Tag Archives: theology

I don’t appreciate Jesus

A passage from Hebrews stood out to me recently:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)

Body of Christ

What stood out to me about these verses was the fact of how little I appreciate this part of Jesus’

ministry, but it was probably one of the most appreciated aspects of Jesus’ ministry for early Christians, especially Jewish Christians. No doubt the need for a priest to mediate between God and man was engrained in the mind of the early Jewish Christians through the requirement of the sacrificial system that the priest present a person’s offering before God in the proper manner. God Himself was the one that instituted this system in the Law, not man, so it was a requirement of God that there be a priest to mediate between Himself and humankind. The Law was not abolished by Jesus, but fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). This being the case then there is still a need for mediator between God and man, a role which every human priest fulfill imperfectly and insufficiently, but a role which Jesus fulfills perfectly and sufficiently.

I admit that I do not appreciate this aspect of Jesus’ ministry and often take it for granted, but I recognize that this should not be my attitude. The need for a mediator can be seen in God’s dealings with the first Exodus generation: He wiped out that entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb), even Moses, because of their sin. The lesson to be learned from this is that we, like that first Exodus generation, are too sinful, rebellious, and stubborn, or in a word, Fallen, for us to deal directly with God. There must be a mediator between God and us, otherwise we will be destroyed.

God is holy. We are Fallen. These are two simple, foundational truths of the Christian faith that are very hard for us to truly know. Intellectual consent to these beliefs is one thing, but believing them so that they effect how we live your lives is quite another. If I can truly learn these two basic truths then I think I will come to appreciate Jesus’ ministry as high priest the way I should appreciate it.

What is conduct worthy of the Gospel?

I wanted to share a quick thought with you all that I had last week while reading the Scriptures. It comes from Philippians 1:27-30, which says:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

(Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)

What occurred to me after reading this is what living in a manner worthy of the Gospel actually entails. In this passage, which is a complete paragraph by the way, what is described is striving side by side with others for the Faith and standing firm against opposition. Suffering for the cause of Christ is also described as an honor. For my part, I find it hard to see this attitude in American Christianity these days. Suffering is at least being talked about these days, at least in some Christian circles, but from my experience it seems to focus mostly on helping people to endure it. And while this is certainly a good thing it doesn’t give suffering the place that Paul bestows on it in this passage, that it is an honor to suffer for the cause of Christ. How transforming would it be not only for us personally, but for American Christianity as a whole, if suffering was elevated to the level of being honorable?

Also, being conflicted between continuing to live in the flesh and departing to be with Christ (the “conflict” in the last sentence; see Philippians 1:18-26) should be expected. Do we have this attitude? Do we experience this conflict frequently in our lives? I know that I don’t, but I also know that I would like to.

This is conduct worthy of the Gospel, how does it compare with what you have been taught is conduct worthy of the Gospel?

Sorry honey we can’t go out tonight, we have to pay our iPhone bill

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that reported Americans are paying so much for their smartphones (iPhones, Droids, etc) that they are having to cut back in other areas, most notably in dining out. I thought to myself, this is a perfect illustration of one of the major problems in America: spending quality time with others is not highly valued in America. One of the best things that could happen to America from a relational standpoint would be for all our smartphones to cease from operating and never work again.

Some of the best times that I have had in my life from a relational (and spiritual) perspective have been on church mission trips where I had no (or very limited) access to any type of cellphone or Internet service. It wasn’t just unplugging from the Internet and the rest of the world that was beneficial, but that there was a group of people that was also unplugged from the Internet with me and we were all in the same situation. There was nothing that we could retreat into to avoid spending time with each other; it was our only option aside from sitting in the corner in silence.

I think that everybody wants close relationships with other humans, but when we spend our free time with our phones, tablets, and computers instead of those whom we want to establish close relationships with we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. If Americans are indeed more dissatisfied with life compared to other nations one of the likely causes is that apparently we would rather spend time with our phones and computers rather than our friends.

Some people believe that technology will save us, but I do not. If anything technology (in the context I have mentioned here) will drive us to isolation and loneliness and be our destruction rather than our salvation. Our problem is our heart, our internal state, not our external state or life. Jesus is our salvation, not technology.

Reflection: Community

I recently came to what you could call an epiphany concerning what community entails, so I figured I would share it with you all.

I’ve always been puzzled by the inability of people to establish community with one another, even among Christians. Some do indeed succeed in this area, but it seems that most groups of people fail to establish community for one reason or another. I’ve wondered why this is and yesterday it occurred to me what the reason for this might be: the failure to realize that each individual must make contributions to the group if community is to be established. A community is not a place that you take from because you need something from the other members, it is a place where you give yourself because the other members need something from you, and where the other members give themselves because you need something from them.

David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan

Everybody comes to a community needing just that, community. Community is something that has to be created though, which means that materials need to be contributed and fashioned in order for community to take shape. The basic material that needs to be contributed is love for the other members of the community. I think it is a very rare occurrence for someone to come to a community and naturally have love for the other members of the community, so usually this love must be established somehow. This love for others can be established simply by making an investment in their life. This doesn’t need to involve something huge, or even involve them, it can be something little, like praying for them,  asking them how a project at work or school turned out that they previously mentioned, or having a conversation with them watching a game. You don’t have to feel the desire to do these things at first, in fact you probably won’t. But if you force yourself to do them eventually you will come to genuinely love the others and will no longer need to force yourself to do these things.

The point is that everyone needs community, but you cannot gain what you need from community by taking from others, because what you need is to be part of a community and this will not happen until you contribute to the others in the community by loving them. You are only a part of something so long as you contribute to its benefit, otherwise you are a leech. Others need community just as much as you do, if they give themselves and you do not there is nothing for them to receive and you and them will both no longer have community. If everyone gives themselves everyone will get what they desire in community. As long as this is done the community will endure, when this is no longer practiced is when the community will fail.

The lesson for me in this is to share my thoughts, feelings, desires, etc with the people around me and not just keep them to myself and force myself to take an interest in their life, even if I don’t feel like it at first (probably a consequence of being an introvert) because they need them, and I need their thoughts, feelings, love, etc. This is God’s design for us to be in community and help each other because He saw that it was not good for man to be alone and He made a helper suitable for him.

Why ChristianMingle Makes Me Cringe

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:4)

There’s something about the Christian Mingle commercials that just makes me cringe every time I see one on television, the line: “Find God’s match for you.”

Wedding BandsI cannot find a biblical basis for the belief that God has a “match” for everyone. In fact, I find more evidence that God does not have a “match” for everyone (see the Apostle Paul, Elijah, Jeremiah for example). What I do find a biblical basis for however is loving God with our entire being and being transformed to be more like Christ:

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
  • I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
  • For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).
  • Colossians 3:1-17
  • Galatians 5:16-26

The basic plot of the Bible is this: God created a world, then created humans to rule said world, then humanity disobeyed God and creation became corrupted and humanity became slaves to sin, God promised to redeem humanity from sin, God redeems humanity through Jesus. The goal of the Christian life then is to pursue Christ-likeness and no longer live as slaves to sin.

When I see the ChristianMingle commercials I see an underlying idea of: God has a wonderful plan for your life and wants to bless you with a great life; and I think this idea is one of the problems plaguing Christianity, at least in America. Furthermore this idea is blatantly false. If you don’t believe me read about the lives of the Prophets (esp. Jeremiah), the Apostles, and Jesus Christ. These people did not live wonderful, happy, blessed lives, but rather were usually on the run from enemies who wanted to kill them and were despised; not exactly a wonderful life.

Martyrdom of Paul

Martyrdom of Paul (Tapestry)

At one point in my life I believed the idea that ChristianMingle is promoting: that God has a perfect match for everyone. However, all my praying and hoping for this only served to make me more frustrated and angry at God. Eventually God showed me that this is not the attitude that I should have when following Him. I began to learn that the attitude God wanted me to have was one of concern towards furthering His kingdom, and not towards my own desires. This was not an easy thing to accept, it took many, many months in fact. Once I was able to accept this though it has been one of the most freeing things in my life. It has shifted my focus from earthly temporal things (romance) to eternal things (God’s kingdom), which is where my focus should be as a Christian, because:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

Now just to be sure, being married and having a family is a good thing (and Lord willing I will be married and have one myself one day), but the focus of a Christian should be on pursuing Christ and furthering God’s kingdom, not on getting married and having a family. Christ needs to be the focus of the Christian life, not earthly blessings. Our attitudes should be similar to the Apostle Paul’s:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…(Philippians 3:8 ESV)

The pursuit of Christ (serving Him and becoming more like Him) needs to be the focus of the Christian life. This needs to be borne out in the life of the Christian and not just merely intellectually assented to, which means that our lives should be marked by hardships and trials endured for the sake of Christ, and not by our “wonderful families.” The life of a Christian should be focused on Christ and eternal things, not on earthly things, of which I believe marriage and family to be one.