?) What we have in this text is a prior decree from heaven which the apostles had heavenly authority to dispense.

Why does the mishandling of this text as “binding spirits in Jesus name” make me so angry?

1. It’s blasphemy. The text does NOT state this. Twisting God’s word makes me angry. It places man in authority over God, binding a sovereign God to the will of man. That’s a huge problem.

2. It is the very thing spoken of in the quote I always use:

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

You want to see Christians suffer bitter disappointment? Tell them you’ve “bound the spirit of cancer” and then watch their loved one die.  I know there is nothing academic or scholarly in what I’m about to say, but I want you to hear me clearly; This is crap, and if you’re telling people this nonsense, you need to stop it. Immediately.

Seriously, if you believe, after viewing this verse in context, that you have the ability to bind spirits, and agree with 2 or more people and anything you claim in Jesus name will happen, you need to get off of your computer and get to work.  If you’re short on ideas about where to get started with your “binding”, here’s a good start:

This is Madelyn.  She lives in this remarkable place with a couple hundred of her friends:

I’ve recently spent time with some amazing folks from St. Jude.  They would gladly close their doors tomorrow if you could, you know, go ahead and bind that “spirit of cancer”.  Here’s the address:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN  38105-3678

I’ll buy your plane ticket.  If you prefer not to fly, I’ll personally drive you there.  We can leave tonight.

Or maybe your spirit binding has a more international flair. How about this one?

I have no idea how to neatly wrap this one up. I’m angry. I’ve seen the damage that happens when Christians, even with the best of intentions, start claiming that things are “bound” only to watch people die.  It’s nonsense. It’s not in the text.  Why didn’t it stay “bound”? In the end, it’s faith in your faith rather than faith in a sovereign God who works ALL things to the council of His glory.

If you’re in the middle of a dark time right now, please take a moment to read my post on “Why Bad things happen to Good People”

This is a huge verse to a lot of people, and I’m sure I stepped on more than a few toes. Before you react, before you write the comment or send the e-mail, take a breath and open your Bible.  Read it. Carefully. Prayerfully. In context.

Marc

“Stuff Christians Should Know” Part 2

This week, we’ll continue with the series I’m calling “Stuff Christians Should Know”.  These are categories that were preached from the pulpit and taught via catechism for much of church history.  What used to be “common knowledge” isn’t very common these days. In the last few years I’ve spoken to believers who have been raised in church (and some who held various leadership positions) who missed the mark wildly on these basic categories. I think we as mature believers are failing here. We aren’t studying them, we aren’t discipling new believers in them, and frankly we aren’t really even concerned about them. While they may be listed somewhere on the “What we Believe” statement of faith, they’re rarely discussed in “community” or delivered from the pulpit.

Speaking with several Christian brothers recently, I was made keenly aware of the problems caused by not understanding basic categories of our faith.  There are many reasons for this, but I believe that the main reasons are that it’s not taught from many pulpits, and most Christians don’t read the Bible.  Ouch. I know, but stick with me over the next few posts and see if I’m missing the mark on this.

Categories are important. REALLY important.  Much of scripture deals with understanding of major categories, some of which I’ll cover over the next several posts; law and grace, justification and sanctification, indicative and imperative, already and not-yet.  If you don’t understand these categories, you’re building on a bad foundation.  I’ve seen where this leads, and it leads to a performance treadmill, “Do better, try harder”. It leads to focusing on your works instead of His grace. It leads to legalism. Ultimately it leads to focusing on you and your self-improvement program and not on God.

This week, we’ll continue with “Indicative and Imperative”

Indicative:  of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or set of verb forms that represents the denoted act or state as an objective fact (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

Imperative: expressive of a command, entreaty, or exhortation (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

The gospel always, always, ALWAYS (you get that it’s always?) begins with indicative, which drives imperative.  So what. So why throw out this theological terms. “Deeds not Creeds!” right?

Wrong. So wrong.  If you lead with the imperative, you end up with legalism. You end up on the  performance treadmill.  Don’t believe me? Find your favorite “do this” and I’ll show you the more important “because of”.  How about the Paul’s manifest… the book of Romans? Lots of imperative, right?  

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (12:1-2). (Read forward from Chapter 12 and you continue with more well known imperatives.)

How about the great imperatives:

The Great Comission? (Mt 28)  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other”? (Eph 4), “Wive’s submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives”?(Eph 5), “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice”? (Rom 12).

All of them depend on the indicative. Every. Single. One.  If you glaze over the indicative, the gospel, the grace, the WHY, you will land squarely on the WHAT.  And then you climb on the performance treadmill and either feel self-righteous that you’re doing it, or despair that you aren’t.  Does that sound anything remotely like the grace of the gospel?

We, as fallen human beings, will always look for the imperative (the law).  It’s our nature. It puts us back in control.

How about looking at the imperatives above with their indicatives?

The Great Comission? (Mt 28)  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.“”Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other”? just as in Christ God forgave you.(Eph 4), “Wive’s submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives”? Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her(Eph 5), and finally, nearly everything after chapter 12 of Romans.

If you want to see great examples of how Christ designed us to live and rest in His finished work, read Romans 1-11. See how the indicative is beautifully laid out.. then, and only then, are the imperatives rolled out.  Paul often uses “therefore”, “in light of this”, “just as”, “since”, etc.

Read Paul as he deals with problems in the church. Does he give the disaster of a church in Corinth more rules? A remediation plan? 5-steps to a more successful church seminar?  Read it yourself, he gives them… the gospel. Indicative. Think they already knew the gospel? Of course they did! But they lost focus. The next time you hear “Deeds not Creeds!”.. run. It’s all law. There aren’t enough deeds to make up for the creed.

I challenge you to do this for the next week.  Think of the the things you’ve been called to do… now think of the indicative behind them. Go from indicative, to doxology (praise), to imperative.

“For every look at self, take 10 looks at Christ!” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Rest in the grace of our Lord, praise him for that grace, and live out of that grace into love-driven imperative.

Marc

Additional articles:

Quick Read: http://theresurgence.com/2010/12/04/be-who-you-are-indicative-imperative

Deep Dive:   http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=26&var3=main

And a pertinent quote from A.W. Pink:

“There is a continual need to return to the great fundamental of the faith. As long as the age lasts the Gospel of God’s grace must be preached. The need arises out of the natural state of the human heart, which is essentially legalistic. The cardinal error against which the Gospel has to contend is the inveterate tendency of men to rely on their own performances. The great antagonist to the truth is the pride of man, which causes him to imagine that he can be, in part at least, his own savior. This error is the prolific mother of a multitude of heresies. It is by this falsehood that the pure stream of God’s truth, passing through human channels, has been polluted. Now the Gospel of God’s grace is epitomized in Ephesians 2:8-9,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

All genuine reforms or revivals in the churches of God must have as their basis a plain declaration of this doctrine. The tendency of Christians is like that of the world, to shy away from this truth which is the very sum and substance of the Gospel.”

The Space Shuttle and American Evangelicalism

Roger Boisjoly.  Never heard of him?  He would have probably preferred it that way.  See, Mr. Boisjoly, who passed away last month, was an aerospace engineer.  Literally, a “rocket scientist”.  And by all accounts, one of the smartest guys you’d ever meet.  Why does he hold any notoriety? Why would I bring him up in a blog about Christianity?   Because Mr. Boisjoly paid a great deal of attention to something very “trivial” in the massive scope of the space program; the “O” ring.

Mr. Boisjoly had found data which indicated that in cold weather, the “O” rings, which sealed the shuttle’s multi-stage booster rockets, would stiffen and unseal.  In an internal memo, he predicted a “catastrophe of the highest order”, “involving loss of human life”.

On January 27, 1986, Boisjoly reported to his superiors that a launch during such cold weather would be too dangerous, that the seals would likely fail and “if the seals failed the shuttle would blow up.”  For hours, he argued with colleagues and managers to stop the launch.  They initially agreed, but then moved forward.

“I am appalled,” said NASA’s George Hardy, according to Boisjoly and our other source in the room. “I am appalled by your recommendation.”

Another shuttle program manager, Lawrence Mulloy, didn’t hide his disdain. “My God, Thiokol,” he said. “When do you want me to launch — next April?”

“We thought that if the seals failed the shuttle would never get off the launch pad,” Boisjoly said. So, when Challenger lifted off without incident, he and the others watching television screens were relieved.

“And when we were one minute into the launch a friend turned to me and said, ‘Oh God. We made it. We made it!'” Boisjoly continued. “Then, a few seconds later, the shuttle blew up. And we all knew exactly what happened.”

The explosion of Challenger and the deaths of its crew, including Teacher-in Space Christa McAuliffe, traumatized the nation and left Boisjoly disabled by severe headaches, steeped in depression and unable to sleep. When I visited him at his Utah home in April of 1987, he was thin, tearful and tense. He huddled in the corner of a couch, his arms tightly folded on his chest. But he was ready to speak publicly. – NPR online “Remembering Roger Boisjoly”, February 7, 2012

This sounds far too similar to discussions within American christianity today.  Those who point out departures from orthodoxy, wrong ideas about God, are painted as “nitpicky”, “divisive”, “arrogant”, or “unloving”.   In an era where more information is readily available to the church than ever, we perish due to a lack of knowledge.   We quickly brush aside the battles of councils past, completely unconcerned with accuracy.  We sacrifice precision in speech and thought on the altars of unity, growth, and relevance.  In an attempt to avoid anything dogmatic, we eschew theology altogether.. yet ironically, what we create isn’t a lack of theology, but a vacuum in which members create their own aberrant theologies.  “Deeds not Creeds” leads to wrong-headed ideas about what it is we are doing in the first place.

To draw the analogy with the space shuttle, why would you bother a new brother with something as insignificant as the “O” ring of “persons” vs. “modes” in the Trinity?  Because it matters! Because God has revealed Himself to us in His word. How, then, shall we fashion for ourselves inaccurate (at best) or false (at worst) ideas of God to worship?

As I begin this blog, it is my sincere desire to write precisely about the orthodox, historical,  Christian faith.  My heart is for those who seek to know Him more, lest we be like those who neither know, nor care about the accuracy of the faith.  For if we love our Master, we will love to know Him more, and the study of knowing God is Theology.  (Not “feeling” God, not looking inside yourself for your views of Him, rather externally to how He has revealed Himself to us through his word.) Theology matters.  Truth matters. Accuracy matters… because He matters.

Marc