What's Wrong With Our Gospel?
By Frank Viola www.ptmin.org
Paul of Tarsus used the phrase “my gospel” numerous times in his letters. He was referring to the message that he preached.
While there’s nothing wrong with the gospel, I do have concerns about what’s missing from our gospel—that is, the gospel that many Christians are hearing today.
N.T. Wright wrote a great book recently (Surprised by Hope) that went into various aspects of the gospel that are missing from our gospel. Namely, the Christian’s true hope.
Of course, your mileage may vary. And if it does, that’s great. But a large portion of the Christian world today has neglected a number of vital elements of the gospel. Here are just three of them:
1) The reality of an indwelling Lord.
There’s a great deal of emphasis today on the need to be like Christ. To imitate His earthly life. This is commonly tied into and often defined as “discipleship.”
I believe that this emphasis is correct, but it’s not complete.
Christian leaders have been telling God’s people that they must “be like Christ” for the last 600 years (at least). The well-known book by Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, was published around 1418.
Some 480 years later, Charles M. Sheldon’s book, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do was published. Ever since then, Christians have been trying to “do what Jesus did.”
I believe the reason why this “gospel” hasn’t worked is because it’s asking the wrong question. The question is not “what would Jesus do?” It’s “what is Jesus Christ doing through me … and through us?”
Unlike all other religions, the founder of our faith is still alive.
But that’s not all.
He lives inside of all who have repented and believed upon Him.
But that’s not all.
As Christians, we have been called to live by His indwelling life. And we can.
Note Jesus’ own words:
As the living Father has sent Me and I live by the Father, so He who partakes of Me shall live by Me.
A large part of the gospel is to be awakened to an indwelling Christ—not as a doctrine or theology, but as a living, breathing Person whose life we can live by.
Paul’s central message was “Not I, but Christ” and “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (See Romans 8, Colossians 1, Galatians 2, and John 14-17, where Jesus Himself spoke about His indwelling just before His death.)
Jesus Christ lived His life by an indwelling Father. In the same way, we as believers can only live the Christian life by an indwelling Christ. This is not peripheral; it’s a central part of the gospel.
Imitating Jesus, therefore, is not a matter of trying to mimic the outward things He did (as if we can actually do that in our own energy).
It’s rather a matter of imitating the way He lived His life in order to produce that fruit. It’s to get in touch with the engine of His outward activities, and to “do likewise.”
This puts us on a collision course with the matter of living by an indwelling Lord.
2) The Greatness of Christ.
Some Christian groups present a Christ of Romans and Galatians. He’s come to save the lost.
Other Christian groups present the Christ of the Gospels. His earthly life must be imitated.
Some Christian groups present the Christ of the cross. His death is emphasized above all else.
Other Christian groups present the Christ of Easter. His resurrection is emphasized above all else.
All of the above emphasize the Christ of time.
But there is the Christ who exists before time.
And there is the Christ of the present and the future.
All are the same Christ.
All of creation was created in the Son of God before time, and He was made the Firstborn of all creation. Further, God the Father chose all of His people in Christ before time (Colossians 1; Ephesians 1).
After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the right hand of God as Lord of heaven and earth. Today, He intercedes for us, acts as our High Priest, loves us as our Shepherd, and lives out His indwelling life in and through us.
As the Alpha and Omega, time is within Him. Jesus Christ knows no beginning or end. All of creation is moving toward Christ being Head over all, in all, through all, to all, until He is All and All.
In the end, all things will be summed up in this incredible Christ (Colossians 1; Ephesians 1).
And this is the Christ that has taken up residence within you and me.
3) God’s eternal purpose.
With few exceptions, our gospel begins with Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1.
Our starting point is the fall of humanity.
The result: Everything is framed around God’s redemptive mission. It’s all about saving a lost world.
Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that evangelical Christians have built their theology mostly on Romans and Galatians. And many nonevangelical Christians have built it on the Gospels (particularly the Synoptics—Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And for both groups, Ephesians and Colossians have been but footnotes.
But what if we began, not with the needs of humans, but with the intent and purpose of God? What if we took as our point of departure, not the earth after the fall, but the eternal activity in God Himself before the constraints of physical time?
In other words, what if we built our theology on Ephesians and Colossians and allowed the other NT books to follow suit?
Why Ephesians and Colossians? Because these two letters give us the clearest look at Paul’s gospel with which Christ commissioned him. These two letters begin, not with the needs of postfall humans, but with God’s timeless purpose before creation. They also introduce us to Christ in His preincarnate state.
I assert that if we did this, the Gospels and the rest of the NT (let alone the entire OT), would fall into a very different place for us.
The Gospels are not the beginning point of the Christian faith. Neither is the OT. Both give us the middle of the story. Ephesians, Colossians, and the gospel of John are the introduction and the opening chapters of that story. Those writings give us a glimpse into Christ before time and what His original mission is all about.
In this regard, we can liken the gospel that many of us have heard to watching Star Wars Episodes IV, V, and VI first (which is the way they came out in the theaters).
But for us to really understand what’s going on in that drama, we must begin at the right place with Episodes I, II, and III.
Consider this fact. Human beings didn’t come into this world in need of salvation. There was a purpose in God that came before the fall, and He has never let go of it.
Without an understanding of God’s ageless purpose, our good deeds can be likened to playing an instrument on our own as opposed to playing with others as part of an orchestra that is performing one breathtaking song.
What an amazing Lord we have.
I hope that in time these three aspects of the gospel will become part of our gospel.
Jumat, 24 April 2009
"I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen ... If I must die, I will die. Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us ... I never thought it would end this way. But I am ready to face the consequences. "
~Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity, quoted in AP~
~Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity, quoted in AP~
Minggu, 19 April 2009
THE ABUNDANT LIFE
by Chip Brogden
"Yes, I am the Door. Anyone who goes in and out through Me will be safe, and will find a beautiful pasture. The thief only comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come so that the sheep will live, and will have Life in abundance! I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His Life for the sheep" (John 10:9-11, TIL).
Are we willing to go deeper than the obvious, surface level explanation of what Jesus said here?
The "word of faith" people, the "name it and claim it" people, have always taken the "abundant life" in verse 10 to mean that God is going to give us the "abundant life" of this world – money, and the things that money can buy. To them this is a proof-text for prosperity, for material things. I know it is a stretch. It's hard to understand how people can lift this verse out of the passage and teach it that way, but carnal people manage to teach it and believe it. That's why the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit because they are spiritually discerned.
Well, let's go deeper. "The Good Shepherd gives His Life for the sheep." In one sense of course, in the most commonly interpreted sense, Jesus is speaking of his death on the Cross. He lays down His life for the sheep so they can be saved. Well, that is the natural side of it, I suppose. I’m not saying that's incorrect. But is there a deeper meaning that can apply? Oh yes, I'm believe so, because you see the word here is present tense: The Good Shepherd GIVES His Life. If He were only referring to His death on the Cross, He might have said – "The Good Shepherd WILL GIVE His Life for the sheep." And now, since He has already died on the Cross, it would (to us) be past tense.
But He said, "The Good Shepherd GIVES His Life." It is present tense. It is always present tense. He is always the Good Shepherd. We are always His sheep. And so He always gives His life. In what sense does He give it? Is He constantly crucified? No, that is the natural. What is the spiritual implication? He is giving His Life that we may have that same Life. And because He IS the Life, this Life is an abundant life, and this abundant life leads to spiritual fruitfulness.
Just as the Good Shepherd gives His Life for the sheep, so the True Vine gives His Life for the Branches. Do you see the connection? It's the same thing. It's exactly the same thing. The Good Shepherd gives His Life for the sheep; the True Vine gives His Life for the Branches. This Life He gives is not for the purpose of making my life better; it is given so that I can exchange my life altogether, and rely upon the Life of Another.
There are two aspects, two sides to this glorious truth: first, that I AM IN CHRIST; second, that CHRIST IS IN ME. If the first is true, and I am living in Christ, then the second follows naturally – Christ is living in me. He is giving His Life for me on a continual basis. We call this the exchanged life. It is a function of learning how to let Jesus live His life through me.
This is why the denial of Self, as typified by the Cross, is so essential to the spiritual life. "The carnal mind is against against God" (Rom. 8:7). The Self-Life interferes with the Christ-Life. Why? Because "No man can serve two masters" (Mt. 6:24).
And so you have those Two Universal Spiritual Principles that we have discussed elsewhere: the Law of Increase and the Law of Decrease, found in John 3:30. "He must increase." That is the first principle. It is a spiritual law, that Jesus must increase. But there is something that hinders, something that resists this increase of Jesus. That brings us to the second principle, "I must decrease." Me, Myself, and I – the Self. I must decrease in order for Christ to increase.
This has global implications, universal applications, but let's bring it right down to everyday life. Let's make it personal. It means, in a very practical sense, that when I become a disciple of Jesus I am starting out on a Path in which I am learning how to depend upon the Life of Another; and in order to live that way, I have to give up living the way I am accustomed to living – according to my thoughts, my mind, my will, my opinions, my understanding.
All that pertains to "me" is very limited. As a disciple of Jesus, I am learning just how untrustworthy "I" am, and I am becoming more and more cognizant of my need to depend upon the Life of Christ, CHRIST IN ME, THE HOPE OF GLORY (Col. 1:27). There is no hope in me. "I know," Paul says, "that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). That is the key. There is a man who is beginning to grow spiritually. He has learned something – "I KNOW." How does he know? Through a lot of trials, and sufferings, and problems, and mistakes, and difficulties, he has learned not to depend upon himself anymore.
In Philippians, Paul says, "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." No confidence in the flesh. Why? Because Jesus said the flesh is weak. The flesh is fallible. The flesh is limited. I know that it seems as if the flesh is very powerful, and that you can do anything. It sometimes seems easier to just press on ahead and do what seems right; make something happen. Oh, it takes too much time (we say) to wait on God, to know the mind of the Spirit, to just watch and pray and abide in Christ. But those are the words of the immature, the babes. Spiritually mature people have lost all confidence in the flesh, in their ability to do anything, apart from Jesus.
Now I have just shared with you the secret of abiding. It means to have no confidence in the flesh, to wait instead for the Life of Another to lead. Always take that position. Always allow the Lord to lead, to initiate, to work, and don't do anything of yourself. Now, that is easier said than done, isn't it? What a battle it is! The flesh does not want to decrease. But as I am decreased, Christ is increased. Stated differently, the measure of Christ in a person will increase in exact proportion to the measure that their Self-Life is decreased.
Well, how does that happen? It happens quite naturally, as we keep hitting our head against the same impossible situations, the same besetting sins, the same difficulties and disappointments over and over again – and eventually we come to the place of saying, along with Paul, "I know that in me – that is, in my flesh, in my Self – dwells no good thing. I no longer have confidence in my flesh. I have learned that the Branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the Vine. So I cast myself upon the Lord, and I trust in His Life to raise me up, to work a miracle, to do what I cannot do myself." That is spiritual maturity. Now Jesus can do something, and He takes up right where we leave off.
Sabtu, 04 April 2009
"Your Change is Upon YOU!"
Miracles happen when the status quo "submits itself to your Uncommon
Life and Divine Identity, and not the other way around!" When the daily
realities of life and consequence find themselves "realigning
themselves" to accommodate your Dominion and Unlimited Mind," it
produces what we call "MIRACLES!"
You were created from the Fathers' Divine Life, therefore everything
that submits to Him will naturally realign themselves to accommodate His
"You Have the Right to Discover the Treasure!"
The Kairos Letters