Archives for posts with tag: Church

If I were to describe the gospel of Jesus Christ in two words I’d go with ‘enemy love.’ Boiled down into these words are the essential concepts of sin and falleness- we are enemies of God- and yet John 3:16 is also true, God’s disposition toward us is that of love and salvation.

Jesus both teaches and embodies this concept of ‘enemy love.’ His Sermon on the Mount is rich with it, and his death/resurrection from the cross prove God’s heart toward his enemies (mankind).

So this then is the default mode of the Christian faith: enemy love. This should be characterized in Christian ethics and moral behavior. It should be perpetually evident as we live out the Great Commission to the world and as we grow together as the Church.

I offer to you three passages to help demonstrate this idea of ‘enemy love.’ There is a progressing line of reasoning through them. It’s fairly obvious, I hope you’ll see it and that it changes how you view the Christian faith.

Luke 23:33-34 “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Colossians 3:13 “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

That’s enemy love. That’s what Christians are supposed to embody at all times, to all peoples. Individually and corporately.

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What implications does this have for how we treat fellow Christians? Unbelievers? How does this change our attitudes toward killing and self defense?

What is more important in the kingdom of God: Protecting our lives by killing our enemies? Or doing as much as we can as Christ’s ambassadors to love our enemies, in the gospel fashion?

I don’t see enemy love as much as I’d like in the American church. We love the American way much more than Christ’s way of enemy love. But I’m totally on board with changing that, it’s time to flip some tables in the temple.

Confession on the Church, the Body of Christ

This was a very good exercise for me. If you’re a Christian, take a minute to write down what you believe the Church is.
What is important to say? What can be left out? What absolutely MUST be said? Does your definition match up with mine? Let me know if it doesn’t! Let’s talk about it and find out where we fit in the bigger picture.

Confession:

I believe…

the Church is composed of those who have been redeemed by grace through faith in relationship with God. The Church serves God in their dedication and loyalty to Jesus Christ in all things. (Romans 5; Ephesians 2; Hebrews 10-11)

Under the New Covenant, the dispensation of grace, this group is defined as all who publicly profess faith in Christ, uphold the testimony concerning Christ in the New Testament, and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 16:13-19, 26:56; Mark 8:27-29; John 5:39; Acts 17:2, 15:6-11; Romans 9-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Peter 3:15-18)

The Church is the Body of Christ. As the parts of a body work with unity under the head, so the Church operates with Christ as its head. (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:1-16)

The Church is the living temple of God. Through Christ and the Holy Spirit the Church embodies God’s presence upon creation. (John 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16)

The Church, wherever it is present, stands as a testimony of Christ’s rule and power over all things by subverting the evil powers and the fallenness of all those who seek to dominate creation in rebellion against God. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Ephesians 1:15-23, 6:10-20; Colossians 2:6-15)

The Church is most clearly recognized by its preaching of the Gospel, obedience to Scripture in accordance with truth and love, and worship of God in Trinity. (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 4:8; John 4:24; Acts 19:23-27, 24:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Philippians 3:3; 1 John 3:18; 2 John 1:4-11)

Only God knows who ultimately belongs to his Church, but through a biblical process of loving and truth seeking, Christians are able to discern those who stand against God and his Church. Those whose actions and beliefs are in accordance with the Gospel, obedience to Scripture, and worship of God in Trinity may be declared of the Church. This is to maintain the unity and good work of the Church. (Matthew 18:15-35; John 10:1-18; Titus 1:10-16; Hebrews 10:26-31)

I believe… 

the work of the Church is holistically centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and impacts all of creation as Christians constantly surrender their lives to Christ’s lordship. (Romans 15:1-7; 1 Corinthians 2, 4:1, 7:22, 11:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5, 10:7; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 2:6-7)

The critical work of the Church is surrendering everything to Christ. (Romans 8:12-30; 1 Corinthians 3:23; Galatians 4-5; Philippians 2:1-11)

Surrender results in obedience to Scripture and the conformation of every pattern of life to the truth of biblical standards. (Galatians 4-5)

Acts of obedience to Scripture are most clearly Baptism, the Eucharist, and the good works of faith. (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Ephesians 2:8-10; Colossians 3:1-17)

I believe…

Baptism is the act of publicly confessing Christ, in Trinity, in a symbolic action of dying to oneself in order to be raised in new life with Christ. It is achieved by the willing participation in the sacramental symbol of Baptism. The mode of Baptism may alter as long as the covenant reality it symbolizes is fully realized. (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:25-27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21)

True Baptism occurs only once, just as the reality of birth occurs only once. Only those who fully understand what it is and means should participate in it. It is not necessary for full participation in the Church but it is a natural part of that participation. (1 Corinthians 1:14-17; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:25-29)

I believe…

the Eucharist is a meal initiated by members of the Church, in local churches, in obedient memory to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The drink and food, elements notwithstanding, symbolize Christ’s blood spilt and his flesh destroyed in order to redeem mankind from its sin against God. It is the celebration of the defeat of sin and death, and yet, a solemn memory of the price paid, like a victory feast after a war. (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:20-34)

The Eucharist meal is physical representation of the invitation for all mankind to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. For Christians, it is a means to serve one another in the unity of our shared faith by enjoying a meal together despite social status, age, and power. For non-Christians, it is a testimony of the Church to Jesus Christ and an invitation to accept him as Lord. Thus, non-Christians may partake in the Eucharist and witness the glory and power of God present in the Body of Christ at the dinner table of any local church. (1 Corinthians 11:20-34)

I believe…

the Church is governed by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit in accordance with properly exegeted Scripture. Christ and the Holy Spirit have given leaders from among the Church to guide the Body of Christ in obedience, resulting in the good work of the Church. (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 12:28; Ephesians 4:11, 5:23)

These leaders are defined by two roles: Elders and Deacons. (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)

Ideally, both positions should be appointed through a process beginning with an Elder board interview, then a waiting period of prayer and contemplation, a commendation to the congregation for a vote, and, if their number exceeds that of available positions, a random selection from the remaining candidates. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:2, 3:7, 3:10; Titus 1:6-7)

Ideally, both positions should have clearly defined means of accountability, exit procedures, and maximum term limits. (1 Timothy 3:2, 3:6-7; Titus 1:10-16)

Elders serve the Church through teaching, preaching, and spiritual guidance to maturity in the faith. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4)

Elders must be Christians who: are sexually pure- married or not-, good parents, long standing members of the faith, above biblical reproach, free from sin, hospitable, gentle, free from addiction, self-controlled, respected in the Church and out, and able to teach and defend sound Christian doctrine. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)

Deacons serve the Church by managing the practical business details required for Church functions and efforts. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)

Deacons must be Christians who: are truthful, dignified, free of addiction, lovers of honest gain, long standing in the faith, tested for competency and purity, sexually pure- married or not-, good parents, and of good personal financial history. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)

Doxology: Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

The Facebook/Twitter craze picture used to demonstrate ones support of homosexual marriage.

This isn’t so much a blog written by me as it is a list of some different resources which form a cohesive, Biblical perspective regarding homosexuality.  I hope to offer my own perspective through the views of men much wiser and more studied than myself. The following selection of authors and bloggers have guided my own thinking in many defining ways.

The following three books and a blog embody the core of my beliefs regarding homosexuality, the Church, and the culture-war:

‘Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context’ by the authors Stassen and Gushee, affirms my belief that “marriage is a male-female covenant partnership established by God for God’s purposes” (275) while also bring to light that “spending one’s life crusading against homosexuals hardly fits with the virtues of love, kindness, humility, peace, and patience that are characterize the follower of Christ” (311).  They go on in great detail concerning many various elements of the debate and explore different interpretations of the Bible before reaching their conclusions. It’s a book I highly recommend on this topic, and many others, for anyone interested in Christian ethics.

‘God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door’ by Alan Chambers has a title that might make you laugh or cringe, but for Christians who have been locked in the cage-match culture-war on homosexuality, it’s a wake up call.  This book seriously and prayerfully approaches the massive task of reaching out to homosexuals with the Gospel. “The simple truth is that Christ died for all of us or He died for none of us. As we consider ministering to those whose lifestyle we don’t understand, we must always remember to offer them the same grace, understanding, and love that Christ offered us” (17).

The final book I’d like to share is ‘A Faith of Our Own’ by Jonathan Merritt. Full of current statistics, personal testimony, and presence of mind demonstrating a finger placed directly on the pulse of all of this, Merritt’s book opened my mind to the national level of hate and pain homosexuals have felt and do feel coming from Christians: “The church has failed the gay and lesbian community” (111). Not just a book of condemnation against the Church, Merritt also offers hope in a better way: “today’s Christians have reflected on the culture and have decided to stop separating from it, to stop outright condemning it and instead engage it” (133).

One particular blog I’d like to bring to your attention constantly publishes gold: the ‘Red Letter Christians’ blog page by Tony Campolo.

A recent entry that was entitled ‘It is Time for the American Christian Church to Surrender the Gay Marriage Fight, Apologize & Share Love’ by Ian Ebright. Throughout the article I had numerous “Yes!” moments as I found my own beliefs articulated far better than I ever could have done. The following lines give a smattering example of some of those “Yes!” moments:

“God did not instruct the church to force the rest of the world to have the appearance of the church.” (Ian Ebright)

“The mistake of the anti-gay marriage movement in the Christian church is that it is an attempt at indirect discipleship by way of restricting another’s freedom, and discipleship has never succeeded in that way.” (Ian Ebright)

“It is profoundly hypocritical to deny homosexuals the right to marry under the banner of marriage purity when divorce and adultery rates in Christian homes are equal to those in the wider world.” (Ian Ebright)

And I will leave off with one of the final lines from the post:

“Here’s the moment when the Christian church will become more relevant, and it’s not when the church wins the culture war.” (Ian Ebright)