Monday, June 8, 2009

A Covenant of Identity

Yesterday, as we kicked off our study of the 10 Commandments, we faced the difficult question for Christians studying the Law: "Why do I care?" Some positions, critically referred to as "cheap grace" or "free grace," leave little reason to study such statutes in view of the unconditional love of Christ. While still others, even the most staunch of reformers, can't quite affirm that a failure to adhere would equate in damnation or loss of salvation. So, what are we to get from the Old Testament, the old covenant, and the Law that will benefit us as Christians?

The underlying issue with both positions which I (admittedly caricatured slightly) introduced above is that they both fail to see the covenants as anything more than justifying measures. The former covenant justified by repeated sacrifice. The latter did so by Christ's death. Nonetheless, emphasis in the debate falls firmly on the matter of our justification. But was that the premise of the old covenant? Is it the premise of the new?

In Exodus 19:5-6, God introduces the covenant to Moses saying, "If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then..." What? You'll be saved from Hell? You'll enter Heaven? No. God's covenant was to make Israel His "treasured possession... a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." His covenant was to turn a people who were nothing but helpless slaves into a nation with their own land and borders. His purpose was for them to be His priests on earth, holy for His service.

Did that all change when Christ instituted the new covenant on the cross? Did He die for anything different? No. Christ died, fulfilling the justification requirements to make us righteous, holy, and blameless--ready for service unto God. He redeemed us from bondage to sin, wherein we were helpless slaves, and turned us into something not dissimilar to the recipients of the first covenant: "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

God's holy standard--that which would make His treasured people stand apart from the world--has not changed. In the 10 commandments we find the standard of how a holy people behave. The convicting thought, then, is that we as the Church are indeed God's holy people. So, hey you holy people: be holy!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Attitude the Same as Christ: Learning from the Kenosis

I read an article this week related to the topic at-hand: Jesus is Fully Human, from the Desiring God blog. In it, the author walks through a simple progression of concepts from the simplest to grasp to the most profound. Jesus had a human body. Jesus had human emotion. Jesus had a human mind. And finally, Jesus had a human will. While the mystery of the last statement is certainly an inviting topic for anyone seeking a stimulating whirlwind of thought and study, I don't want to move on too quickly from the first. That God Himself would take on a human form is, second to Christ's death on the cross, is the most astonishing manifestation of His love we could ever imagine.

Theologians often use the term "kenosis," and while I don't want to puff myself up with fancy vocabulary and 5-dollar words, the roots of this term should be meaningful to us all. the Greek κενόω (kenoō) means to empty out, like pouring out a pitcher until it's entirely empty. It's a total dispelling of all that one has. Christ emptied Himself in order to be found in the likeness of a man so that He might die the death that we deserve.

But how did He empty Himself? What is it that emptied Christ of His equality with the Father and His glorified state? Not the subtraction of a divine nature, but the addition of a human one. Subtraction by addition... much in the way that adding new paint on top of the Mona Lisa would empty it almost entirely of it's value.

I must give credit for this "Emptying by Adding" interpretation to Gerald Hawthorne, professor at Wheaton College who has published commentary on Philippians. To affirm that Christ was emptied of His deity is called the Kenotic Heresy. Scripture and Church History both affirm that Christ is both fully God and fully Man. So, what does that mean for us?

First, your attitude should be like that of Christ. He sacrificed so much to be our savior... to be our God who would tabernacle among us. What can we withhold in our worship? What do we have that we do not owe Him?

More than that, what excuse do we have as we continue to fail in our obedience to God. Living in His totally human nature, albeit not sinful nature, but nonetheless susceptible to temptation in every way that we are, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, resisted temptation entirely. He was not spared from sin because He was God. No, indeed He endured by the same strength that we now have available to us through the indwelling Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

Peter offers a daunting charge for all of us, yet it was not Peter who charged it first. Inasmuch as we have been called, we are called to this: perfection.
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth'" (1 Peter 2:21-22)

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

1 Peter 4:12-19 - Judgment & God's Sovereignty

Several weeks back I wrote a lengthy response to a reader's question about Job, his suffering, and God's sovereignty. The basic premise was, "He's God, you're not." For many people, that is an unsatisfactory answer to the dilemma of evil, suffering, injustices and social inequality. For me, it's the most satisfying response there could be. Why the disparity?

At my office one afternoon, I sat and discussed communication rhetoric, approaches, and strategies with an intern, himself a communication major, and writer at our firm. In his studies at a secular university he was learning about the sharp distinctions between historic Christian rhetoric, born out of a worldview of absolute truth handed down by God, and that of the secular culture today where truth is relative and God's words hold no higher authority (nay, even less) than one's own thought. The application of his study in school was that to these two diverse audiences, two diverse forms of rhetoric have emerged: the apologetic and the exegetical.

The apologetic is of little value to the believer because he can (or should be able to) understand and process the words of God as truth. Instead, he benefits from the exegesis of scripture. On the contrary, the non-believer will find little value in exegesis because it's basis is not established yet in the heart and mind of the listener.

So, why this dissertation on communication to address the topic of sovereignty? I can accept from the non-believer that suffering, evil, injustice and the like present a logical hurdle toward faith in God. But I must rebuke, on the basis of God's word, that a believer professing faith in God the Father Almighty would cite such circumstances as problematic to their faith. I openly oppose such a view within the church in light of one simple and certain exegetical truth: God is God.

In exegetical style, New Testament authors refuted any questioning of God with authoritative fashion. "Do not be surprised," Peter says in verse 12. He goes on in verse 19 to declare that we "suffer according to the will of God." Elsewhere, Paul answers the question directly, "Is God unjust? Not at all" (Romans 9:14). Job is faced with the undeniable truth of his own futility and humanity as God rants, "Where were you..." (Job 38:4 et al).

For the seeker who is trying to grasp the riches of God's glory and struggles with the perceptions of the things around him, God shows Himself merciful and good through the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. But for anyone among His own household that would question the motives and desires of God, He charges:

"Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right
way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of
understanding?" (Isaiah 40:14)


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Thursday, December 4, 2008

1 Peter 4:7-11 - Love That's Out of This World

This Sunday we'll be studying a small passage from 1 Peter that follows-up on the last lesson, Christ's Vindication. When you read the Bible in snippets, as most people do, you sometimes fail to find the connectivity and lose context from the topics that led up to the text at hand. That is the case with this text. Taken by themselves, they're very helpful instructions for day-to-day living as a loving Christian. When linked to the concepts of Christ's second coming and the much-prophesied days leading up to that event, this text becomes all the more poignant.

In prep for this Sunday's lesson, I've been reading Mark 13. I've just been pondering what these times will feel like. What it would be like to live in a day where being a Christian was an open invitation to discrimination, ridicule, torture or death. Sadly, many places in the world are already in this state of existence. If we take Mark 13 literally, I believe all places on earth will one day present this same unfavorable climate for believers.

I'm reminded of an observation that one of my friends made many years ago. The husband of a professional child-birthing coach, Chip cited Romans 8:22 and commented that every minute of labor, the mother-to-be thinks it's the worst pain she's ever had. Then the next minute, it's even worse. He then added his observation that the generations of mankind have been the same way. Every generation there are preachers that talk about how awful and sinful our generation has become, and therefore conclude that the end must be near. I cannot think of a more crystal-clear way to understand this metaphor.

So, are we in the last days? As a mother in labor, we may certainly feel that this generation is the worst the world has ever seen. Maybe the next will top it, who knows. What we do know is how Scripture tells us to deal with the ever-increasing pressures against our faith and difficulties of this world, and it's not to worry or speculate. It's to love!

We are told in this passage and elsewhere that our love should be out of this world... literally. It should come from the strength of God. Which is convenient because as I read the instructions in 1 Peter 4:7-11, I'm struck at how unable I am in my own strength to accomplish it. But, so God may be praised, He empowers us to live in loving community so great that it's out of this world.

By God's strength, we're to face the adversity this fallen world has for the Church with open hospitality, taking care of brothers in more dire need than us. We're to take on an attitude of love toward others, which will cover the rough edges that our sin one-to-another creates. We are to serve one another and speak to one another as though we were representing God to them—the God of mercy and love who has poured out His grace on His elect.

Because after all, Christ for whose name we suffer will be vindicated, the first born among many brothers. "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Wives & Husbands - Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote about a topic that is constantly on the forefront of doctrinal battles: The roles of Wives & Husbands. As a follow-up to that post, and to that topic in general, I just wanted to take a few minutes to share something that I found very moving during one of my recent times in the Word.

I love to write. So, often times as I'm doing self-study I end up writing thoughts. Some day, they may be compiled into a book. Who knows. In any case, there are those rare times when my fingers move faster than my mind and I just get passionate about a topic and "on a role" so to speak. Now, there are two possible outcomes of those excited and unbridled ramblings. It's either extremely inspiring and a magnificent art of writing or extremely undecipherable and worthy of a good hack at the backspace key. I'd like to think that this was the former.

I was considering the concept of a "treasured possession" and its significance in theology. Without really thinking, I began to type. I'd like to share with you the ramblings that left me with no other thought at the end other than to truly treasure my wife and to commend her publiclcy for the ways she honors me:

Like the Sons of God in Genesis 6, God chose a people with whom to initiate a covenant of love, and this covenant was also likened to marriage. God spoke to Israel, "Your Maker is your husband—the Lord almighty is His name" (Isaiah 54:5).

Why would God "marry" mere mortals? What prompts Him to display such amazing love and mercy? To be sure, we can never understand precisely why He chose to do so. What we do know, however, is that it was not based on Israel's merit. They did not deserve this covenant. God says, "It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity" (Deut. 9:5).

We also know God's intended effect for His choice. We know why, if not for their merit, He treasured His possession, Israel. "You will be my treasured possession," said the Lord, "…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). A kingdom of priests, made holy and consecrated for His worship, Israel would bring praise to God on earth. They were instruments of His praise and worship. Just as a good wife reflects well upon the husband who loves her, so would the world look to Israel and see the glory of the one who "treasures" her.

Husbands, if you desire honor and respect from your wife, treasure her! Wives, honor your husband who treasures you.

For more detail, listen to my expository teaching on 1 Peter 3:1-7 in mp3 format.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

1 Peter 3:18-22 - The Rocky Gospel

For three straight weeks in our class we've been studying various forms of the meek, submissive, and suffering aspects of Christian living. If the story were to end there (candidly speaking) I'm not sure how much appeal the God of ages would have for me. The Apostle Paul, I dare say, would agree with me. He wrote, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor. 15:19).

The way Peter frames the passage we'll study this week, 1 Peter 3:18-22, reminds me of the dramatic set-up for all 5 of Rocky's great come-backs. Submit to authorities, Submit to one-another, even be prepared to suffer when you don't deserve it... and then WHAM... "put to death in the body but..." (drum roll please) "... made alive by the Spirit."

From there, we see some unique perspectives on salvation that have historically been de-emphasized in today's evangelical circles. First, a comparison of the New Covenant ordinance of baptism to the Old Testament flood. The suffering and submissive nature that Christ took on ultimately resulted in the death of His flesh, as it will also in ours. But, more than the inevitable physical death, we're called to put to death our own sinful flesh, which we symbolize with baptism. In Genesis 6, water destroyed the wickedness of creation. In Romans 5, we read that water symbolizes the destruction of sin in our own flesh.

Next, with that comparison in view, Peter then explains that our salvation is from Christ's resurrection. Where we as evangelicals typically emphasize the atoning death, we must be careful not to neglect the salvific significance of Christ's resurrection. Even though our bodies will die, we will be made alive in the spirit. The life that Christ's atonement makes possible was actually initiated in His resurrection, making Him the firstborn among many brothers. 1 Corinthians 15 expounds on this truth in detail, telling us that our new bodies will be like his in nature.

It is only with this understanding of death to our sinful bodies that we can understand the relationship of suffering to sinlessness made in 4:1. Once again, on this same basis, Peter encourages his readers in 4:6 that even those who have died awaiting Christ's return have died in the body according to judgment but will live, as He did, by the spirit.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

1 Peter 3:1-7 - Wives & Husbands

This Sunday, I'll be teaching out of 1 Peter 3:1-7 on wives and husbands. By God's providence, in my 3 years as leader of the 20-somethings ministry at Faith, the topic of male/female relationship (and related topics on church structure and function) has come up at least 4 times that I can remember. On top of that, I've spoken to a group of men at a CBMC meeting on the topic from 1 Corinthians 11. I don't believe in coincidence, so there's either something God wants me to learn about this or some message He really wants people to hear through me. Either way, I'm humbled and hope to exposit the text responsibly this weekend.

A few things stand out to me. First, as I so tactfully argued in my last post, is Peter's call for the 1st century Greek women to follow the example set out by a Semitic nomad from over 2000 years prior. Think about it, that's the same separation we have today from the setting in which 1 Peter was written. In a doctrinal debate where "cultural contextualization" comes up so often, I think we have to acknowledge the way in which Peter presents his teaching as what theologians call a "transcultural normative," which basically means it is a standard that transcends cultural barriers because of the overarching authority of God's intended order.

That said, we must also be responsible in this text to see what those transcultural principles are, and be careful not to add to them. Peter doesn't describe a 50's housewife here. He doesn't say women should be perceived in lesser value, nor give husbands permission to demean and manipulate wives (in fact, quite the opposite). But, implied in this passage (and stated explicitly elsewhere in the New Testament) is a truth about differing roles and a definite hierarchy—not hierarchy of value or worth, but of civil, familial, and even church authority.

Two more things stand out to me that build on this principle of complementary roles. First, Peter's praise for women "who put their hope in God," and his call for all women to "not give way to fear." Fear of what? Their husbands? Perhaps. What about social pressures to adorn oneself instead of relying on "inner beauty?" Women in the church who accept a Biblical view of their complementing roles need to be recognized, admired, edified, and encouraged because this behavior requires a faith and hope in God as their sole measure of worth, outside of worldly standards, to a degree that I declare many men struggle to have as they assess their own self-image.

And finally, the last verse really personalizes that call for recognition, admiration, edification, and encouragement and places it directly as a burden on each husband individually. Do not underestimate the magnitude of Peters first phrase, "in the same way." In the way that we place hope in God and strive for value according to His standards, we should lay down self, pride, personal agenda in pursuit of understanding and honoring our wives. Where the NIV uses "considerate", the NASB says to live "in an understanding way." And, lest there be any perversion of this hierarchical order into a hierarchy of value in God's sight, Peter assures that our believing wives are co-heirs and will receive an inheritance by the same measure as their husbands.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Women in Ministry


I'm currently reading a book called "Women in Ministry: Four Views" which combines essays and responses from Christians on the topic of women and their role in church ministry that range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal. As usual, I tend to fall somewhere in between.

If you can get past the fact that you're reading a book that was not designed to keep your attention, but is rather an assimilation of academic arguments made from 4 different people... then it isn't a bad read. Don't expect, however, to be riveted with entertaining content.

I happen to be reading this book as we, as leaders at our church, prepare to implement a new adult course system and must address the question: who is eligible to teach? Ironically, I'm working through that topic while simultaneously, the class that I am teaching at present has reached chapter 3 in our study of 1 Peter. As I've been preparing, a quote from the book matched very nicely with a quote from the passage, and I thought I'd share to see if you find the same connection.

In response to the often touted argument that Biblical restrictions on women in ministry were merely outgrowths of the culture in which they were written, Susan T. Foh (yes, a woman advocates male headship in the book) writes:

"Another cultural setting must be noted in the interpretation of Scripture: that of the interpreter.... Equality is a current banner held high (it is un-American to speak against equality) and it is assumed to be an indisputable theme in Scripture. But is it?"

With that very intriguing thought fresh in my mind, I began reviewing the text for my lesson this Sunday and a verse jumped off the page at me:

"For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful" (1 Peter 3:5).

Wait, you mean to tell me that the actions of Semitic tribal women circa 2000 B.C. living in a different time, place, and culture can actually be relevant to serve as a model for 1st century Greek women? That must mean that the 1st centry Greek culture wasn't so enlightened, so advanced, so liberated from the shackles of history that it could dismiss culturally irrelevant issues of days gone by. Phew, but it's a good thing we've reached the pinnacle of civilization today so we can do just that, eh? Er... umm... wait a sec....

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Of course, I couldn't be the only blogger on the Internet that DIDN'T post something about Halloween. I'd feel so left out. Now, as a believer, you might expect me to write something about the evils, the idolatry, the dangers of witchcraft and God's displeasure with our fascination in the whole evil realm... nah. That'd be boring. And for the record, I'm dressed as a cowboy today, which I don't think is representative of Satan in any way.

In class this weekend, we'll be studying 1 Peter 2:13-25 on submission to authorities. Now, I know you're not going to believe this, but this has long been a struggle for me, and Halloween is a prime example of this struggle in my mind. I'll go ahead and say it: I love to prank. I love to toilet paper houses. I love to soap windows. I thoroughly enjoy forking yards. And, as most of you know, all of this is illegal.

The authorities where I come from call this vandalism, trespassing, and creating a public menace.... at least, that's what the officer told me. When I was a teenager, we once "decorated" our teacher's front yard with over 120 rolls of toilet paper in just two tall oaks. His neighbor saw it early in the morning and actually called the newspaper to take pictures before he called the cops. On another occasion, our cross country coach specifically told us not to T.P. his house. So, we creatively honored his request. We found old toilets in a trash dump and (as my dad would put it) "liberated" them from the confines of their present location, only to place them prominently in our coach's front yard. There was no paper to be found.

Maybe this is just my sin nature (which I prefer to call my "rebel" side in reference to topics like this) coming through, but I tend to believe God thought that was pretty funny. Am I wrong?

Getting back to the passage at hand, do you think God had speed limits, no-U-turn signs, and friendly pranking in mind when He commanded us to submit to authorities? For a deep (and much more responsible) exposition on the text, I'll refer to an article from Bible.org. Peter's readers lived under an authority that was growing increasingly intolerant of Christians. There were much more serious matters at hand than just a cop telling a pimple-faced teen to clean up the toilet paper before he drives you home. As I watch our nation slowly turn further and further from God-honoring practices, both in government and in the lives of citizens, I am reminded of these words: "do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). The day may be coming when Christians in America will begin to relate to these passages on the same level their original readers may have.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

1 Peter 2:8-12 - His Chosen People

Last week, we looked at the identity of Christ in verses 4-7. In verse 8 Peter continues with a description of who we, members of the Church and stones in this figurative temple, are as a result. He begins by stating that those who disobey are recieving just what God had appointed for them. By sharp contrast, Peter goes on to name 4 things, none of which are things we could ever become by our own doing, that describe the Church.

The church is, first of all, chosen from what was once a hopeless and Godless existence (see Eph 2:11-22). Not only chosen to simply escape damnation, but to be a royal priesthood worthy of God's service. He sets the Church apart like a holy nation, similar to Israel. And finally, the church belongs to God.

The end result is praise. Praise for God calling us out of darkness. Praise for God making us into something ("a people") when we were once nothing. Praise for God making us objects of mercy rather than objects of wrath. Then, this overwhelming praise manifests itself in daily living, as we see in verses 11-12.

As I mentioned in last week's post, Scripture is God-centric. We see that theme once again here. This passage begins explaining His plan for Christ, His authority to justify, and His authority to judge, then moves on to reiterate Peter's opening from 1:1-2 regarding His choice, and finally concludes with the intended result: glory and honor to.... drum role please... God Himeself!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

1 Peter 2:4-8 - The Chosen Cornerstone

In this passage, Peter uses a combination of metaphors as well as Old Testament quotations to show us (1) who Jesus was and then (2) who his readers, and all of the Church, is as a result. Let's begin with the identity of Jesus:

• Though rejected by men, Jesus was shown to be chosen with a purpose (verse 4; see also Matt. 21:33-44; Acts 2:22-35)...
• To be our High Priest, consecrating us in order that we too
can make spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (verse 5; see also Hebrews 8:11-14)...
• And to be the cornerstone, providing a pattern and foundation upon which the rest of the Church would be built (verse 6; see also Ephesians 2:19-22)...
• Of which he is the Savior, and the "one who trusts in Him" is saved by faith (verse 6; see also John 3:16)...
• From the wrath of God Himself and no other (see context of quote in verse 6 and 8 - Isaiah 28:14-19; 8:12-15).

I find it very important to realize the God-centric emphasis from beginning to end of this section. As I look through Scripture seeking instruction, truth, etc. I find constant reminders that God wants us to begin by acknowledging His supremacy. Here He begins by reiterating that Christ was His chosen one, and concludes letting us know that He is the one who judges. No one else can be compared to God. No one shares His powers to justify, to sanctify, and to judge.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

1 Peter 1:13-25 - Hey Holy People: Be Holy!

Mull that title over a few times and tell me how much sense it makes. It's kinda like telling a fire to burn, or telling a fish to get wet, right? Well, ironically that's the sort of call we find over and over again in the New Testament. Our passage this week is from 1 Peter 1:13 - 2:3 where Peter moves on from his theological presentation on the believer's salvation to a life application matter: be holy!

As you read this passage on your own in preparation for this Sunday (high hopes, I know, but humor me) if it weren't for what I'm about to tell you, you'd probably skim the words, hearing it the same way you perhaps have since you were a kid in Sunday School. But what if I dared you to know what holiness really meant? What if the same root word of Holy (hagios) appeared elsewhere outside of verses 15 and 16 in a way you might not expect. In our handouts page, there is a new BSL handout for the word "Holy." I encourage you to read it and consider the term anew.

This Sunday we'll take a close look at what it means to be holy. But also come prepared to find an intriguing new motivation to heed God's command for us, His chosen people, to be holy to the praise of His name.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

1 Peter 1:3-9 - Rejoice in Your Inheritance

The emperor is out to kill us. It's becoming increasingly difficult to meet in public without the risk of imprisonment or worse. We're losing our businesses. We're losing our minds. And when, OH WHEN, will He return to make it all end? Have we done something to upset Him? Can we do something to appease Him? Are we sure that we're really His? Oh, what a terrifying prospect... my goodness, what if we aren't?

When times are bad, doubts can spiral out of control. In an era where economic prosperity was a sign of the gods' favor, what can a group of Greeks make of their desperate plight that seems to worsen every day. As we read in 1 Peter 1:3-8 this coming Sunday, try to put yourselves in the shoes of a 1st century Christian in Asia Minor. It's not hard if you know how to relate.

While the ancients looked to prosperity and health, today our highly experiential world tells us that God is near to us, and us to Him, when we sense His presence. Quiet times are deep and "spiritual." We pray daily. The mountain-top experiences tell us something is real in this religion. And when that fades? And when we fade? What then?

Peter told his readers there was confidence to be had in the power of God. Adam said it best after class last Sunday when he told me, regardless of your persuasion on free will vs. God's sovereignty, we can't be deceived into thinking that salvation revolves around us and our actions.

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Compatibilism & Libertarianism

First, a follow-up for last week. We ended our discussion with the debate over human free will. I want to round out that discussion with a little final commentary, then I'll move on to our preview for next week's lesson in 1 Peter.

Free will that is "compatible" with God's is described like this: Man will do that which he most desires. This means that—in theory—God's will is carried forth through Man's so-called "free" will in that He knows what we desire, what we would choose given various circumstances, and thereby guides human history with this infinite knowledge. This stands in contrast to the libertarian freedom most advocated by Arminians where man's will is not imposed on in any way by God's will—compatible or otherwise.

Now, I included one key phrase "in theory" in this final commentary that (hopefully) wraps up this discussion for our class... at least for now. What I want you to realize is that neither "compatibalism" nor "libertarian" appear anywhere in my concordance, and unless you have some radical new translation of the Bible, I venture to say it's nowhere in yours either. The only authoritative word that we have to go on is the Word itself (or Himself, I could go either way there). I encourage you—nay, implore you—to seek answers FIRST in scripture and make every effort neither to add to its teaching nor dismiss any of its truths despite the understandability and/or logic of what you find.

I don't ask that everyone agree with me, nor Calvin, but only this: that you base your beliefs solely in scripture. Everything else is merely "in theory."

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

1 Peter 1:1-2 - To God's Elect

Hello all you elect people, how are you today? Ok, so that's not customary language that we use in the Church today. But, as we begin our study in 1 Peter this Sunday, we'll see that it certainly was a perfectly fine way to address believers in the early church.

Writing to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, Peter addressed his letter specifically to "God's Elect ... who have been chosen." Now, before your minds immediately begin to draft acceptable definitions of what Peter really meant by that, let's stop for a moment and ask, what's so important about election that Peter wanted to identify his audience with the term? He didn't hide from the concept or dismiss it as illogical, unpalatable, or counter to his own free will. Maybe... juuuuust maybe... his readers didn't see the concept as quite so inflammatory as we do today.

I think we can all agree that there may be something foundational to a 1st century Jew about the concept of being God's "chosen people." So then, is there something from this doctrine of election that should be foundational to us as modern-day, gentile believers? Well, if you've been around me long enough, you know my answer to that already. I want to invite you to come ready for an in-depth look at this doctrine this Sunday. There's a lot of ground to cover, so we'll start promptly at 9:15.

Oh, and if you'd like to come prepared, here's some recommended reading: Romans 8-9; Ephesians 1:3-14.

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