“To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I sit down across the table from a young man who insists he has a ‘call’ on his life to bless the churches with his extra-ordinary spiritual gifts, which he is praying for, and “trying to learn how to get”. He has travelled across Canada because he felt a call to come to Nova Scotia to speak to the Pastors, and the churches of what God wants to give them through an extra-ordinary blessing. He has been staying in hostels and shelters or living out over the last several weeks. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and to those whom he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:30 How does the Gospel address the call of God and how are we to live this out in your life? Maybe this short adapted list from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology will help: A Call Outside of Ourselves: The call of every believer is not something we can work up in ourselves. The choosing, wooing and winning of our very salvation begins and ends in the will and glory of God through the work of His Son, Jesus. The call of God is not something we do it is what only God can do. A Call Out of Darkness: The call of every believer is God’s taking us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). A Call Into Relationship: The call of every believer is God’s placing us “into the fellowship of his Son”(1 Cor. 1:9, Acts 2:39) A Call Into Kingdom living: The call of every believer is God’s placing us “into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3) A Call of Belonging: The call of every believer places us in a relationship of “belonging to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6) A Call to be set apart for God’s purposes: The call of every believer is a call to “be saints” A Call to Live Out of the Riches of God: The call of every believer is to live in a fullness of “peace” (1 Cor. 7:15, Col, 3:15), “freedom” (Gal. 5:13), “hope” (Eph. 1:18), “holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7), “patient endurance of suffering” (1 Peter 2:20-21; 3:9), and “eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12) SO what is the function of the Gospel in the call of every believer? O.K. I’ll admit it, I give myself too much credit. For what it’s worth, I know it’s foolish pride, lack of humility, fear of being dependent, need for control and my down right rebellious sinful nature! When caught in my pride I either try and discredit it, passing it off as personality, or pointing to societal influences, upbringing and culture. What this tells me? I am hopelessly unable to make the deeply needed changes that would make me anything more then a deeply self serving, self preserving, self interested, SELF. Self- esteem classes or self worth counseling does nothing for the various forms of my “ego-dei” (ego-god, I-god). I cannot “call” myself away from worshiping myself, even if I try to gloss it over with a ‘poor-me, I was wronged, the world, society and my family have messed me up.’ How does the Gospel of the cross move us beyond our need for self empowerment, or our self loathing to wholeness and a living out of a call beyond ego-dei? It is so important to understand the ‘call’ of every believer comes not out of what spiritual gift you feel God has given you or that you hope He will give you. The call of every believer is far beyond the making of ourselves something greater than the sum of what our lives have become- no matter how successful or how wreaked that might look. Please don’t get me wrong, God gives us spiritual gifts, through his Holy Spirit, at the moment of salvation (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:11) I fear that we, church peeps, often hold these holy gifts up as a trophy for everyone to admire our greatness, as a measurement to determine who’s not ‘there’ yet, or as the complete sum of our spiritual life (call it a Corinthian church problem). The call of the Gospel is God’s work beyond our religious piety or self indulgent rut of addictions. The call of the Gospel is a call to the cross. Our response can only be a recognition that I am lost without Him resulting in a life of humble dependence on him. A daily posture of confession at the foot of the cross to live for His kingdom, not my own, and His glory, not my own. Out of this relationship of belonging solely to Jesus I replace my own agenda for His agenda and find peace, freedom, hope, holiness, patience to endure in suffering and indeed the riches of eternal life. Here it is: THE CALL OF THE GOSPEL is not to do something for Jesus in your life, with the greatness of your giftedness, because you come from such a terrible place of sinfulness (most testimonies we seem to applaud are like this). The call of the Gospel is a daily going to the cross for all that I am, I have, and ever hope to be. At the cross- I die daily so that He might have His victory and glory in my life! If we focus on this daily reality of the Gospel applied in our life God will place the rest of living out his will right in front of us as He knows we can handle, and in accordance to how He has gifted us.
PAX has begun a study from Creation to Joe - A look at the Ancient::Future We are currently on Genesis 5,6 and try to offer some sort of supplemental teaching here on the PAXblog. So this is going back a few weeks now but it holds such huge importance for our spiritual life, and understanding of God, humanity, the condition of sin, and the outcomes that still plague our world today- I thought I would post on it. The results of sin are more then a trace substance in a world being detoxed by therapy, tolerance, or religious piety. The result of sin has left a deep stain on each son of Adam and every Daughter of Eve (Psalm 106:39; Prov. 30:11-12; Mark 7:20). Sin has caused us to be born spiritually dead and separated from God our Creator, Father (Ephesians 2:1); Being born in sin we have only the identity of what a sinful world drives us obtain (Ephesians 2:2) - although marred by sin, because of God's hand in our Creation we maintain a God given dignity, value and worth. Also, we live under the authority of the 'Optimus Prime' of evil enemies of the Good and Holy God, Satan himself (Ephesians 2:2b). Therefore all that remains for us to live out of is the cess pool of our own self-driven, flesh craving desires (Ephesians 2:3a). This condition of willful and natural rebellion to God cannot be left uncorrected, or unpunished by a loving God. When God looks down upon humanity in this condition He is grieved at our having been created to experience such complete desolation (Genesis 18:20; Jer. 6:27-30;Lam. 1:8; Romans 1:18). Genesis 3 describes for us in painful detail that when our first parents, Adam and Eve, opted for their own selfish 'freedom' from God, their good Creator and Father, they really became losers. And we who are born of the same flesh and blood as our parents are born in the same condition as them- lost (Romans 5:12, 18; 8:5a, 8). Here's what went down: Genesis chapter 2 everything is declared "VERY GOOD", complete, full, whole. Man and woman are in holy covenant love with each and with their God. A beautiful reflection of the relationship experienced and enjoyed in the Trinity its self. Plus they were so complete and full in each other that they were innocently naked (Heb.'arom') and loving it! This would refer to an intimacy and acceptance of each other on every level- mind, emotion, will, and physical relationship. Gen. 3:1-4 The leader of the 'Free' World - is crafty (Heb. 'arum', see the play on words?) Rev. 12:9; 20:2 - is a destroyer Psalm 10:6-11; I Pet. 5:8 - is a liar John 8:44 This is the one who is offering 'freedom'! A good principle to keep in mind when reading Genesis- Genesis doesn't merely tell us what did happen but what happens everyday in our world! The crafty, destroying, Liar Serpent- offers 'freedom' everyday in our world, on our streets and in our homes. More $, Freedom? More self-gratification, Freedom? More women, freedom? The perfect guy no matter what, Freedom? Self made Fame, Freedom? Getting what I want, Freedom? SEE HIM FOR WHO HE IS! The LIE of Freedom- Look at how the Father of Lies, questions truth, twists truth then just straight out denies and accuses the God of truth of being a liar! He appeals to doubt, desire and foolish pride- all the while coaxing us on with our own flesh. Can you hear him? "God is not that good, sin is not that bad." The poison apple that he entices, and baits the enslavement to death with everyday. vs 6 Adam and Eve both take the bait! Eve is deceived to sin- hoping to become her own god, knowing not just the good that she had experienced by God's good hand but now, wow, a promise of experiencing the evil, the bad! How sad and dark. Adam was deliberate in his sin. As the covenant head of his home he sat back and allowed for Satan to lie and manipulate his wife, his completer, this one and only, precious girl of God's. He decides not to lead his family and Satan steps in to lead. Adam goes farther then this however and even as he watches Eve's sin he deliberately reaches out, and like some lazy arsed, self induced comatose dope head, takes a 'pull' on the sin that was being passed around! Vs 7-19 The Losers of Freedom "And they were naked and shamed"; This is a nakedness they had never experienced before, "erom". The stain of shame, the weight of guilt, the fear of wrath, the darkness of a mind perverted and a heart separated. In this one moment they lost. They lost the freedom of security (which each other, with their God); They lost the freedom of shameless, whole relationship (with each other, with their God); They lost the freedom of right-ness, even as they pointed the blame on each other, or on God in some twisted attempt to tell God they were not as bad as others are (lost rightness with each other and with God). They lost Life- even as God in his mercy did not allow them to remain in the Garden, where they would have no hope of ever being free from the devastation of sin, if they were allowed to live forever in it's hopelessness; They lost Life physically and spiritually- and they as our representative, chose on our behalf to live life separated from the Giver of Life. The thud of this decision goes deeper and farther then I can blog or imagine, but I see it everyday in my own life and in the lives of those I love and serve. Without the hope of 'the seed' who will crush the head of the one who has taken a headship in our life and world- Freedom indeed is forever lost in a glitz, glittered, air brushed, fake smiled, sin soaked, empty souled world of addiction, hurt and pain. WE NEED A SAVIOR!
Despite all the rumors ... I am still alive. But I have faltered on my Blog-olution (Blog regularly, minimum weekly) Getting back on track, though and won't bore you with the details of the why's? FOG - Friday! It is an inevitable reality that each generation must wrestle through the definitions of theology. Call it a precursor to faith, or an affirming, seeking or longing to know what is truly true, but all people for all times have had to wrestle with the greater God questions, individually and as collective communities (here is the answer to the WHY? we do this-Romans 1:19-21; 2:4, 14-16). Our NOW Christian community is no different. Have you been in a Christian book store, grocery store, Wal-mart lately and looked at the latest offerings for "Functional Christian Theology"? It seems to me that for most of what our generation of church is producing for Christian Theology it is rooted deeper in the functional than in the Theology. Before you write me off as a ranting old fundamentalist who's Christianity has created the fenced in 'projects' of disengaged religious community, that tends to smell like the Pharisees who screamed, "Kill Jesus!", let's talk FUNCTION! I am purposing to write an on-going Friday Blog dedicated to the FUNCTION of the GOSPEL! (Call it FOGin Friday?! Hmmmm?) What is "the Gospel"? Can the Gospel be put into irreducibles? Is there more than one Gospel? The Gospel that was preached to the Jews is it different than what was preached to the Gentiles and different still for those who live now? Is the Gospel a one time gift, gig, experience, commitment? Is there a redemptive function to the Gospel on a daily bases that touches the entirety of our personal lives and addresses the entirety of Humanity's Story? I recieved an email the other day from a friend and missionary of Campus for Christ asking me to help him think through how they are teaching their students to present the Gospel to a NOW culture; A deeply secular, functionally fragmented culture that holds as its highest doctrines tolerance, pluralism, and doubt- NEEDS a FUNCTIONAL GOSPEL! Here's how I have begun the conversation: Hey Ben; I'll think a bit more on it.... remind me to reply further. For now.... I have found that if I am really speaking the Gospel it means more then saying there is only two ways (before you call me a heretic hear me out). Often times we propose that there are two ways living a Hedonistic, amoral life that leads to wickedness or being a Christian. Although that is true in it's foundation, the problem with most of our hearers in North America is that they translate "Christianity" as doing the right things (no drugs, no sex, no drinking, no dancing, no hanging out with those who do)- moralism. I would say that 99.5 % of the people in our culture who have said that they have given up on, or have no interest in Christianity or the Church have not really rejected Christ- the true Gospel- but have rejected this moralistic idea of religion. I find personally that it is more affective in our post-modern culture to present Christ as the 'THIRD' way. Not live any way I want to, gathering all the baggage and sickness of a life with out God; nor a moralistic- I have to work to keep myself in good standing with God so that He might accept me, by going to church, giving, loving my neighbour, and cutting down on the sexual activity. But the facts that the Gospel of Jesus is the story of a God who sacrifices all to reach out to a world gone wild, so that we might discover what it is like to have a Father who really loves us, cares for us, and completely knows the pieces that are missing in our lives (there is plenty of scriptures that you can attach to each of these points to show the power of the atonement to make us at-one with Him). Religion is me trying to work from the outside-in to try and make myself acceptable before God (Islam, Mormon, JW's and a lot of "Christians") or to achieve some form of enlightenment or karma so that I will make myself a better person (Buddhism, Hindu, liberal activism). Jesus is different. The Gospel is a third way- Jesus takes on the religious rhetoric- lives a perfect life; dies a cruel death so that we don't have to try to live out of self rightness. Jesus comes to a world that is full of baggage, addiction and brokenness and takes on the out comes of hedonistic living by suffering the wrath of a Holy God - so the THIRD WAY is JESUS- the Gospel. Not sure if that all makes sense but maybe it could get a conversation going? I am glad you are wrestling with this...that is an important part of understanding culture and gospel connections! Keep me in the loop of what your thinking! Willing to interact with all this. Ready to church plant yet:)? We should have a church plant one year training track ready some time in the next two years or so? Great to hear from you Ben. Cheers Brad ps- A great place for you to go deeper on this is a new (short) book out by one of the best guys who is explaining the Gospel to the culture right now- Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian- His new book is called "Prodigal God" and deals directly with what I've only touched on above.
Blogging END NOTE: These growing understandings, of a functional Gospel, in my life have been greatly influenced by reading and listening to Tim Keller, Mark Driscol (our Acts29 big brother), my Acts29 church plant band of brothers, and John Piper- but the growing convictions in my life, of the need for a renewed understanding of a functional Gospel have come from time on the streets of Halifax, and by studying the book of Acts in the New Testament. MORE next Friday!