Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

Well, we're winding up our study in chapter 10 with the very pointed question of "What in the world does this mean for me?". I think it's unanimous that going through this book together has challenged us in areas of our lives that will and has drawn us closer to our Creator... our Savior. It's helped us to realize that the word of God, the Bible is living and continually revealing Gods will and His working in our lives. God truly loves his children and has more in store for us than we could ever imagine, as long as we let the Creator to continue to be creative in us. It becomes so easy to just muddle through life and really not have to live by faith in God, which He has equipped us to do. If we aren't very careful, our faith will tend to be more in our jobs, our bank account, our retirement, our insurance policies our relationships and so on. We'll find ourselves only calling on and relying on God when we have exhausted all other resources. Trusting in God alone can sometimes be very scary, believe me, I know and more importantly, God knows. That's a huge part of why God sent the Comforter... the Counselor... the Holy Spirit. God knows that left in and of ourselves, we would fail to trust Him but the Holy Spirit is continually at work in us and longs to lead us toward Gods will, if we would but heed His call. After all, it is all believers who make up the body of Christ... the church, and He is the head. The question we have to ask is, "What part am I?" and "Is that part hindered or helped by me?". If I am a part of the arm, how is the arm doing? Is the arm, or at least my part of the arm, listening to and obeying the commands of the head? It is prudent for us to remember that, as believers go, so goes the church. In other words, how we as believers live out our lives is a small picture of the life of the church. If we're not happy with the direction the church of today is going, maybe we need to look at the direction we are going. Does my faith... my obedience... my life, look anything like that of the believers of the early church?
The bottom line or the crux of the matter is, God will accomplish his plan. The question is, will we be obedient to follow along the way, or will we be in the way? How will we answer the King when He asks us what we did with what He gave us? The answer to that question... is eternal.
May we ever remember and never forget the magnificent, undeserving, life saving, truly unfathomable, crazy love the Lord Jesus Christ has for us.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In chapter 9 we saw the manifestation of chapter 8. Chapter 8 talked about what people who are obsessed with Jesus look like, act like, talk like and so on. Chapter 9 revealed to us some real life examples of just those kind of Godly, sold out to Jesus people. You would think that one might read stories of people like that and be left feeling inadequate, like, what's the point? I could never measure up to someone like that. Those people are "Super Christians". But that wasn't the case at all, in fact it was quite the contrary, I believe we were left feeling inspired. To know that these people are just a few among many who where not born "Super Christians", they where born again to a "Super God". It encourages us to know that this same God and wonderful savior, who called us from death to life, that has done this great work in these ordinary people, can do the same with us. We also talked about many people whom we look up to, many in our own church, as Godly roll models and also what kind of legacy we would want to leave behind to inspire others to follow whole heatedly after Jesus. Many times though we are far too fast to come up with excuses of why we can't do something, or to say it's too much or it's too hard, rather than believing God to sustain us through any obstacles that satan may place in our path. We have a wonderful fellowship of believers at Shiloh that has proven through the years to step out and to go and to do where many would not. I have seen the hand of God on our church many times over the years and I am so thankful to be apart of such a blessed people. I don't think at all that our church is without problems or more Godly than others, but I do think that God, in His rich grace and mercy and divine purpose, has chosen Shiloh for His glory.
I am so thankful that God chose me to be apart of His wonderful family and kingdom. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why He did. Why He would choose a wretch like me. I assure you, it was nothing He seen in me, at least that was of me. I pray God would continue to remove those blinding scales from my eyes so that I may see clearly the path He has for me. Thank you for praying for me and I will be careful to pray for you as well. To God be the glory.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In chapter 8 we discussed those who are obsessed and questioned if that would be a description of us. What Comes to mind when you think of the word obsessed. I think of someone who is so fixated on something that they are totally oblivious to everything else. I think we can all agree that in most cases being obsessed is not a good thing. But what about being obsessed with Jesus? That brings up the question of being so Heavenly minded that you are no Earthly good. I'm not sure that's even a legitimate question. If we are obsessed with Jesus, it's not possible to be totally oblivious to everything else. At least in the sense that we don't care for others, because that's exactly what Jesus would want us to do, care for others. But it does mean that there is absolutely nothing else that matters more than Jesus. Being totally attuned to Him, His word and His will. I am ashamed to admit, that doesn't describe me near enough. Many days I fall far short of that. But when you think about it, what else matters more?... Ever?... Our comfort? Our bank account? Our home? Our safety?... Our Pride? Many times these things get in the way of the rich blessings the Father wishes to bestow on us, but they are never acceptable, nor are they sufficient. Holding back from our Saviour only robs us of our joy, true joy that is. Far too often our joy is dictated by the ebb and flow of life's circumstances. We must choose joy and then work for it, even in (or, especially in) the difficult and sometimes painful circumstances of life. I think of Paul and Silas singing and praising Jesus, even while they where chained and imprisoned in a cold dark cell. Why would they do that? They knew then what we need to know now, true joy is formed in the midst of trials. That's when we come the closest to, and the most intimate with Jesus who suffered much for you and me. He goes to bat for us before the Father every time we fail? He is our advocate, He spent Himself for us that we might have eternity with Him, suffer free.
No, I think the answer is that we can't be too Heavenly minded. In fact, we should be obsessed with it, holding nothing back. All our comfort, our money, our safety and our pride should be at His disposal... Spend it all!!!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship Class

In Chapter 7 we learned about the sacrifice of this life for the rewards of the next. We come to the realization that we aren't living forever after we die, we're living forever now. We'll have that twinkling of an eye moment when death comes to our door, then go right on living. But, oh how different living will be then. We learned of the silliness of putting so much infuses on money and stuff in the short time we have on this side of eternity. In fact, we should live this life with abandon for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. All too often we are content with just playing it safe and blending in. Jesus never would have been accused of blending in, more likely, a radical. His walk matched His talk and His motivation was love. John must have been thinking of Jesus' example when he wrote in the 3rd chapter of his first epistle "Little children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth". True love requires sacrifice and NO ONE portrayed that more than our Savior. Jesus gave of Himself, in fact, He spent Himself for others as an example for us to follow. We must learn to love and give as Christ did, to the extent that it's a natural response, so that just looking out for me and mine becomes unattractive.
God has given to us and invested in us that we might give to and invest in others. It gains us no reward to spend on ourselves, but we will be truly blessed when we spend ourselves on others. Why? Because this world is not our home and will never compare to the best life, which is to come.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Crazy Love Discipleship CLass

In chapter 6 we sought out our love for Jesus. We thought about what it's like to be "in love" and then compared that with the feeling we have for our savior. Are we "in love" with Jesus? You would think that would be an easy "yes", but then we were faced with a question from John Piper's book "God Is the Gospel". The question: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, all your friends, all your favorite food, your favorite activities, all of natures beauty, no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there? It's alarming for me to think that sometimes I might be OK with that. But thank God, that even the love I have for Him, comes from Him. The love that God provides produces the freedom in us to see with unveiled eyes the truly unconditional love He has displayed for us. The realization that God chose us to be His own and for absolutely nothing we did to deserve it, in fact we deserved the opposite, for Him to turn His back on us. To realize that of all the deserving attributes the Bible contributes to God: the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of all that is, of all that, Jesus said when we pray, say "our Father". Wow! This is the relationship that He wants with you and me. The awe inspiring humbleness that comes with that knowledge should draw us unto Himself and free us to love others as ourselves. It should free us from living in the bondage of sin. In Christ we are free, we are free indeed. There will always be troubles and hardships on this side of heaven, Jesus said we can count on it, but He has also given us all we need, so that we may endure. He's given us... Himself.
Pray with me that we would remember this awesome truth, in the midst of the trials.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism

I have briefly introduced each of these views over the last few days. I will now seek to offer you a chart to compare the two views on their main points. I will then begin to examine each point more clearly over the next weeks.

Free-Will or Human Ability
Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man's freedom. Each sinner posses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man's freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God's Spirit and be regenerated or resist God's grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit's assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man's act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner's gift to God; it is man's contribution to salvation.

Total Inability or Total Depravity
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not - indeed he cannot - choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ - it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation - it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.

Conditional Election
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man's will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner's choice of Christ, not God's choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Unconditional Election
God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God's choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Universal Redemption or General Atonement
Christ's redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone's sins. Christ's redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.

Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement
Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ's redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted
The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit's call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man's contribution) proceeds and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man's free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ's saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God's grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.

The Efficacious Call of the Spirit or Irresistible Grace
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.

Falling from Grace
Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith, etc. All Arminians have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ - that once a sinner is regenerated, he can never be lost.

Perseverance of the Saints
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

According to Arminianism:

Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) - man's response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, "choose" to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man's will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be recipients of the gift of salvation.

According to Calvinism:

Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Arminian Theology

Arminianism was started by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He was born slightly before John Calvin died and was actually taught by Calvin's son-in-law. He was a Calvinist until one day when forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could more ably defend his views against Calvinism. This caused Arminius to reject his Calvinistic background and “sought to modify Calvinism so that ‘God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.’”

Arminius’s views stirred up controversy in Holland, his home. Arminius asked to speak to the government on the issue but it was never brought before them until 1618, nine years after his death. It was soundly rejected and his followers faced persecution from Calvinists; 200 pastors losing their posts, statesman John van Olden Barneveldt beheaded, Hugo Grotius imprisoned for life but escaping two years later.

By 1625 the persecution had waned and followers began to return to Holland once again. They spread a principle of toleration throughout the churches in Holland so that there was much more religious toleration.

England had been Arminian to some extent before Arminius was born but faced the struggles of the Purituan revolt, Oliver Cromwell, and the Glorious Revolution. This caused “Charles II, who despised the Presbyterians, to reinstitute Arminian doctrine in the Church of England.” This Arminianism wasn’t exactly the same as that taught by Arminius but was similar. John Wesley (1703-1791) later championed the Arminian beliefs, “traveling more than 250,000 miles and preaching 40,000 sermons.”

Arminians followers responded to the five points of Calvinism with five points of their own. The following explanation of the five points is as per the Moody Handbook of Theology.

Election Based on (fore)knowledge- God elected those whom He knew would of their own free will believe in Christ and persevere in the faith
Unlimited Atonement- In His atonement, Christ provided redemption for all mankind, making all mankind savable. Christ's atonement becomes effective only in those who believe
Natural Ability- Man cannot save himself; the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth
Prevenient Grace- Preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the gospel and cooperate with God in salvation
Conditional Perseverance- Believers have been empowered to live a victorious life, but they are capable of turning from grace and losing their salvation

This begins to show us the basic beliefs of both of these systems. We now will begin to look at each belief and compare it more in depth over the next weeks.