Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

Eternal Life (Part 4)

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

The next occurrence of eternal life we will discuss is Luke 10:25 (parallels are Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34). The two occurrences in Mark were discussed with their parallel in Matthew in Part 2.

In Luke’s version an expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (NET). This is very similar to the story of the Rich Young Ruler (see Part 2). They both presume that there is something they can do to earn eternal life. Jesus asks, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” (Luke 10:26 NET).

“The expert answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:27-28).

It’s too bad the story doesn’t end there because in the next verse the man attempts to “justify” himself by asking Jesus to identify his neighbor for him. He obviously didn’t understand the true depth of the answer that he gave Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.

You see the problem with the expert’s question was that he presumed the people who weren’t his neighbor outnumbered the people who were. He thought that neighbors were a select few and easy to identify. The “good” Jews that looked like him… acted like him… believed like him. He was totally wrong. Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. It’s not just the people that look and act like us and attend our church that are our neighbors. It’s not just the people that live in our neighborhood that are our neighbors. The homeless man asking for change for the bus is our neighbor. The Muslim families heading to the local mosque are our neighbors. The couple advocating for gay marriage are our neighbors. To experience eternal life, Jesus says that we must love them as we love ourselves. We love them because we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and all our minds. And he loves out neighbors more than we ever could.

What are you going to do to love your neighbor this week?

Eternal Life (Part 3)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

In our study of eternal life, the next occurrence of the phrase is Matthew 25:46. This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture; mainly because it kicks my butt every time I read it.

Many of you are probably familiar with the story. It’s the story of the sheep and the goats. For our purposes, the important part is the very last sentence. It says that those that did not care for Jesus by caring for those in need are sent to eternal punishment while the righteous enter into eternal life. In this story the righteous are those that cared for Jesus by caring for those in need. While I’d love to talk more about the sheep and the goats, that’s not the focus of this series. Here we are focusing on eternal life. What we see here confirms some of our earlier findings. Eternal life is an eschatological (last things) gift for the righteous.

What does this mean for you in your everyday life?

Eternal Life (Part 2)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In part 1 we examined the only occurrence of the phrase eternal life in the Old Testament, Daniel 12:2.  In that context eternal life was a reward given to the righteous after they were resurrected.

Today we’re moving on to the first occurrence in the New Testament, Matthew 19:16.  It is part of the story commonly known as the Rich Young Ruler and occurs in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30).  One thing we need to remember here is that the focus of this story is not eternal life.  This story focuses on the things that keep us from experiencing eternal life because we value them above God.

Yet, we learn something about the nature of eternal life.  In Jesus’ answer to the man we learn three things.  These are adapted from Matthew: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (NIV Application Commentary Series)
by Michael J. Wilkins.  (1) Eternal life is a way of living different from the normal humans experience (Matthew 19:17).  Jesus doesn’t, at this point, clarify the nature of this life.  It is only clear that it’s different from the life the young man is experiencing.  (2) Eternal life is closely associated with the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  They are not one and the same, but you can’t have one without the other.  (3) Eternal life is part of salvation.

As you can see, the New Testament has expanded our view of eternal life.  The gift is not only received at the resurrection, all who are saved experience it.  It is a type of life different from the normal life experienced by humanity and is closely related to the Kingdom of God.

What other differences do you see from Daniel’s portrayal of eternal life and the Gospels’ presentations here?

Eternal Life (Part 1)

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those of you that have been following this blog for a little while, this series is going to be a little different from what you’re used to.  I’m going to give you a peek into my research.   The focus of my research is John’s use of the concept of eternal life in his Gospel.  This series is going to provide an overview of what Scripture says about eternal life.  We will look at each occurrence of the phrase in the Bible and try to understand what that passage says about eternal life.

The first and only time the phrase eternal life appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint abbreviated LXX) is in Daniel 12:2.  Daniel 12 is part of an apocalyptic revelation given to Daniel while he was in Persia.  It is part of a very long prophecy which culminates with these words:

1 “At that time Michael,
the great prince who watches over your people,
will arise.
There will be a time of distress
unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
up to that time.
But at that time your own people,
all those whose names are found written in the book,
will escape.
2 Many of those who sleep
in the dusty ground will awake—
some to everlasting life,
and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.
3 But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness
will be like the stars forever and ever.
(Daniel 12:1-3 NET)

The phrase “everlasting life” in Greek is the same as “eternal life.”  Daniel tells us a couple of things about eternal life in this passage.  (1) Eternal life will be given to some after they are resurrected from the dead.  (2) Those that do not receive eternal life will receive eternal abhorrence.  The Greek word used here indicates a great disgrace.  In Ancient Near Eastern culture this was one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a person.  Honor was the most important thing in that culture.  Daniel is saying that some will be resurrected to eternal life and some will be resurrected to eternal disgrace.

So, Daniel 12:2 teaches us that eternal life is given to some when they are resurrected.  It appears here to be a reward of some kind and is the opposite of eternal disgrace.

How does this affect what you believe about eternal life?

hope and freedom

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Adrian Warnock is asking people to write about why they love the church. He’s also giving away free copies of Vintage Church, and I’m a sucker for free stuff. You can read Adrian’s blog here.

Joking about free stuff aside, I love the fact that people are being encouraged to write about why they love the Church. Particularly among younger Christians it’s very popular to not like the Church. Yet, how can you love Jesus and not love His Bride? Granted, imperfect humans make up the Church so it’s much harder to see the radiance in her that Christ sees. But it’s still there. And Jesus is madly in love with His Bride.

There are two facets of the Church’s radiance that I see and am grateful for. The first is hope. It’s almost cliche to comment on how messed up the world is. Just yesterday the front page of the Detroit News had a picture of a guy that had frozen to death, and the man that found the body was afraid to report it because he didn’t want to get introuble for trespassing. Everytime it seems like it can’t get worse something else like that happens. Yet, the Church speaks hope into this miserable experience. The Church proclaims that this misery is not permanent. The Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus that promises not only redemption of individuals but redemption of the world. Moreover, the Church lives out the hope of the Gospel by living a redeemed life and modeling it to the world.

The second facet of the Church’s radiance is freedom. The reason that this misery exists is because humanity is held captive by sin. The evidence of this is everywhere. Although American culture tries to deny the very existence of sin stories like the one in the Detroit News cannot be explained away so easily. Yet, the Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ that frees people from the power of sin. The Church models this freedom and in so doing draws others to the freedom that is only foind in Christ.

Jesus’ Bride is radiantly adorned in the hope in freedom that is found in Christ. That is why I love the her.

Incarnational Technology

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Lately technology has become a big topic of discussion in the church world. The discussion has really been around forever. It got pretty heated in the “worship wars” of the 80s. Then the question was the use of electric instruments, words projected on screens, and image magnification. The conversation has now moved to the use streaming media, and mass collaborative tools.

Recently I read a blog post that gave a fair critique of technology in the church. You can read it here. The author raises some very good points regarding the use of technology. He’s not opposed to it but feels that technology is overused in evangelical seeker-sensitive churches.

I’d like to take a moment to respond to his point. The critique stems from a presupposition that the goal is to be cool. He uses the word relevant, but in the context in which it is used, cool definitely fits better. In truth, a lot of churches use relevant when they mean cool. When the goal is to be cool, then the technology is definately being misused. If the goal is to be relevant, and by relevant I mean communicating in a way that connects with the audience in the best possible manner, then technology is certainly incarnational.

Often the incarnational is misdefined as living among people. Although Jesus certainly did live among people, so did all of the first century Rabbis and they were not incarnational ministers. The incarnation was God communicating to his audience in the best possible manner. Look at how John describes it in the prologue to his Gospel. The incarnation was God being relevant. Greg Koester makes this point well in The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel.

The best medium of communication in the first century was the spoken word. Throughout the history of civilization the most effective medium for communication has developed as society developed. Before the Guttenberg Press the most effective communication in Medieval Europe was stained glass windows and passion plays. Today American society communicates through technology television, the internet, texting, etc.

If the goal is to be the coolest church in town then it is not an incarnational church. It’s more like Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. If the goal is to communicate the truth of God in the most relevant vehicle possible, then technology must be used. With that said, technology should be leading people into community which, I believe, must ultimately lead to human interaction. But, that is not the definition of the incarnation, and that is a topic for another post.

What is the gospel?

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ve seen several posts wrestling with the nature of the gospel and the polarization that is happening between the emerging and evangelical views. This is something that I’ve been working through for a while as I try to be true to God’s call and be more effective at communicating who Jesus is. There is a recent post on the Acts 29 blog by Tim Keller that addresses this. It is a very well thought out critique of the topic. If you’re at all interested in know more about the gospel or learning how to better communicate it to those around you, this post is a must read.

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

One of my biggest frustrations with a lot of what is written by the Christian community is the stark one-sided approach that most of the writers take. In particular I’m talking about the writings of the “Emerging” of “Emergent” authors (yes I know there’s a difference but I challenge you to define it) and the conservative, evangelical authors. Scot McKnight said it well on his blog when discussing the concept of gospel, “Too many today want to be faithful to Jesus’ use of the word ‘gospel’ and ignore Paul; too many also want to be faithful to Paul but ignore what Jesus said.”
This is my fundamental issue with McLaren in Everything Must Change. His premise is that the spiritual aspects that evangelical Christianity tends to focus on are not biblical. Now, I’m committed to communicating my presuppositions on this blog so you should know that my theology is very evangelical and I have spent my entire adult life working in evangelical churches. That said, I feel that McLaren is doing some exegetical gymnastics in his argument that the focus of Christianity is solely in changing what he call the “suicide machine.” The difficulty comes from the framing questions that he is asking. Questions that Scripture never intends to answer.
First, I don’t see any place in Scripture that Jesus or his followers worked to undermine or change established secular authority. That was not their mission. They constantly worked to live God’s kingdom principles in whatever political context in which they operated. They even took advantage of the political situation when it helped to spread their message.
Second, throughout Scripture there is a focus on the transcendent. McLaren ignores this or reinterprets it to support his presuppositions. He seems to argue that rather than needing to be transformed by God through faith we need to have faith that what we do will change the world.
I agree with every call to action that is laid out in the book. We all need to be better stewards of what God has given us. That, however, is not why Jesus came and died. Jesus didn’t die as some sort of protest to Caesar’s system. Jesus died to redeem the people that he deeply loves. He died to provide a way for people to reconnect to the God in whose image we have been created. This reconnection transforms the individual to be the person that will live out God’s values in this world in a way that will point others to God.
We all, especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus, need to be more responsible stewards of the earth and care more about the people that God cares for. Included in that is a need for us to submit to Jesus as Lord which saves us from our sin and transforms us into citizens of his kingdom so that we can spread his kingdom throughout this world.

Transformational Architecture

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Transformational Architecture by Ron Martoia is a must read for anyone serious about trying to help people connect with God.  Ron takes a serious look at the way most people today communicate the to others about Jesus and offers a counter-point to the way most people that follow Jesus have been taught to share what that means.  The major thesis of the book is that we’ve been taught to start too late in the story.  Rather than starting with the fact that we’re all dealing with sin, Transformational Architecture argues that we should start with the fact that we’re all created in the image of God.

For Ron, being created in the image of God means that there are three fundamental yearnings built into the architecture of our existence that provide the key launching points to help us connect with God.  By utilizing these launching points we have ample opportunity to have profitable conversations about God and faith.

My struggle with Ron’s work deals with an issue that I’m still wrestling with in my mind as well.  I’m not sure if I agree with him or not but I’d like to hear him elaborate on the point.  One of Ron’s major critiques of the way a lot of people view following Jesus is that most people try to set up a way to tell if someone is “in or out.”  Ron argues that it is not for any of us to know but only God.  I want to agree with him on this but I’m not sure I can.  In one sense I will never know if you are in or out and you will never know if I am.  Yet, if you come to me and ask if I’m in, I feel very confident in saying yes.  With that, I feel I should be able to guide you to discover if you are (Isn’t that the point of having these conversations?).  Moreover, I think that God has given us some clues to help us see in ourselves and others if we are truly following Jesus or just paying him lip service (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5).  It is also my presupposition that there is a point when we cross from death into life (Romans 6:13) and become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I wish that Ron would have addressed these issues.  Perhaps, they were out of the scope of this book but these are unanswered questions that I have to continually work through as I share Jesus with those around me.