Gospel

In 1 Cor. 15:3-6, Paul recounts his gospel.  Those who would participate in evangelizing the world, do well to consider this passage.  First, notice the brevity of Paul’s statement.  In just 25 words, Paul relates the crucial elements of the gospel – “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Notice also the repetition of the phrase, “according to the Scriptures.”  Paul didn’t expect blind faith in his assertions.  He took the trouble to point out the Old Testament allusions and prophecies pointing to Christ.  This approach commends the message as true when compared with other religions.  Take as an example a Muslim friend of mine.  Though he won’t admit it, he has worked hard to convert me.  In response I have challenged him by saying, “I can prove the gospel with only the Old Testament.  Can you prove the truth of the Qur’an with only the New Testament?”  His honest response was, “No, I can’t.”  A God who claims to live above time ought to be able to give us a heads up about what he’s going to do.  Not only so, but if the gospel is true then we ought to find passages in the Old Testament which make no sense apart from the fulfillment in Christ.  Isaiah 53 is such a passage.

Not only did Paul call the Scriptures to testify about his message, he also could point to a contemporary witness of these events – Peter, The Twelve, the 500, and then James.  One might say, “Okay, so that was good for Paul since many of these people were still alive in his day but what about us at the first part of the 21st century?”  The answer can be found in the final witness he listed, “Last of all to me.”  Because Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, we can expect him to continue to express himself in various other ways – changed life stories, healings, dreams, and visions.  Everyone who has encountered the risen Christ has a story to tell.

So, to preach the gospel like Paul we should 1. succintly share the facts, 2. support them with Scripture, and 3. weave our own experience and that of others into an effective gospel presentation.  See my attempt at covering these elements below:

The world is a messed up place.  The Bible says that it’s messed up because people rebelled against their creator and did things that were wrong – they sinned.  God plans to fix the world but he must first deal with sin.  God’s messenger, Isaiah, foretold that God would send his Chosen One to die as punishment for sins, be buried and rise again to turn people away from living sinful lives.  700 years later Jesus Christ came and did what was foretold by dying on a cross for our sin and rising to life again.  I’ve accepted his death as payment for my wrongs. He’s set me free from the guilt and power of sin.  Now I’m looking forward to his return when he’ll fix this broken world where his people will live forever.

A Little Peace

Why do Christian leaders tell people that they should tithe?  I don’t have the definitive answer but I do believe that I know something true about tithing.  Tithing is not for the generous but for the stingy.  Generous people need only hear of the need and they will meet it.  They do not need a minimum compulsory amount.  Church leaders feel the need to teach on tithing because they are leading a group of selfish people.  Take the selfishness one step further and tell the “givers” that God will return even more to them if they do tithe.

There was a time for tithing.  God assumed selfishness in the unredeemed people of Israel and made provision for it.  For those who have been implanted with the love of God, tithing has become obsolete.  The saddest aspect of tithing teaching is when we presume selfishness from the redeemed,  they begin to be selfish.

Here’s what Paul said about a general legalistic approach, which would include tithing.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.   Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers  of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.   We know that the law is good  if one uses it properly.  We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels,   the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious… (1 Timothy 1:5-9a)

Don’t just stand there! Stand up! {Guest Post}

A more prosaic post by my post-Christian friend, Zane Gilley.

Years ago, while I was still Christian, I had this great idea for a song about the three young men in the fiery furnace.  I don’t recall any of the verses of it, but the chorus still comes readily to mind.

  “What’s it to you, O Nebuchadnezzar,
   Why do we care, what you do to us?
   The God that we serve, lives ever and ever,
   And he has the pow’r to deliver us.” 
 

 The reason I am writing this today is because in the story, these three men believed in something.  They believed in it strongly. And when they were tested, the believed it defiantly.

 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

These men believed the bowing to images was evil, and they acted accordingly.  No man, no matter how powerful was going to tell them to do evil.

Just like in Acts 17:11, years ago, I searched the scriptures daily to see if those things were true.  My conclusions are likely not the same conclusions others may draw.  The important thing is the quest for truth, and the knowledge of it.  If more people would “buy the truth and sell it not”, this world we live would become a much better place.

It is true that peoples’ visions of the truth are as populous as their opinions.  This tends to lead to all manner of aggression; but it does not need to be so.  I can get along with near everyone, so long as I am not being preached at.  Then, I desire to do the same.

I, like Paul, can be all things to all men.  I can argue with the preachings on the hill, or I can concentrate on the things that make life better for all, such as peace, love, and forgiveness.

Going back to the beginning, everyone needs to stop expecting for things to either fall into their laps, or end up against their wishes.

It is better to go out and act.  Do what it takes to make the world better lived in.  Remember, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Don’t just stand there!  Stand up!

Psalm 2 {Guest Post}

It’s my privilege to post another “Christian” poem by my favorite “post-Christian” poet, Zane Gilley.  Thanks for your contribution, Zane.  Beautiful work.

Psalm II
Why do the heathens fill themselves with rage
And the peoples imagine things in vain?
The monarchs of the world themselves engage
And rulers counsel and bring forth a plan
Against Almighty Jehovah on high
And the one he has annointed, saying,
“Let us break these bands we are restrained by,
And these cords away from us let us fling.”
The One enthroned in the heavens will laugh,
Jehovah God shall have them to deride.
Then he will speak unto them with his wrath
With his fury, they shall be terrified.
“I have placed upon the holy mountain
   Of Zion my king, the Anointed One.”
 
I proclaim the words of Jehovah One
That he has gracefully made known to me,
“Thou hast now become my beloved son
Even this day I have begotten thee.
Ask it of me, and I shall answer thee
Give thee thy inheritance, the heathen
And the farthest lands across the wide sea
To thee, begotten, for thine possession.
With your rod of iron broken are they,
And dashed into pieces like pottery.”
 
Now, O kings learn this lesson of wisdom
You rulers of the earth are warned of him.
Serve the Annointed One with holy fear
With much trembing kiss meekly his feet dear,
Lest he be enraged, you’ll die in his path,
For quickly kindled is his divine wrath.
 
Blessed are all that will
Take refuge in him still.

Psalm 1 {Guest Post}

A new friend, Zane Gilley, who now ironically is an atheist has sent me a couple of poetic adaptations of the Psalms which it is my pleasure to post here at the savant spot.  Enjoy!

Psalm I
Blessed be the man who doeth these things three:
Walketh not in the ungodly counsel,
Standeth not in the way of sinner’s feet,
Sitteth not in the seat of the scornful.
But he places his devoted delight
In the holiest laws of Jehovah.
He, all through the day and throughout the night,
Reverently meditates on the law.
He is like a tree planted by rivers
Of the liquid life giving sustenance.
He beareth fruit in season and offers
Lasting shade for those who under him chance.
Whatever he sets forth to do prospers
Giving the life of his neighbors enhance.
With the ungodly these things are not so,
For they are likened unto the dry chaff
That the winnowing wind that God dost blow
Carries away from the godly with wrath.
Therefore these men ungodly shall not stand
During the final day of God’s judging,
Nor shall these unholy ones have a hand
In holy righteous saints’ congregating.
For the mind of Jehovah Almighty
Knoweth the blessed way of the righteous,
But the accursed way of the ungodly
Will with gnashing of teeth ever perish.

 

Religious Unbelief

The Bible warns against unbelief but not against atheism per se.  How could the writers of the Scriptures have warned against atheism?  There weren’t any atheists.  I’ve heard commentators on a local Christian radio station aim Psalm 14:1 (“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”) at atheists.  Of course the implication becomes, “Atheists are fools.”  However, should you have met the 10th century B.C.E. Jewish citizen to which the psalmist referred, he would have confessed to a belief in the existence of God.  The psalmist was not saying that avowed atheists are fools.  He was saying that fools secretly (in their hearts) suppress their awareness of God.

So who are the fools?  The rest of Psalm 14 describes these religious unbelievers as those who elevate themselves by pushing others down.  Such people by their actions deny God as their source.  They may claim to believe that God exists, but they do not trust him to supply them with security, sustenance or self-worth.  They maneuver and manipulate to get for themselves what others have or might acquire.  Such people pray and attend religious services but they do not expect God to respond to their petitions.  Instead, they engage in these activities to further establish their superiority.

As a case in point, consider Jesus’ very telling question addressed to the religious elite of his day, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NIV)  These men who stood at the peak of the religious establishment of their day were unbelievers according to Jesus.  From their lofty perch they congratulated each other on their moral superiority and derided everyone else.  They traded genuine engagement with the Basis of their being for the illusion of relative worth.  Rather than find the favor of God, they fed on the “failures” of those whom they defamed.  “They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the LORD.” (Ps. 14:4b NIV)

Faith, real faith, is a foreign concept.  People will seek any alternative to humble reliance on God.  Each alternative counterfeits the genuine treasure of our existence.  The most dangerous counterfeits most closely resemble the genuine article.  Those who accept religious achievement as heavenly currency are among the most desperately deceived.  Beware religious unbelief.