Last week, we talked about how important thoughts are.
This week I want to continue that theme as we look at a passage in Galatians. Our thinking about sin and righteousness just plain matters. In the first century, Paul, who was a Jew among Jews (Gal. 1:13-14), was radically transformed into the Apostle that we know so well for reaching Gentiles (non-Jews) with the Gospel. When he converted, he eventually joined the rest of the Apostles. In Galatians, Paul recalls a 'disagreement' he had with Peter (yes, Peter.) and a few of the other Apostles. (And you thought disputes in church were a recent thing?) Paul literally got in Peter's face about being a hypocrite. When Peter was at Antioch, he had no problem eating with Gentiles until some folks arrived that said that believers had to be circumcised. Peter was afraid that he would be seen eating with these uncircumcised Gentiles, so he stopped eating with them!
Paul openly rebuked him, asking him why he should expect Gentiles to live as Jews, when he (a Jewish believer) lived as a Gentile? Paul then reminded Peter that justification (being made right with God) was not from keeping the Law (Old Testament requirements), but by faith in Christ!
Now, I could rant and rave about how churches have all kinds of traditions that they force people to participate in, but I'd rather address a deeper question...
What is your salvation based on?
Some of the early Jewish-Christian believers of the 1st century struggled to welcome Gentiles into the church. After all, they were the good, moral, circumcised, Sabbath-keeping ones. They were appalled by these Gentiles walking around like they own the place. After all, these 'other' people didn't keep the Sabbath, they weren't circumcised, they ate pork and other non-kosher food... they just weren't like them! How could these people be believers?
The Apostle Paul consistently reminds us that we are not saved by what we do, but by the grace of God. That's it! It's true! Done deal! You don't have to jump through all the right hoops or measure up to any standards.
"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from the law, then Christ died in vain." - Galatians 2:21
May we recognise where our life comes from, and extend grace even to those who don't dress, talk, smell, look or act like we do.
Trusting in His Grace,
18 July 2005
Last week, we talked about how important thoughts are.
11 July 2005
Thoughts, Feelings, Actions
Here's a theologically loaded statement:
Right beliefs (ortho-doxy) create right feelings and lead to right actions (ortho-praxy).
As Christ-ians, our life (and thereby, our life-STYLE as well) is all about Christ. This is true isn't it? Whatever we think, feel or do ought to be thought, felt or done in regard to Christ. Pretty amazing to think that Christ wants to renew our thinking, give us joy, and (as if that's not enough) DO great things through us.
It starts with our thinking or our beliefs, doesn't it? They are of utmost importance. When we actually believe that the God of the universe would not just merely be interested in us, but also would be willing to die for us, that has an effect on us!
Once we are thinking straight, and it starts to sink in that Christ paid a debt that we would never have been able to pay, I'm just guessing that our feelings should take perhaps a small positive turn! That is what joy is all about! Would a prisoner that had been freed from a death-sentence show no emotion? Well, whether you realise it or not, or just have forgotten, If you are a Christian, you were a prisoner, and you have been set free from your death sentence!
This is where it gets interesting. We tend to be terribly distracted when our actions (or someone else's) are either lacking or not of the right "kind." If we're not careful, we can slip into a pattern of thinking that our actions shape and form our beliefs. It's the other way around. Our REAL thoughts and beliefs are seen in the way we act. It's a tricky distinction that can easily be missed. Put plainly, you can't serve your way into having Christian beliefs. You can, however, believe your way into serving in a Christian way. As church-type-people, we often act like the former statement is true. We care less about what people believe or how they feel, and instead just try to find ways to get all of the Christian jobs done! We must not do this.
If you are experiencing a 'dry spell' in your Christian life, check your beliefs and feelings. One of the many great things about the Christian life is that we are not simply converted and then put on a shelf, we are grown, tested, tried, bruised, etc. These bumps are to cause us to remember Who we are intended to rely upon. The dry spells aren't there to get us to try harder, but to help us realise our inability to please God with our flesh, and remember Who our strength is. One of the greatest passages in the Bible about God's will for living the Christian life is the beginning of the 12th chapter of Romans. Among other things, it says to "be transformed (continually) by the renewing of your mind."
Thoughts are important.
4 July 2005
Find True Love Now...
What's More Fun Than Love?
Live. Love. Learn.
Perhaps you've seen the following tag-lines for one of the latest online dating services, called True. The success of such services says something about the way we think about love.
We seem to want it really bad.
We seem to hope we "find" it someday.
Also, we seem to be extremely afraid of getting hurt by it.
Thoughts matter. The Bible says, "as a man thinks, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7) Our thoughts determine our actions. So, what is wrong with our thinking about love? It's not just about romantic love, either. May I make a few suggestions that will hopefully apply to all of us?
We are all familiar with how abused the word love is, right? I love ice cream... I love God... I love my brother... etc. It appears that we often think that love is simply what it means to like something so much that your affection for the thing moves outside the realm of 'like' and into the green pasture of 'love.' While this is partially true, I think we're missing one of the most essential aspects of love.
As humans, we are just selfish. This is the easiest truth to demonstrate. We love ice cream because it does something for our taste buds, or we might love email, because it makes it easier for US to stay in touch. When we apply this logic to inter-personal relationships, we end up 'loving' people because they do something we like, make us feel a certain way, etc. As long as they maintain this appealing quality, we continue to 'love' them.
Stop thinking like that. (Romans 12:2)
If we continue to love one another like that, we are destined for failure. The minute someone lets us down or doesn't meet our expectations, we withdraw from what we thought was love. Imagine if God loved us like that! We would have NO hope. Perhaps that's what Paul was getting at when in 1 Corinthians 13 he talks about this long-suffering, not self-seeking, patient kind of love. Perhaps that's what Jesus was getting at when he challenged the disciples to love their enemies, for "if you only love those that love you, what reward is there in that?" After all, Christ died for us "while we were yet sinners."
You might be starting to realise just how HARD it is to love people that are... well... HARD to love.
Next week, we'll look at what Galatians 5 has to say about HOW to love like that.
In His Grace,