Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Thrust of Christianity, the 4th

The thrust of Christianity is not feeling good about God, as though He were our boyfriend. The American church of recent decades has convinced many that if they feel out of sorts in regard to their relationship with God then something is terribly wrong. But what we feel has everything to do with our expectations. When faulty expectations are not met, we feel that something must be amiss, as though God has mistreated us, or is angry with us. This scenario is another reason why God's Word is so critical. It tells us how God relates to us and even feels about us. And it tells us how we ought to feel toward God. And, it puts the objective realities above how we feel about them. In other words, what God says trumps how we feel.

I am pro-feeling. I see that the Bible gives a significant place to emotions within the Christian experience. But it does not permit emotion to govern us or permit us to doubt God when our feelings are not what we prefer or expect. It seems to  me that our relationship with God in Christ has in some cases been reduced to a cinematic romance; so much so that if we don't feel God's presence we actually believe He isn't with us. But, He says He is (Ps 139; Mt 28, etc).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Thrust of Christianity, The 3rd

The thrust of Christianity is not pure goodness, as in category fixes. It seems to me we prefer a world where the good guys are all good and the bad guys are all bad; a world where the teams are fixed so that there are no good guys on the bad side and no bad guys on the good side. I think we want individual and team category clarity. That doesn't seem like a terrible desire, but it's not how God has made the world. I think of this in part because my family has recently been reading the Bible stories about Samson (Judges 13-16). Samson, a Judge of God's people, is repeatedly said to be led by the Spirit of the LORD. He also came to exist through a miraculous conception (his mother was barren). And he is said to be an instrument of God's judgment upon the Philistines, among other good things. Yet, Samson is often viewed by Christians as a mostly evil man, slaughtering innocents and chasing immoral women. This is strange in light of how Christians tend to think of King David. David is normally considered a good man . But David was a killer; a man of war (1 Ch 28). He was responsible for many more deaths than Samson. And, he had hundreds of women. Isn't it strange how we pick our heroes.

Frankly, I like Samson, and David, and Jonah, for that matter. I see faith in these men. No matter what phase of history, or the present, we look into, we will find that our heroes, and our family and friends, are mixed in their characters. And often it is their good qualities, unchained, that become their bad qualities.

All of this points us to Jesus Christ, the purely good One, as God defines goodness.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Thrust of Christianity, The 2nd

The thrust of Christianity is not peace, even inner peace, which some, perhaps many, have gone so far as to make the measure of whether or not a person is actually right with God. Christian living is fraught with turmoils within and troubles without. We wrestle, we strive, we fight, we battle, we struggle, we mourn, and we die, in this world. The Apostle Paul (perhaps the most Christ-like person of all history) gives this testimony: "We are afflicted in every way. . .we are perplexed. . .we are persecuted. . .we are struck down. . .we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake. . . (Excerpts from 2 Co 4:7-12).

Now, because of Jesus, there is good news, gospel news: "We are not crushed. . .not despairing. . .not forsaken. . .not destroyed. . .the life of Jesus is being manifested in our mortal flesh. . ." But the good news does not erase the hardships. It makes them fruitful, and sanctifying.

When I read the gospel narratives, I wonder which is most normal. Did Jesus relieve stress, or did He cause it?

Once converted to Christianity, for the first time a person is walking against his own sinfulness, against the world's influence, and against the devil himself. This tri-fold assault makes for quite a strain (See Jn 16, for example).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Thrust of Christianity

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . ." 
Ro 1:16

The thrust of Christianity is not moral transformation, or a better quality of life, or relationship improvements, or temporal success of any kind. The thrust of Christianity is salvation from the wrath of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ comes from outside ourselves, and asks of us no work or improvement. It is the redeeming energy of God. It does the work; and it makes the improvements.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An Upright Person is Sound of Heart

"An upright saint is like an apple with rotten specks, but a hypocrite is like the apple with a rotten core. The sincere Christian has a speck of passion here, there one of worldliness, and there one of pride. But cut him up and anatomize him, and he is sound at heart; there Christ and Christianity live and reign. A hypocrite is like an apple that is smooth and lovely on the outside, but rotten within. His words may be exact, his duties devout, and his life blameless; but look within, and his heart is the sty of sin, the den of Satan." -- From Richard Steele's (1629-1692) article, "The Nature of an Upright Man".