Tuesday, May 31, 2011
One day while I was outside practicing, I heard someone call my name. I looked over toward the backyard of my friend, Phillip, and saw him there with Ricky and Danny. They were standing under a basketball goal which hadn’t been there the day before. “We’re gonna play a game. We need a fourth man. Want to play?” they asked. I left my marbles in the dirt that day and never looked back. I had found a new passion. I loved to play basketball. Every single day I couldn’t wait to get home from school so that I could rush out into the back yard to play ball. We would play until dark every day. Fridays were especially exciting because we didn’t have school the next day. Our parents would often allow us to stay out really late, shooting baskets when we could hardly even see the goal. It was an adolescent boy’s paradise.
“Now this is something I can do all my life!”, I reasoned. “Mr. Lambert across the street still plays basketball and he’s a grown man!” In those days I was convinced that there would never be a Friday night of my life when I didn’t shoot basketball. I was addicted to it.
One Sunday when I was barely sixteen years old our family went to church. While sitting in the Sunday School class that morning, I noticed a new girl who walked into the class. I had never seen her before. I had never been on a date up to that time. When this girl walked past me, I checked her out — I mean, I discerned that this might be a good place to begin my dating life. I went home and asked my dad the big question. “Dad, if I get a date some Friday night, will you let me use your car to go out?” “Do you have a date?” my dad asked, probably glad to see his only son moving toward manhood. “Not yet, but there’s a girl I want to go out with if you’ll let me have the car,” I answered. “Who is she?” he asked. “Just a girl I met at church last week,” I answered. “Okay,” he said. “You can use the car if you get a date.”
I couldn’t wait until the next Sunday. As soon as church was over I made a bee line for this new, good looking girl. After nervous small talk, I took the plunge. “Are you doing anything this Friday night?” I nervously asked. “No,” she answered, “why?” “Well, there’s a new Barbara Streisand movie coming out this weekend. I thought we would go see it and then go over to Pizza Villa after the movie, if you want to,” I said. “Sure, that sounds like fun,” she answered.
The following Friday night I picked her up and went out on my first date. It went really well. The next day my buddies all rushed over to my house bright and early. “Man, where were you?” they demanded to know. “We waited for you to come out. We play basketball every Friday!” they continued with obvious irritation over my reckless disregard for our sacred appointed game. “What were you doing?” Holding my shoulders back and with my head held high, I answered, “Boys, I was with a chick!”
To their dismay, I called the girl and asked her to go out with me the following Friday. She accepted. In fact, I went out with her every Friday for the next three years, then I married her. We’ve been married since 1973. (Her high school senior picture is the one attached to this blog.) Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I played basketball on Friday night. I’ve found something better!
When a person finds himself entangled with a sin, it is often difficult to imagine a time when he won’t be connected to that sin. How does one find freedom over habitual sins in his life? Certainly it won’t happen by applying religious rules to our behavior. We have already seen how that sins are actually aroused by laws. The idea that a Christian should protect himself from sins by a strict adherence to rules is sin’s secret weapon against the believer. Laws always stimulate sin.
I hate to compare wholesome activities like marbles and basketball to sin, but I want to use my experience with these as an analogy. If someone had told me when I was a young child that I would have to give up marbles, I would have resisted the idea. If someone had suggested that at age sixteen I would be required to give up Friday night basketball, I would have rebelled against the very thought of such a thing. I didn’t focus on giving up either. I simply became obsessed with something that I wanted more than those things. One might say that Melanie delivered me from basketball. It wasn’t a struggle for me. I just set my mind on her and basketball sort of faded away.
That’s how Jesus can deliver us from our sins! When we come to know who Jesus is in us and who we are in Him, we discover that sins we once couldn’t imagine living without lose their appeal to us. We don’t experience victory by struggling against sins, but by setting our mind on Jesus. The Apostle Paul said it succinctly in Colossians 3:1-3:
If you then have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
We will never overcome sin through sheer determination and self discipline. That kind of negative motivation keeps our eyes off Jesus and on our sins. We are to focus on Him, not sin! As we fall more and more in love with Jesus, those sins which we have so tightly caressed will become increasingly unattractive to us until we want to let them go.
When I was a child, we sometimes sang an old song which clearly teaches God’s method for overcoming sin. It says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” The repellent for sin is not self effort. The remedy for sin will always be nothing other than Jesus.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Then he saw her. Across the crowded room, she stood — as if she had been unknowingly waiting for him all her life. She was beautiful. No, not beautiful. She was stunning. “God, I must have her!” every fiber of his being resonated. “I want to spend my life with her. I want to love her and cherish her and hold her. I want to take care of her and spoil her.”
He walked across the room, never taking his eyes off her for even a moment. The room was filled with people, but his eyes were on her. As he approached her, his presence caught her attention and she looked upward into his penetrating eyes. This was the moment he had been waiting for, the time he had longed for as long as he could remember. Gently and lovingly he spoke: “Would you care to dance?”
The description I have given is a true story. The two did begin to dance that day and they have never stopped. He asked her to marry him and she said “yes.” His plan is to do exactly what he intended from the beginning — to share his life with her and to love her so much that she will never regret the day she met him.
Not only is the story true, but you actually know the people involved. The one He desired to have so much is you. The Person who wanted you so badly is Jesus Christ. One day He walked into the room of this world to find you. He was captivated by you and determined that He would make you His own. He knew in His heart that He must have you, that He wouldn’t live without you.
If you doubt my words about His love, read the following marriage proposal that He wrote you. These aren’t my words, but are His, copied here word for word exactly as He wrote them to you:
How beautiful you are my darling. How beautiful you are! There is no
blemish in you! Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along.
You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.
How delightful you are, My love, with all your charms.
This note to you is recorded in the Bible, in the Song of Solomon. (Song of Solomon 1:15; 2:13; 4:1,7,9; 7:6.) This book of the Bible is a love story about you and Jesus. Its words are sometimes so graphic, so intense, that throughout church history there have been those who have argued that it shouldn’t even be in the Bible. However, your Divine Lover has made sure it is there. The Song of Solomon is a love poem written for you. It’s eight stanzas call you beautiful no less than fifteen times!
Jesus is consumed with you. Speaking about you, He said, “Who is this . . . fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars (Song of Solomon 6:10)? You may not feel that way about yourself, but it makes no difference. What He says is an objective fact, whether you believe it or not. If you don’t believe it now, rest assured that you will believe it, because He is going to keep telling you how beautiful and precious you are to Him throughout all eternity. One day, either now or later, the reality of His words will transform you.
Do you remember the day that you heard Him ask you to dance? Maybe it was in church, or perhaps it was when a friend shared his faith with you. Maybe it was when you were all alone and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember what you experienced then, as He reached out to you? The bride in the Song of Solomon spoke for us all when she said, “My feelings were aroused for him” (5:4). That happened to us all when Jesus swept us off our feet and we trusted Him.
Don’t think it irreverent to view Christ in a romantic way. He is the One who calls us His bride. He is the One who wrote to us in terms of passion and romance. We simply respond to Him. “We love Him because He first love us” (1 John 4:19). We didn’t initiate or set the pace for this relationship. He did. We have simply responded to His irresistible charm, affirming by faith, “My beloved is mine and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16)! Like every new bride, our profession of faith in Him is nothing less than the thrilling realization that, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me” (7:10, emphasis added)!
I didn’t imagine the idea of the dance as a literary metaphor to describe your relationship to Him. That is how He described it. In Zephaniah 3:17, the Bible says, “He will exult over you with joy” (emphasis added). Strong’s Concordance defines the word “exult”(sometimes translated “rejoice”) in the following way: “To spin around under the influence of a violent emotion.”
One day we will meet face to face the One whom, “having not seen, we love” (1 Peter 1:8). We will look into the eyes which have never looked away from us even once. We will be embraced by his outstretched arms and will hear His voice audibly. I’m not sure what His first words to you will be, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the first thing He says as He stares deeply into your eyes is simply, “Let’s dance.”
Sunday, May 29, 2011
C.S. Lewis wrote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." The video below is Eva Cassidy singing, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Listen to the longing in her voice.
Wikipedia reports that in 1993, Cassidy had a malignant mole removed from her back. Three years later, during a promotional event for the Live at Blues Alley album in July 1996, Cassidy noticed an ache in her hips, which she attributed to stiffness from painting murals while perched atop a stepladder. The pain persisted and a few weeks later, X-rays revealed that the melanoma had spread to her lungs and bones. Her doctors estimated she had three to five months to live. Cassidy opted for aggressive treatment, but her health deteriorated rapidly.In her final public performance in September 1996, at the Bayou, she closed the set with "What A Wonderful World" in front of an audience of friends, fans and family. She was subsequently admitted to Johns-Hopkins Hospital. Cassidy died at her family home in Bowie, November 2, 1996, at the age of 33. Her longing was fulfilled. Do you feel that same longing? Take heart. One day it will be fulfilled. It most assuredly will be fulfilled . . .
I pushed the boat off, moving it away from the shoreline and turned to go back through the woods to my car. However, as I began to make my way back, it didn’t take long until I became disoriented. The night shadows and muted colors caused every path to look the same. After walking for thirty minutes on a course that I knew should have only taken ten if it were the right one, I began to realize that chances were good that I was lost.
I was a little nervous at first, but told myself that I would eventually come upon the road and the car. An hour later, I knew I was in trouble when I found myself off the path and fighting my way through thick undergrowth, filled with night sounds I didn’t recognize. I had absolutely no idea which direction I needed to head anymore. Instinctively I began to walk faster . . . and faster . . . and faster. After awhile I realized that increasing my speed wasn’t accomplishing anything except to make me tired.
I sat down to rest for a moment, telling myself that I needed to calm down and think this situation through more carefully. As I sat there, I glanced up toward the sky. Above me I saw my answer. It was a power line. I reasoned that the line had to lead somewhere and that I would simply follow it until it led me back to civilization.
That is exactly what I did and my plan worked. After a long walk, the line led me back to a side road, which I then followed to the highway and to my car. It was a scary experience, which to this day has kept me out of the woods alone at night.
My trek through the woods parallels the journey of many of our lives. Since we aren’t sure how to get where we want to be we simply walk faster and faster. We are accomplishing nothing but exhausting ourselves. In an effort to reach our goals, we become driven to increasing activity and effort, which only serves to exhaust us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Stillness. It was into the stillness of an empty void that God spoke and said, “Let there be” and all that is came into existence. It was in the stillness of a barren desert that a man met God at a burning bush and was commissioned to lead His people to freedom. It was in the stillness of the night that a baby’s cry could be heard in Bethlehem, announcing salvation to the world. It was another still night when that same child would cry to His Father in a garden, “Not my will, but thine be done.” It was in the stillness of an early morning that a stone was rolled away and an occupied tomb would forever be emptied. Stillness — God’s showcase.
The fire of God’s love burns brightly in the stillness. It is in that stillness that the distractions and cares of the world fade away like outside noises are muted when we make love to our beloved. It is in that stillness that we are able to give our thoughts, our feelings, and our will completely to Him in uninhibited abandon.
It is in that stillness that we are able to meditate — to muse on the Person and loving words of the One whose passion burns for us until we are irreparably and eternally ignited by the Flame. It is in that stillness that we gasp with delight along with the Psalmist, “My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned” (Psalm 39:3, emphasis added).
Do you want to experience your God's love in a more powerful way than may have known until now? Be still. You may be surprised what you hear and see when you do.
This post is an excerpt from my book, A Divine Invitation, available here:
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Fifteen people sat around me in a circle, having sneaked into the room one at a time in order to avoid detection by the police. “Aren’t you afraid of going to jail?” one of the believers asked me. “Are you?” I asked. It is illegal for Christians in China to meet together as we were doing and we all knew that. However, these believers were so hungry for Bible teaching that they would risk their very lives to attend this Bible study.
I had taught for thirteen hours that day. Now it was the end of the day. We had been praying and the Christians with me had been singing Chinese hymns, offering praise to God for His goodness. There was a lull in the room as people prayed silently when an 87 year old woman began to sing alone.
I had spoken to her earlier through my translator and knew her personal story. She and her husband had been separated during a war in China over thirty years earlier. As Japanese and Chinese soldiers fought all around her, she hid in the corner of a building. Friends around her were being killed, but the soldiers all brushed past her, seeming not to notice she was there.
Finally the shooting stopped and the soldiers all left. She said that her immediate thought was, “There must be a God because there is no other explanation for why I survived what just happened. I want to know this God.” Ten years passed before she heard about an underground church service near where she lived. Taking her daughter by the hand, she said, “Let’s go to this church where we can meet this God who spared my life ten years ago.” They did go to the house church that day and there she met Jesus Christ.
Now here I was, twenty years later, sitting in an abandoned factory where one family had secretly taken up residence. I had been teaching about intimacy with Christ, but this 87 year old lady was about to make the lesson I taught even more real to me. She closed her eyes and began to sing.
It was a soft and sweet sounding song, in the Mandarin language. As she sang, tears began to stream down her wrinkled cheeks and over her radiant smile. I couldn’t understand the words she sang but I was aware that she was literally exuding the love of Jesus Christ. Suddenly, I sensed the manifest presence of God in a powerful way.
I couldn’t hold back my tears and, as I looked around the room, I saw the others were crying too. I looked back at this saint who now appeared to be in a world of her own, seemingly oblivious to our presence in the room. It was obvious – she was not singing for us. She was singing to Jesus.
In a few moments, she finished her song and a holy hush lingered in the room. She paused for a moment and then opened her eyes and looked at me. “Every day He is looking forward to my coming,” she said with wet cheeks and an angelic smile. I felt like a little boy who was being taught a lesson that he had never heard. Looking through teary eyes, I smiled and simply nodded.
“He is looking forward to my coming.” Have you ever thought of it in those terms? Most people think about how happy we will be to see Jesus Christ face to face, but have you considered how anxious He is to see you? We are called the bride of Christ in the New Testament. One day He will come again and we will be united with Him in an eternal marriage. Jesus said,
I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3).
One day we will hear a resounding invitation echoing through the universe, “The Bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet Him!” (See Matthew 25:6) In that moment, you will see the One whose passion for you was so great that He thought it better to die than to live without you.
(This post is an excerpt from my book, A Divine Invitation, available here:
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Some say that to teach about the love of God the way I do does a disservice in presenting His nature by suggesting that Agape is the defining factor of everything that can be known about Him. They argue that God has other aspects of His nature that must be seen in balance with His love. They particularly point to His justice and wrath as examples. Critics contend that by focusing on His love to such an extent presents a lopsided view of the totality of who He is. I believe that the opposite viewpoint causes the very problem they suggest others create. Those who attempt to align justice, wrath or any other divine qualities alongside His love as separate but equal realities malign His true nature.
Think of it like this: Imagine a pie to be used as an object lesson to illustrate God’s nature. How would you show the place His love, justice and wrath holds within His nature? Would you show a division in the pie with three equal pieces, each showing the respective aspects of His essence? Or would you have a very large piece of the pie reveal His love and two smaller pieces show the place justice and wrath hold within His being? How would you divide the love, justice and wrath of God?
The fact is that such a division doesn’t exist within the divine nature. Instead, it is the pie-crust that is the love of God and that every other aspect of His nature could be seen as a piece of the pie. In other words, God’s justice and wrath must be understood as a part of His love. Otherwise, God is part love and part other characteristics.
To suggest that focusing exclusively on the love of God as the totality of His being leaves out something is to insult Divine Agape. God is love. Love is more than an attribute of God. It's His ontological makeup. God is just, but justice is simply an expression of His love. God expresses wrath but wrath too is an expression of His love. Everything that can be known of Him must be seen through the lens of agape or we end up presenting a god with a multiple personality.
Is there a side to God that is not love? Can we argue that divine wrath is something separate from agape? Does divine justice come from a place within God where love does not preside? Is God love and something else?
The problem comes with the contemporary use of these words that are based on our flawed concept of a judicial god who is a courtroom judge that demands the books be balanced and that somebody be punished for the wrong that was done. Like Adam in The Garden, we have superimposed our own distorted, legalistic (literally) mindset onto the God who has done nothing but reveal Himself through Jesus Christ as the One who loves us and would never act in any way that contradicts that reality.
The pervasive human understanding of justice couldn’t be further from what the Bible teaches about divine justice. The human view is that a wrong was done and somebody must be punished for it, but that isn’t at all what the Bible tells us about Justice seen through the lens of agape.
Biblically, to "bring justice" does not mean to bring punishment but to bring healing and reconciliation. Justice means to make things right. All through the prophetic books of the Bible, justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Divine justice is God's saving action at work for all that are oppressed, making things right for everybody. Consider these texts:
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17).
This is what the LORD says: "`Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed (Jeremiah 21:12).
The way that we "administer justice", the Prophets tell us, is by encouraging and helping the oppressed. In contrast to what we may have been taught, God's justice is not in conflict with his mercy, they are inseparable. True justice can only come though mercy.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another" (Zechariah 7:9).
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice ( Isaiah 30:18).
If we want to understand the concept of divine justice as the Bible reveals, then we must see it as a "setting things right again.” It’s not retribution that makes things right, but restoration. That is the heart of our Father.
What about wrath? The Greek word is orge and, while the word is often used to refer to anger, it can refer to any violent emotion, not just anger. It is “an agitation of the soul” and can even mean, “love.” If our starting point in understanding the use of the word in the Bible is a concept of a God who is angry about sin and wants somebody to pay, of course, we will automatically see wrath as an expression of anger. On the other hand, if our starting place in understanding a text is that God is love, then we know we haven’t reached the pure meaning of the verse if it contradicts love. Will God ever act in a way that contradicts love? Is His essence pure love? Can pure love ever express anything that stands in contradiction to Pure Love? If it can, then the love was never pure from the start. Pure water has nothing else in it that would contaminate it or alter it at all. Neither does Pure Love.
If our concept of God is that He is One who insists on punishment for wrong doing, how can we possibly argue that we don’t envision a legalistic (i.e. courtroom, gavel wielding, verdict pronouncing, sentence imposing) God? He is not an impartial judge. He can’t be because, to the contrary, He is a God who is very biased in our favor. That’s what grace means.
Is there punishment for sin? Of course there is, but it is sin that punishes, not God. The wages of sin is death but Jesus has come “so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Our God is Love. Not love plus something else. Just Love. Everything else that can be said about Him must be framed inside that reality.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Mike Zenker (GW Canada National Director) sent this blog by Viola to me yesterday and I read it this morning. I've never posted somebody else blog on my own blog before but I think this one is excellent. It does a great job in explaining that among Evangelicals, there is a stirring that leads us neither deeper into conservatism nor liberalism. As Viola states, it leads us forward. I believe that forward movement in grace is the normal result of the Apostle Peter's admonition to "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." As we grow, we change. That's inevitable. Read Viola's thoughts below and see what you think. . .
Beyond Evangelical: Part I
The title of this blog is Beyond Evangelical. But what does that phrase mean? And what does it not mean?
First, “beyond evangelical” doesn’t mean “non-evangelical.” I am an evangelical. What is more, I stand with the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed (just in case anyone was wondering). In this regard, I agree with Alister McGrath’s statement that “evangelicalism is historic Christianity. It’s the standard bearer of historic, orthodox Christianity.”
But the term “evangelical” embraces a wide canopy. So much so that the word is becoming increasingly vague and open to interpretation. Evangelicalism has become a hyphenated movement. For instance, “old-evangelical,” “neo-evangelical,” “conservative-evangelical,” “post-evangelical,” “post-conservative evangelical,” “ecumenical-evangelical,” “charismatic-evangelical,” “young-evangelical,” etc. are all in common use today. American historian Mark Noll rightly points out that evangelicalism is made up of “shifting movements, temporary alliances, and the lengthened shadows of individuals.”
The word “evangelical” has become so generalized that people like Jim Wallis (evangelicalism = social activism/reforms) and Al Mohler (evangelicalism = fundamentalism) stand on the oppose sides of the evangelical spectrum. The same is true for Rob Bell (on the left) and John MacArthur (on the right), both of whom claim to be “evangelical.”
As western culture has balkanized and changed the meaning of words over time, the same is true for religious vocabulary. We can no longer take for granted the meaning of terms like “evangelical” or “evangelicalism.” The evangelical formulas that worked in the past have evolved. So there’s very little consensus today as to their exact meaning.
Second, “beyond evangelical” doesn’t mean “post-evangelical.” Popularized by Dave Tomlinson, the term “post-evangelical” is often equated with the emerging church movement/phenomenon. While I have close friends who identify themselves with this movement, I do not. I appreciate my emergent friends and applaud some of their concerns, while freely disagreeing with other concerns.
In our book Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and I address what we believe to be some of the critical weaknesses of “emergent” Christianity as it relates to the Person of Jesus Christ (see Chapter 7). We also address some of the critical weaknesses we see in “the Religious Right” (see Chapter 8). Right or wrong, you know where I stand on those issues.
Now here’s something I’d like to say to my friends who are analyzing evangelicalism today. The future of evangelicalism is not restricted to a choice between the left or the right. Another direction exists: It’s forward. As Sweet and I say in our book, "The body of Christ is at a crossroads right now. The two common alternatives are to move either to the left or the right. It’s our observation, however, that we are living in a unique time, when people are frozen as they look in either of those directions. When they look to the left, they decide that they cannot venture there. When they look to the right, they feel the same. Whether they realize it or not, people are looking for a fresh alternative—a third way. The crossroads today, we believe, is one of moving forward or backward." (Jesus Manifesto, p. xiii). Those of us who are moving “beyond evangelical” resonate with that statement. The only gear we have is “forward.”
Third, for many evangelicals, the historical use of the word “evangelical” includes four key notes.
The British evangelical historian David Bebbington has defined the word “evangelical” by the following four notes. Mark Noll also uses this description as well as a host of others. Bebbington’s “evangelical quadrilateral” includes:
* Biblicism - being Bible-centered, which would include the belief that the Bible is the Divinely inspired authority for life and faith; it is trustworthy and sufficient.
* Conversionism – being conversion-centered, which would include the need for being converted to Jesus Christ.
* Crucicentrism - being cross-centered, which would include emphasizing the death of Jesus for salvation.
* Activism – being activist-centered, which would include living the Christian life, evangelizing, and helping those in need.
I hold to all of the above. Therefore, I am an evangelical in the historic sense. But going “beyond evangelical” means asking some incisive questions like . . .
*In what sense is the Bible authoritative? And how exactly does a person hear and encounter God through the Scriptures? What’s the main point of the Bible . . . the grand narrative?
*How is a person converted? And what does conversion give an individual? What does it include?
*What happened at the cross exactly? How does Jesus’ death save us? Does His death on the cross do more than just forgive sins? If so, what?
*How should Christians present the gospel? What is God’s central mission exactly? And what does the Scripture teach concerning how we are to fulfill that mission? (I predict that the question “What exactly is the Mission?” is going to define the missional church conversation over the next 5 years. This is always assumed . . . grossly so. So hide and watch.)
Over the last three years of this blog’s existence, I have weighed-in on some these questions. My books also address them. But I’ve only scratched the surface. This leads us to the next point.
Fourth, those of us who have moved “beyond evangelical” have expanded the evangelical quadrilateral with four additional notes.
* Christ-centered – a recovery of the Bible’s consistent and razor-sharp emphasis that Jesus Christ is supreme, preeminent, sovereign, the center of biblical revelation, and the practical, living head of the church. In today’s evangelicalism, countless religious “themes” and “subjects” have replaced Christ as the centrality and supremacy.
* Resurrection Life-centered – what stands beyond the cross is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection means so many things. It means the beginning of the new creation. It means the triumph of God over all things, including death, His greatest enemy. But it also means that God’s people can live in the foretaste of our future resurrection, participating in its life and power here and now. It means that Jesus Christ is still alive, can be known, and has come to live out His resurrected life in and through us. Learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ in a corporate context and all that it involves is a missing note in modern evangelicalism. (The latter is focused on imitating Jesus as an individual through one’s own efforts.) Living by the life of Christ also means being radically sold out to Jesus without being legalistic on the one hand or libertine on the other.
* Body Life-centered – the typical evangelical holds to the idea that the Christian life is an individual pursuit. “Church” is something Christians attend in order to be motivated to go out and serve as an individual Christian and live a strong individual Christian life. But those who have gone “beyond evangelical” believe that the church is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, Christ existing as community. Church is not a denomination, a service, or something you attend. It’s the experience of the body of Christ, a la, “body life.” In fact, the Christian life doesn’t work outside of a local, shared-life community that’s meeting under the headship of Jesus Christ as His body on the earth. Consequently, how a local church functions and expresses itself is imminently important.
* Eternal Purpose-centered – God has an eternal purpose, or grand mission, that provoked Him to create. That purpose goes beyond the saving of lost souls and making the world a better place. God’s purpose transcends evangelism and social action (both of which are focused on meeting human needs). The eternal purpose is primarily by Him, through Him, and to Him. Meeting human needs is a byproduct, not the prime product.
Contemporary evangelicalism in America is essentially a reactionary movement. As a result, it has produced an “us” vs. “them” mentality. Those of us who have gone “beyond evangelical” have moved on from the early 20th-century fundamentalist vs. modernist debate that our forefathers passionately fought . . . a fight that continues to rope many contemporary Christians into today, some 100 years later. This fight leaves people with a false choice between left or right. The alternative direction of “forward” doesn’t appear on the radar screen.
Those who are “beyond evangelical” have moved on from that battle to discovering, exploring, and displaying the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters in Christ.(How often do you hear that language in evangelical circles? The vocabulary we find in books like Ephesians emerged from a living experience. An experience that is available to Christians today, though it be rarely found.)
I am not alone in observing the trend of moving “beyond evangelical.” Before his passing, Michael Spencer famously wrote about the coming evangelical collapse. Scot McKnight has written prolifically and intelligently on the present crisis that evangelicalism faces and the pressing need to reshape it. David Fitch has also written on the subject (though more for an academic audience). And a host of others have as well.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
From Robinson Sadique, Grace Walk Pakistan National Coordinator: "I have given our books to Pastor Robin Raz, on 8th of April as he is working with us in Grace Walk Pakistan although he has his own ministry but he is also apart of our team.He went to Lahore, Narowal, Sialkot and other parts and cities of Punjab Provence he had introduce and disturbed the books and shared the message of grace."
Remember the people of Pakistan in your prayers and pray for our team there who is sharing the wonderful truth of our Father's life and love!
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Was C.S. Lewis saying here that everybody is a Christian? No. Was he suggesting that everybody is going to heaven? No. Was he suggesting that since the work of Jesus on the cross includes all mankind, there is no need for us to place our faith in Him? No.
What he is saying is that the work of the cross is finished whether we believe it or not. We "have to appropriate that salvation" but "the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless 'spiritual' life, has been done for us."
This is the message that we have the joy of proclaiming to everybody! Not a potential gospel of "what Jesus will do for you" but a pure gospel of what has already been done in the man, Christ Jesus, for every person. Yes, people need to believe and receive it, but we believe because it is true. We don't believe so that it can become true.