“To know God is to be molded after his image and likeness. The one who knows God imitates God in every way possible. He is missing none of the things that contribute to his being like God. He practices self-control and endurance. He lives righteously and rules his own emotions.
To the extent possible, he gives what he has to others, and he does good in both word and deed. For it is written, ‘He is the greatest in the kingdom who is both a doer and a teacher.’ Such a person imitates God by blessing others. For God’s gifts are for the common good.”Clement of Alexandria, 190 A.D.
Does He want you to believe the right things or live the right way? Does He want you to hold the “correct” teaching about Him? Or is He more concerned with who you become?
Let me put it to you another way. What do you think pleases God MOST about your life?
Is it when you’re diving into the deep end of the pool to study Him in all his glorious ways? When you’re learning more about Him? Or is it when you love your neighbors as you love yourself? When by faith and through choices you’re transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus?
What matters MOST to HIM: That you amass more information about Him, or that you become more like Him?
Sorry, you can’t have it both ways
The easy answer is to say it’s both. He does care about both. They both matter. But for the purpose of this discussion, I’m asking you to think about which takes priority and take a side. What do you think God wants to be the priority in your life and his church? More Knowledge of him or more transformation? I’m NOT asking us to discuss this in relation to soteriology.
Job, the man God brags about
Consider Job. Man, did he ever impress God. He even brags about him to Satan. The Lord may be holding Job up as the most eminent among all living humans. What was it that grabbed God’s attention? What turned his head and caused him to consider Job?
It wasn’t his systematic theology. It certainly wasn’t his understanding of the sovereignty of God or the problem of evil. Not if you asked his friends. According to them, Job was a theological newb, a borderline heretic! They’re the ones who understood the deep things of God. Not Job. But God wasn’t impressed with them. He was impressed by Job’s blameless and upright life.
We don’t have to guess about this. God tells us in His own words:
“And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
We don’t know how much Job knew about the God of the universe. But we do know that he knew enough to radically alter the way he lived. THAT’S what impressed God. I think that’s what always impresses him.
What did Jesus believe?
When they asked Jesus to sum up the Old Testament law into one command, he gave two. They both deal with how we live: Love God and love your neighbor. God wants each of us to have Him as King and then to treat every person around us the way our King commands. Both of those broad categories have behavior as the key component. The Epistles and the early church fathers all say the same thing. God wants us to live a certain way.
American Christianity has become more concerned with understanding the ways of God than living by them. And it’s decimating the church. We’ve mistakenly believed that God’s goal is that we have more information about Him. But is that what He wants? Is that the object of the Christian life? Does God want us to have more and more information about who He is? Simply for the sake of having our theology wrapped up in a nice box and stored on our bookshelves? Or does he want us to become like Jesus?
Ask your Neighbor
I heard a missionary tell a story about a primitive culture they were working in. When a new convert came to Christ, they’d teach them to love their neighbor. They taught them what it meant and how it looked and how they should do it. Then then they sent them out to do it.
In a week or two, the people of the church would ask the unbelieving neighbor how the new convert was doing. “Is he treating you like you want to be treated?” If the answer was “NO!” then they would go over the lesson again and send him back out to live his faith. When he finally got it right, they would move on to the next thing.
How’s that for a discipleship course?
Don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE theology! It’s so much easier to study about God and the Christian faith than it is to put it into practice. Isn’t it? But imagine a world where Christians live out what they already know about God. There would be a lot more Mother Teresa’s than theologians.
That’s my take. Now it’s your turn. What do you think is most important to God, how we live or what we believe? Why do you see it that way?
If you liked this post, you should check out this one: Does God Care about Our Theology?
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
My friend stared at me in disbelief. How could I say something like that? We’d been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is there are so many different types of churches. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That’s a big difference. We don’t agree on how many books are actually the official “word of God”. That also seems significant. Some churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with salvation, while others teach that it has everything to do with it. That’s a HUGE deal, right? Others are somewhere in-between.
We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.
Then we have us Protestants!
Protestants agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We agree in the “Atonement”, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe people worked miracles, but don’t agree on when or IF that has stopped.
- We don’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship.
- We don’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ.
- We don’t agree on what it means to follow Christ.
- We don’t agree on a host of important issues.
The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects. Groups that argue amongst themselves and can’t agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is wishful thinking.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion. The Father gave a big “Sorry Son, no can do” answer on that one. At least Jesus knows what it’s like to have his prayers go unanswered!
Why did God allow it to happen?
Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost. And God let the Gospel be lost for 1200 years? That leaves more questions!
If purity of doctrine matters so much…
- Why didn’t God step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Gospel?
- Why would God allow His church to proclaim a false gospel? One that would consign its followers to hell?
- Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.
To be fair, Catholics believe the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther come along. It’s understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.
Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. If God is omniscient then he knew what would happen if he did nothing. God foresaw the doctrinal mess that would result. He knew what would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!
He stepped in before, why not again?
We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.
But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split in 1054. It’s not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. He still hasn’t done it. In all these cases, God allowed it to stand. He had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to.
You may counter and say that God NOT acting isn’t proof He doesn’t care. And I’d agree with you 100%. His non-action doesn’t prove anything on either side of the question. What we know from the Bible is that God has acted in human history. At key moments and in powerful ways, he’s intervened to ensure his plan moves forward as planned. But not on this issue. When you consider how significant the Church is to God’s plan, I think his inaction is worth considering.
It matters to us, but does it matter to God?
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Obviously, the doctrinal differences we’ve killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal, to us. But do they matter to God? Personally, I don’t think so. (My thoughts on this are shaped by far more than what I’ve covered here.)
Before you get the kindling and tie me to the stake consider what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care about the Gospel or the church, or the world of lost souls. He does. But our petty little in house arguments?
This isn’t simply a thought exercise. The church in the USA could be heading into a very dark period. The culture is shifting. Their opinion of the church is souring even more. They’re calling some members of the church terrorists. They don’t like that we want to gather together for worship. New political leadership is rising that doesn’t care about religious freedom. What lies ahead? I’m not sure. But it sure seems like dark clouds on the horizon.
If dark days lie ahead, we’ll need to circle the wagon of faith. We’ll need to set aside our petty theological differences. We’ll need to unite around the basic essentials.
Who am I kidding? That will never happen! That would take a miracle and miracles don’t happen anymore. 🙂
That’s my view from the cheap seats. What’s yours? Why do you think God has allowed so much diversity to exist in His Church?
Read another thought provoking post on worship: God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!
As I’ve said many times in this blog, dead people speak to me. Not their ghosts, but their words. One of my favorite things to read are the sermons and letters of the earliest church fathers. I’m talking about the guys who wrote while some of the Apostles were still alive and immediately after their passing. This excerpt comes from a sermon delivered 1900 years ago to the church in Corinth. Somewhere between 100 and 140AD.
The Corinthian church was facing problems again. Their big issue? It’s the same one the church in the United States is dealing with: They talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. The people of the day we’re laughing at them and calling them deluded.
We’ve become very vocal about what we believe. The problem isn’t what we believe. It’s that we don’t really believe it. Why else do you think we’d proclaim something so boldly and then choose not to live by it?
Have you read the oldest Christian sermon outside the New Testament? Read it here
Start Your Day Off Right with this 1600 year old Prayer! (You can do it, and you’ll be better off for it!)
It’s old……but it is STILL good!
I often find nourishment for my faith when I read and pray through old prayers. Sure, the church has changed over the years. What it means to follow Christ in a fallen world hasn’t. Those who have faithfully walked the walk before us down through the ages, though gone, can still minister to us. One of the ways this can happen is when we read and prayer the prayers they left behind.
Today, I share with you a 1600 year old prayer from Basil The Great. I have updated it for the modern reader. The Thee’s and Thou’s have been changed.
O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation,
Who, because of Your clemency and incomparable mercy,
did send Your Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind,
and with His venerable Cross did tear asunder the record of our sins,
and thereby did conquer the rulers and powers of darkness;
receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication,
and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression,
and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us.
Nail down our flesh with fear of You,
and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil,
but pierce our souls with Your love, that ever contemplating You, being enlightened by You, and discerning You, the unapproachable and everlasting Light,
we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to You:
The eternal Father,
with Your Only-Begotten Son,
and with Your All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Or so the saying goes. Those that refuse to consider the past, when making choices in the present, often arrive at similarly bad conclusions. This phrase strikes a chord with many. Perhaps it’s because we’re always looking forward, seldom pausing to consider the past. Part of our DNA seems to include the belief that the next best thing is just up on the horizon. Who can blame us? Isn’t it true? At least with technology it is. The next generation computer, or Iphone or IPad is going to be better than the previous one. Things improve over time, as we discover new ways of making them faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper, and more reliable.
Many within the evangelical Christian community seem to adopt this same belief when it comes to understanding Christianity and how that applies to our corporate lives. We’re often looking for the next thing, God’s next move, a “new and improved, better than the old” way of Read the rest of this entry
This blog was a sort of therapy for me. It allowed me to discuss the absolute frustration I had (and still have) with the utterly misguided modern church and her “worship”. Though she is still misguided and making herself increasingly irrelevant, I have come to accept that I can’t change it. I’m OK with that.
I am hopeful that this new generation of leaders will run their course, and not do too much MORE damage to Evangelical Christianity and that the next leaders will right the ship.
Until then, I will just arrive late to church. Feel free to assign whatever word for this you feel is appropriate. I am extremely comfortable with the compromise arrangement that God and I worked out: I show up AFTER the concert. Honestly, I think God agrees with me, because even He shows up after the band’s last song. Honestly, does anybody think God can handle one more G – D – Em – C progression with silly, incoherent lyrics?
It sounds a lot like surrender, and I guess that is a good way to look at it. It is what it is, and it will stay that way until some later time. I still love Jesus, and his people and love the gathering, but feel no need to lead the charge for change.
I have been busy though. I have been building several businesses, and helping out my wives ministry. She now has 3 books published, the fourth is almost done and the 5th is ready to go as well. She has been traveling and speaking to Hispanic women all over the world. While this blog is more of a negative focus “Let’s talk about the Problems in the Church”, her ministry is more about positively impacting the lives of helping Spanish speaking women who follow Jesus. If you speak Spanish, or know a woman who does, check out her ministry over at El Rinconcito De La Paz.
I am toying with the idea of starting a completely different blog, totally unrelated to this one. I’ll keep you posted.
“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”
We don’t often re-blog other posts, but this was such a thought provoking and stimulating article that we just had to! Mike discusses the framework we should use to interpret opposing views of what Scripture says and how we should use the early church Fathers to aid us in that. Be challenged!
We also wanted to introduce you to Mikes blog, so take a few minutes to check it out. You will probably hit the “Follow” button like we did.
Irenaeus, a 2nd century theologian, defended Christianity from the Gnostic philosophies that were popular at the time. His 5 volume work, Against Heresies, dedicates the first two volumes to describing the Gnostic views and then precedes to dismantle them in the remaining volumes.
Underlying Irenaeus’ defense lies the questions: how do we know what the truth is? and how do we decide between different interpretations of Scripture?
The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas – which centered on two gods – a good one and an evil one. It was the evil god who created the physical world that we must rid ourselves of.
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We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then. Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen. But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.
In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you. I warn you: Brace yourself!
I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective. In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.
“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”
When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:
- Family or friends
- Reading the Bible,
- Even having children
But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.
That is staggering in its implication. Christians of all Read the rest of this entry
I think you are going to want to read this upcoming post, based on a recent study. It is now up! Brace yourselves though, because this stuff is going to be hard for you to handle. After you read through it, make sure you answer the poll questions at the end.
At least that is what I anticipate with this post on Total Depravity.
Before you light the fire, you should know up front that this post is simply me letting you in on the discussions that take place inside my head! I’m asking you to consider some of the questions I ask myself while I think out loud about what Total Depravity means.
To start off, let’s define terms:
The Western Protestant church views T.D. this way: Total depravity is the fallen state of human beings as a result of Adam original sin. The doctrine of total depravity asserts that people are, as a result of the fall, not inclined or even able to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather are inclined by nature to serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God.
“The immediate concomitant of the first sin was the total depravity of human nature. The contagion of his sin at once spread through the entire man, leaving no part of his nature untouched, but vitiating every power and faculty of body and soul.” Louis Berkhof
This means that the fundamental nature of mankind was changed on that day. Whatever Adam’s human nature was before his sin, it became something different after the fall. As a result, Read the rest of this entry
Total: Completely, Absolutely
Inability: lack of sufficient power, resources, or capacity
It’s true that humanity can’ come to Christ unaided. The Scriptures and the early church agree on this. Both sides of the Monergism vs Synergism civil war agree on it. Without God’s grace, no one is able to come to Christ. Period!
But how does it work? Nobody knows and those who say they do don’t understand what they’re saying. How God works this out in humanity lies within the mystery of God himself.
Calvin, and the the followers he inspired, believe this means humanity can not even respond to God unaided. People must first be born again and then after that, exercise faith in Christ. One can’t say “yes” to God until after the new birth takes place. Which leads them to teach things like this:
“This doctrine of total inability which declares that men are dead in sin does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that anyone is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is equal in itself, nor that man’s spirit in inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead… The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)
“The inability under which he labors is not an inability to exercise volition, but an inability to be willing to exercise holy volitions.”
Essentially, reformed theology teaches that human beings do not have the capacity to desire God, to obey Him or answer when He calls. I have wrestled with this pretty much all of my Christian life for several reasons. Three of which I now share here.Read the rest of this entry
That sound you are hearing? That is me stirring the pot!
Calvin’s faith is certainly different from the faith of the early church, but is it going to far to say he reinvented or re–delivered a new faith?
Play nice, please.
It is a little bit late but Happy New Year! Read the rest of this entry
The Catena Aurea (also called The Golden Chain) is a tremendous resource for any pastor or believer who desires to know how the early church understood scripture. It is a verse by verse commentary on the four Gospels by the church fathers that was compiled by Thomas Aquinas.
For each of the four Gospel writers, the Catena Aurea starts by indicating the verses to be analyzed, then phrase-by-phrase, provides the early Fathers’ insights into the passage. It includes the work of over eighty Church Fathers.
The four volume set will cost you about $150, but thanks to Catechetics online, you can read these works for FREE!
Here is a sample of their commentary on John 3:16-19
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of Christian texts before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The site provides translations and commentary for these sources, including the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers, and some non-Christian references.
If you want to read ANY work from the first 325 years of church history, you will find it at this site. Free.
Quite good as a matter of fact.
Recently I read through perhaps the earliest Catechism of the church, St Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechism c. 350ad. The only possible earlier one still in existence today is the Didache, though some people dispute that being a Catechism.
Reading through that was simply amazing. I will be sharing a lot on this in upcoming posts. Today, I wanted to give you a taste. Enjoy Cyril’s instruction on what the Lord’s Prayer means. You might be a little surprised! Read the rest of this entry
I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.
The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”
When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty. We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.
In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins! However, Read the rest of this entry