Friday, July 17, 2015

The Goal: Knowing What is Beyond Knowledge

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians, he writes this concerning his desire for them: “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:2-3.
When I stopped to meditate on this passage I got to thinking what an amazing goal this is. I’m especially focusing on the phrase “and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding….” Paul’s desire for his people is that reach and discover all the riches of full understanding. How does this take place? I think it takes place on two fronts. The first is in the heart of the person and their desire to grow in their understanding and the second is in the instruction they receive in their local church.

When God saves a person He gives him or her the desire and motivation to grow. God’s seed is in him (1 John 3:9), and he has the Holy Spirit indwelling him. These changes that take place when a soul is regenerated are essentially the giving of spiritual life when there was none before and this life has the natural desire for spiritual food, just like a human infant has a desire for food (1 Peter 2:2). So it is appropriate for Paul to have this as a prayer request and vision for his people.

Second, it’s important for the individual Christian to be regularly attending a local gathering of believers where the Word of God is taught in all its fullness and power. Each one of us needs to have the Word of God opened and exposed to our understanding so that we begin to see the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33). The depth of God’s wisdom cannot be plumbed, nevertheless, Paul frequently prays that people would see the bounds of what is boundless and understand what is beyond understanding (see Ephesians 3:18 for example). 

So for this desire and prayer of Paul to be realized, each of us must eagerly approach the Word with all of the spiritual discipline we can bring to bear and pastors must expound and explain the Scriptures in such a way that the people begin to fathom the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Imagined Conservative Liberal Dialogue -- 1

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a Liberal person. They are not real conversations. They are in my head and I’m the conservative Christian, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. I make no claim to neutrality and the opinions of the conservative are my own and the opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one persons’ point of view.

L: I agree with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. And I think Jesus would have agreed. He was one to show compassion and not condemn people, don’t you think?
L: Think about the woman who was arrested while committing adultery. Jesus rebuked people for judging saying, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”
C: When all of her accusers had left her, Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either.”  This is just what you said. Somewhere else in the Bible Jesus said, “I have not come to condemn the world but to save it.” But Jesus said more than this to the woman. After he told her that he didn’t condemn her, he told her to go and don’t sin anymore.”
L: Yes, but he wasn’t condemning. And that’s the point. Christians today are so condemning. They’re no better than anyone else and yet they are often so condescending.
C: You’re right. Many of us are. But I think you’re missing an important point in what Jesus is saying. Jesus is not willing to let her go and continue in the life style she was engaged in. He called her adultery a sin. That’s different from the way modern people think. To most people today, adultery is not a sin. It’s a life style choice. But Jesus is telling her to stop. Jesus, the person who loves sinners the most does not want people to continue sinning because doing so will lead to eternal destruction.
L: First of all, I don’t believe adultery is a sin. I don’t really believe in sin as such unless you’re talking about abusing the most defenseless among us. That is a sin. It is a sin to not pay people a fair wage and keep people in poverty. But whether someone has sex with someone he’s not married to is a personal matter and I certainly wouldn’t call it a sin. As long as both people are consenting and no one gets hurt, it can’t be a sin.
C: But Jesus thought so, didn’t he?
L: But Jesus lived at a different time. He was under different expectations from his culture.
C: Jesus went against the teachings of his Jewish culture in many ways and he certainly went against the pagan culture of his time. And if Jesus was just acting out a part, and if he wasn’t giving actual true truth, then he must not have been God. Because I don’t think God would have played along with either the religious or the secular culture. God would tell it like it is.
L: Maybe so, but at least he had compassion on this woman and didn’t condemn her.
C: But I think you’re missing the point. He had compassion and so should we. But it is not compassion to let someone go without telling them that the path they are on is sinful. The path of sinning leads to eternal judgment in hell.
L: I don’t believe in hell and Jesus didn’t either.
C: Jesus said that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment and whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of hell fire (Matt 5:22).
L. I don’t believe Jesus said that. He was too loving to have said something like that.
C: It’s in the Bible.
L: But the Bible must not be right at that point. Jesus would not say that!
C: How should we know what Jesus actually said and what he didn’t? Just accept the parts we like and agree with? How are you going to know if any of it is true with that method?
L: No, but I just don’t believe Jesus would threaten someone with hell for calling someone a fool.
C: Jesus also said that if someone causes one of the young believers to stumble, it would be better for that man that a heavy stone be tied to him and be thrown into the sea rather than suffer what he was going to suffer. He went on to say that if your hand causes you to sin, it would be better to have it cut off than to go to hell where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:42 and following).
C: So it doesn’t sound to me like your Jesus is compassionate in the same way you imagine. Jesus knows that sin is destructive. Sin will keep a person from God. God pleads with people saying, “Turn from your evil ways. Why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).
C: That is true compassion. Someone who knows a course of action will lead a person to certain death and doesn’t do anything to warn them doesn’t love them very much.
More discussions to follow.