Thursday, December 25, 2008

Romans 6

I am really wanting to get into Romans 6 with the guys at The Village. I was reading it tonight and so much stuff was jumping out at me. (Reading back over what I have written here, I want you to know that what I talk about in the next to paragraphs are not the main things I want to teach the guys at The Village, though the importance of baptism and sanctification are subjects that I expect to come up.)

First, the importance of baptism in the believer’s life was so obvious. Of course the denomination I grew up in teaches that one is not saved unless he is baptized and this nifty NIV Study Bible study note on Romans 6:3-4 says, “In NT times baptism so closely followed conversion that the two were considered part of one event (see Acts 2:38 and note). So although baptism is not a means by which we enter into a vital faith relationship with Jesus Christ, it is closely associated with faith. I look at that and say that those verses in Romans 6 and Acts 2:38 sure do make good cases that one is not saved if he refuses baptism and even further, the case that one is saved at the moment he is baptized and not before. The bottom line for me is that my teaching on salvation is going to come from the NT examples. So, if after I talk to someone about becoming a Christian he decides he wants to become a Christian yet doesn’t inquire about when he will be baptized, I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out where I went wrong. I guess I just picture it to be like when Phillip was teaching the Ethiopian Eunuch. After being taught about Christ from Isaiah 53, as the Eunuch saw water he wanted to be baptized.

The second thing that jumped out at me was the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Romans 6:10 clearly states that Christ’s death to sin was once and for all and Romans 6:11 clearly says that we are to count ourselves dead to sin IN THE SAME WAY. So, that leads me to think that it is once and for all. I have been struggling a lot lately with this doctrine. Some of my friends present the logical argument that if there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation then there is nothing we can do to loose our salvation. I do agree that it is not on the basis of doing good things of following the law hat we are saved and neither is it on the basis of doing bad things or breaking the law that we might possibly pass back from the kingdom of light back to the kingdom of darkness. I do think that we have to accept the gift of salvation and I tend to think that just as we can accept it we can later reject it, saying we never really accepted it in the first place or maybe we did accept it but now we don’t want to have anything to do with it. I feel like my friends would say that person never really accepted Christ in the first place but only tasted of salvation and it was like seed scattered on rocky, shallow, or thorny ground, it was never going to produce fruit. Maybe they are right about that, so I think that there needs to be balance. People that don’t believe in “once saved always saved” need to quit acting and living like their salvation depends on the last prayer they said rather than on the saving work of Christ on the cross that stretches forgiveness all the way to the beginning of my life and all of the way to the end of my life. It doesn’t just wipe my slate clean and it doesn’t just obliterate my slate. It obliterates my old slate and then gives me a new one that has the righteousness of Christ written all over it so tightly that there is no room to write any sins on it. My sisters and brothers that believe that all saints will persevere to the end need to be real with people who show no signs of sanctification in their lives. People who show no signs of sanctification in their lives need to be told that a person who is justified shows signs of the Spirit’s work in his life and if you are showing no signs that you intend on following him, especially if you outright reject his saving work, you might not be a Christian (and I guess they would follow it up by saying, “and you never were one”).

The connection between Psalms and Romans 6, especially what I want to teach the guys at The Village out of Romans 6, is the connection of sin mastering a person’s life that is found in Psalm 19:13. I want Psalm 19:13-14 to be the theme of this group. I love that paragraph, Romans 6:11-14. I think that is the elaboration of "live a new life" in Romans 6:4, even though the NIV Study Bible note says Romans 6:8-10 is the elaboration of "live a new life." I think Romans 6:8-10 is the elaboration of "as Christ was raised from the dead."

So, my blogging friends, do you agree or disagree with me on my Romans 6 thoughts on baptism and the perseverance of the saints? What do you think about the connection between Psalm 19:13 and Romans 6:14? Thanks for walking this road with me. We need Jesus and he has given each of us deposits of His Spirit. Therefore we need each other. We cannot travel this journey of faith alone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Romans 1

Having read Romans 1, I think Romans 1:1-2 really describes what we are trying to do at Tapestry. We try to show the good news of Jesus from all of the Scriptures. I recently had a friend from work come to Tapestry and he said that he had been to several churches lately and one thing that was different about Tapestry was that he heard a lot of hope in the sermon. That made me smile because I thought, “Hope is our middle name baby,” even though it is our last name. Another one of my friends from work was somewhat contemplating whether or not he was going to come to the sermon on divorce since he had recently been divorced and, I agree, he didn’t need to hear another “sermon” on divorce. The thing about Tapestry is that as I was talking to him I was able to certainly guarantee him that we weren’t there to shovel shame on sinners but to give all of the comfort and grace that Jesus offers. As a matter of fact, Tal had specifically told the rest of the worship planning team that he wanted comfort, comfort, comfort after the sermon. Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t call a sin by its own name. We do. But we also are transparent about our sins and our total dependence on the one that has put us in right relationship with the Father and is putting our lives back together as we continue on our journey here in this world and the good news that God loves you and that even though it may be difficult, he has a plan for your life. I am so happy to be in a church where I can be certain that hope in the good news of Jesus will be preached from every portion of the Bible. I love that hallmark of Tapestry. I just wish it wasn’t a hallmark of Tapestry but a regular part of the church as a whole. Romans 1:20 really stood out to me. Is that the cut and dry answer to the skeptic that asks, “What about the Crackatoans that have never heard about Jesus?” The cover story in the latest Newsweek is Lisa Miller’s article, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” She quotes the Anchor Bible Dictionary as saying that nowhere in the Bible do its authors refer to sex between women. Well I think Romans 1:26 is referring to sex between women. Is it not? Anyway, I'm not trying to jump on a bandwagon, I’m just telling you what I'm reading. Probably the most convicting verse of this chapter was Romans 1:32. It seems that it is worse for someone to approve of these kinds of wickedness than to actually engage in them. My prayer is that I never applaud, but always regret my sins and the sins of others. Are all of my sins, past and future, removed? YES. Even though God can use my most wicked actions for His glory, I still wish I had not sinned in the first place. One of my friends said he does not regret anything he has done. I wonder about that. I think there are things I wish I never had done and hope I never do again. Do I sit around and think about my sins all of the time? NO. I don’t live in the shadow of sin and shame but in the shadow of the cross where all shame is dispelled.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Religionless Christianity

I was talking to Casey earlier about this paper he is writing, which I hope he shares on his blog when he is finished with it...although his publisher might not like him giving it away for free. We were talking about Bonhoeffer looking forward to a “religionless” Christianity. In this religionless Christianity there would not be special words than only Christians understood and only used when talking with their Christian friends. I think a lot of times Christians say these religious words without giving any explanation as if no explanation is needed. I think people that just say it instead of explaining it in beautiful ways in which people that have never heard of it can grasp it really don’t grasp it themselves. Now I do realize that there are people who grasp it but never explain it in ways in which someone who doesn’t understand it, or has little understanding of it can actually grasp it too. These people need to wake up and realize that not everyone has had their noses in theological textbooks for the last 30 years of their lives. At the restaurant I work at, I can mention foie gras, show you that it is available as an appetizer and how it is part of the duck cassoulet but, if I cannot explain it to someone in a way that is going to make it appetizing to him, he isn’t going to buy it. The same is true for terms like “justification.” I can mention that in a sermon but if I never explain it in a way that, as one preacher says, brings the cookies down to the bottom shelf, people aren’t going to be really amped up about it nor are they going to be able to live in light of it or understand how sanctification is different from it. So, is a term like justification just religious talk? Can we find a word that embraces all that is true and good about “justification” but looses the technical term that so many people don’t understand? The thing is, computers have technical terms that have to be explained and medicine has technical terms that need to be explained, so maybe theology has technical terms too, terms that aren’t going to be understood unless you explain them and the thing to do is not change the term but just make sure you explain the term to people so they aren’t afraid of theology. I hate it when people say they hate theology. I especially hate it when pastors say, “I'm not theologian but…” Give me a break. All Christians should be theologians of some kind. I love what Vintage Church is doing with this concept. So, I think we should remove the technical terms as much as possible, realizing that they are not always helpful, but also realizing that sometimes removing the technical term is less helpful than keeping it. In those cases, the goal is to talk about the concept in a way that is inviting and creative and then say… “and that, my friends, is (insert your favorite theological term here).”

Why is this on my mind? This not only comes from the conversation with Casey but from reading some in McLaren’s a Generous Orthodoxy, especially the epilogue where he talks about not wanting to be called an Evangelical but rather an evangelical and chapter 19 where he explains why he is Emergent. More to come on those two things later…