Tag Archives: Jesus

Peter or Paul?

In the book of Galatians Paul, an almost Apostle, challenged Peter, an apostle, for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel (Gal 2:14).  I want you to understand the potentially scandalous charge that Paul was going to make against Peter.   You see Paul, at this point, was an outsider to the inner circle of the Apostles, After becoming a follower he immediately left to promote the Gospel to the gentiles… without ever corroborating his understanding of the Gospel with  the rest of the Apostles,  Now, after several years and after  promoting the Gospel to the gentiles,  Paul is about to challenge Peter, a person that walked and was taught personally by Jesus himself, for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel. This could have been a scandal if done in today’s Church.

I want you to consider the gravity of this. First, lets discuss Peter.  Peter is one of the Apostles where you learn more from his mistakes than you do his teachings in Scripture.  Peter, of all the Apostles was not the sharpest tool in the shed.  He denied Christ three times and now was sent off to do ministry and now Paul was challenging him for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel. Wow!

However, Christ also said that Peter was the rock on which He would build his Church.  Jesus was going to build his Church on Peter and people like Peter.   I do ministry with Men struggling with various issues,  Due to the nature of their issues, its unfortunate that I have to tell them to find more Pauls in their lives that do not twist the Gospel message of Jesus Christ so that they are not rejected and fall deeper into their sin. Don’t get me wrong …. the Peters of the world often mean well and God will use them in great ways,,,, but for a season of life we just need more Pauls in our life than Peters.

Perhaps  you know Christians like this… ones where you can learn more from their mistakes than their words.  They understand right from wrong and the they understand Gods standards,   I am sure they have a tone of truth that is ethical and moralistic,,,, but they also do not act “in line” with the truth of the Gospel.

What do you do so you don’t get duped into acting outside of Paul’s teachings….. so you don’t pull a Peter.   When the stresses of life come in … do you act like a Peter or Paul?

Today I am thankful for how Peter was used as an example of how to not act and as an example of Gods sovereignty as God used Peter in great ways.  I am also thankful for Pauls correction of Peter and for Paul pointing us to the Gospel with divine words.

Three Idols of the Heart

I wanted to pass some great heart-based wisdom.  This is from a kindred gospel-centric Spirits BLOG:

http://scottsauls.com/2015/01/01/jesus-like-church-culture/

Here is what Scott wrote about 3 categories of idolatry of our own heart:

Basically every idol (and every sin) traces back to a self-salvation strategy, which replaces something only Jesus can ultimately provide adequately, with a counterfeit. Some examples include (thanks to Timothy Keller for inspiring these insights):

The certainty idol. Those who “worship and serve” the certainty idol are “nervous types” who are controlled by worry. They simply cannot handle when things are up in the air or seem to be at risk. They (we!) always carry anxiety about losing their health, their money, the spot-free condition of their home, or any other thing that gives them the illusion that they are in control of their universe. To address the certainty idol, we must do so with both “grace” and “truth:”

  • Truth: You will never feel secure (be “saved” from insecurity) by putting your hope in things that are uncertain. If you continue to put your hope in your health, your bank account, the well-being of your children, your GPA, you will remain an anxious person. You will either be horrified of losing control, or will fall into despair when you do lose control.
  • Grace: Jesus is the sovereign King of the universe. He knows your needs. He works all things (good and bad) for your good. Trust Him!

The success idol. Those who “worship and serve” the success idol are generally “achiever types” who don’t mind things being “up in the air” (unlike the certainty idol) as long as they win. They cannot deal with failure and are driven by the fear of it. They (we!) are enslaved by their ability (or lack thereof) to “measure up” to peers, to gain the leverage they desire—whether it be on the athletic field, in the classroom, at the office, or any other place. To address the success idol, again we must do so with both “grace” and “truth:”

  • Truth: Enough success will never be enough for you. (When Rockefeller was asked “How much is enough” he said, “One more dollar!”). You will be like Harold Abrams in Chariots of Fire, who ran, ran, and ran, but eventually realized he had no idea what he was running for.
  • Grace: Jesus has already lived the ultimately “successful” life on your behalf! You can now rest in the record He has provided for you in His life of perfect obedience. Your reputation is secure. You will win the ultimate prize because of what Jesus has accomplished in your place!

The relationship idol. Those who “worship and serve” the relationship idol are controlled by an inordinate longing for affection and/or approval. They (we!) don’t mind things being up in the air (unlike the certainty idol), and they don’t mind losing (unlike the success idol), as long as somebody is saying “I love you” to them.

  • Truth: Even your best relationships will be spoiled if you put them in front of your relationship with Jesus! You will become obsessive, with a false security that the love/approval of others will “save” you. Or you will become anxious and depressed when criticized.
  • Grace: Jesus is the lover of your soul. He delights in you and rejoices over you always! He is the one place where you are relationally secure at all times!

In summary, with respect to idols of the heart, the bottom line consists of the following:

We need to master the art of identifying of the heart. We especially need to do so with the people among whom we serve. Our messages should always be addressing the idols of the day with the grace and truth of Jesus (as exemplified above). We need to ask the diagnostic questions mentioned earlier in this section—both of ourselves and those under our care. Then, we need to target our teaching toward the healing of these idols.

Great words!

Elasticity of the Gospel

I really work hard to try to articulate and discuss difficult thoughts and topic in just the right way.  In the past, I have presented topics on the ampersand of the gospel.. or the ampersand of our faith.

Link:  centralityofthegospel.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/the-ampersand-of-our-faith/

When Martin Luther was starting the reformation and what eventually became the foundation for every protestant denomination today he had a saying “simul justus et peccator” which means I am simultaneously sinful and lost AND I am also just and righteous because of what Christ did for me.  He was basically saying the same thing as me when I discuss the ampersand and this is the founding thought I want to talk about again.

The reason I am bringing this up is this what I believe the most basic ingredient for creating  an environment for change and growth is to understand the ampersand of the gospel.  Understanding the ampersand gives us elasticity in how we can discuss painful thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  We don’t have to run from the painful thought and feelings and get into patters where we minimize, deny, and blame others for our junk and sin.  We don’t have to hang our heads in shame nor do we lift our heads to boast and continue to sin.  We can have deep discussion about our sin without hiding.  We are not giving repentance lip service and skirting past the emotional discomfort quickly and easily to get past it.  We understand we are children of God that can sometimes do terrible things.

Part of the origin of how elastically we can discuss difficult thoughts and feelings often comes from patterns we have inherited from our families of origin.  I am hoping I can pass on to my now adult children and grandchildren this elasticity  and understanding of the gospel that took me so long to understand in my own adult life.   I hope to have more conversations without getting into black and white/all or nothing thinking but doing this while maintaining the truth of scripture.

Truth: How can we use it to grow emotionally

This is a follow up to the previous BLOG, I felt it needed its own BLOG rather than just being a comment:

centralityofthegospel.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/truth-how-do-we-use-it/

So one of the things I do is I work with men that are struggling with various issues. Many of them come from very loving Christian homes and they seemingly look like the perfect home to grow up in. I would not characterize their families as completely legalistic or that their parents completely misused truth as a power play. I think I might have chosen a less grandiose word for “power play” now that I think about it if I rewrote the BLOG

But I do believe the patters of their current relationship behaviors/problems often have roots in how they did relationships in their family of origin.

Here is how I think this might work.

Billy boy goes to mom and says Mom I have a problem. This kid at school has been doing XYZ behavior and it frightens me. Mom says well Billy Boy I want you to be a man of integrity and righteousness before God that always does the right thing. –A little more talking about Billy Boys behavior and responses goes on.– Mom ends with “Now Billy Boy what would Jesus Do?” She also calls the Principal to try to fix the remainder of Billy Boys problems

So on the surface this seems like a pretty good conversation from the Mom. I think all those responses are actually pretty good… but what is missing?

Well … all the response are completely about Billy Boys behaviors. Not once did the mom go deeper and validate Billy Boys fears and thoughts about his fears. And then on top of everything else she set an expectation about Billy Boys behaviors of Billy being righteous. This expectation is confirmed and reconfirmed many times by the mother on lots of other issues. Well ….The next time Billy Boy is NOT perfectly righteous Billy Boy is likely to hide his behavior! Billy Boy might even do this for many years. This is a subtle form of how truth gets abused, It completely stays on the behavioral level of conversation and often never goes deeper. Too much talking about truth and not enough applying Truth,

The men I work with often have high spiritual IQs but they often have lower emotional IQs (as did I for many years). In recent years I have started to equate spiritual and emotional maturity. We really can not have spiritual maturity without having emotional maturity as well, IMO. When we apply truth and apply grace and mercy and actually have a conversation about our sin, thoughts, and feelings we grow spiritually and emotionally. When we keep it at the behavioral level we learn to hide our sin, thoughts, and feelings.

So new question. How can truth be used to grow our emotional maturity?

Truth: How do we use it?

As a Christian I strongly believe in Truth!  I believe Gods word is absolute truth.  At the same time I have observed what I see as an abuse of truth in many Christians. 

I believe this abuse of truth falls into one of 2 categories.  The first is when we use truth to gain power over another person or another group. Basically, we use truth see ourselves as better than another person or group. 

The other is when we use truth as a shield.  This kind of TRUTH abuse is when we like to talk about truth but we do not use it to get “wooden” with our own sins, thoughts, and feelings. We talk truth as a way of avoiding discussing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  We use truth as  a very clever way of changing the subject so we do not have to look at our own sin.

So what does this look like in reality.  Years ago, my wife and I sat down with a couple we were good friends with.  This couple was struggling with some issues the husband was struggling with.  One of the things we knew about this couple was that this couple had  very black and white, all or nothing, legalistic way of thinking. This was especially true of the wife…. but also true of him.  This couple was at their best when they could look out their windows and talk about how BAD other people were and how BAD other groups were.  Well , what do you think occurs when legalistic, black or white thinking finally meets the sin inside the walls of a marriage instead of outside the walls of the marriage,,,, well, you get FIREWORKS!  I vividly remember when we sat down with them and  her strong and incorrect use of  the word “TRUTH!” at her husband as a way of belittling her husband.  She was using TRUTH as a form of a power play.   Oddly, right before she did this she told us how she was calm she was because she had the “fruit of the spirit” working in her.  As she said this her body language was anything except full of the fruit of the spirit.  This was her way of using truth as a shield to deflect everything away from her.  In one conversation with this couple they had used TRUTH both as a shield and as a power play.

Well, anyhow, I believe the question that deserves some thought today is this:

How have we used our faith and religion as either a shield or as a power play?

 

 

 

 

Freedom…. What is it good for?

Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-14‬ ESV

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

See it at Bible.com:

http://bible.com/59/gal.5.13-14.esv

Last night we discussed the idea of Freedom in my men’s group and we discussed Galatians 5.

For me freedom takes on some deep thoughts.  Freedom, to me,  means freedom from any forms of righteousness the world places on me.   It means spiritual, emotional, and psychological freedom!  However, those are pretty big words.

Some might be looking for Freedom from sin.  But freedom FROM anything is not really freedom in my opinion.  How do we put hands and feet on the idea of freedom and what it means to you?  Is anyone bold enough to make comments on what Freedom means for them?

Freedom… what does it mean for you?  Any takers on making comments?

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WD40 and the 3 Narratives People live by

Do I have a Grace and Mercy “narrative” in how I live my life… or do I have performance narrative or self preservation narrative.

Performance narrative … always trying to win, look good. Can be subtle, Today many people have a moral performance narrative. Performance narrative says if I obey and do good I am acceptable. It does not see its own sin but looks at the sin of others,

Self preservation narrative says I need to protect myself from pain and hurt because its not safe (emotionally safe). A person with a self preservation narrative says no matter what I do I will get hurt again. Self preservation narrative does not have emotional safety.

Grace and Mercy Narrative is like wd40. When you pour wd40 on a something “stuck” it soaks deeply into the joint. You never see the wd40 but it makes everything in the joint operate more smoothly. A grace and mercy narrative makes relationships operate more smoothly. It is the wd40 of relationships. Unlike a performance narrative it says I am acceptable, therefore I want to obey and do good. Unlike self preservation narrative it allows me to explore thoughts and feelings safely and gives me the opportunity to grow and change in a safe environment.

However, grace and mercy needs to soak deeply into a person, like wd40 does. The problem we have in todays world is grace and mercy are often understood intellectually… is is not a deeply entrenched narrative in how people live their lives. Often for grace and mercy to become a deeply entrenched “narrative” it must be gained experientially driven vs just intellectually understood.

WD40 and a Grace and Mercy Narrative

Do I have a Grace and Mercy “narrative” in how I live my life… or do I have performance narrative or self preservation narrative.

Performance narrative … always trying to win, look good. Can be subtle, Today many people have a moral performance narrative. Performance narrative says if I obey and do good I am acceptable. It does not see its own sin but looks at the sin of others,

Self preservation narrative says I need to protect myself from pain and hurt because its not safe (emotionally safe). A person with a self preservation narrative says no matter what I do I will get hurt again. Self preservation narrative does not have emotional safety.

Grace and Mercy Narrative is like wd40. When you pour wd40 on a something “stuck” it soaks deeply into the joint. You never see the wd40 but it makes everything in the joint operate more smoothly. A grace and mercy narrative makes relationships operate more smoothly. It is the wd40 of relationships. Unlike a performance narrative it says I am acceptable, therefore I want to obey and do good. Unlike self preservation narrative it allows me to explore thoughts and feelings safely and gives me the opportunity to grow and change in a safe environment.

However, grace and mercy needs to soak deeply into a person, like wd40 does. The problem we have in todays world is grace and mercy are often understood intellectually… is is not a deeply entrenched narrative in how people live their lives. Often for grace and mercy to become a deeply entrenched “narrative” it must be gained experientially driven vs just intellectually understood.

Simul justus et peccator — Simultaneous Righteouss and Sinner

Simul justus et peccator

(Latin simul, “simultaneous” + Latin justus, “righteous” + Latin et, “and” + Latin peccator, “sinner”)[10]

From:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology_of_Martin_Luther

Roman Catholic theology maintains that baptism washes away original sin. However, “concupiscence” remains as an inclination to sin, which is not sin unless actualized.[11] Luther and the Reformers, following Augustine, insisted that what was called “concupiscence” was actually sin. While not denying the validity of baptism, Luther maintains that the inclination to sin is truly sin.[12]

“Simul justus et peccator” simply means that a Christian’s righteousness or justification imputed in baptism is a gift of Christ, freely given despite the sinner’s condition. The doctrine of “simul justus” is not an excuse for lawlessness, or a license for continued sinful conduct; rather, properly understood, it comforts the person who truly wishes to be free from sin and is aware of the inner struggle within him. Romans 7 is the key biblical passage for understanding this doctrine.

Luther also does not deny that the Christian may ever “improve” in his conduct. Instead, he wishes to keep Christians from either relying upon or despairing because of their own conduct or attitude.

 

Law Gospel Paradigm

Just heard this statement;

Luther’s theological leaning was not about having a full frontal assault on the worst of us, It was a full frontal assault on the best of us!

Scripture over and over shows Jesus talking in parables and welcoming prostitutes and tax collectors… but to the religious, got it together,  religious  pharisee he was bold, direct,  and sometimes angry.  The world seems to have this backwards, we have an angry, critical spirit at the sexually immoral and dregs of this world —  often indoctrinating many against the Christian faith.  And we welcome self righteousness and pharisees into our ranks and inner circle!

Food for thought!