Tag Archives: Love

Gospel Reductionism

The Gospel is the commonly defined as the “good news” of Jesus Christ and His message of hope and grace for man.  Pennington in his book, Reading the Gospels Wisely, expands on why our interpretation of the Gospels is of utmost and paramount importance.  The question I would like to address at the end of this report is:  If we deviate too far from this question of why the Gospels are important, do we leave the good news of Jesus Christ and the message of His Kingdom completely behind?   First, Pennington highlights “the why” as he discusses how Paul directly and bluntly challenges Peter and the Galatians (pg. 5) for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel (Gal 2:14).  Paul saw Peter as attempting to add Torah obedience to Jesus’ Gospel message, thereby turning away from the message of hope and grace — which was really no good news at all.  Pennington describes Paul’s
continuous and persistent emphasis on the Gospel message in other letters he writes as well (pg. 5).  Second, Pennington highlights the weight and frequency of how the word Gospel is used in the Synoptic Gospels.  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the word “Gospel” was used five, seven and ten times, respectively.  More importantly, Pennington says, is how and the word Gospel was used.  Pennington describes the phrase “the Gospel of the Kingdom” as Matthew’s desire to communicate the weight, significance, and centrality of the Jesus’ message of hope and grace for mankind (pg. 12).

Pennington goes on to discuss four areas that stood out to me that I want to highlight in the rest of this paper. These four areas are (1) Gospel reductionism, (2) the richness of having four Gospels, (3) understanding the larger framework of the Gospels, and (4) posture in reading the Gospels.

First, I believe, Pennington has found a deep need to communicate his message in the book because of recent trends in churches today.  He describes nine reasons why the Gospels are important.  Most pronounced to me was when he describes a form of Gospel reductionism (pg. 39). He specifically highlights Lutheran reductionism but I agree with Kyle Fever (Synoptic 1 Video) when he said during the lectures that other church denominations can engage in Gospel reductionism as well.    Pennington goes on to profoundly say “but movements over time always get dehydrated and reduced down to a bouillon-cube state so that they can easily be transferred and promulgated” (pg. 39).  For this reason, Pennington says, we need to study the Gospels wisely because they have been the central message of the Church throughout history (pg. 38).  In a related thought to  Gospel reductionism he describes how encountering Jesus’ true story and intent in the Gospels can help us grow instead of reducing scripture into “neat little boxes of truth” (pg. 48).

Second, Pennington describes a richness of having four Gospel books in the bible that one Gospel could not provide (pg. 70).  Each Gospel book has differences in wording and in the order of some of the parables and events of Jesus life. . He describes this as different “lines of sight” obtained from different perspectives (pg. 61).  By reading the Gospels horizontally (comparing the various wording of each Gospel parable in the various synoptic Gospels) we can gain a deeper meaning of scripture as we reflect on why each writer chose different words to describe similar events in the life of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, differences in order of parables tells us that the Gospel message cannot be interpreted exclusively through historical means, but we also need to interpret the Gospels theologically with an understanding that the intent of the Gospel writers was to highlight Jesus and His Kingdom and purpose (Kyle Fever: Synoptic 1 Video).  Pennington goes on to say that the gospel writers’ interpretations may not be to represent the “exact words” of Jesus Christ but they do represent Jesus’ “own voice” and intent.

Third, Pennington highlights the various approaches one can take to read the Gospels and discusses the “what strikes me” approach (WSM) vs narrative analysis of the stories.  He describes the WSM approach as “nugget hunting” for truth and says it can lead to missing the nuances and essence of the story itself (pg. 180). In contrast narrative analysis attempts to move beyond individual stories and bring into light the larger constructs of the story itself.   Narrative analysis would take into account things like identifying the rising intent and action of the story, the climax of the story, and finally the falling action of the story (pg. 173). Furthermore, we can observe broader items in the Gospels that he calls acts, cycles, and literary structures.  He describes this process as “panning out” to understand the bigger picture that the Gospel writer is trying to tell (pg. 187) so we can dig out the deeper nuances of the Gospel message.  Pennington concludes that we must not forget that the Gospel message and the parables are telling a bigger story that spans the entirety of the Gospel messages (pg. 189). Beyond that even the Gospels stretch across the entire canon of scripture (pg. 198).

Fourth, Pennington discusses the importance of the posture and lens of how we interpret scripture. Even though there is no one right way to interpret scripture he goes on to profoundly say that “the most important part of reading Holy scripture well is not our method or theory but our posture and goal” (pg. 137). By having the right posture and goal we will have a more productive reading and interpretation of the Gospel messages where we see nuance and the intended meanings and goals of the Gospel writer.

During the Synoptic Gospels pt.1 videos we had opportunity to apply some of Pennington’s thoughts to the book of Matthew.  I was struck that even in the geneology of Matthew there seemed to be purpose and intent that flowed into the message Matthew was trying to tell later in his Gospel.  Matthew chooses different people to include in the geneology (plus several women) than the other Gospel writers as well as different starting and stopping points of the geneology.  Kyle Fever highlighted some thoughts as to why and it was interesting that even in the geneology Matthew had significant meaning and purpose.

Kyle discussed how Matthew spanned across the canon in multiple prophecy fulfillments on the Old Testament (OT). Even in the geneology, again, there is much parallelism to the OT exodus story.

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Close-fisted vs Open-handed Christianity

Today my pastor used the analogy of close-fisted vs open-handed in a sermon to challenge what type of Christian we are.  He used the analogy to not  challenge the position or specific beliefs we have  …. but more to challenge the posture we have in how generously we behave toward our resources and others.

So as you think about  idea of close-fisted you think about someone ready to fight, close-minded, closed off, and trying to win.  When you consider the idea of open-handed you see a person willing to serve,  generous in his/her resources, open, and  worshiping.

I don’t normally blog about theological topics. Rather, I try to blog about things pertinent to me and others in the here and now.  I have intentionally taken a delayed approach on discussing Kim Davis, the government clerk that refused to sign marriage licenses because of her beliefs.

First, I want to say I respect Ms Davis for following her conscience according to her understanding of scripture.  However, and there many sincere people who will disagree with me on this, I believe the response by Ms Davis, (and especially those who use her position for political gain), falls far short of a faith used in wisdom, living in understanding of outsiders, and representing the grace, mercy, and love Jesus shows sinners and outsiders.   In many ways the Ms Davis situation reinforces a caricaturization of Christians that is far more focused on what they are against rather than what they are for.  It reinforces the stereotype of a Christian that is close-fisted in his/her approach rather than open-handed and willing to serve, listen,  understand, and love other sinners.  The Kim Davis situation (most specifically the in-your-face pep rally used for political gain) falls far short of embodying Jesus’ ethics and does not represent the Jesus I see in scripture.

Scott Sauls says in his blog on the topic:  http://scottsauls.com/2015/09/23/on-refugees-kim-davis-and-the-best-and-worst-ways-to-take-a-moral-stand/

Jesus never scolded or took a public moral stand against their ideas or practices. Instead, he won each person over with a love more compelling than the empty love that they had been chasing prior to encountering him.

So its important as we grow in our faith, to grow not only  in our understanding and position, but also the posture we have toward outsiders and people we disagree with.   To be an open-handed Christian and not a close-fisted Christian.  To be like Jesus when it seems hard to do!

Both our position AND our posture matter!

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.

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.

 

Living with a Gospel Gap: The Ampersand of our Faith

The Gospel (The Good News) of Jesus Christ tell us…

(Part 1) We are more sinful and weak than we ever cared to admit

and (&)

(Part 2) We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.

So I find myself writing this on the Eve of Christmas Eve. I do not fully understand why this has been in my thoughts recently.

As I have lived my life I have noticed that many people understand sin.  Also, many people understand how high, deep, and wide Gods love is for us (Ephesians 2).  Many churches, religious institutions, and groups of people quite often have a “lens” in which they interpret scripture that are either more centric of part 1 or more centric on part 2 of the Gospel message.  However, the stories of scripture often reflect a much more complex and dynamic truth than than either just part 1 or just part 2 of the Gospel alone could ever describe,  Some of the theologians in todays world that may be labelled as “new age” or “emergent” are often in love with love as their primary lens of interpreting scripture. Other people or churches are legalistic or black and white , pointing out the sins of other people and how bad and ungodly that sin might be.

In the Gospel definition above there is an ampersand! We are both loved and sinful. This gives rise to very complex truths such as in MY weaknesses (and sin) I see the power of God in the gospel  — that he would come to me while still a sinner.   It is the ampersand that makes the gospel electrifying!

Many people understand the truth of part 1 of the gospel  and many people understand the truth of part 2 of the gospel. It appears to me that as people relate to other groups slightly different, often with different sins — that it is much more difficult to embrace the ampersand in the Gospel.  I call this living with a gospel gap in our faith.  This gospel gap basically means we have not come to grips with the ampersand of the gospel message.

There are a lot of good ampersand examples in scripture.  My favorite is the example of King David.  King David in what I call “Bathsheba Gate” had an affair with Bathsheba and plotted and killed her husband but was also called a man after Gods own heart.  He was used mightily to advance Gods kingdom. KIng David was an adulterer and (&)  a man after Gods own heart!

My wife and I facilitate Marriage Rebuilders, a ministry for broken and struggling marriages. Quite often a spouse might say how can he/she love me but also he/she have an affair.  Learning to understand that we can love another person and(&) be pretty messed up is a difficult but necessary step a person must take in recovery of a broken relationship. Learning to understand the ampersand of truth allow the couple to start talking about difficult topics without engaging in black and white thinking. In other words the ampersand of truth allowed the couple to start talking honestly about their issues.  This honesty and transparency, if returned with honesty and transparency is the first step to regaining intimacy in Marriage.

If we embrace part 1 of the gospel (sin)  more than love we have no choice but to live with a legalistic system of thought. When people cross certain boundaries we have no choice but to look down on them. Quite often we throw out critical and hurtful labels.   Often we simplistically (and carelessly) caricaturize other groups of sinners.   At the extremes of this kind of thinking you may have religious bullying.  These people may have a network of broken relationships because they can not live as sinners who live with other sinners whose sin is different from theirs. Changes and growth are centered around trying harder and being more spiritual and more accountable. Gods grace and love have lost its electrifying nature and instead we engage in stoic religious processes to try to grow.

If you embrace part 2 (love) more than the fact that we are sinners you don’t see how electrifying Gods grace can be.  You see no reason to change and grow because Gods love does not challenge sin.

Living with a gospel gap (neglecting the ampersand of our faith) makes real honesty, change, and growth impossible.  We might be able to grow intellectually but personal, emotional, and psychological growth are not possible.

Think about the “ampersand moments” of your life.   The ampersand moments in life are hard… but they are important opportunities to grow and to learn self honesty.   Are there some ampersand moments in your life that you could share with someone else? Could this “ampersand story” be a blessing to them?  Finally, the ultimate ampersand is shown to us through the Gospel message that Jesus came us while we were still sinners!  Today,  lets fully embrace the Gospel!  Hallelujah!

Merry Christmas!

The Evils of Idolatry and Thoughts on Worship

When our culture is considered through the lens of worship and idolatry we see a deeper sin and a greater need for a Savior. This is because everyone everywhere is continually worshiping incorrect things, and idolatry is, sadly, only seen when we examine our hearts deeply. We often have too narrow an understanding of worship and sin and do not see that idolatry empowers our sin and provides the motives for us to sin.

One of the great evils of idolatry is that if we idolize, we must also demonize. Tim Keller reminds us that if we idolize our race, we must demonize other races. If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches.

An understanding of the nature of the Idolatrous heart then not only gives us the ability to see to the motives under the easy to see sins of money, materialism, sex, self-righteousness and power … but it also allows us to see the motives that drive the sins that also are not quite as devastating. It allows us to see the motives behind the sins that turn good things into ultimate things. Our hearts indeed turn easily to other gods.

If we understand this then we begin to have a fighting chance to have “heart based” change and sanctification. We see our need for Jesus … not only in our need to go to heaven…. but we also see our need for a Jesus that changes and grows us. Gods grace on the cross then does not become just an event that gives us a “ticket” for heaven but it also becomes the center of growth and change.

By looking at idolatry, sin, and worship of the heart in a deep way we don’t offer people a “system of redemption” and just some advice that stems from a mound of ideological insight and principals. Change does not come from the mound … it comes from a man. We offer a redeemer that glares at the heart of our idolatry and we finally have a chance at real, lasting change as a result.

The cosmic dance of life

My wife and I are taking dance lessons again.  A couple of years back we learned west coast swing.  Now we are learning a slow dance called night club 2 step.  I really like it. Not only does it give the two of us something  to do during our long winters in Minnesota, but I also love the symbology of dancing and how it is a communication style of  non verbal cues  between 2 people.  The entire dance hinges on a “connection” between 2 people.  For the dance to succeed in looking like a dance it requires some very basic skills of highly subtle communication. Once those basic skills are mastered you can move on to more “styling” in your dance.

For the dancing to start being successful it requires 2 things. First, I need to communicate the dance moves to Sue in a way she understands.   In dancing a lot of these are subtle things you do to communicate your intent.  This connection between 2 people is what makes the dance work.  If the leader gives the wrong understanding to the follower it does not look like much of a dance. If the follower back leads the dance it is not very much fun for the leader and its definitely not how dancing was designed to be like.

Second, to move on to where the dance really looks good and start making progress Sue needs to feel safe in the dance communication going on between us.  If that safety is not there she is not willing to move on to learning the next thing to make dancing even more fun.  Furthermore, A lack of safety sucks the fun right of out dancing for me and her.

Those are the building blocks of dancing. Communicating  our intentions with understanding  and providing a safe environment where can grow and move on to more advanced and more fun dance moves!!  Growing with my wife is is much like dancing.   Intimacy and closeness with  my wife requires understanding and safety. Safety and understanding are the building blocks of intimacy and both, like dancing, require effort and intentionality as we take specific steps to grow together.  To communicate with understanding and safety requires some very deep roots in Gods love and mercy because, quite often it is NOT safe to communicate our shortcomings and vulnerabilitites to other sinners.  Also, we strive and work hard to protect our image of performance as a good performing employee, nice person, or moral achiever.   We communicate our strengths but.. gasp!…. never our weaknesses.   When we live up to our performance expectations we feel good about ourselves and when we don’t we feel like failures.

However, when we create an environment to safely share our weaknesses (James 5:16) and we live with the grace and mercy narrative of the cross  in how we behave toward other sinners we have the recipe for growth and change and finally have a chance at …. real intimacy.  This intimacy is not rooted in the performance and expectations of the other person but it finally has real understanding.  It loves progress but does not demand perfection.   We can put finally put down the performance achievement mask and be real with each other.

Finally, intimacy must be about something shared.  For years as Sue and I were raising the kids we seemed to be on separate missions.  Our shared lives were dismal as I became rooted in my job and she became more rooted in the children.  So what are you sharing? For Sue and I we now share workouts together, walks, devotions, a few games, some deep conversations and of course … we are trying something new …. dancing.

As we enjoy our new dancing skills I also have a vision I established about 5 years ago that I am temporarily calling for this blog topic  “the cosmic dance of life” . <—Link

Merry Christmas to you all!

Getting the gospel on Video — Living in Community

When I was young I heard the message of the gospel and I responded.  As I grew I read Gods word and I tried to respond as best I could.  But yet as much as I tried I still had some worldly attachments that God did not want me to have.  I did not want to remove these things I was “friendly with” from my life.   These things I was “friends with”  became a major source of strife later in life for me, my wife and family.  As I type this I think of the following verse in James:

James 4

Submit Yourselves to God

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[c]

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up

So in my beginning I heard a message and responded.  I read and learned but yet I still struggled against these things that I was “friends with”.  As I consider all those years I think back and realize now when I heard the message I responded … but I responded mostly alone.  When I read Gods word, I responded ….. mostly alone.  I heard Gods message and I read (saw) Gods word… mostly alone.   I had Gods word in audio and visual form but I did not have it in “living color” video.  I think a lot of people are like this. They have the gospel of Jesus Christ on audio but not necessarily on video.

So this begs the question on how do we get the gospel in “living color” video and rather than  just “learn and hear” Gods word?  I think the answer lies in being in community with other Christian brothers and sisters. Coming along side them and shedding tears of joy and sadness.  Having them support us and us supporting them.  As we do this we are not just sharing biblical insights but we are sharing real problems, real concerns,  and doing real life with each other.  This community of grace then allows grace, mercy, and the support of Christian community transform us over as we live under the cross of Jesus Christ.  As we  intimately and safely share real life situations we transition from an audio Gospel to a living color video Gospel.  We find that having the gospel on video begins to transform the mind in ways that only having it on audio could not do. Having the gospel on video now allows us to see how we have subtly judged other people that have different types sins than we had. It gives a complete paradigm and an agenda shift of the heart!

Getting the gospel on video, for me at least, also meant knowing and understanding all the worldly things I was “friends with” and how they worked in my heart.  Getting the gospel on video did a lot more than just give me another new biblical insight (I had a lot of those).  It offered me a complete shift in how I saw the agenda of my heart.  I began to see all the things my heart was “attached to” that James describes as adulterous in James 4. You see James 4 is not discussing adultery in the sense that we see it in today’s world. It is talking about spiritual adultery.   Spiritual adultery is about giving our first and primary love to other things that belong  to God first and primarily. It also took this community of people to help me see all the affections of my heart that I was completely blind to.


So as I examined my heart over the years I found 2 categories of things that were taking my affections away from loving God first and primarily.

1. Worldly sins that I had to completely remove from my life

2. Wonderfully good gifts from God that I prioritized higher than God. In this category are things like desiring acceptance from my wife, family, coworkers, and friends

Over the years I have become pretty good and figuring out the first one. That one is obvious for most of us.

The second one I find much harder to discern.  Even though I still struggle with fear of rejection and uncertainty (sometimes only paranoia of rejection) at times in this area I also know that God will never ask me to love my wife and children less. He does, however, ask me to love Him more.  So as I think about James and my continuing efforts to get the gospel on video rather than audio, I see now that James is asking us for a shift in the agenda of our heart and affections.  When I am discerning of the idols and agenda of my heart and replace this with a God that is BIGGER than those idols,  I find out that if I am rejected by someone I am no longer devastated to the point of complete inaction. I no longer flee to my “things of safety” and my old sinful habits because I see a God that is bigger than the affections and friends of my heart.   I am able to make steps toward communication and reconciliation rather than sit in my own self pity. To me this is major victory!

Finally (Foremostly), God has offered his son Jesus Christ so I can completely get off the spiritual treadmill of life and learn to discern the affections of my heart and to love under the freedom and victory of the cross!!! How wonderul is that! Having the Gospel on video gets me off the spiritual treadmill of life and having to prove myself to other people… even in good, godly ways! Perhaps having the gospel on video is the only way to discern our “religious idolatry and cravings”?

That’s my .02c worth for today!

The lust for divinity

I get to back to this topic quite often as I always consider the framework for why people behave as they do.  I lead mens groups for men that are struggling with stuff  and next year my wife and I have been approved to lead Marriage Rebuilders leading groups of people in struggling marriages. So I am reminded of the get real with our problems scripture as I re-read this:

1 John 1:8
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The remainder of this post is a reblog:

Genesis 3

The Fall of Man

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

……..

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

—————————————————-

I have been somewhat enamored on the idea of why God did not want us to know good and evil like He did in recent years. The tree we were NOT suposed to eat from was even called the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. For many, knowing good and evil is what Christianity is all about and the height of their being Christians.

I took off a bit early on Friday and since it was too windy to ride my motorcycle I actually rented a couple of movies to relax and take it easy from work. Since the kids and Sue were not around I decided to rent an action movie or what I call a man movie.

The movie was Beowulf. Its about a midieval danish king and the setting was a time where Glory was what made men approved by other men. They sang songs of their war victories and glories. They gloried in their conquering of women and they gloried in their magnificent feasts of drunkenness where they told stories and sang of their glories and conquests.

All cultures and individuals have a sense of something where if I have this one thing I will be approved and have glory. In asian culture if they lose their job there is so much shame they wont even tell their families. The asians also laugh at American culture who find their glory in looking thin, beauty, and wanting botox injections and cosmetic surgery.

In the movie Beowulf, he actually had more then enough glory for most men … but he lusted for this glory. IN the movie, to get the highest glory, he actually lived a lie to become the King. The root of this lie affected the relationship with his queen whom he did love and it took a toll on his soul as he live his life in complete and utter pretense about his glory.

Toward the end of the movie Beowulf, on the brink of trying to fix this life and this lie he had been living came to grips with himself when he said to his wife: ” I am not the man you think me to be. Keep a memory of me not as a King or hero, but as man fallible and flawed.” At this point in his life, Beowulf understood he had lived a life of pretense.

This might seem a bit far fetched in todays culture, but Genesis tells us that Beowulf was engaging in a carnal form of the mans original sin. The fall tells us we live lives of self-glorification as opposed to living in a trust-relationship with God and only glorifying Him. The passage above says the serpent tempted us with being “like God” or being our own god. The story of the fall also tells us that mans idea of good and evil is fatally flawed and I believe this is something most Christians do not quite get. Our undestanding of good and evil is so flawed that we actually use the idea of morality as a power play for self-glorification where instead of submitting to God we use it to build ourselves up and look good in front of other people. We do the same thing with theology. Instead of using it to glorify God we use it to look good in front of others. While we discuss morality and theology we are actually engaging in self-glorification (being our own god) and we often don’t recognize it.

What we are basically doing in this self-glorifying process is temporarily medicating ourselves with our relationships, the rightness of our popularity, the rightness or our behavior, or the rightness of our beliefs.  Quite often these more subtle sins that we medicate ourselves on are not that much different from people that struggle with extramarital affairs, online romantic affairs,  and people that view porn on the internet … except for the social stigma associated to these things.  They all have their roots in one thing… Idolatry or making something into a functional god of our heart! See mans original sin!

This is why, I believe. Romans 1:17 is so important.

17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]

This verse says the only righteousness we can have is through Gods atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ. The rest of the first part of Romans discusses our complete and utter inability to please God on our own efforts. Our only rightness, our only unmoving sense of approval can be found ONLY “in Christ”.

The point is this, I believe today our ultimate lust is a lust for divinity … to be our own gods and to live lives separate from God as we use anything at our fingertips for self-glorification. This is the message that comes from the fall of man.  Sometimes this selfish lust comes from a lust for power, sex, or money. Other times this lust comes from making a good thing into an ultimate thing like your status (social or moral) or job and work. These things became functional gods that control us. I have seen multiple examples of this in the people I meet and each story is quite unique in its idolatrous sin.  We tend to all want to turn good things into ultimate things.  Are you aware of the devastating affects of doing this?

Brothers and sisters the point is this, if we dont find our rightness in Christ we will find our rightness in some other thing we can glory in completely apart from God. If we don’t find our rightness in Christ, we WILL find our rightness in something else: relationships, materialism, beliefs (name your idol here). This list is endless.

Lets find our rightness only in Christ (Romans 1:17) so we can most fully glorify God.

A New Reality

I was listening to Bill Bohline preach on Acts a few weeks back.  He discussed 4 general steps that the bible discusses.

  1. We were created in Gods Image
  2. The fall: We sinned
  3. Christ Came:  He loves us and  came to save and rescue us
  4. Restoration: Living in the restoration and the victory of the Cross.

Point 1 is generally assumed. Bill said quite often Churches are stuck in points 2 or point 3.  The legallist will stay stuck in point 2 wanting to remind people of their sin.   Usually, understanding well the new covenant of grace but living functionally in the old covenant of the law.  The antinomian will stay stuck on point 3  only wanting to talk about unconditional love and Gods Grace and the new covenant … always forgetting about sin.  As I have discussed in previous posts…. the 2 errors of the Gospel are those 2 extremes.  Staying stuck on point 2 or 3 both miss opportunities for change and growth in the Gospel message of grace toward sinners.

As is the case for many Martin Luther  purists …. we pride ourselves in having the proper biblical  distinction between law and gospel and keeping the “bullseye” in front of us!

Bill then  made a very good point.  He said churches don’t always tell the rest of the story.    They don’t often show the rest of the story where Jesus has restored and his people are living in freedom and the victory of the cross …. and to be  bold people who  share their stories while helping others overcoming their brokenness.  We just don’t live in the victory of the cross!  In our religiosity we continue to live in bondage!  The victory of the Gospel is where we should live!  The victory of the cross  slowly rewrites our story into Gods story!

Why did this come to mind…. well, I had an interesting thing happen to me a month back and came to some enlightening observations about myself …. but mostly I had some God moments where I saw God writing a different story of me than what I was trying to write for myself.

I have mentioned on previous posts about some friends that have a long line of broken relationships. He was/is  a good friend of mine for the last 35 years.  I was the only person from his side of friends that was invited to their wedding.  I am fairly certain they no longer have a relationship with his brothers.  Also, as I said they have other broken relationships of his friends before marriage.  I am sure there are others I am not aware of as well.  These conflicts normally started from a tension with her religious legalism and then later on him coming to rescue and protect her in the conflict.

Well,   a few years back, in a time after my sin and transgressions… it came to light that he was struggling with some pretty deep issues.   However, in her fear based world she no Continue reading