Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Christless Christianity

Some awesome, thought provoking and convicting quotes from Christless Christianity and Tim Challies' review of the book:

"Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.”"

-Michael Horton in Christless Christianity

Through all of this I’d suggest the most important statement in the book may just be this: “It is not heresy as much as silliness that is killing us softly.” This is where the book may be most useful for the conservative Christians who are the audience most likely to read it. All of us can fall into silliness without tossing aside the gospel. We can hold fast to Christian theology, even while allowing silliness and levity to pervade the very fabric of our church. A once-serious institution can become overrun by programs and purposes that slowly erode the gravity and simplicity of the church’s unique calling."

-part of Tim Challies' review of Christless Christianity on www.challies.com

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Holiness Incinerates Flesh

1 Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Malachi 3:1-4


Malachi is foreshadowing the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus. Most people believed that when Christ, the Messiah of Israel came he would bring peace, independence and prosperity with him. We see in Acts that many people rise up claiming to be this expected savior only to be killed and forgotten because their movements were form man and not form God. People had the wrong expectations of what Christ would accomplish. Verse 1 presents Him as the “messenger of the covenant in whom you delight.” But then the very next verse says, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.”

Jesus was going to bring peace and prosperity but not in the way that everyone expected. To the sinner, which includes everybody, he will be like a fire or fuller’s soap. Fire burned away dross until the pure metal was left. Fullers soap was the soap that people would use to clean their linens and then people would lay them out on rocks and beat them with reeds. Either illustration would be seen as painful and opposite of what they were expecting. But this indeed marked Jesus’ ministry. He openly mocked the false teachers and Pharisees and he repeatedly told people that suffering accompanied following Him. Like pressure on coal makes diamonds; suffering on repentant sinners creates character.

He ends this paragraph by saying that the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord. This happens only after suffering produced character and right hearts. Right action without the right heart is gross the Lord.


People often believe that Jesus is there to be our healer, our comfort, our strength and our provider. While all this is true He also came to confront flesh.

I am often guilty of this kind of thinking. I love what Christ offers but I don’t like the road that I have to take to get there. Christ’s holiness is an affront to my flesh. But too often I compare myself to other people to make myself feel good. Instead of comparing myself to Christ and His holiness I compare myself to other sinners.

The Bible talks about the fact that in the presence of Holiness flesh will burn away. Even Moses could not look at the face of God. He was only allowed to look at his back. But we as Christians do not allow the Holiness of God in Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside of us to burn away our flesh. We let our flesh sit and mingle. We hold onto our desires to be first, to have much and to be made much of. Instead of killing our flesh in the face of God’s holiness.

I have to do this. Especially in ministry, if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to do this than our enemy will definitely capitalize. We have to get away from the idea that following Jesus is an easy road. That He wants as we are and that it’s ok to stay that way. We need to let Jesus confront and destroy our sin not just save us from it.

The apostles were daily performing miracles and people sought them out. It is really easy to get prideful in this situation. We see them before Jesus’ death asking which one will be the first in Heaven. Thus the suffering kept them humble by killing their pride and forcing them to rely on the Spirit and Jesus.


Dear God,
Please kill my sin and build in me an increasing hatred for it. Help me to feel the weight of sin that Jesus had to bear.

In Jesus name Amen

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suffer Well

“It is all one; therefore I say,
        He destroys both the blameless and the wicked
When disaster brings sudden death,
        he mocks the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
        he covers the faces of its judges -
        if it not he, who then is it?“

Job 9:22-24


        Job’s friend Bildad offers his attempt at consolotion in the midst of his suffering by calling him a wretched sinner who needs to repent of some hidden sin against God. And while I think that this is practically always a good place to start, it does not offer the explanation for the suffering that Job is seeking.

        Job’s reply to this plea for repentance is that he understands the logic behind what his friend is saying but in reality he does not see that play out. He sees the wretched prospering and the upright suffering. He understands that no man can stand before God and offer a case that will compel God to reprieve his judgement. He says in verse 3, ”If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.“ The word ”contend“ offers insight into the legal process that Job and Bildad are speaking about. On one hand he understands the truth of God’s justice and the truth that He upholds the upright. But he also knows the utter depravity of man’s heart. And that in the face of God there is no arbiter able to go between them and plead his case. He is stuck in between one of those doctrinal tensions where both are true but from our perspective it makes no sense.

        And so he defaults to what he knows is true; to what he can perceive and that is that the happenings of the world whether it be the calamity of the innocent or the prosperity of the wicked are governed ultimately by the Lord. He is confused and does not understand what is going on but although He doesn’t understand fully he defaults to what he knows to be true. God is a good God and that that good God is in full control. In the next chapter we see his heart poured out as he pleads with God for reprieve but still in utter confusion.

        But we know the the full story of Job in that he defaults to the truth that his life is in the hands of the Lord that he trusts, loves and submits to.


        When bad times come it is natural for man to assume that our actions had something to do with bringing that calamity. In fact it is probably a good thing to first look at our hearts and repent of our actions adn thoughts. But we shouldn’t assume that our actions are the cause of our suffering. With the eastern philiosophy of Karma our actions determine whether we experience suffering or prosperity. And too often this has been carried over into Christianity. But through mere observation we can see, like Job saw, the wicked prosper and the upright suffer.

        So how then are we to suffer well. How are we as Christians to understand the world when a 2 month old baby is mauled by a pitbull or when a loving husband and a father of 4 is killed in a train wreck leaving the family with a mortgage and no way of making ends meet? How are we to understand when our own families suffer the loss of a loved one or when godless men make millions and are apparently living the life?

        We default back to what we know to be true. That God is good, able, perfectly wise and in full control.
        And so we have two choices. Faith or fear? Do we put faith in what we know to be true or do we fear what we do not know? CIrcumstances, future, reasons for suffering. There is so much that we do not know that can bring unhealthy fear into our lives. But there is one thing or rather one person that we do know and that is God. Not that we know about God but that we know Him as our loving father.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Glossy Eyes

“1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ”Look at us.“ 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk! 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.“

Acts 3:1-8


Peter and John had been eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. After seeing that and His subsequent resurrection they were forever changed. Gone was their doubt in His name and His power. Peter would never again deny the Lord even to at the cost of his own life. And now they not only walked with a new confidence in Christ but also by the power of the Holy Spirit and through faith in Christ’s name. And so here they encounter this man that has been laying by the gate daily asking for alms. He had one concern, one focus and that was to get money. In his mind he thought that that was all that he needed. That was the utmost that he could think of ever needing to survive. And in his mind that was all that would ever be offered besides scoffs and the dust off of people’s feet. Never in his wildest imaginations would he have ever dreamt of an encounter like the one he had that day with Peter and John.

Here come two men walking straight towards him. They most like looked like any other men walking by. But then they both direct their gazes directly at him. It is most probable that most people would try to avoid his gaze like many of us do to the homeless man outside of our car windows. But these two stared at him intently and even commanded him, ”Look at us.“ And as he did perhaps there was a glimmer of hope that they would throw some money his way. But they were able to discern his heart; his yearning for silver and gold. But they knew that they had something much more valuable to offer him. And so they healed him through the name of Jesus Christ and it says that he got up and started leaping and praising God. He did not simply get up and walk and thank them for what they did. He recognized that it was indeed God who had healed him and that it was Him that deserved the praise. He had been given the gift of a renewed heart and a very tangible example of God uplifting the weak. His actions leave little doubt that he was hit by Peter’s subsequent Gospel message and that he was numbered with the 5,000.


Many times in my life I feel like God has told me to look at him. Not to simply look to him or for him. But at him. To gaze intently. To look at Him for who He claims to be; not who I wish him to be. Much like this lame beggar I often look to God expecting something that from my perspective would make everything better; would give me satisfaction and joy. But He has so much more to offer than what I am expecting him to give. In his infinite wisdom and mercy he knows exactly what I need. Just like Peter and John were able to perceive the true needs of that man so God know my true needs past the expectations that my glossy eyes convey. Most of the time what I think is good for me is not God’s best.