Monday, July 06, 2015

They Actually Said It

Jeff VanVonderen in Families Where Grace In In Place says,

Paul was angry at the Galatians. His letter to them is a scathing confrontation of the fact that they had been "walking by the flesh" instead of the Spirit. But the "flesh" for the Galatians was not pornography, drunkenness, or thievery. The Galatians had begun to measure their acceptance spiritually by whether or not they performed certain religious behaviors. They let religious performance direct the way they acted, instead of allowing that Spirit to do so. Paul calls this "walking in the flesh."

I saw this statement quoted and looked it up to see if he actually said this. He actually did.

What’s interesting is what the Apostle Paul actually said to the Galatians:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Comparing VanVonderen’s statement to Paul’s it raises a curious problem: How can VanVandoren say that the “the "flesh" for the Galatians was not pornography, drunkenness, or thievery” when Paul calls the flesh two of those three—sexual immorality and drunkenness? (Though Paul leaves out thievery, it’s doubtful he intended thievery to be understood as a work of the Spirit.)

Surely VanVonderen isn’t hanging his argument on “deeds of,” as in Paul said “deeds of the flesh” while he is just saying “flesh.”

And it raises a significant question: What possesses an author, a Christian author, to completely ignore what the Bible says in order to make his own point? Should we not have more reverence for the text than that?

This leads me to say two things.

First, the text is not our servant. It is our master. So we must say what the text says, even if it doesn’t say what we want to say. If we want to say something else, we need to find a text that says that (before we attach our own desires to it).

Second, there is a lot of much needed talk about grace today. For far too many people in Christian circles, grace gets way too little discussion, and even less use.

But in some circles, grace gets redefined in such a way—as with VanVonderen—to ignore what grace actually is. Such talk of grace completely misses the grace of the Bible and substitutes something else in its place. Then, anyone who actually names the sins in the Bible as being sins that should be avoided are accused of being legalists.

But much of the talk about grace seems like VanVonderen’s—it completely misses the Bible. The grace of the Bible does not refuse to actually read (and say) what the Bible says.

What God defines the flesh for us in Galatians 5:19-21, we do not have the liberty to define some other way, even in the pursuit of a good message, which isn’t even good if it doesn’t deal with Scripture rightly.

The grace of the Bible is the grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-15).

The curious thing is that I doubt VanVonderen would allow for pornography, drunkenness, or thievery as legitimate practices of a Christian life. So why say it like he did?

I have no idea. I wonder if perhaps there is a fear of appearing legalistic. Perhaps a superficial understanding of grace. Maybe an oversight or a failure to write precisely. Maybe just a bone-headed “oops.”

Yet we must take care to say everything that the Bible says about grace and flesh, about holiness and sinfulness, about life in the Spirit and true salvation.

Let us not soft-pedal the grace of the gospel by failing to say everything that the Bible says about it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Around the Horn – 2/20/15

At first, here’s a long but interesting article on ISIS. It’s worth the read though it will take a bit. It gives insight in the mindset of ISIS, and should leave us feeling somewhat of the dilemma of the best way to deal with it.

At second, here’s an article about a photograph album containing previously unknown pictures from Auschwitz. Several people, having seen the picture, commented that “the strangest thing about the album for them is that a person can look again and again at the images and never find an answer to the question ‘How could you have done what you did?’” It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words but there are some words that pictures just cannot provide. I have always thought that something like World War II could never happen again, but having seen the recent events of ISIS, and reading the article above, it may well be that something like WWII might happen again.

At third, here’s a helpful article on public prayer. It’s something that those who pray publicly should give careful consideration to. Pastors often spend hours preparing their messages yet pray off the top of their head. Talking to God might be worth a little planning, particularly when others are going to be listening in and praying along.

And the homerun today is an amazing display that seems fairly useless. I am not sure what benefit this is, but I can't help but be impressed. And glad I don't have to learn how to do it.

And BTW, pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, which means only two things in the midwest: Spring is just months away and the Cubs are on the verge of elimination.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Around the Horn–1/16/15

At first, JD Greear brings it strong here on evangelism. It is one of the calls of pastoral ministry, and yet it seems like a lot of pastors ignore it in favor of other things. We need to consider the priority of evangelism in our lives as Christians, and especially as pastors.

At second, Christian hip-hop personality Lecrae confesses to an abortion. As we approach another anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the plight of the unborn should weigh heavily, as should the plight of the already born. But I wonder how much public confessions like these help. Perhaps for some it gives them the encouragement that they are not alone. But I also wonder if it gives some “street cred” in some sense. I am quite sure Lecrae is ashamed of it. But I admit to not knowing how to process testimonies like these. It seems like there is the attitude that if someone big or important or notable says something, it carries more weight than if someone else says it. Maybe it’s the clergification of the confession. 

At third, here’s an article asking “Does missions separate families?” He gives a longish answer. The short one is “Yes,” and the reason has to be “Because Jesus is worth it.”

Lastly, the book, The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead (about about a boy who died and went to heaven) is in the news for being fiction. The boy and his parents have now admitted it. Of course anyone with an ounce of discernment would have known it was false. But it speaks to the incredible naiveté of the Christian buying public (and it is a huge market). Be wary of things sold in the name of Jesus.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Around the Horn – New Year’s Edition – 1/2/15

At first, Paul Tripp talks about why New Year’s resolutions usually don’t work. Life change usually doesn’t come in one moment of crisis. It comes through the thousands of little things. So do a lot of little things. After a while, they add up.

At second, for those who love to see success stories and are motivated to dream and to act by them, here is a great one about a guy who climbed a really big mountain one day at a time. His issue might not be your issue, but the process of life change is largely the same for all. A lot of people want to be different, but few want to change. As a result, dreams die in the reality of daily life. If you want to be different, then change … and start with the little stuff.

At third, here’s an interesting article on why college students lose their faith. It has some helpful insights that should give us some insight in ministry. The preacher is, at least on one level, an interpreter of reality. It is our job to help people interpret the world around them through the authoritative lens of Scripture. Hiding from hard questions won’t suffice, and neither will pat answers.

For the homerun today, the two semi-final games for the college football playoff took place yesterday. I don’t know if anyone predicted that outcome, but my new year’s resolution is to bet on myself more often.

Monday, December 29, 2014

This and That

Sounds like Jim Harbaugh is going to Michigan to coach. Michigan fans should brace themselves for another two to three years of mediocrity as Harbaugh tries to rebuild and convince recruits that he will be there to coach them. That will be followed by another coaching search when Harbaugh bolts for the NFL, leaving the players he recruited high and dry. Once you have been to the Super Bowl, it seems doubtful you will be happy coaching college again.

Speaking of mediocrity, the College Football Playoff starts this week. The committee got it mostly right, given the hand they were dealt, having to choose only four teams. The miss is Florida State. A team that wins that many close games by so small a margin has no business being considered in the national championship picture. For those who say, “Winning is the name of the game and they were undefeated,” remember Boise State when winning wasn’t the name of the game. I imagine Oregon will beat FSU pretty handily, and OSU will beat Alabama. That will set up the Ducks and the Bucks for the national championship which will be an entertaining game. Put your money on the Buckeyes.

The CFP needs to go to eight teams. That would remove a lot of controversy. It’s hard to argue that TCU or Baylor aren’t as good as FSU. They certainly belong in the conversation.

But at four teams, Florida State doesn’t belong in that conversation.