Tag Archives: atonement

Of disciples and powers – or – Give to Caesar?

I’m going to take a risk at rambling here. I haven’t written on this site in over a year, I think. But this weighs heavy on my heart, and I want to get some thoughts out.

Christians debate round and around about politics, government and morality. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like the Accuser has us at one another’s throats to cut each other down and rip one another apart with our opinions and ideas.

First, let’s look at the calling of the church. We are the sons and daughters of God, the descendants of the “seed” mentioned in Hebrews. That seed being Christ, the seed of Abraham that was said to be a blessing to *all* the nations of the world.

We are meant to be a blessing to all of the nations.

Can we be a blessing if we’re busy cutting each other apart? Can we be any help if we’re at each others throats so much about how the world should be behaving that all they see is division, anger and hatred?

No, we cannot. And we will not should we choose to persist in our behavior.

We are behaving as those who do not believe in our King who intercedes for us before the throne of God. We are behaving as animals out for mere survival, thinking only of temporal nations and not the everlasting rule of the One True King that will never, ever end.

I think it is genuinely essential, crucial for us to look at the teachings of the early church, those who were mere generations after the apostles who walked and talked with our Lord and Messsiah. What did they have to say?

Origen quoted a prophecy of Isaiah:

Who among the believers does not know the words in Isaiah? “In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be revealed, and the house of the Lord on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills. All nations shall come to it. Many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his way, and we will walk in it.” For out of Zion shall go forth a law, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more [Isa. 1:2-5]. (Letter from Origen to Africanus 15)

The nations are not, at this moment coming to the House of the God of Jacob because we are so divided against one another. We are of this or that affiliation. We are on the left. We are on the right. We are of our opinion.

The church is meant to be a beacon of hope, light and life. They will see our love for one another and be amazed and say, “Look! See how they love each other? Let’s go and ask them how we should live!”

And our humble reply is to obey the master.

But no, they are not coming to us. I believe that part of this is because we are beating down their doors to force them into submission to a master they do not have any interest in serving.

Paul, in 1 Thessalonians tells us to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and work hard with our hands, that the outside world will see our work and glorify God. We don’t give them time to see us work hard and with love because we’re too busy NOT minding our own business and caring for the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not to spend our time judging and assessing the world and their ways, but to focus instead on one another in the church. That we should watch out that we do not behave as the pagans, or those who are not following the King do. He says that we would have no one to speak to if we insist on judging the world. That’s not our domain. No, ours is the church, the Kingdom.

We are a transcendent nation meant to go beyond any borders, tribe, tongue or political affiliation. We are not of this world. We are citizens of the king who have BEEN RANSOMED FROM THE VERY SYSTEM WE INSIST ON BEING PART OF AND PROPPING UP.

I’m no socialist, communist or capitalist. Though my earthly citizenship is in the U.S., I have to acknowledge that my King, the Christ, Jesus, ransomed me with His very blood to rescue me from thinking like this earthly nation. And not just this nation, every nation. One of the many things he has ransomed us from is the idea that the nations could ever fix it all.

The scriptures make clear that the nations and powers are tools of God. God uses them for his wrath and to carry out justice. But Jesus never allowed his disciples to take up this task. In fact, when Peter drew his sword to stand up for Jesus (the way we so often do day to day, thinking we need to defend the author of all life) he was disarmed and only made more glorious work for Jesus to carry out in healing.

Jesus had to heal the man Peter saw as an enemy of God. Peter had good intentions, the same as so many of us, and Jesus disarmed him despite those good intentions.

Can you see this scenario in our daily lives? We see so many as a threat to God and his morality. We draw swords and work hard to control the powers of this world. But when we play by their rules, drawing the sword (whether by word or deed) we only wind up cutting off ears and making more work for the Father to do despite our actions.

As far as participating in violence goes, there’s not room here for me to list the many, many writings from the early church fathers regarding this. They are clear. For some meaty lists, Christian History for Everyman or go here for another list that is even longer.

In my opinion, there’s no disputing what they had to say. They were clear. Those in the first 3 centuries of what we call Christianity were forbidden to participate in the violence of the powers.

Personally, I would go even farther to simply look at the example of Jesus himself. He and the disciples stood, walked and talked in the midst of one of the most horrid, debased empires. The debauchery around them was intense. And yet, you don’t hear Jesus speaking out against the governing powers of Rome. Instead, he focused on those who were trying to follow his heavenly Father.

He even stood before the powers, innocent and blameless, and subverted them by submitting to death. He overthrew them by being still rather than overthrowing them with the very tactics that they used day in and out.

Our King rules with a power that submits and subverts, overthrowing with love, rather than force. There are no laws against the calling of Christ to love one another. The powers cannot stop us.

He taught us to pay our taxes without complaint.

Paul and Peter taught us to pray for our rulers, regardless their sin. It should be noted that they did this during the time of Nero, a disgusting man who would light Christians up as torches to light his garden. He enjoyed our torture. Yet Paul and Peter were still there telling us to submit, as our Lord did. To pray and beg God for mercy and grace on them.

Christ, Paul, Peter, John… they all stood before the horrid authorities over them knowing full well that God is our defender.

The martyrs throughout the centuries faced the beasts and executioners knowing full well that God is our defender.

We, however, live in fear of a nation falling apart in immorality.

God is still our defender. And fear IS NOT A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. 

The difference I see between us and the early church is that we have a government that seemingly asks and requires our participation. Rome did not do this. America, however, permits us to have a voice.

Therefore, we really should do what we can.

But, this does not mean that we should behave as though we are fighting for America. We are not, and it is imperative that we DO NOT.

The Kingdom of the Living God is the goal. His kingdom is eternal and will have no end.

The nations of this world will, without doubt, pass away and no trace of them remain in the scope of the rule of our King.

Don’t be afraid. Set your eyes on Christ, the king. He will defend. He does not need us to pick up swords, whether physical, emotional or the swords of our tongues. He needs us to live, love and move in Him and Him alone.

Do we hide our heads in the sand? No. Speak up as you are given right to for *actual* injustice. But do so in the Spirit of our King, not on the basis of opinion.

Our opinions and mindsets cannot be fueled by the talking heads of our age. We cannot allow the church to be shaped and molded and manipulated by Spirit of the age that keeps us fighting. The fighting and bickering is their culture, and not ours. 

We were never told that the world would know us because we fight, argue and scream louder. No, they will know us by our love. Our minds must be renewed to not get entangled with their logic that the cross has turned into foolishness.

Yes, the cross has turned their culture and political wars into foolishness.

We have to give ourselves over to this truth, the cross is foolishness to the wise of this world. Our minds must be given over to THE WAY of Christ to be renewed and saved from thinking about ruling the world the way the powers, people and cultures who war against one another.

There is no power that can go to war against the love presented in the Cross.

There is no power that can prevail against it.

If, however, we spend our time listening to the logic of the world rather than the teaching and instruction of our master, we will fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our faith. What we do is call ourselves Christians, but neglect to let the love and clear teaching of Jesus guide our actions, mindsets and even our voting.

Instead of weighing who to vote for or what causes is just against ideologies like Capitalism or Socialism, we should be weighing all things against the living, breathing WORD of God who walks and talks with his Church.

If we do not weigh all things this way, the cross, when presented, will look like nonsense. We will scoff at loving actions because they do not line up with our ideologies.

Make no mistake, the way of Christ, His love and self sacrifice *is* a threat to every power because, in the end, it will undermine all of them. But, if *all* submit to the Way, then the powers have nothing to do. The systems break down. The poor are cared for and the rich are generous.

Sure, the thought of those last few statements may make some bristle, but it *is* the picture painted by the scriptures, and it is the heart of God that all of his children live together, in harmony and generosity.

We are meant to be the salt of the earth. We are meant to be the Body of the Living Christ.

May we all ask ourselves, every morning and night, “Father, how is my mind overpowered by the culture around me? Teach me, loving Father to think like you think. Teach us to love as you love. Teach us to see what you see. Teach us, blessed King, teach us how to live.”

Red Letter Christian? I think it’s worth it

Okay class, today we’re going to do some critical thinking.

I read something yesterday that really frustrated me. I knew that it was a problem- but now I’m seeing just how deep it goes. Again I’ll say it, I’m no theologian, but I really love Christ. I believe that he truly is the very Word of God- sent to show us the way. That being said, let me show you a quote from a pastor that I found yesterday, complaining about Rob Bell’s theology.

“Rob Bell makes me mad because he preaches an anti-gospel. He craftily does this by portraying the essence of Christianity as following Jesus and treating people the way Jesus did. While this is important, living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Missing this is no small oversight by Bell. It is missing that which is of first importance! Over and over again he talks about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus’ work! This is scandalous.”

Sometimes I get so frustrated at the evil rut of deception that we’ve fallen into. Somehow, we’ve made these concise little boxes to put the fullness of God in, and we keep adding duct tape and bizarre logic and reasoning. But this is God we’re talking about. The creator of ALL THINGS!!! How arrogant are we to put him in a box.

Rob Bell said in Velvet Elvis, that “…our words are not absolute, only God is absolute…” This is the sort of statement that makes the evangelicals twitch. They cry ‘relativism’… but I cry, “Have humility! Humble yourself before God and let the almighty teach you!”

Now- I’m gonna ask a couple questions that to me, make this whole idea that substitionary atonement is the center of Christianity fall apart.

So, the essence of Christianity isn’t doing exactly what Christ told us to? It’s not living the ‘life of Christ?’

Does that make anyone else scratch their heads?

And, did Christ ever teach this atonement? Because, if I’m not mistaken, he walked around preaching the Gospel… He never seemed to mention this. And come to think- the apostles don’t seem too bent on it in Acts either.

And didn’t Christ send out 70 disciples to preach the Gospel BEFORE he was crucified? So what were these guys telling people?

It just doesn’t hold water.

In his book, ‘Who Really Goes to Hell’ David Rudel explains that for a long time we’ve judged Christ in light of Paul. This is a mistake. We’ve got to learn to judge Paul- as well as everything else, in light of Christ.

And what do you get when you do this?

Well, turns out that there really is a very narrow road to walk. And Christ walked it first, to show us the way… He walked it to the death, and even kept going after that.

Christ brought us a life to live, not a bunch of stuff to stick in our heads. Everything he taught was practical and real. And I tell you the truth, BELIEVING IN HIM MEANS THAT YOU STRIVE TO DO EVERY SINGLE THING HE SAID, trusting that his words are true. And it’s funny, some say that this mentality robs the cross of it’s power. I beg to differ. This is a narrow road, and it’s a cheap faith to make the teachings of the very author of the faith, as he walked around in flesh, a secondary item to being a follower. That’s just nonsense.

Seriously… step back and take a look at that quote above. It’s typical of arguments lately. “...living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is).” Am I the only one that finds that statement to make my brain want to pop in my weak little skull. That’s like saying “Riding your bike every day is not the essence of being a good cyclist.” Or “Eating healthy is not the essence of a good diet.” or “Listening to your friends isn’t necessary for being a good friend.” or even more applicable- “Obeying your father is not the essence of being a good son.” It’s nuts. Isn’t it? C’mon… really? That’s just nuts.

Christ brought a life, to save us from our wicked age and generation. He came to display this life and set us free. He came that we would have life abundantly. Everything he did was about a life.

I made a guy really mad the other day when I told him that we need to look at Christ first and believe him and only interpret everything else in light of him. This didn’t work for this guy. He wanted to use Paul to interpret Jesus. But I think Paul would be pretty upset at this.

Its sad how far we’ve come from truly allowing Christ to do his work. He came to show us, as a people, the Father and his nature. He didn’t want us having a warped and messed up view of him. So he walked and talked with us- to show us the truth. And then in turn, he wanted us to live out what he showed us, as a people, so that we can keep showing the world what the Father really looks like.

So is it wrong to utilize what he gave us in the manner it was intended?

No- it’s not!

Christians, it’s okay to question it all and for the whole supposed system of atonement to fall apart. I believe in the atonement… And currently, I’m relearning what it is. It may take me a lifetime to get it, but that’s okay. Understanding always follows obedience. It can look crazy at first- but on the other side, there’s illumination. I want to be okay with that. The scriptures are full of examples of people who just did not get what God was asking them to do, but they did it, and on the other side, saw his glory. This has been the case over and over and over in my life as well… how bout yours?

It’s okay to look at the compassion of Christ and realize that God is not this angry monster that Jesus had to protect and save us from. Christ said that if we’ve seen him, we’ve seen the Father- I can’t say that enough times- Christ is a picture of what God himself looks like- every action, word, kindness and teaching… So something doesn’t line up.

I believe in Christ. His way is best, and his way is the only way. Obeying him will always result in life. And I’m really grateful that I can’t put him in a box.

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Homework-

So we’ve all got some unlearning to do, and it’s a wonderful adventure.

Here’s a challenge that David Rudel proposed: read Mark, straight through. Mark was Peter’s disciple, and wrote the book to give people a written account of what Peter was teaching. Mark is a long version of his sermons.

Those few pages are all those people had and all that Mark deemed that they needed to know of Christ. It’s an awesome and liberating thing.

I hope that I’ve created more problems than I’ve solved today- these are good problems to have.

I pray that you open your eyes to the wonder and mystery of God. I pray that you’re in awe of him today. I pray that you meet him and believe him and do as he says.

Did God get saved? -or- A love that makes us beautiful

I’m probably gonna start some controversy here- but to be honest, I’m not real interested in duking it out about exactly what the atonement is. If you think you understand it, then that’s probably a good sign that you don’t. I’m learning to enjoy more and more every day the greatness and mystery of our mighty and amazing God. And I’m really glad that God is so massive and beyond me, that I can rest in him, and not have to stress defending him… I’ll let him defend me. So let’s talk about his love.

________

He died for us, while we were yet sinners.

The apostle Paul said it clearly- while we were yet sinners- he died. God sent the Christ to do this. He didn’t send him to appease his own nasty angry nature- some pagan offering of blood once and for all- no… He came that we might know the depth and width and height and richness of his amazing love for us.

He came with a love that went all the way to the death.

He said, “You’re worth it- even death can’t stop my love for you! Look at how far I’ll go!”

And death could not hold him.

And many times did Christ say, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” So look at him, look at the Christ- this suffering servant- this pitiful man who submitted himself to pain and suffering- who rode an donkey into glory- who was born of a woman called a whore, a bastard son, born in controversy in a seemingly God-forsaken town. Christ, whose glory did not, and would not look like the mighty of his age, or any age, would come to show us just what the Father really looks like.

God didn’t need Christ to die in order for him to be able to  love us – God wanted to die to show us how much he loved us. That’s true- and it’s life changing.

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I heard a statement this morning from an audio book that I’m listening to. It hit me hard. The author was talking about the passage from Romans that I sited in the first line of this post, as well as chapter 5 of Ephesians. He said that the love talked of in these passages, is ‘Agape’ love.

I’ve heard agape love talked about many times, but this time it really got my attention.

This author described this love as a love that doesn’t need us to be beautiful or ‘right’ in order to love us, but instead, it’s this love that transforms, or beautifies us. This love, agape love, makes beautiful. It is given without prerequisite or requirement, and in this case, it’s the very nature of the Father. It’s why he made you, and why he longs to have you near him, and then, to spread that same love around.

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This post may seem simple, or odd or whatever- but that really hit me hard.

A love that makes beautiful.

My love is so often rooted in selfishness and personal gain. I receive something, so I am motivated to give back. I get something out of it.

And it’s funny, this love from God, it works in an interesting way- we get access to the Father of creation, the very founder of the universe (no matter how you think he brought that into being) and this love recreates our messed up selves from the inside out, bringing us back to our true selves. We are infused and imprinted with the very nature of the Father- partakers of his amazing Spirit, and co-workers with him. Dwell on that- dwell on it for a long time.

Then he turns us around and says, “Go and do for others what I’ve done for you. Give it away. Make the world beautiful. Just like Jesus- go show everyone what I really look like.”

There’s a lot to talk about here, but I think I’ll stop with that… a love that makes things beautiful…

Something sick, and something beautiful

Well, the other day my friend, Shammah posted something about a video he had seen on ‘God Tube’…

The video was sick. But you may find it normal if you watch it. But there’s things there to look very closely at. So, before you read on, you should watch it to have any clue what I’m saying.

The one that stuck out to me the most, however, was the guy who gave his life digging wells, helping orphans and so on. Of course they had the guy act a little arrogant. And then, they weigh out his ‘goodness’ and sure enough, he didn’t make the cut.

Then, the dumb looking, dopey ‘christian’ walks up with a folder filled with sins… Jesus himself, (you could tell it was him because he had a goofy shirt on that said ‘Jesus’) he walks up and takes the scale for the bum.

Am I mistaken? Did not Isaiah say that true religion was caring for widows and orphans. And if you read Shammah’s blog, you’ll see an irrefutable passage, straight from the lips of Christ, talking of what the judgment truly is.

A video like this is irresponsible and gives license to so many bad paths. Those unfamiliar with these sorts of doctrines are easily left to believe that whatever powerless and impotent god set this standard has been now thwarted by his… um… son? Because if this Jesus fellow stands up for us, and God looks at him instead of us… then I guess we’re okay? What?

What on earth is that?

It makes no sense whatsover!!!

I know Jesus. He’s changed my life…. HE’S CHANGED ME! And he didn’t do it by making God look at Him instead of me, He did it for real. He entered my life and day by day is transforming me.

Ask anyone who knew me 10 years ago. I’m not the same.

Ask anyone who knew me 1 year ago. I’m not the same.

My Father, the God of creation is awesome. Because I’m a sick, self-driven individual, and He’s bit by bit working His way through the blackened nooks and crannies of my heart. I’m so thankful for it.

I’m really glad that I’m not amassing some massive file folder of sin and mistakes that God’s going to have to overlook because of some dogmatic loop hole. I get to look at my mistakes each and every day in the lap of my Father. He sends His Spirit to guide me, and the Church around me, day by day, to truth. And if you see good fruit in us, then well, there ya go. It’s because He’s really really real!

Anyway… I’m glad I’m His. I’m glad that the Father wants me, and you, near him, and He truly did send His son to bring us there.

I suppose that the main reason I’m posting this, is because I don’t want my friends believing and following a weak kneed, powerless god that can’t ever change you, help you, truly set you free, but only pretend or turn a blind eye away from you, and act like nothing ever happened.

I don’t want you to miss out on what the power of Christ can really do. If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!… and not just in theory.