“assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus”

~ Ephesians 4:21

As the truth is in Jesus. This contains a reproof of that superficial knowledge of the gospel, by which many are elated, who are wholly unacquainted with newness of life. They think that they are exceedingly wise, but the apostle pronounces it to be a false and mistaken opinion. There is a twofold knowledge of Christ,—one, which is true and genuine,—and another, which is counterfeit and spurious. Not that, strictly speaking, there are two kinds; but most men falsely imagine that they know Christ, while they know nothing but what is carnal. In another Epistle he says, “If any man be in Christ, let him be a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17.) So here he affirms that any knowledge of Christ, which is not accompanied by mortification of the flesh, is not true and sincere.

Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 294). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Ephesians 4:23-24 (ESV)

“Be” is a verb. It is the essence of “being” or a continual state of action. We, as Christians, are to live in the constant state of being renewed – purging the old self and its ways – our old manner of life and thoughts. We are also to put on, embrace, the new self. The life of a Christian is one who rejects his previous ways, mindset, and views, and who embraces that which is outside of himself – that which is in Christ.

A Christian rejects his previous state of being – the state which is derived from a self-worship and self-gratification. The convert to Christ will understand that his old ways and futility of his previous life in incapable to save them – is incapable of producing a new person in them. There is no good day for an unrepentant man upon whom the Holy spirit has impressed the sinfulness of their lives, thoughts, and actions. They only see their sin as it really is until they finally repent and believe; surrendering the control and direction of their lives to the God who died in their place to save them. It is that person who lives their life in a constant state of renewal – converting their thoughts into God’s thoughts, and replacing their desires with God’s desires. It is in this recreated heart and mind where we are able to join with Jesus and pray “in His name” – praying the thoughts of God back to him, asking for his intentions to be fulfilled in out lives and in the world, and preparing our lives to pursue his glory rather than our own.

This is what it means to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and is the practical application of “putting on” this new self. Our old self is dead. Wholly worthless, and nailed to the Cross of Christ. But our new self – that will last us forever. Created for God’s purposes to his glory, and for our sanctification until our eventual glorification with him in Heaven.

Let us “be” in our God and King, preparing ourselves for our full and eternal purposes in the Kingdom of our Creator, to his glory alone. Amen.

Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Eph 4:24

The Christian walk is one of constant renewal.

We are first renewed in our hearts when the Holy Spirit infiltrates our self-focused and self-worshipping lives and replaces our stone hearts that cannot care about the things of God – and puts a heart of flesh in its place. Once this transformation takes place, we begin to see our sin as it is, and we are ashamed of it. God then starts to infiltrate our thinking with His truth in whatever method he chooses to insert it – pastors, preachers, evangelists, past Christian experiences, lay Christian interactions – however he brings it upon us, he converts our minds with these things. Our minds, now renewed, begin to ruminate on the truths of God – first in anger, then with open minds, then in obedience. Finally, our speech is renewed as we confess with our mouths that Jesus the Lord is the Christ of God, and that his salvation is both sufficient to cover the full breadth and depth of our sin debt before our creator, and also efficient in that it is applied to our lives and that we now walk in light of this change in our being.

That mass of renewals is merely the first step of our walk in Christ. That’s our first external understanding that our lives have been converted to Christ for his glory and not our own. The next set of renewals begin to change our interactions with the world. Our old habits and old thoughts begin to bother us. The Holy Spirit, finished with the replacement of our hearts, now reignites our consciences that have been seared from years of neglect and abuse. This God-fueled conscience now begins to whittle away at our idols and prompting us to abandon them for the sake of Christ. They are different for all people , but all have the same focus – to take our eyes off of Christ and to fall back into the old patterns that we are comfortable with. For some people it comes quickly – this abandoning of our old ways, but for most it takes time. We begin to learn about who God really is, in contrast to what we think he is. We start to desire to know God more intently, and seek him out in both good teaching, and in study of his word.

In this new understanding of who God is we learn that he is not on our side, but God is on his own side. God was not created for our good pleasure, but we were created for his. Our lives are not created for pursuit of our own desires, but to serve him in all that we do. Whatever we do, wherever it is done, is to the glory of God and Jesus his Christ. Our salvation was purchased so that we would be purchased back from our slavery to our own desires, and instead to glorify God in truth.

This is the “new self”. The “old self” was that which we were before, but that “self” is dead. It rots in the coffin of our salvation – forever dead and gone. Any time we try to revert back to our old ways, we bear the stench of that rotting corpse and it burdens us until we forsake it again in repentance and rush to wear again the “new self”.

This “new self” is free from the burdens of our old self. It no longer desires the things that we loved in the past. The “new self” is created much like Adam was – free from the hard-wired desire for self pleasure, and free to worship and serve God as he is. As Adam was created “in the likeness of God”, so we are created in same likeness – in true righteousness and in holiness.

“If righteousness be taken as a general term for uprightness, holiness will be something higher, or that purity which lies in being devoted to the service of God. I am rather inclined to consider holiness as referring to the first table, and righteousness to the second table, of the law, as in the song of Zacharias, “That we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.) Plato lays down the distinction correctly, that holiness (ὁσιότης) lies in the worship of God, and that the other part, righteousness, (δικαιοσύνη,) bears a reference to men. The genitive, of truth, (τῆς αληθείας,) is put in the place of an adjective, and refers to both terms; so that, while it literally runs, in righteousness and holiness of truth, the meaning is, in true righteousness and holiness. He warns us that both ought to be sincere; because we have to do with God, whom it is impossible to deceive.1

1 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 296). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.”

So that old “self”, being dead to us, is also dead to the world – therefore we only live in the “new self”. We now live our lives, reborn through the work of Christ, initiated by the work of the Holy Spirit, and saved to the glory of God the Father. These lives are revealed in our holiness from the world to God, and in lives bathed in the righteousness of God, revealing our new self to the world.

As Jesus says in John 15:14, we are his friends when we do what he commands of us, then in the next verses he explains that it’s not we that hold ourselves to him, because it’s God that chose us for salvation, and that he is the one who binds us to him, so we, living our new lives that are borne in us through his sacrifice on our behalf, and the renewal of our lives to his praise and glory. So we are his friends; we are brothers and sisters with him in glory, not “IF” we do what he commands us, but since we do it. He will bring us to himself, and birth the obedience in our lives, to his glory in the world. This is the life that is found in the “new self”.

So, with Paul, I agree and say that we should, in our rejection of old ways and our old lives, put on the new self – the self that’s created for worship of our God and King. Separating ourselves from our lives in the past, rejecting the snares and temptations of the world, and replacing everything with that which is in the pursuit of God’s intentions and that which glorifies him who died for us. May we all walk in this pursuit, forsaking all else, and bring glory to our Creator.

Jesus’ rejection of men does not come from their continual rejection of him. God, if he is incapable of saving people whom he has intended to save, is not God, but a mere reactor to the will of mankind. Every soul whom God has elected for salvation will be saved – from birth to the grave, their salvation is sure. They, however, cannot see it on their own and from their experience they only know their own walk in rebellion, their conversion, sanctification, and eventual glorification.

God’s rejection of men comes from their relentless attack against his character and nature. They are born without hearts that can understand him or his nature, they live their lives in self-worship, which is sin in that it rejects God’s role in creation, salvation, and his sovereign rule over their lives. That said, they have his laws written upon their heart in their conscience – they know of their relationship with him through the revelation of God through nature, and no man has an excuse before him that they did not know. Their consciences battle within them against them all the days of the lives, but they are still living in rebellion – focusing on their own self-worship and appeasing their own self-glorification.

God rejects the world and the non-elect, in his love for them – in giving them exactly what they want. They want self-autonomy from God’s laws, so he gives it to them. They want self-managed gratification by fulfilling their evil hearts desires, so he gives it to them. They want to reject everything that God has given them, yet still using the gifts he’s provided for them (the wealth, food, clothing, shelter, and freedom) to pursue their own destruction. And God gives it to them. At no point were they approved by God, not from birth to their deaths, but God, in love for his creation, grants to them what they want because they know the result is their destruction, but the draw to worship themselves and their own desires is too much for them to stop them from serving it.

God rejects men, because their desire is that he reject them.

God’s saving of men is where God stops giving men what they want. Salvation requires that God inject himself, against the will of men, into their hearts. He converts their self-focused hearts to understand their sin against him and their rejection of him. He fills them with His Holy Spirit and converts their soul to break their hearts over their sin against him. He reveals to them the love of God in that he has stood idly by as they sin against him, and he still served them in taking care of all of their needs. He then opens their minds to the reality of their sin debt against him, and the eventual end of that path which is their eternal destruction. God reveals to them his glory, his power, and his nature – and turns their hearts and minds from worship of self to worship of him until they can do nothing but fall on their knees in repentance and faith. Once it leaves their mouth that they repent and believe, it merely represents a wholly converted mind that has been transformed by their converted heart.

The heart of man cannot, on his own, embrace the goodness and greatness of God. To state that man has this ability is to say that God is a liar when he says that the hearts of men are corrupt from the womb, and that the hearts of all mankind os desperately wicked. The salvation of mankind comes from God is directed to God for the glory of God, to the shame of man because our self-worship is too important to us.

Praise be to the God and King of all creation who interferes in the lives of his creation, who violates the self-destructive will of man, and saves men against their will, so that there are witnesses in this age to his glory, to his praise, and for his name.

I saw this statement on a Facebook group where I participate, and it made me wonder why he wouldn’t want to pursue rebaptism. Anyway, here’s my response.

Reformed Baptist church I attend Sunday mornings has a statement that lists criteria they ask for before partaking…the one we don’t meet is being baptized after conversion…me and my wife were both baptized as babies…my dad also is a pastor at a non-denomination church…there its usually taken the first Sunday of the month

What role do you see baptism playing in scripture? Was it administered before or after conversion?

Follow up question, in the great commission, given by our Lord Jesus, what is the pattern that we see there?

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 28:19–20 (ESV)

The baptisms we see in scripture taking place before the conversions of the people (baptisms of John, for instance) are Jewish ceremonial washings which were common in that day. The baptism of a Christian is an uncommon baptism. Instead of it “cleansing you” of your past sins, it is a commanded act that we must engage in – one that aligns us with our King in his death (when we are placed under the waters of death) and raised anew in our new life in Christ. Also, the public act of our baptism stands witness against us, declaring our standing before God to all. This is why baptisms are public affairs for the whole church to participate in, because it is they who will watch over you, helping you on your path to sanctification, and they will lean on you as well for the same purpose. It openly declares that you are of the same family as those in the congregation, and that, as another of God’s children, you are under the same authority and expectations (that you’d seek to live a holy life, that you are bound to the Christ of scripture, that you are a sheep among sheep, and not a goat or wolf, etc).

When you were an infant, did you understand the role of Christ in salvation, who Jesus is, what his sacrifice on your behalf meant, or the full sin debt you owed to your creator? Did you understand that it was an unwritten contract with the body of believers that you were baptized into, where you hold Christ as your savior alone and that you’d seek to honor the commitment that comes with a public confession of faith in Christ? If not, then was it really a baptism of a believer into the kingdom of God or a baby getting wet to satisfy the fears of your parents, that somehow it may prophylactically apply some measure of God’s grace upon you, outside of the means we see in scripture, by their works upon you? That God would somehow break his own standard by which he holds men accountable, namely by faith, and that he would instead impart salvation (or the “seeds of salvation”) upon a child who cannot even speak or act under its own will, simply because the parents of that child got it sprinkled or dunked?

You’d just as well say that it has no part in the life of a believer at all.

But given that this is not what we see in scripture, that it is something that carries substance both publicly (in the eyes of those in your Christ-community (church), and commanded by our King after conversion, then why would you not follow in this example after your conversion?

(I’ll update this post if there are any further posts)

In follow up to the last question I was asked the following:

Now please enlighten me concerning the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and how whether it happens automatically after being saved or what.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in some way or another, starts way before you are ready to repent. We are born with a sinful heart that hardens to our sin as we continue to battle against our God-given conscience and sin. By doing so it becomes easier and easier to continue in our sin, but it also makes it harder and harder to understand the message of freedom in Christ that is the Gospel. Therefore, in order to repent you must first have your heart reborn so that it can accept this news (not “accept Jesus” – he is the one who accepts us, not the other way around). So God elects us from the throngs who love their sin and want to stay in it, he forcibly replaces our hearts with those that are soft to his message, and he places the holy spirit in our lives to begin to work on us by leading us to ask questions that violate our sinful souls’ desires, but that begin reshaping our minds and wills to conform to that of God our King. Eventually God leads you to a place mentally and emotionally where you can do nothing but cry out to God in fear and thanksgiving as you repent of all of your former works in sinfulness, and trust in him alone as your salvation.

This is typically where the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is seen, but as you can see, we’ve had him working in our lives up to this point.

The Holy Spirit is the protector of our souls and our seal against the evil one (and even our own wills) (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). He also is our interpreter between us and God the Father in our prayers, both interpreting what we say so that it’s presentable before our God and King, and also interpreting that which we mean to say, but cannot. (Rom 8:26). The Holy Spirit works always in our lives, commending us to righteous acts, conditioning our hearts to see that which brings God glory and leading us to his praise and worship.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a term used by the 2nd and 3rd wave charismatics to give credence to their supernatural powers which they used to attempt to create a second level of Christianity where their brand Christianity allows them to reach a higher plane of Christian understanding. I went to these churches (and was a member of one) for about 7 years. Basically it works by telling you that while you may be a Jesus-trusting, God-honoring, sin-hating Christian, you won’t be a /real/ Christian until you get the ability to speak in “tongues”. Now, “tongues” as a biblical term, merely meant to be able to speak in other languages that you weren’t trained in, but that were understandable to other cultures for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. A neat article on the sign gifts (including tongues) can be found here:

Berean Bible Society – When did the Gift of Tongues Cease

That said, as we mature in Christ, we lose the “puppy love” sentimentality of our initial conversion – often filled with emotion and “feelings” of oneness with Christ, and that develops into a firm trust in God alone. In my own marriage I saw this as the initial wave of emotional affection I had for my wife which carried me through our first years and marriage developed into a firm bond that I share with her. I cannot see where she ends and I begin, and neither can she. This is the same with our relationship with Christ. We become so tightly bound to him that we cannot see ourselves as anything separate from him. It is no longer a “does he accept me as I am” but a “I am forever grateful to be in his family, and I know that my sins and struggles will either fade away on this side of the veil of death, or will be forever removed upon my entrance into glory, and for all of this I stand before him in praise and worship.”.

In a conversation today, I had the following question posed to me and I thought I’d share my response here.

Saints. Is there a difference in being baptized in the name of Jesus and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Well, one is biblical:

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)

That said, it’s not a formula, but a statement. Baptism doesn’t guarantee or grant salvation as that would be a work that we perform to force God to do something else. If we could do something to force someone to be saved, we’d do it all the time. (insert joke about baptizing babies here)

The term “name” is exactly the same as it is used throughout scripture. The “name” of someone means their character and nature. Just as we are commanded to defend out “name” and Solomon says in Proverbs 22:1 that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches”, we are not to change our name to that of one that’s a “good” name – like if you like the name Balthazar and you’re named “Ted” and you’d rather to be called by this subjectively better name so you choose that.
What is meant is that your name, meaning your character and nature, should be well respected by those around you and that your name is a representation of that character and nature to other people. Like, so, I know Ian and he was a jerk back in the day but after God saved him, he is a totally new person. God has redeemed my name by transforming me into a new person with new desires.

So, to baptize in the “name” of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit means to do so following the character and nature of the Triune Godhead, not just to say verbally as you’re baptized “in the name of…”. Also, when you finish a prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ”, what you mean is, “I pray that my will and desires would be in line with yours, King Jesus, and that you would only provide to me that which accords with your character and nature”.

So, in conclusion, what you say when you baptize someone is less important than the intent with which they are baptized – in that we are trusting to God that the person who is baptized is a true Christian and not a mere false convert or a rocky ground/thorny hearer, who will fall away in the end. We are always hopeful, but know that God is the one who sees the hearts of men. We also know that those who are truly Christians will remain so until the end, even if they struggle in the way.

Last, as I said before baptism doesn’t save anyone, but the will of God upon the hearts of men. Pray for the salvation of all men, and God will inevitably save those whom he has elected to save, and trust the word of those who come to you saying that they are Christians until they show themselves to not be through their words or actions.

On Facebook I came across the following post in one of my Calvinist groups:

Spoke with my brother about my Calvinist theology and one question I struggled answering was “So you believe that there are just a set group of people that are hopeless and bound for Hell, that God won’t even give them a chance to believe?”

I also struggled a bit with the “God makes us robots” argument. Have any of you run into a situation like this, and, if so, how did you handle it?

Having encountered this myself, I’ve seen both bad and good arguments in response to the question. That said, here is what I typically aim for in that conversation:

God, in his kindness, allows all people to live on this life for their “best life now”. They can pursue that which their hearts desire to the fullest extent of that, until God directly prevents them from sinning beyond what he allows, or until he prevents their influence upon others.

That said, God has placed the conscience in the hearts of all men, and they have to overcome this conscience in order to begin pursuing this desire to sin. No one is just free to sin without the knowledge of the consequences that are at hand. You have to push past your conscience time and again before it becomes comfortable for you to just continue living in that way, and the reason most people rile against the teaching of scripture is that it reminds them that they’re living beyond the bounds of their conscience. So no one stands uncondemned before God. No one is pure from sin in the eyes of God. Also, due to our sin nature, no one lives their lives in any way that’s pleasing to God. The 10 commandments aren’t a simple rule set for a life of blessing, but it’s God’s holy standard of perfection. This is his “you must be this holy to enter My rest” marker that stands before the entrance before the gates of Heaven, and only a life spent in constant obedience to that will allow you to enter. As James 2:10 says, to violate one point of the law, you have failed in all of it.

More than that, no one, because of our self-focused, sin-sick hearts, would ever want to have a redeemer, much less would pursue this savior unless there’s a significant, personal pay off for that man. As we know from Psalm 51, the only sacrifice that God desires – the only one he acknowledges is one that comes from a contrite and humble heart. You cannot be truly contrite or humble if you’re coming to the throne of grace for how it will improve your life. If you’re looking for a salve for your conscience, or some kind of religious rite or procedure that will help you to balance out the sin you enjoy and the guilt you feel over it, then this is not the place for you. This is what the vast majority of Jews in Israel and Judah were pursuing prior to the Babylonian captivity and it led to their public humiliation and destruction.

Since we know that the heart of men only ever seeks its own interests and comfort, and since God has provided to all men both the natural revelation around them which point to his existence and guiding hand in all of creation, and the conscience which lives in their heart, revealing their sin to them, the question about those who are clamoring for salvation and are “turned away” just doesn’t happen. Sure, there are many in the church who are there for their own benefit, but those are the ones who will be told at the last day, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt 7:23). God, knowing the hearts of men, and knowing that only those who enter the throne room of grace with a contrite and humble heart are those who are the ones who are there for God’s purpose and not their own, has chosen from the vast throng who are sprinting headlong into hell to interfere in the lives of his elect, to radically change the attitude of their hearts away from themselves and toward him, then to bombard them with his grace and mercy until they can do nothing but cry out in repentance and faith in the God and King of all creation who died in their place.

The kindness of God allows sinners to pursue their own desires – their own dreams, despite the fact that they’re both living in rebellion to him, but also knowing that they’re doing it to their own hurt. It is therefore the God who interferes, the God of the “but God” statements in the Bible, who steps in and violates the autonomous rule of man’s heart to turn him to Himself for the sake of the sinner, and for the glory of the King of mercy and grace.

I was asked by a friend today if love is a work or not. By that he means, is it something we must do as a Christian to maintain or obtain our salvation, or if it’s something else.

Christian love is a mixture of philia and agape love in that we are firmly bound to those who are in four categories:

1) Christ – We are bound to Jesus by his outpouring of affection in agape love toward us, in that he died in our place while were still his enemies, and adopted us into the family of God to share in the kingdom of glory.

2) Our Spouse – This is a combination of the Eros (which can be God-centered in a committed relationship, most clearly defined in a Christian marriage where both parties love Jesus more than themselves or their spouse), philia, and agape – in that we are bound tightly together to each other, and to Christ separately, and he binds us to all of us together. One supporting, caring for, and encouraging one another. Not that Jesus needs our support, care, or encouragement, but that he facilitates all of it between all parties.

3) Other Christians – Just as in a marriage, our joint focus on Christ will breed and support the philia and agape love for other Christians which is the brotherly-love that we all share for one another as well as our self-sacrificing love where we will put ourselves in even harm’s way to assist and defend those who are other Christians in our community (in-person or online). We gladly give of whatever we have with an open hand to help those whom are in need in the Christian union. This is what’s meant by Jesus:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ John 13:35 (ESV)

4) Non-Christians – Our philia love for other Christians and the agape love we share with Christ and our community, pours into our treatment of others who are not in our faith. This allows us treat people who are not Christian and who treat us poorly with respect and understanding. Now, they don’t understand that it’s because we are able to love other because we were first loved by Jesus when we were his enemies, so that is why we endure hardship, indifference, spite, and hatred from those outside the community of Christ. We take care of all others because we were cared for. We endure because Jesus endured on our behalf. When we are wronged we don’t respond in anger or retaliation, but with understanding because we, too, were ignorant and offensive toward that which we didn’t understand at first as well.

All of this to say that our love, in its many forms, defines who we are and is the heart and soul of what we embody, but it’s most certainly not a “work” by which we obtain or maintain our salvation. It pours freely from a heart of worship to our God and King. The closer we are to God, the more deeply we understand our own sin and failures, the more intimately we are attuned to our need for Christ on a daily or minute-by-minute basis, the more the love which is born in this Christian communion flows into all aspects of our life and into our dealings in every relationship we have.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)

I saw this on a group I belong to in Facebook.

Andy Stanley, the, well, it’s hard to know exactly what he is at North Point Community Church, where he functions as a part-CEO, part-pastor. His sermon series’ in the past have been plagued with issues, much like the quote above, where he seems to want to knock away the barriers for people to become Christians, and instead is knocking free the underpinnings of the Christian faith. This has been going on for a while and it’s no different than much of his previous content.

That said, he seems to embrace the “what if” mentality when it comes to these subjects.

“What your students have discovered, and if you read broadly you’ve discovered, it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible. But if your Christianity hangs by the thread of proving that everything in the Bible is true, you may be able to hang onto it, but your kids and your grandkids and the next generation will not. Because this puts the Bible at the center of the debate. This puts the spotlight right on the Bible. Everything rises and falls on whether not part, but all the Bible is true. And that’s unfortunate, and as we’re going to discover today, it is absolutely unnecessary.”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The Bible Told Me So

“So, if you stepped away from Christianity because of something in the Bible, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because of Old Testament miracles, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because you couldn’t reconcile 6,000 years with a 4.5 billion year old earth and something you learned in biology, I want to invite you to reconsider, because the issue has never been, ‘is the Bible true?’”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The Bible Told Me So

“I want all the people who grew up in church, and then left church because they couldn’t figure out how to reconcile what they learned in school or what they experienced in life with what they learned in church, and decided, you know what, it’s just irreconcilable. Science is irreconcilable with faith, pain is irreconcilable with faith, pain and suffering in the world is irreconcilable with faith, my life experiences are irreconcilable with faith, just what I’ve learned and experienced as an adult is irreconcilable with faith, and so there’s this tension, and I either pretend I believe something I’m not sure exists, or I can go with what’s obvious and with what’s undeniable. I want you to reconsider Christianity because I think some of you, I’m guessing a whole lot of you, but I don’t want to judge, a lot of you, though, you left Christianity for reasons that really have nothing to do with the Christian faith. You left unnecessarily, so I’m inviting all of you to reconsider Christianity, not the Christianity of your childhood, but a grown-up faith with a grown-up God with a little different perspective, because I want you to come back.”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The God of Jesus

I wrote an article a while ago about the power of “what if?” in witnessing. I’d link it but I had some database issues a while ago and after recovering much of my site and apparently it has gone away. Much sads.

Anyway, in witnessing, “what if” is the window into deeper conversation:
Atheist: “I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”
Christian: “What if it’s not about what you believe?”

Atheist: “I don’t know how to reconcile miracles and supernatural actions – they don’t seem logical to me.”
Christian: “What if your concept of what God is capable of, and what he controls is smaller than what’s really possible?”

Atheist: “My cousin/sister/child died from cancer and I can’t believe in a God who would allow something like that to happen to innocent people.”
Christian: “What if your understanding is only from your own perspective. What if the way you understand innocence, or even the reason we have our lives on this planet, much less who owns that life, is different from what you have been taught?”

Just to be totally clear here – I 100% understand that he’s addressing the goats rather than the sheep, but to whom is he speaking? Who are the people in his direct audience? These are all likely people who really and truly believe that they ARE ALREADY Christians. As a result, I understand fears addressing this content to believers. To carry this further, “what if” someone who is in the audience is a young Christian and is forced to reconsider their beliefs? As a Calvinist I know that our belief isn’t even our own – we don’t own it, but God provides it to us. As a result there are things that I struggle with on a daily basis and work my way through so I can get a deeper and fuller understand of not only who this God is who saved me from himself because of my nature which claws its way against him in continual revulsion of his power and holiness and glory as rats escape a sinking and burning ship, but also a better understanding of his nature and character in that he knows my form and my weaknesses and yet continues to use me for his glory to help those in my care. So, as someone who is a skeptic at heart, who continually struggles with the “why” questions, this is something that’s good for me.

Looking back on my own conversion, I wasn’t entirely sure who Jesus was. I knew that he was the son of God and I knew who God was as my creator, and that my own sins were the reason I stood accused before him. I knew that Jesus took my place and that I was the one who deserved to die, not him. But was I a hard-core 6-day creationist? Nope. Could I clearly articulate the trinity? Nope. Did I have all of the creeds and confessions memorized and was I able to spout them off at a moment’s notice? Not at all. But this isn’t the context of his sermon series – it’s directed at people in the audience – those who largely consider themselves to be Christian. After my conversion I clearly understood that my own concept of who God was and my role in this equation was very foreign to me and that I had to abandon my previously held beliefs to find out not only who God really was, but to understand it on his terms and not my own.

What Andy Stanley is doing is undermining the core tenets of the Christian faith for what he sees as a “mere Christianity” mindset which is fine when witnessing to people to get them beyond their own concepts and to open the door for them to the reality that God exists, but when preached to the people of God, from the pulpit, it tells people that some belief – any belief – as long as it is loosely tied to the God of the Bible is sufficient for Christian faith and practice. This is wholly reprehensible. A Christian immediately upon conversion is not expected to have a full understanding of the triune nature of God, the whole working of God throughout history, and to totally embrace all of these ideas, but in time they do come to that understanding. To have a pastor from the pulpit preach to a community of people who already see themselves as Christians (some may be and some may not), and to teach them that they can abandon anything that seems hard to understand or follow and just to simply cling to the barest of details about Jesus – being told that this is all that’s necessary for a full and deep relationship with God – is one of the most wicked things I can imagine.

Look at it this way. When I first met my wife, I had an alright understanding of who she was. I knew that she liked dancing, that she loved 80’s music, and that she looked really great in skirts (BC days). In time I grew to have a much deeper understanding of who she was and, more importantly, why she was the way that she was. I learned and embraced her hopes and dreams. I empathized with her over her fears and failures. I made her own concerns my concerns because of my deep love for her. How? I studied her and I learned from her on her terms and not my own. This is the core of Christian development – to know the God who loves us, and to learn to love him on his terms, not our own.

Andy Stanley is teaching people that they don’t need to learn these things and that desiring to grow is not unnecessary, but troublesome. Were I to only know the barest of details about my wife, I’d have no friendship at all, let alone a marriage. Let us take this example from a pastor who is doing a terrible job at leading his flock and let it drive us to know more about our God who loved us by dying for us, and as a result, to learn more about ourselves as we stand before his throne of glory.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

~ Ephesians 4:17–24 (ESV)

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)