“One reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we are cleansed from our sins. In other words, ongoing failure in our growth is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel. If we fail to remember our justification, redemption, and reconciliation, we’ll struggle in our sanctification. In other words, remembering, revisiting, and rediscovering the reality of our justification every day is the hard work we’re called to do if we’re going to grow.”—Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me
Archive for June, 2011
Nobody likes a complainer. And yet most of us find ourselves complaining on a fairly regular basis. My stint in the Midwest elicited daily shrieks of complaint at the frigid January wind. “Who on earth decided to establish a major city in this wretched climate,” I would rant to the nearest cringing ear.
The fact is, most of our complaining stems from a faulty sense of entitlement. We all have long lists of things we think we deserve. When everything that we “deserve” doesn’t fall in our laps, we complain. We view ourselves as the injured party who has every right to grumble. Work is stressful, we don’t feel like we deserve that. We have relational problems, we don’t feel like we deserve that either. And apparently I felt like I deserved sunny skies and 70 degrees in the middle of a Chicago winter.
The gospel makes it clear that all we deserve is hell. God created us. Therefore he owns us, and we owe him our complete allegiance and gratitude. But we rebelled. We wave him off as unimportant even as we revel in his blessings every day, living in warm houses, eating delicious food, and enjoying the company of loved ones.
The beauty of the gospel is getting what we don’t deserve. We have mercy instead of justice, salvation instead of damnation. Even on our worst days we are doing infinitely better than we deserve. When we complain, we are telling God that this incredible grace isn’t enough.
In order to cut complaining out of our lives, we should actively savor and apply the gospel. We must adopt an attitude of deep thankfulness. Let’s remember the incredible grace and blessing we have received in light of our utter depravity. We really could not ask for more.
We’re not always great at evangelism. Sometimes we present the gospel in a way that elicits offense or heated disagreement. Other times we stumble over our words and facts so much that we receive piteous raised eyebrows that seem to say “Oh, you poor ignoramus, how could you believe this hogwash?” Another shortcoming, perhaps more tragic than the others, is the taming of the glorious message of the gospel to the point that it receives a polite nod that indicates nothing more than “that makes sense.” We need to find ways preach the good news in ways that inspire amazement.
This begins with an emphasis on just how bad we are. Grasping the depth of human depravity is the only way that people will truly appreciate the gospel message. We must realize how audacious it is for creatures to rebel against their generous creator, and how wicked we are next to his purity. It is important that as we are relaying this information to people, we use the pronouns “we” and “us” rather than “you” and “I,” which can carry an air of self-righteousness.
In light of utter human depravity, we need to emphasize the joy of grace, not simply recite the right information. People need to recognize the goodness of the gospel and what fantastic news it is. Witnessing shouldn’t be an issue of summoning the courage to blurt out some facts. Instead, soak in grace. Remind yourself that your standing before God was provided by the finished work of the cross. You didn’t earn anything. Be comfortable and secure in the joy of your justification. That is what your friends and relatives need to see in you and hear in your words.
By Mike McKinley from Am I Really a Christian?
Perseverance is hard. As one who has fought a losing battle with the practice of running, I can only gape in slack-jawed awe at those who have the spirit and endurance to run a 10k, let alone a marathon. Hence, it is a sobering comparison for me to acknowledge that our journey of faith is a spiritual marathon, not a sprint. The exhaustion of life can easily weigh us down, tempting us to throw in the towel and give up the race. Thankfully, Scripture does not leave us in the dark about how to endure these struggles. In the book of Jude, we find two realities about perseverance that we must keep in tension if we are to persevere in faith.
- Perseverance is the Believer’s Responsibility. If we as believers do not take the time and energy to remain faithful, we will fall away. It is not feasible to simply float along for a lifetime on the euphoria of a conversion experience and early faith. It takes hard work on our part to avoid falling away. This is mentioned several times in the New testament. 1 Tim. 6:12 calls us to “fight the good fight of faith,” and Heb. 10:35-36 confirms that we “have need of endurance.”
- Perseverance is God’s Work. We cannot live a full life of faith on our own. God plays a huge role in our perseverance. Jude reminds us that the Lord is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). God does not foist the entire responsibility of faith onto our shoulders. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Believers can’t expect to sail effortlessly through life’s spiritual marathon. Life gets exhausting and gritty even for the most faithful followers. We have to make a conscious and painful effort to keep running after Christ and not collapse. But if we seek diligently to endure, God will provide us with the strength to persevere and keep running onwards toward the goal.
Antagonists will always bring challenges to the Christian faith. Here are four specific challenges to the deity of Christ that we tend to face today:
- The Lost Gospels. A recent challenge to Christ’s deity has come with the popularization of Gnostic gospels, such as the so-called gospels of Thomas, Peter, Judas, etc. that Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code sparked a cultural interest in these “gospels” and subsequent questioning or denial of Christ’s validity.
- The Worldwide Expansion of Islam. Muslims now represent 23% of the global population. While Islam agrees with Christianity on a few aspects of Christ, it denies Christ’s incarnation and deity. Because of Islam’s rising influence, it demands a defense of Christ’s divinity.
- Religious Pluralism. An increasingly popular idea, pluralism holds that all forms of spirituality are manifestations of the same divine reality, and that each response can be an effective means to the same end, be it salvation, enlightenment, liberation, etc. Therefore, pluralists hold that while Jesus may be a wonderful moralist and a valid spiritual figure to follow for some, he is not fully divine and not the only path to salvation.
- The Proliferation of Cults. A Christian cult is a group that claims to be Christian, but rejects one or more central doctrine of the Christian faith as taught in Scripture. Jehovah’s Witness is currently one of the world’s most prolific cults that denies the deity of Christ.
Are we ready to answer when these objections come up? They demand a careful, biblical discussion of Christ’s divinity, which is exactly what Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, along with other scholars, have done in The Deity of Christ.
Read the intro and first chapter.
See also the first two volumes in the Theology in Community Series: