Gay Marriage? N T Wright Takes Us To School

When Tom Wright is asked about the challenges that the Church faces in light of legalized gay marriage his response is brilliant.  This is 5 minutes of your life that will NOT be wasted.

Notice his main couple points:

1)  You can’t just go around changing the meaning of words and things.  Just because some say something is so, don’t make it so.

2)  Christian and Biblical opposition to same-sex practice and marriage is not – and has never been – about 5 or 6 pesky verses.  It is coming out of the Grand Narrative, so to speak.  That means you can’t shrug this contemporary issue off and expect to keep the Christian faith coherently together.

 

Ol’ Brother Tom isn’t right (*ha!  a pun!) about everything I don’t think.  He’s admirably right about tons of stuff, though.  And he is super-duper right about this.

 

No Picking and Choosing

Augustine by Champaigne (that's his own burning heart he's holding; what does your heart burn for?)

Augustine by Champaigne
He’s all in!

“If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”  St Augustine 354-430

 

As usual, Augustine nails it.  My wife used to ask people what they thought God was like. They usually just described themselves only bigger.  She would then reply, “well, you’re just following yourself and trying to be God”.  We’re always pre-disposed to do just that.

The Good News of Jesus has many implications.  That He is King for instance.  Or that He is Substitute for guilty sinners.  Or that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Or that He didn’t just die for individuals but shed His blood for the Church.  Or that He has something to say about sex and marriage which is counter-cultural.  Or that He requires us to change our relationship with money.  Or that we are required not just to make a quick decision but to follow Him to the end.

We’re always eager to remake God in our own image.  That’s why we need to be constantly challenged.  If we read the Bible and never find anything that challenges us to change our lives or our views, then we can guarantee that we’re probably not following God but only ourselves.

 

 

Be An Ass!

donkey

Here’s a famous question:  If you could be any animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Did you pick something strong, beautiful,or majestic?  Or maybe something able to fly high or run far?

Well, if you were to ask the great theologian Karl Barth he would reply…  I’d be an ass!

Referring to the story of Christ entering Jerusalem on the back of an ass, Barth found affinity with that donkey and said:

“If I have done anything in this life of mine, I have done it as a relative of the donkey that went its way carrying an important burden. The disciples had said to its owner: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And so it seems to have pleased God to have used me at this time…”

Wanting to be used by God.  Wanting to carry Christ and His message where he went.  He wanted to be an ass.  There is great humility in this statement.  Nobody was looking at the donkey on that day.  They were all looking at the One that was carried.  Wouldn’t it be great if all our lives were more like that?

Sunday’s Sermon – Heart in God’s Hands – Exodus 7-10

ExodusIs the idea of someone’s heart being in God’s hands a comforting one?  Well, what if we’re talking about Pharaoh’s hard heart?  The account of God’s plagues and Pharaoh’s hard/hardening/hardened heart is not one which pleases modern ears.  But in it we see some truth, some problems, and even…  some comfort.  From the 25th of May, 2014.

Heart in God’s Hands – Exodus 7-10.  Click here.

2 Kinds of Good News

You have to have two kinds of Gospel.  No, that doesn’t mean that there is more than one Gospel.  There’s only one great story of Christ the King and His saving work for sinners.  But…  Sometimes there are different ways to of telling it.  The Good News is rich and has lots of implications.  Every situation is different.  Every hearer and speaker is different.  Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time.  But that’s ok, there is encouragement for that.

Looking in to the Book of Acts we can see several different apostles Gospelling at different times to different people.  The way and setting in which the Good News is communicated differs, even if the mulit-faceted message is always the same.

"Hey man, we've got some time, let me explain all this to you"

“Hey man, we’ve got some time, let me explain all this to you”

In Acts 8:26-40, Philip meets up with an Ethiopian official traveling on the road.  He’s got some Bible background.  He’s actually reading the Bible right then and there.  He’s asking questions.  Philip is invited to sit with him in his chariot and we can assume they’ve got some time.  He can talk with him and unpack the Gospel at leisure.

Maybe you’ve been blessed with opportunities like this.  The Good News is so rich and has many parts to explain.  It’s wonderful to have long conversations about Jesus – Who He is, what He’s done, and what that means for us and the world.  It’s important to know that embracing Christ is not just a simple formula.  To come to know Him is to see how He fits in with  everything else in the world.  You may have to do a little apologetical stuff (that doesn’t mean apologizing for the truth!)  You may have to show someone how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecy.  You may get to tell how He’s changed your life.  You may get to unpack how Christianity is important not just for individuals but for the entire course of history – it has changed civilizations after all.

But all of that takes a lot of time.  It is a blessing to be able to have long conversations.  I personally love long Philip conversations.  It is important t know, though, that sometimes you just don’t have that kind of time.  To reflect on that, we can look at another scene from Acts.

 

 

"Look buddy, we don't have a lot of time here.  I'll get right to the point."

“Look buddy, we don’t have a lot of time here. I’ll get right to the point.”

In Acts 16:25-31, the Apostle Paul is given a great opportunity to share the Good News.  He’s in prison with Silas, their giving good testimony by singing in the midst of their hardship.  Then there’s a miraculous earthquake and they’re freed. The jailer is freaking out and asks:  what must I do to be saved?  There is no way to know how much this guy knew and how much he understood.  It’s not like Paul couldn’t expound with the best of them – he’s known to have taken a long time to explain the Gospel.  But Paul, not having much time gets right to the point:  Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…  Granted later he gets more teaching but in that moment, the jailer gets the elevator pitch.

Sometimes, especially as we learn more about Christian faith, we make it harder to enter into it by complicating it.  There’s a lot more to know than what the jailer first heard, but the basic call to Repent and Believe is there.  It is actually a great test to be able to communicate the Good News is just one or two minutes.  It’s ridiculous to say that you can say everything, but the constraints help to focus.  If you only have 5 minutes with someone – do you get bogged down in Old Testament prophecy for example?

It is important because there are many opportunities to share Good News and they are not all the same.

What gets Paul mad?

What gets the Apostle Paul mad?  He had different groups of critics that both said nasty things about him and slandered his ministry.  But he reacts differently to them.  Why does he fly off the handle when he writes to the Galatians?  Why does he shrug off his opponents referenced in Philippians?  The difference is the message.

To the Philippians he references some critics of his that are grieving him.  They are preaching out of rivalry and are seeking to afflict Paul.  But he’s relatively cool about it.  Basically he says:  no problem, I rejoice because at least they’re proclaiming the Gospel.

But to the Galatians he references another group of critics.  But this time he says they ought to be accursed.  Why?  Because the difference is not personal, it is about the heart of the Gospel.

The “Galatian” opponents were saying that to be saved:

1)  First a man believes in Christ,   2)  then he keeps God’s law as best he can,   3)  and then he is justified (made right before God)

 

The “Philippian” opponents were saying that to be saved:

1)  First a man believes in Christ,   2)  then he is justified,   3)  then he proceeds to keep God’s law

 

Do you see the difference?  Do you see why in one case he shrugs and the other he blows his top?  Do you see why it is so important to get this part of the Gospel right?

*  This is paraphrased from J Gresham Machen’s classic Christianity & Liberalism, pages 19-21.  Not a single observation is my own.

Optimist or Pessimist, Realist or… Something Else

I personally hover between the centre and the right hand one.

I personally hover between the centre and the right hand one.

An optimist is a man who looks after your eyes, and a pessimist is a man who looks after your feet.  G K Chesterton

Before trying to parse out the profound of the above quote, understand that is a bit of Chestertonian humour.  But of course there is such a thing as optimism (seeing the sunny side).  And pessimism (assuming the worst).  And so-called realism (this is just the way it is).  Personality types may tend to one or the other.  But which is the most Biblical?

I’ve seen naive optimism.  I’ve seen pessimism mascarading as realism.  I’ve seen such gloomy outlooks that I can’t imagine how any solid hopefulness can break in.  I’ve seen all these in others and I’ve known them all in myself.  But for those who place their trust in Christ – and His word and promises – the categories need not govern us.

Optimism depends on a rosy outlook on circumstances.  Pessimism is a negative view of those same circumstances.  So-called realism is a so-called real look at those circumstances.  The contents of the glass of circumstance is the same, you see, in all cases.  But there is a view which does not depend upon present circumstances at all.

There is a view which does not view present circumstances as the determining factor at all.  That view is trusting in Christ as King and all His past, present, and future work.  If He is in charge, and in control, and sure of future victory then there is nothing in our present circumstances that can shake us.  This was (and is) one of the central messages of an incredible message sent from an ancient pastor to the congregations of the ancient world.  Christ is crucified, Christ is risen, Christ is alive on the throne, Christ is coming with His Kingdom.  That is a foundation for hope – true hope gives no allegiance to optimism, pessimism, or so-called realism – for true hope transcends all present circumstance.  Or in the words of one greater than I:

“I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead”   Lesslie Newbigin