Sunday, November 11, 2007

Want a Challenge?

Message tonight by David Platt at Brook Hills was one of the most challenging messages I've heard in a while. And bold, he definitely stepped on some toes in the process of challenging us.

So I thought I'd pas it along to you guys, since its always good to be challenged!

Here's the link:

Listen to the message for November 11- A Mission Only the Church Could Stop

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Take A Look at This:

Just got back from "Secret Church" at the Church at Brook Hills. It was essentially a condensed Hermeneutics (study of how to study the Bible) course that was really pretty good. Pretty much exactly like my Hermeneutics professor (Malick) teaches the material but in four hours instead of a whole semester.

I highly encourage you to take a look at the stuff they put up on-line from the speaker tonight. Here's the link:

Look at the .pdf's under "How to Study the Bible," and if you get the chance, listen to the audio or watch the video as well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is General Revelation Enough?

This is a continuation of the discussion started in the last post, The Meaning of Salvation.

Essentially, I left off that post asking what becomes of those who have not heard the gospel preached. In Christ's parable of the four soils there does not seem to be a suggestion of a group of people who do not receive the word of God. In a way, this makes sense. We could say everyone receives general revelation, which Paul says was enough for them to be accountable for their actions.

I've struggled a long time with the issue of whether it is just or not for God to condemn to hell someone who has never heard the gospel preached. I really can't convince myself that it is just, primarily because I do not look at it as their failing but ours. We were given the command to make disciples of all nations. So when someone doesn't here the gospel, it is because we have not obeyed the command. So how is it just to punish them for our disobedience?

As long as the issue is put in terms of "hearing the gospel," I can't really make sense of that. But when we put it in terms of "general revelation" it makes much more sense. If everyone has in some way or another the "word" of God in the form of general revelation (interesting side note: if John corresponds the word with Jesus and says that through him all else was made, then we can see creation as very related to the word). Therefore, everyone has some knowledge of God and his character and their own sinfulness. This, Paul says, is enough for them to be condemned. This is not dependent on hearing the gospel, it is based on what is common knowledge to all men.

So I become extremely uncomfortable, then, when I hear statements like "no one seeks God on their own unless they have heard the gospel preached." This comes back to the original question- if they have to hear the gospel preached, is it their shortcoming or ours? Is salvation dependent on God or on man? This would seem to suggest that it is dependent on man doing something, in which case we should have all the blame for anyone who dies without hearing, we should have their condemnation.

I think this is another construct of our western culture, another form of the "to have real faith you have to do this" mentality. We assume a human-made ritual must be involved for someone to have a connection with God. In the process, we are limiting God to acting the way we act!

Going back to our parable of the four soils picture: do we have to assume that because someone has not heard the gospel, they are in one of the first three soils? In fact, since the middle two seem to imply a knowledge and response toe the word, if we assume the word is our gospel message, then we are saying they would have to be in the first category (though even that seems shaky, as this category implies at least that the word came to them but was not received). If we say that they are in the first category, we are saying this farmer has just tossed the vast majority of his seed (since in the totality of human history the vast majority of humans have not heard the gospel) onto the road- this does not sound like a productive farmer!

Examining the text again: the parable doesn't specify that the word of God is his specific revelation post-Christ. It simply says "word"- which at the time and in that context, the disciples and people would probably not have associated with the gospel we think of today. The most specific association they may have had would have been the law and the prophets, but they may have even thought in more general terms than that. Paul says that this law is essentially common to all man, that all man knows right from wrong by general revelation, which we already established was associated with the "word" of God. So back to our question- do they have to hear the "gospel" as we know it to be part of the last group?

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Meaning of Salvation

So I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night. I went to Starbucks on the way back from the 6pm service at Brook Hills. I was trying to avoid drinking something with caffeine in it, so I got some coffee-cake instead. Apparently my plan failed, cause I tossed and turned a lot.

In my half-awake state I pondered a lot of things that I've been examining or learning lately (so if it doesn't make sense now, that may be why, though I've tried to work it out more since I've become more awake). One of those being the nature of salvation.

I think we in the west have missed the point by a long-shot. We say "Justification by faith not works." Then we say "say this prayer and you will be saved." What hypocrisy! A prayer is nothing more than an action, a work. It does not save. Or we say "the prayer or the words don't save you, your belief (often termed "trust") saves you" and then say "but real faith looks like this, this, and this." And we get caught up in the legalism and again forget the faith. The enemy is running circles around us here in the west, and we are arrogantly chasing them.

Undoubtedly, you will live what you believe. But what is it that we were taught to believe?

All throughout the four Gospels we see Jesus teaching forgiveness of sins and the coming of the kingdom of heaven. He taught repentance, but not in the form that we so often see. Usually, when I hear repentance taught, I see it as "avoid these sins" and "do these things" (usually, read your Bible, pray, go to church, listen to Christian music, etc.). That's not at all the impression of Christ's teachings that I see. In fact, that seems to me more reminiscent of the legalism of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the only people Christ seemed to regularly condemn.

In Galatians, Paul writes a stinging epistle against legalism. He starts off the epistle by reiterating the gospel message in four basic parts- that 1) Christ gave himself as a sacrifice, 2) That sacrifice is to save us from this evil age (variation on this would be sin, I think Paul used this terminology to specifically set up some arguments he makes in Galatians), 3) That this was according to the will of God (God wanted to save us), and 4) It is all for God's glory. The rest of the letter Paul essentially attacks any attempt to add to this gospel with "requirements" you have to complete to be saved.

The impression I have in scripture is that the good news of Christ is forgiveness of sins (built on a Old Testament framework which made the people very aware of just how sinful we are, something else I think we've lost in the West) and repentance in the form of an automatic response. The idea seems to be that when you realize how much you have been forgiven and at how great a price, you cannot help the radical change that occurs. There is no legalism that accompanies it, just a genuine life of forgiveness and benevolence which desires to spread the word of Christ's forgiveness.

Let's think again about the parable of the four soils. We all know that we want to be that fourth group, right? We want to be the ones that, upon receiving the word (and presumably believing it), grow into this bountiful harvest. But let's think about those other three for a minute. Wayne Grudem writes (and for once I agree) that the only sin Christ seems to say is unforgivable is the knowing, willing rejection of the Spirit of God (which seems to drive a steak in some aspects of Calvinism, making Grudem's own doctrinal position all the more interesting, but that's another issue). The first group, the group from which the birds steal the word, seems to perhaps best fit with that. They never make any effort to believe the word, they seem to reject it. We can argue the predestination issues later. Suffice to say, the first group is not who we want to be, obviously.

Where I really want to focus is the middle-two groups. The second group, the ones among the rocks, reminds me a lot of the first problem I said above- that we reduce salvation to a prayer. Sure, they say the prayer, they may be emotionally moved, they may jump up and be ecstatic about their salvation for a bit. But then it withers away and dies. The third group, the ones who get choked out by the thorns, reminds me a lot of the second error we seem to make. They, too, may be excited at first, but as they try and juggle the "fruit" of "real faith" with everything else in life, they get choked out and die.

The interesting thing to me is that both of these groups, in the parable, receive the word and seem to believe it and even start growing. Then it stops, something goes wrong. So my question, and the one I think we all need to ponder, is what happens to them? And second, what happens to the ones who encourage that kind of faith? Another interesting thing to me is that the parable doesn't even mention the ones who never hear the word. They're not even a category. I mean, sure we could extend it to say "well, the farmland that is being sowed is only so big, there is more land out there that we could plant." But I don't think that extension was implied. So that's another thing to ponder.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Awesome Message!

So I went to a church here in Birmingham today (Church at Brook Hills) led by a guy named David Platt. For those who don't know anything about him, David is a really awesome pastor, originally from New Orleans but he moved up here with Katrina and now pastors this church. He taught a message this morning that was awesome. I strongly recommend listening to it (I don't really want to give a synopsis cause then you'll be less likely to listen), but basically David was talking about the Christian life, and how its root is supposed to be in Christ, not activity (which we have an unfortunate tendency to make it into). He made a really striking and bold statement- A lot of times we are guilty of idolatry because we make the "Christian life" more important than Christ himself.
Here's the link:

Go here and listen to the message from today (Sept. 16). You might also listen to the one before it, I haven't heard it yet but was told by a friend it was equally awesome (and its the first part of the series that today's message continued). If you have the ability, I would recommend watching the video, he makes an object lesson you might not get from just audio.

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