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November 19, 2013

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Amy, love the post; linked from Take Your Vitamin Z. Grace and Peace, David

Thank you, David! Good to see you here.

And for what reason or reasons would anyone believe that the event - that a man was first dead and then alive - actually happened.

I don't see how anybody could think this really happened.

.... I think the focus on moral lessons, when too one sided, is a symptom of that persistent but subtle idea that the law is the path, the hope, of moral excellence. Amalgamation with Him is quite a different emphasis.... I feel better about how He feels about me when I have a "good" day. There it is again....persistent as ever.... and totally incoherent with Love's Ransom.

Intent causes all sorts of Effects. Time, Universes, Life....whatever. Though Intent need not. Necessary Effects now actualized, now not.....such just is contextually triune at bottom...inside Mind. That is what my mind perceives.

I believe my eyes.

In my loving of my wife I find my death, and, in dying, I find I am alive again, in us.

Love too just is contextually triune.

I believe my eyes.


To me, all the moral relativism has more to do with the fact that people just do not want to try to make disciples or themselves be radical disciples. If everything is relativistic, why do I need to find someone and train them to follow Jesus? Thus, the person can just keep going along without changing much and remain comfortable. Relativism also means you are not likely to get persecuted. Start telling people they need to repent…and see what happens. it won't be pretty. Relativism is just another excuse so that we don't actually have to try what Jesus says we should do because we are afraid and do not have faith in God.

Ron, I must admit, I liked your post. We've come down to the heart of it now. How could something like that possibly happen? How can someone become immortal? It is counterintuitive to our every day experience, isn't it? But that, of course, is Christianity in a nutshell. Jesus is capable of telling his followers to sell all their possessions and give them away to follow him. He then makes the promise that they'll get back everything they left and then some. Well, in my case, I took Jesus literally, and sold everything and left home for a far away country for the purpose of making disciples. All of Jesus' promises, though, came true for me. I got back all of it and a million times what I left behind.

This is why you can't understand Christianity until you start doing it. The kinds of things Jesus asks from his followers are weird. But if you do them, you find fulfillment. There are lots of theoretical Christians out there, but they just don't get it. We can give you all the reasons in the world of why we believe what we believe is true, but until you start going out and living in that way and trying and testing it out, you'll never believe. Notice I'm not saying there are not good reasons to believe. I'm saying you'll never understand until you live it, for real. There's a reason why so many Christian have been willing to die for their faith and continue to do so in the present. Obviously, we do so with the belief that God can indeed raise us from the dead just as he did Jesus. But until you start trying to put yourself in God's hands, it'll never happen.

@ RonH

"I don't see how anybody could think this really happened "

You've been at this site for a long time now. You are well familiar with all the reasons provided here. There is so much material to be had, and you have access to it all.

But for those who have their minds set on rejecting it, no reasons/evidence is ever enough.

JBerr,

>> Start telling people they need to repent…and see what happens. it won't be pretty.

Excellent point. I find that of all the prophets of the Old Testament, Haggai is the most successful. A two-month period of addressing the people over their sluggishness in reconstruction of the Temple. Then people motivated to go to work. His message could be reduced to his key phrase: Consider your ways. For him, he sought a little introspection. Examine that way of life you have been living. How unproductive it has all been. Given a reason to repent, they repented.

We both have noted on the postings of this blog that there is a failure to distinguish between morality (actually quite relative, if deemed a study of what people considered right and wrong) and godliness (quite established in the core of the Ten Commandments). One has the capability of becoming decadent (we find in history a decline in morals as a cause of a culture's demise). The other is difficult to the extreme, but contemplated as the "good." Both are obligatory, but one needs the touch of God's grace.

The stumbling block to the Gospel is its need for commitment. It is Christ crucified" or something less than Christianity.

Amy, excellent article! It focuses keenly on what makes the Christian faith unique, and is a remembrance of the essentials.

Great post Amy, and I might add that relativism goes far beyond the context of morals. In John Stott's quote, he says, "If the cross is not central to our religion, ours is not the religion of Jesus." Not only do we see Christians preaching a gospel of morals, but we also see other things as well, such as a mis-appropriation of the Holy Spirit, a mis-appropriation of "unity" in lieu of sound doctrine, and the list goes on.

It boils down to a failure to do what Paul said, which is demonstrated in his letter to Corinthians: "For I determined to know nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified."

My observation is not that the cross is forgotten in Protestant Christianity, but that it is focused on to the exclusion of everything else.

Great Commission: Make disciples, teaching them to do what Christ taught.

Instead we create people who mentally assent to the truth of the Cross but who live lives that are indistinguishable from those of non Christians.

Goat Head 5

@Goat Head 5--Your last sentence is certainly true in large part, but your first sentence seems somewhat of an oxymoron. It seems impossible, to me, to focus on the cross of Christ and be indistinguishable from non-Christians. Unless, perhaps, I'm not understanding your use of the word "focused"? Being focused on the cross of Christ--that is, always remembering His sacrifice, His death, His infinite love for us--would make it impossible to be indistinguishable from the masses who don't believe.

Could you elaborate on this?
Thanks.

Goat Head 5,

Great Commission: Make disciples, teaching them to do what Christ taught.

What do you mean by “to do”? The opening sentence in the OP is:

There are many out there who see Christianity as being mainly about teaching us how to be better people.

Perhaps that’s not what you mean, but too many do mean that – and they’re terribly serious about it. Unfortunately, it’s become second nature for many to speak this way. Doing this or doing that is all that matters.

How many times have we heard:

“How does this Bible verse apply to your everyday life?”

It's a question that many Christians are comfortable asking no matter the verse, no matter the context, no matter the message,…it’s all about me. It’s action focused. It’s about my life. It’s about my day. It’s about being better.

If that’s the end game, then the means can quickly become irrelevant. Which, to the OP’s point (I believe), is a problem.

The point of my comment;

Modern Christianity focuses so completely on the cross as a transaction, Jesus paying for my sin, that it completely fails at the great commission; making disciples.

And yes, KVM, being a disciple of Jesus is about doing. "Teaching them to obey..." (Matt 28:20)

Obedience is about doing. It is never passive. It is a serious matter, and I am happy that people are being "terribly serious" about it. Anyone who is teaching people how to obey what Jesus taught.... may their tribe increase! Boom! Great Commission! "action focused"? GREAT! I wish more people in our pews were "action focused".

And, yes, how you are living your life is all about you. How could it be otherwise?

Goat Head 5

Goat Head 5,

I like your enthusiasm. Again, directly related to the first sentence in the OP, there is a lot of “evangelism” that focuses entirely on self-help “to the exclusion of everything else”. As in, my message will make your life better. My message can make you happy. Those things are all that matter. They want to give Joel Osteen before they give Christ.

Did you read my comment, “If that’s the end game, then the means can quickly become irrelevant." Do you not understand this very elementary notion?

The Blood of Christ is disturbing to many. ‘Your Best Life Now’ tickles the ear. People don’t like talking about their sin. Is action and obedience necessary? Of course they are! But much evangelism and as the OP notes, many pastors, exclude all else and focus entirely on teaching us to be good people.

The atheist will tell you all day, they know how to be a good person already, and many do. They’re not good enough, you say? Ah, but neither are we. So now what? (That's rhetorical, of course).

And, yes, how you are living your life is all about you.

I’d add that this may be true for you. It’s not the case for many of us.

Law to the exclusion of Joy is an alien to Christ's teaching.

"Christ didn't come so that you could gave Joy."

I left that church.

It wasn't biblical.

Obviously.

One-dimensional is dangerous in any direction.

"God cares about my joy?" shouldn't be a reaction of surprise.

And, of course, the reverse emphasis must be weighty too.

Typo.

The angry pastor's quote should have read: "Christ did not come so that you can have joy."

I remember an addict who was told what a wretch he was.
It never was that God cares, really cares, about you.

Is was about his sin.

Now, he needed to hear both.

Enter the Body of Christ. Some water, some fertilize, some tenderly touch, some abruptly prune.

We're a Body. A City.

E Pluribus Unum.

Like Him, the Triune God.

Each member brings a necessary message.

No member brings the Whole Show. In His Triune, perhaps. In our City, no way.

Grace and Truth.

Christ houses these in perfect tension, full of Grace, full of Truth.

KVM,

"Did you read my comment, “If that’s the end game, then the means can quickly become irrelevant." Do you not understand this very elementary notion? "

I read it. I understood it. It is just wrong.

I don't see these folks ignoring means. They certainly wouldn't call them "irrelevant". Straw Man Alert!

Much rather hear these folks than those preaching Billy Graham magic prayer salvation.

Goat Head 5

The thing about disagreeing with the first sentence of the OP, like Goat Head 5 has, or disagreeing with what I have written so far, is that the person doing the disagreeing doesn’t even know what they’re disagreeing with. They never do, of course. They just don’t like the tone. They can’t just come out and tell us to forget the Cross.

What I have written so far should be very uncontroversial. The OP should be very uncontroversial. When we fulfill the Great Commission everything should be on the table. Sin, forgiveness, the sovereignty of God, and yes, obedience and action. First and foremost, Christianity doesn’t exist without Christ and The Cross.

Always be wary of people that say Christians focus too much on the Cross. Always. Many can be reasoned with, but many can’t. Many just see what they want to see. The want to see whatever their bright and shiny object happens to be. God wants them to be happy after all. Guard against that.

Goat Head 5, my handle is “KWM” not “KVM” which you’ve used twice erroneously. I’ve been posting here for some time.

I find by is His love poured out, and into, me, a very present joy. I find by my own death for my wife, that it be her delights and not mine, a very present joy. Joy is the serious business of Love. There is no Love, and thus there is no Joy, void of Pouring Out, void of Dying.

The self-destructive logic foisted by Ben in the chasing after of good-experiences as the A and Z ends in the loss of all, for it is void of Love's necessity, and, if a Noble Lie be the means, then so be it: truth be gone.

Of course God wants for His beloved the thing we call Joy. The means and ends, of course, He knows are but Love, that is to say, are simply Himself. And Love Dies.

He knows that too, and better than we.

Right back atcha KWM......

To restate:

Always be wary of people that say Christians don't focus enough on the Cross. Always. Many can be reasoned with, but many can’t. Many just see what they want to see. The want to see whatever their bright and shiny object happens to be. God wants them to be forgiven after all. (The few He has chosen) That's really all Christianity is about. It's primarily about a scheme for managing sin and an angry God. Guard against those people who want to take Jesus' teachings seriously.

Goat Head 5

Goat Head 5,

Very original. I guess this means you don’t have anything else. You shouldn’t have anything else. However, you write:

Guard against those people who want to take Jesus' teachings seriously.

I say, do not guard against them. We ought to take Jesus’ teaching seriously. Freudian slip by you?

KWM..

Freudian slip?

No. Sarcasm.

My only point, which you seem to find offensive, is that many focus so much on the cross that they completely ignore what Jesus actually taught. They then exert zero effort at attempting to live as Jesus taught, mistakenly thinking they are ok with God, having prayed the magic salvation prayer.

Goat Head 5

Goat Head 5,

I’ve never seen any Christian focus too much on the cross and think they can exert zero effort attempting to lead a Christian life according to Christ’s teaching. I can’t even imagine what that would look like. The reason I can’t is because the supposed “focus” on the cross would be fake and vapid. Part of truly understanding the blood of Christ is that we're moved toward Christ in our deeds.

I have seen the opposite. Just as the OP mentions.

I’ve seen people leave the cross on the side. I’ve witnessed it. Leaving it on the side is the price they choose to pay for the required outcomes. They may speak about what God wants for us in our lives and how we ought to treat our neighbors, but the true sacrifice made by Christ is just a detail. The fine print. A jot and tittle in the big picture if you will. Sometimes it’s almost as if He didn’t have to die for Christianity to exist – it just turned out that way.

Action follows from truly understanding the cross. Understanding the cross doesn’t follow from action. In isolation, the only thing that follows from human action is that it’s not good enough.

I don’t know why you’ve invoked magic twice, but Christ on the cross is the real deal. There’s nothing magic about it. The real incantations occur only when the cross is neglected.

I don't know a single person who loves Christ and the cross — who dwells on Him and in Him, who sees Him in church and adores him — who then exerts zero effort at attempting to "walk in the light as He Himself is in the light."

On the other hand, I know many people who get nothing but exhortations to good living in churches who get burned out trying to follow them because they aren't empowered by seeing Christ there every week. Or people who hear a one-minute altar call at the end of each sermon (instead of hearing it preached as integral to the sermon) and consider it fire insurance. The problem isn't that we're not getting enough exhortations, the problem is that we're not getting enough Christ.

"When He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." The power that changes us is seeing Christ. That's when the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and empowers us to live in a Christlike way. Rules don't change our hearts, seeing Christ and the cross changes our hearts. We see Him partly now (even less in churches that focus on teaching people how to live), but we'll be fully changed when we see Him fully.

You'll notice that we're never given instructions in the epistles about living without the foundation of Christ and the cross being expounded first. The Gospel is "the power of God," not rules, not exhortations.

KWM,

"I’ve never seen any Christian focus too much on the cross and think they can exert zero effort attempting to lead a Christian life according to Christ’s teaching."

But I have. Many times. I think it is the norm in American Christianity. They are taught that a legal transaction happened at the cross and now they are ok. No more to be done. Nothing else needed. Zero effort.

Now Amy says, "I don't know a single person who loves Christ and the cross — who dwells on Him and in Him, who sees Him in church and adores him — who then exerts zero effort at attempting to "walk in the light as He Himself is in the light." "

This is an entirely different thing. Not what I am talking about. Although loving "the cross" sounds a little weird. And you probably mean "seeing Him in church" figuratively?

Goat Head 5

Mo,

You've been at this site for a long time now. You are well familiar with all the reasons provided here. There is so much material to be had, and you have access to it all.

But for those who have their minds set on rejecting it, no reasons/evidence is ever enough.

From where you stand and given what you know about me, one possible explanation for my not believing would be that I have my mind made up not to believe.

But what about other possibilities?

Maybe I don't have my mind made up.

Maybe I never did.

Isn't that a possibility too?

@ RonH -

It is a possibility. Only you know the answer. But at some point, you do need to make up your mind one way or the other... or have it made for you, as it were, by default.

And since none of us know how long we have on this earth, it would seem that this decision is *the most* important one we can ever make.

But you keep speaking as though you have not been given sufficient evidence or answers. I'm not sure what evidence or answers you are looking for that you would then deem sufficient to accept.

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