Thoughts on Christian Culture 1: Gospel Saturation or Moral Paganism?

id-10083723

Image courtesy smarnad @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Gospel message (including the books of Acts, Hebrews and the first several chapters of Romans) is for the entire world (Mark 16:15)
The NT Epistles are written instruction to members of the early Church. From them, we may continue to glean godly insight and wise instruction as we await Christ’s return.

~Everyone, regardless of how long they have claimed the label “Christian”, can benefit from hearing the true Word of salvation. (Revelation 14:6-7)

~It is acceptable to help others see their need through “lawful” use of the OT Law (Romans 7, 1 Timothy 1:8) …maybe will come back to this thought, later

~It is acceptable to (respectfully) share with an unbeliever the reason for your faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). Personal experience can be very convincing evidence. The OT narrative offers a record of our tendency to be wrong. Paul provided an explanation of our desperate spiritual need in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.

~It is acceptable to work out God’s love at a social level to help counteract the injustices of society (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:5; Romans 13:7-9)

~It is not remotely helpful for Christians to attempt to direct the behavior of the unconverted through external moralization which is based on Christian principles. In fact, Jesus soundly condemned this practice when He spoke “woes” over those who traveled land and sea to make a single convert…only to sink that person even deeper into a state of spiritual lostness (Matthew 23:15).

Return of the King

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him.
Even so. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.
Revelation 1:5b-8 (ESV)

Sing a Song of Redemption

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you.

Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing O mountains O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.

Isaiah 44:22-23 (ESV)

Thoughts about James/Hebrews

We’ve been going through James’ letter at our local assembly. I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking careful notes of what has been said during the meetings, so will not attempt to relay the teacher’s words. Still, I figured I’d share my personal observations regarding some interesting similarities between the two books.

~ The two letters are conveniently arranged with one immediately following the other in the NT

~ Both James (see opening words @ 1:1) and the author of Hebrews are addressing the same group of people Not necessarily the exact same personalities, but those of primarily a Jewish/Israelite heritage. I believe these would be the “natural branches” which Paul spoke of in Romans 11. If I’m correct, these were not scripturally ignorant Gentiles, but were individuals who were religiously, culturally and historically exposed to the sacred writings known as “The Law and Prophets”, which Jesus said He had come to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

~ Both writings are evangelistic in focus Hebrews makes an extensive case for Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment and reality of OT “shadow” references. James makes reference to the law, yet pleads with his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word” which is what actually has the power to save us (James 1:21)

~ Both books deliver very stern reprimands James outlines a long list of persistent issues regarding arrogance, partiality, lack of devotion to God, empty religion and goes so far as to call out his readers as an “adulterous people” (4:4) and demand that they humble themselves and submit to God, resist the devil, cleanse their hands (of evil works, I presume) and purify their hearts as they mourned over the seriousness of their sin (4:4-10).
The author of Hebrews warned readers to not “harden their hearts” against the truth (3:15) and admonished them to accept God’s loving chastisement and teaching (12:5-8).

~ Regarding teaching : This is one of the most fascinating comparisons, IMO, because James said that “not many of you should become teachers” because teachers incur stricter judgment (James 3:1). That was one of the points addressed last Sunday.
The writer of Hebrews, however, spoke corporately when (s)he said: “by this time, you ought to be teachers” (as though this is a desirable…even expected… thing,) and then backed away from that by emphasizing their spiritual immaturity (Heb. 5:12). If I am correct about general audience and overall themes of the two letters, this actually makes a lot of sense.

If both groups SHOULD have had many mature individuals who understood that the main purpose and point of the Law is to lead us to Christ, and they had obediently submitted their hearts to the direction of God’s Spirit, they would have been able to help others to understand, as well. But instead, they all needed to be re-introduced to the basics and recognize for themselves that the true foundation of God-pleasing faith is humble acceptance of the Person of Christ Jesus as rightful Savior and Lord.

In other words, the majority of them likely did not know what they were talking about and would have caused a lot of long-term damage within the greater body of Christ (ie, the Church universal).

My thoughts. You will need to test for validity on your own.

Are You Tired of Searching?

id-10032629

Image courtesy graur codrin @ FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I was recently considering Isaiah 8:19 and it brought to mind something that seems to continually infect modern Christianity:
“And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”

Now, I know this can apply directly to the practice of seeking advice from obvious occultists and their methods.

But what about just viewing this verse from the perspective that a spiritually dead person is not connected to God in a way that enables them to share either the light of the Gospel or wisdom which encourages listeners to draw closer to God through Christ?

With that in mind, consider how many professing Christians accept the teaching of a pastor because he is a seminary graduate rather than a mature, spirit-filled lover of the Word.
How many of us allow our kids to be educated/indoctrinated by people who are openly hostile to even the idea that God exists?
How many of us consult diet, health care and relationship “experts” who don’t recognize God as the supreme creator and master Physician?

I know I’ve been guilty of having done all of these at one time or another. But I do have to ask whether it is appropriate to continue.

God addressed this ongoing dilemma in Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV)

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

So, Jesus has given us God’s final response to the confusion of information and opinions that assaults us on a daily basis.

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)

 

Bible refs can be located here

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+6%3A16%3B+Matthew+11%3A28-29&version=ESV

Keep The Commandments of God

id-10083723

Image courtesy smarnad @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh
~ Ecclesiastes 12:12 (ESV)

Indeed.

Actually, I like to read. And to learn. And I know others who do.
But really…. how many books have been written on any given subject? How fervently do we study in order to learn something “new” and enlightening?

How often do all the human experts disagree on what is the correct method or interpretation or application of the knowledge they have accumulated?

And how wearying is it to have to continually be required to assimilate this knowledge and live according to whatever supposed fountain of wisdom has recently surfaced?

The pursuit never ends. Just when you think you’ve mastered an understanding of what has been handed to you, someone decides they have a better way to do things…and maybe they do…but we never seem to arrive at THE ultimate answer.
It’s a little like being stuck in the spin cycle of a washing machine that never quite drains properly.

So the Preacher concludes his account 12:13-14 (ESV)
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[d] every secret thing, whether good or evil

He issues a reminder of the need for obedience to our Creator and of the  reality of final accountability to Him.

According to Jesus, “keeping” the commandments looks like this:

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29)

And this:

(Luke 10: 26-28) And [the lawyer] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

And this:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13)

Interestingly enough, God didn’t make this information regarding love a difficult thing to discover and learn. We did