MATURITY: Christ-centered

A few insights into the nature of genuine spiritual maturity by Tullian T. (found here):

“It’s important to note that in these verses Paul doesn’t pray for something the Colossian Christians don’t have. Rather, he prays they will grow in their awareness and understanding of what they do have. Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Christian growth happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you do have.

“I used to think that when the Bible tells us to work out our salvation, it meant go out and get what you don’t have-get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love, and so on. But after reading the Bible more carefully I now understand that real gospel fruit happens, not as we “work harder” but only as we continually rediscover the gospel. You could put it this way: rediscovering the gospel is the hard work we’re called to.

“You see, the secret of the gospel is that we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us. The irony of the gospel is that we actually perform better as we grow in our understanding that our relationship with God is based on Christ’s performance for us, not our performance for him.

NOW: Believing before Be-living

[CONVERSATION HAD WITH FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK]

Right on, XXXXX.  The Gospel about Jesus Christ (i.e., born to die, perfect living, willful dying, triumph over death, raised to the Seat of Glory) is the sole truth that sets people free.

Of course, this truth also says something about the condition of people (whose sin(s) He must bear, once-for-all!).  He did for sinners (those born in a state of sin) what they couldn’t do for themselves due to their captivity/incapacity in this State.

The question remains: What does the Gospel-truth (about Christ) free us unto, here and now?  Is it just a “get-out-of-Jail-free card?”  Or does the ‘once-for-all forgiveness’ and ‘eternal-life-given’ — that Christ accomplished and applies — actually change the lives (mind and actions) of believers/be-livers ?  Or again, does their existence (being) continue to conform to their environment (earth)?

An answer: We definitely have reason to rejoice, in the Truth about Christ ‘for us’ (Bethlehem, Palestine, Calvary, MT-Tomb, Zion) and ‘in us’ (born-again, new creation, new heart, mind of Christ, etc).

And no doubt, there’s a calling upon us to wisely communicate these truths, in the milieu of everyday life (as we walk and talk).  We don’t need a special invitation (or meeting) in order to do this.  There are, of course, times when a door of opportunity is wide-open, providing a time and place for us to speak directly to Gospel-truths.  However, more often than not, we bear witness to Christ crucified and risen in our everyday lives.  Most of the circumstances (environment) of our lives will be like that of those who have YET to genuinely believe (trust and rejoice) in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.  And yet, there is truly something different at the core (heart) of one who is genuinely a disciple, of which outsiders ought to be able to catch a glimpse.

As people get to know us, existentially, they will be faced with ‘something-of-the-reality’ of what is the engine (Christ crucified and risen) that drives our lives, regardless of things being similar circumstantially on the outside.  There typically is a problem in the “thinking” of believers though, which results in their “living” stunted lives.

Why are we “living” stunted lives?  I believe it begins with our having stunted “minds”.  We possess too small of an understanding of the nature of being a Christian.  In other words, we are having an identity-crisis, in failing to grasp the realities of what it means that “Christ is in us” and how this can genuinely impact our lives, to His glory and our neighbors good.

Problem is…most “believers” wrestle more with their “environment” (where in the world they are; what in the world is the world doing) and miss the need to begin and continue with a sound understanding of our “existence” in Christ and He in us.  Meaning, most “believers” are distracted by “environment” and fail to comprehend “existence” (their new identity in Christ/Christ living in them).  Thus, we can go on living out this identity-crisis and in so doing mis-communicate the truth regarding Christ ‘for us’ and ‘in us’.

So then, we are first and above all “accountable” to believe rightly, and then we can hope to live rightly, before God and toward our neighbor.

MUSING: Less is More

A few random thoughts from this past week (or two) loosely tied together: 

We all are wired for self-righteousness, regardless of what form it most manifests itself in…legalism or licentiousness.  Fact is, we as believers will always (this side of Glory) struggle with what we do RIGHT and WRONG, both.  Granted, daily we’re faced with our own shortcomings.  Yet, Mr. RIGHT has the same fundamental problem…SELF-righteousness.  Either way, Christ’s righteousness is always alien.  But for His ongoing graciousness, we’d have ZERO participation in the Kingdom.  ZERO! 

Do not kid yourself for a moment, brethren; all of us are struggling to live according to faith in Christ.  He who does not think so is the greater fool.  Faith does not come as a commodity we pull off the shelf at Wal-Mart.  So yes, there are God given means to His giving/sustaining/nurturing us in faith, but the measure too is His, not only the means

As someone once said, our growing in grace is about our becoming more realistic (honest) about our being human.  Becoming a Christian is about our no longer “being as gods”.  It is tough for us (and understandably so) to get very comfortable with ourselves, even in Christ.  The entirety of our days are spent laboring according to a performance model.  No labor, no pay!  Yet, the whole of the Christian Faith is hinged on an entirely different model…Christ crucified for sinners (which we remain while here).  So, daily we struggle between (confusing) the two, on top of the fact that the world goes round and round like this, we have a natural inclination to perform and be stroked for doing so.  God’s plan is different.  He does all the essential work!  He does all the salvationing.

So then, let us not get bogged down in wondering too long, about how self-righteous we might still be.  ALL of us are Selfish and everyday this kills us; and boy does it ever hurt.  I hate it!   

I hope that anyone who hears me is reminded of at least two things: 1) God saves, and 2) We are sinners (and we never quite get over either one).  

The world (and sadly much of the Church) hates it when we say…screw that idea of our “measuring up!”  Christ is our measure and may this – by His mercy – become something central in our lives.  We who hate this have a common response: “What, aren’t you going to do anything?!”  NO.  NO.  NO.  HE HAS!  Get over it!  God help us to think in this way without lacking due charity.

The equation then is this: 

Less = More  (< = >). 

Less of us, and the totality of Christ! 

Christ then is our YES! YES! YES!

TRANSFORMATION: All Passive

Bill Mounce has an interesting blog entry here:  To Be Changed (Transformed)

The topic is Transformation.  Bill summarizes in saying,

“But notice what these four uses of μεταμορφοω all have in common: they are all passives. The power to change does not naturally well up from within us but is the gift and the work of God’s Spirit.”

It was previously asked: “But how does this transformation happen?”

Answer: “There are two clues (outside of Rom 12:2). Paul tells the Corinthians, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (μεταμορφουμεθα) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).”

Well, at least two passages come to my own mind here:

1)   “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Mt 13:23)

2)   “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”   (2Cor 9:8-15)

Thus, we see that Paul does not forget what he stated earlier (2Cor 3.18) by the time he gets around to 2Cor 9.13.  The Gospel itself is the SOLE means that God uses to workout God’s image, Christ Jesus (2Cor 4.4), in us.  And in what measure?  As He sees fit… “some a hundredfold, another sixty, and in another thrity.”

Ours then is always but a “passive capacity” in the way of salvation.  God alone is the prime mover, the “active” Operator.  The Cross itself was and remains emblematic of our always needing God’s intervention of salvationing.

SANCTIFICATION: God to man (not the inverse)

Here is an interesting conversation by the folks over at Reformed Forum along with Richard Gaffin.  What is interesting (at least in my mind) is how difficult a time these brethren have in calling Sanctification a work that is ENTIRELY God’s. 

If you care to listen to only part of the conversation where they get into the ‘nitty-gritty,’ try listening from 40:00 min onward.

Gaffin makes two very interesting remarks:

1)   The ‘Guilt-Grace-Gratitude’ model that many within the Reformed camp hold to does not hold up under Scriptural scrutiny.

2)   Referring to G.C. Berkower (though there is angst in his doing so by the others), he expresses quite plainly that “good works” in sanctification are “not the way of man to God, but of God to man.”  Meaning, it is entirely a work of God.

Sadly, as things are wrapping up, the other fellows toss in two comments that are seemingly polar to what Gaffin just finished saying.  Nonetheless, Gaffin is cordial enough to leave it at that; not to say that he himself entirely avoids working man’s will back into the equation during the course of the conversation. 

 Anyway, check it out here:  Sanctification and the Gospel

GRACE: Totally, Beginning to End

1)   “If we have all become Christians in this way, can our progress be according to any other principle or power than our beginning?”

2)   “Since we take from the gospel whenever we add to it, therefore, let us be satisfied with its overflowing fullness.”

Wonderful. Total grace for total sinners!

God is salvationing from beginning to end.

Go here for the rest of the story by Brannan.