God with You: The Gospel is about Relationship

In the perennial discussions of Calvinistic-Reformed theologies and the various other interpretations of soteriological reality, from extreme to extreme, these tertiary issues of “how” one is saved overshadow the main thing: God himself and the fact that he saves [in whatever various way he might actually do that]!
In talking about being gospel-centric, Jesus-centrism/Christocentrism can be lost. Of course this sounds like semantics, but in reality many talk of the “gospel,” the good news that there is salvation available, the response of acceptance of God’s free gift that is needed, and yet they fail to hold up Jesus. Jesus as the Christ gets lost in the proclamation-discussion.

Slipping into legalism or liberalism is a real danger: if we hold too tight to the “rules,” the how of people being saved we can have a legalism-soteriology [it has to be done a certain way], but we could also hold too high a view of the how of salvation and then think that if this “rule”/method has been followed, then we have full liberty to the extent of non-discipleship.
We can become legalistic in holding to our soteriological convictions of how God saves people, not simply regarding the “Sinner’s Prayer” issue ["I prayed a prayer, so I'm saved" Legalism; OR "I prayed a prayer, so I can do whatever I feel like cause I'm saved" Liberalism] but regarding the whole God’s Sovereignty-Human Responsibility issue. If we hold too tightly to our view of whether only God saves based on his own subjective choice with no ability of humans to respond with a positive or negative choice, then we are in danger of adulterating the gospel message itself. We could withhold a proper open offer of salvation, or we could fail to communicate the difficult truths of salvation [i.e. repentance, persecution].

The difference between “religion” and “relationship” is the difference between a true understanding of salvation, of the how of salvation.

When Peter shares at Pentecost in the beginning of the church in Acts 2, he gives a simple summary of what happens:
Acts 2:38-39
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

In this one passage we see both the issue of Divine Sovereignty-Human Responsibility and the issue, the how, and the perhaps more important what of salvation, the result, the righteous God-human relationship.

Sovereignty-Responsibility:
Humans
“Repent . . . and be baptized,” which is an initial acceptance of the truth of the gospel message about what it means that Jesus is the “Messiah”/Christ/promised one/way of salvation, as well as continuing in a position of one-being-saved [see J.D. Greear's Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart for further explanation of this idea of salvation]. We are to repent, now, once, as the entrance into the saved relationship with God, becoming once-for-eternity God’s child, becoming adopted by God. And we practice baptism as a response of our salvation, a public way of living out our gratitude, a witness to the world [and ourselves] of what God has done in our hearts, giving us new life, salvation, forgiveness of sins.
God
“in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . . all whom the Lord our God will call,” which speaks to a proper understanding of Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us that we could never do for ourselves, as well as the fact that it is God that forgives and God who calls. Later in Acts 5:42, the First Church is said to have gone from house-to-house and in the public square sharing a message that said, “Jesus is the Christ.” Jesus as the Christ/Messiah can be simply understood as speaking of the one way of salvation God has provided through Jesus, which is the unique and only way people are able to have a right relationship with God.

The result of salvation:
Peter says that when we accept Jesus self-sacrifice for our sins, in our place–Jesus in my place, then we receive 2 things:
1. forgiveness of our sins
We have a judgment passed upon us: we are justified, declared “forgiven,” given Jesus’ righteousness/innocence/holiness (Romans 3:21-26). This is a declaration, a position of judgment we given.
It is like a judge, the Judge, saying, “Ok, we find you not guilty.”
This is of course AWESOME!, but it still leaves us in a lonely place; therefore, the second aspect is all the more incredible. This could be a part of a “religion” if only “declaration” was what happened in salvation.
2. the Holy Spirit
We also receive the Holy Spirit, just as was promised by Jesus (John 16, Acts 1). We receive God himself. We are not left forgiven to only be alone in the rest of our suffering and demanding world. We become God’s children! We are adopted. The Holy Spirit comes inside us to regenerate us, to give us new life, to guide us and instruct us. We have a God that hears us; moreover, we have a God that is with us. We get God too!
This is like a judge, the Judge, saying, “You’re not guilty, AND I’m coming with you to help you and comfort you and love you as your adoptive Father, brother, and friend who is perfect in all ways for always!

In salvation we get forgiveness and we get God with us.

The gospel message that Jesus is the Christ is about how we are forgiven of our sin and that God is then with us forever.

The gospel is about our relationship with God.

Posted in Bible Study, Disciple - Discipleship, Gospel - Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call to the Church for the Unengaged & Unreached from 1645: Simon de Figueiredo & Jesuits in Tibet

silk road caravan

silk road caravan

After about 15 years of Christians engaging the Tibetan world, in Ladakh, Guge [a former kingdom in western Tibet], and Utsang [central Tibet].
The Portuguese mission work in India and China was coinciding with the European-Asian trade, and as new trade routes and opportunities were learned of, the Jesuits were always looking to go and explore in order to bring the good news of Jesus to those who had no Christian work. As exploration developed better and fuller information regarding unengaged and unreached peoples, Jesuits in India followed up with missional intent.
After about 5 years of successful work these first Christians living among Tibetans developing relationships, leading their Tibetan friends to the truth of Jesus’ love and provision of relationship with God, disciple-making through language-learning, writing, teaching, and forming churches. These brothers of the 17th century showed a great, death-defying love for their Tibetan brothers, at times sacrificing their lives and positions in order to cross the Himalayas, to stand up for the purpose of the gospel while under threat of death from locals and from conquering warlords.
After the fruit of the early Jesuit’s efforts in western Tibet, the conquering Ladakhi kingdom exiled the pro-Christian king and an estimated 400 local Christians. Even though this seemed an enormous tragedy, the Ladakhi king was not interested in any religious conflict but simply a political power struggle with Guge. After Jesuits ventured into Ladakh, they were given full permission from the new ruling power to continue and start new Christian teaching throughout the Ladakhi controlled areas of Ladakh and western Tibet.
The real tragedy came with the negative report from an outsider Jesuit reporting on the Tibetan work, as he advised the Jesuit authorities to recall all Jesuits from working among Tibetans due to the difficulties and threats from corrupt rulers [i.e. the new Ladakhi-appointed governor of Guge held several Jesuit brothers for ransom, whose fate is unrecorded]. The entire work among Tibetans was abandoned for nearly 60 years. One writer says of this brother’s negative report and failure to call for support, that perhaps this was an obvious case of him being the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place.

One final plea was sent to Europe by an elder Jesuit brother who was unable to go himself into Tibet because of the strenuous nature of the expeditions. In an annual report from Indian mission work sent back to Europe, Simon de Figueiredo calls for the sending of new young Christians into the Tibetan world so that the good work begun there will not end, and in one final statement, he says,

“Ite angeli veloces, ite ad gentem exspectantem!,”

which translates to:

“Go swift messengers, go to an expectant nation!”

This is the impetus of Jesus’ final words to his disciples: Go!, knowing that Jesus has all the authority of both heaven and earth, AND Jesus is with his people [Matthew 28:18-20].
This is the call of God upon his people, upon the churches! Go to and send out your people to live among, befriend, speak of and live out your faith in the awesome! news of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection to the world! [1 Timothy 2:3-4, 2 Peter 3:9, Revelation 5:9/7:9]
Jesus in our place: living the sinless, perfect, righteous life we should but don’t live, taking the punishment of our sins, raising to life again having conquered death and promising new life to all who accept God’s free gift of salvation from our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place [Ephesians 2:1-10].

Go swift messengers, go to expectant nations, people groups, tribes, and languages!

 

Desideri, Ippolito, and Filippo De Filippi. An account of Tibet the travels of Ippolito Desideri of Pistoia, S.J., 1712-1727. The Broadway Travellers 1. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.
Huc, M. L’Abbé. Christianity in China, Tartary and Thibet. Vol. 2. New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1897.
Komroff, Manuel, ed. Contemporaries of Marco Polo: Consisting of Travel Records to the Eastern Parts of the World of William of Rubruck [1253-1255]; The Journey of John of Pian de Carpini [1245-1247]; The Journal of Friar Odoric [1318-1330] & The Oriental Travels of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela [1160-1173]. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1928.
Vine, Aubrey R. The Nestorian Churches: A Concise History of Nestorian Christianity in Asia from the Persian Schism to the Modern Assyrians. London: Independent Press, 1937.
Wessels, C. Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia 1603-1721. Delhi: Book Faith India, 1998.
Yule, Henry, ed. Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. Vol. 2. Cambridge Library Collection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Posted in apostle, Books, calling, Church Planting, Church [Local], God & His Glory, Gospel - Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relational Proclamation of the Word, Personally and in Church: Practical “Distractions” for Sharing Christ in the 3rd World

Following a blog post from ThomRanier.comhttp://ow.ly/k8vh1–I was reminded of a very real issue for expectations and reality of being a faithful Christ follower in the non-West cultures.

Talk about “First World Problems,” Ranier’s list and the subsequent comments show the contextual issues of preaching in the West, or at least in the States. In Asian villages and even in Asian urban contexts, not a single one of these listed by Ranier would be problematic. It’s not that his list is invalid: those are real issues in the Western cultural context. In the East, especially in a near-village or village context, there is a much different context.

PRACTICAL “DISTRACTIONS” IN AN ASIAN-VILLAGE CONTEXT
In preaching in our little slice of Asia, we have a saying: “You haven’t really preached unless there was at least one woman nursing a baby in the group.”

Whether preaching, sharing the good news of God’s provision of right relationship with himself through Jesus, or really whatever, all these situations have great potential for a very different set of “distractions”:
1. animals of all kinds (dogs, cats, mice, spiders, flies, goats, cows, water buffalo, yaks, monkeys . . .)
2. [the aforementioned] breast-feeding
3. children, doing whatever they might and surely will do
4. people talking in “normal” voices about whatever: there’s no such thing as whispering
5. people coming and going all throughout
6. no excuses, no “Pardon me, Sorry,” etc.
7. phones going off, being answered in loud voices so the person on the line can hear [and there are plenty of phones: more than toilets]
8. question & answer, commenting, laughing, talking to each other, discussion, etc., etc.
9. changing the message midway, because of issues raised from the audience
10. arguing back at the main speaker/preacher/sharer

Only the last one is really an issue, but this can usually be used as a tool for better applying the Word to the audience!

As one commenter on Rainer’s blogpost mentioned: it is erroneous for us [the speaker] to have the attitude that it is our message, that the people just need to hear what we have to say. In that case, where is the Holy Spirit? Whose message is it really?

What then happens for someone now used to sharing in the Asian village context is that preaching in the West, namely in the States, becomes weird. Where is the dialogue, the interaction? Where is the body, the community? What is the church . . . a one-voiced group of many ears?
The post from BetweentheTimes.comhttp://ow.ly/k8tgc–is an interesting indicator of this issue in the States: the “Call-Response & Celebration” practice in the black congregations of churches in the States speaks of the dynamics of relational church-gathered.

THE ASIAN CONTEXT IS RELATIONAL
The Asian context with all its “distractions” actually brings the message to the center.
Why else would everyone endure all these pressing realities of life just sitting there listening and discussing? If there was no impetus to stay, the “distractions” would have long-before led them to their work or play. Instead, the message, the truth, the call to hear and see and taste the goodness of God’s holy love draws them in. Life continues along all throughout the message, but all the things going on around them only serve to affirm their awareness of the message of good news of Christ being brought near to them!

Also, the Asian village context serves to create a church dynamic in keeping with the New Testament cultural church. The people are involved in the preaching, not merely as a passive audience of receptors but as collaborators in the sharing. Their questions and comments lead the message on. Their stated issues and responses draw out specific applications of the Word. We can see this in the sharing of Jesus and throughout Acts, as the sharing was done in dialogue and many developments of the messages were based on the audience’s comments or situations.

It is a beautiful thing to be in relational proclamation!

There is relationship between the speaker and the hearer, and this helps not only to tailor the message to the specific issues of the context but also for the receiver of the message to have an un-escapable point of decision and obedience. Whether in one-on-one gospel sharing or in a church body sermon, relational proclamation is the nature of a familial body of Christ, the familial community of God’s people discovering the Word’s application to their reality!

Church is a relational family, and the proclamation of the Word in it’s midst should look like it.

The good news that God has provided a free gift of relationship with him through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, one time for all sin, one time for whoever will receive it, is also an invitation to the relational family of the church. God’s people should accompany their sharing of the good news with compassion and love for those potential siblings of the church; otherwise, we look like the Older Brother in the Prodigal Son parable! The sons’ Father says, “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Are you speaking about your life and faith to a gathering of people, or are you speaking and living out your salvation with your brothers and sisters?

Posted in Church Planting, Church [Local], culture, Gospel - Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joseph to Mary

Mary, Mary,
It’s really so scary.
In a dream,
An angel told me
The baby in your tummy
Isn’t quite what it seemed.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary,
What will we, Oh, how will we
Be able to be
What our little one needs?
He’ll be holy, holy, holy.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary!
How can it be!
Oh glory of glories!
So holy!
So wholly lovely
To be our saving
God’s grace . . . our faith . . .

God has smiled down:
His love is all around.
I feel I’m floating above the ground.
Listen to that sound:
The cry of the Savior echoing through the streets of town.
Bethlehem,
Do you hear this sound?
Do you hear His sound?

His cry of life,
Later to be the cry
Of his dying
For our sins’ atoning.

Oh Mary, Mary . . .
Mary, Mary, Mary!
Will this be our child?
Who are we?
Surely it cannot be!

Oh Lord, be with us:
Oh little Jesus,
God be with us!
Save me, save me, save me, my Lord!
You I adore,
My Savior,
My Lord!

My sweet baby,
My sweet Savior.

Oh Mary, Mary.
He’s so loving . . .
So loving.

Posted in Bible Study, culture, Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why does International and North American Church Planting look so different?

What is it about International church planting (CP) that it gets so much assistance and teaching from looking at the “apostolic” role in Acts, like Barnabas, Paul, etc.? Why do the works written about Int’l CP teach so much from this perspective, this role-model from Acts?
Because it is the role-model we are given and clearly, undoubtedly see in Scripture in regards to planting churches.

So why does North American CP look so different from Int’l CP? The teaching is so based upon the “pastoral” roles of the NT, like Jesus and his disciples, Peter/Apostles of the Jerusalem church, Paul’s letters to Timmy and Titus. Why the disconnect? Culture?
A historical diversion from the New Testament practice by “The Church” as Christendom became pre-Reformation could be traced. I think a major point to be learned and applied from the Reformation is to look back to God’s Word for our checking our approach to doing/planting church in NA.

Thoughts?

Posted in apostle, Bible Study, Church Planting, Church [Local], culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contextualization’s 2 Ditches: Legalism & License

contextualization is a hot-word for all persons dealing with cross-cultural issues/ministry/work: how far can i go along with the locals’ culture and practice without being unbiblical?

this ends up voiced in questions like:
is this local practice “just for fun” or “out of a religious/unbiblical belief”? is the unbiblical belief an archaic basis for something or some idea that is no longer understood (like the reality that more foreigners seem to know the “meaning” of the common greeting “namaste” than the locals in the hindi-speaking world, who are just simply saying “what’s up.”)
is the it up to me to tell the local believers that a certain belief from their background is unbiblical, or should they figure that out over time, study, etc.?
do i drink with the locals, believers or unbelievers, as this is an everymeal-everyday practice? do i “sip a brew” with them casually or discriminate for only “special occassions”?
should i “blend in” enough to confuse the locals as to my relationship with God (i.e. am i a christian or a hindu or whatever)?
does my fuzzing the boundaries, compromising-in-good-conscience, actually help me to engage the local people with the love of God? (if i do _______, will i have a few more minutes to share with them? if i [ignore/redefine/re-interpret some "grey area" issue], will i be able to then relevantly engage the people?) is it even ok for me to make such a judgment call on something that is God’s work and not mine?
does culturally appropriate trump or bend or re-interpret what is biblical?

this is exactly what i see paul dealing with in I corinthians 8-11:1, especially in regard to idolatry & sacrificial food eating: reality vs. perception; rights vs. purpose; freedom vs. God’s glory; permissible vs. beneficial:
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial…follow the example of Christ.

“permissible” speaks to “legalism.” i mean really, if paul says it’s ok and “allowable” then where do we have a place to be judgmental and put boundaries on God’s grace?

“beneficial” speaks to “license.” it is wrong to apply the old adage: “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission.” we must always be on guard against causing our fellow brethren to stumble. what is much worse we must never become a stumbling block to the lost accepting the gospel! what comfort and enjoyment is worth causing a brother to sin or a lost person to have reason to reject the gospel? (so often we show ourselves to be the “weaker brother” by not being able to control/discipline ourselves and causing a weaker brother to stumble!)

like a youth pastor being seen by his students drinking or at a party (not getting drunk or perhaps hot even drinking at all). [or a pastor by his flock]
like a new(er) believer seeing his friend that brought him to the faith doing something that the newbie doesn’t yet understand as “ok/permissible.”
like a seminarian going to the bar with his coworkers after a long shift (whether he’s drinking or not, it’s the perspective of others that is the concern).
like a professor going out to the bars to just simply hangout with lost friends or to try to befriend and have an “entry strategy” for engaging the lost.

the legalist seems to act out of fear or ignorance in order to try to protect themselves or others.

the licensee seems to act out of no fear/no respect for holiness or judgment of themselves or others.

perhaps the goal of contextualization and/or dealing with the “grey-ish” issues should be for us to be self-aware of our own sinfulness/sinful-inclination and the reality of your own actions having much greater ramifications and a much greater audience than you realize (this can especially be seen in your kids).

j.d. greear of the summit recently blogged on legalism-license.

Posted in apostle, Bible Study, Church Planting, culture, Disciple - Discipleship, Worldview(s) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GCR, baptism, missiology: What is the Great Commission without Church Planting?

“Matthew 28 is the fullest account of what it means to proclaim the gospel to all nations”
http://betweenthetimes.com/2010/05/05/baptism-and-the-great-commission/
– well said Nathan!

I think the issue of the GC being inclusive, or not, of baptism, is the same as the basic question/issue of the necessity of baptizing at all. so it’s not as much defining “accomplishing/fulfilling the GC” as just having a proper understanding of the whole picture. Which should properly (or fully) also deem it necessary to understand and define the GC as CP (church planting). Discussing the GC in terms of compartmentalizing what parts of ministry, Jesus’ commands, etc. are “part of the GC” or not is like saying it is enough to just lead people to Christ. As if the fulfillment of Revelation 7:9 = believers/saved people without any discipleship, church, using gifts, etc.

The best look at the answer comes from looking at the First Church in Acts 2. They were the ones that Jesus personally “Commissioned,” so they were the ones that would be the best pic of what fulfilling that would look like: and they went, shared/evangelized/witnessed, baptized, taught, planted/started/formed local church, did ministry, worshiped, discipleship, prayer, the Lord’s Supper/breaking bread, used their gifts…

It has got to be silly for us to limit the GC to something, anything, other than doing all we can and are supposed to do, as though there is a standard we have the ability to raise or lower so that we can know if we are fulfilling the GC or not. The bar is set: God’s glory. And glorifying God is done fully through his ordained churches and all that goes with that.

Much more than just making converts, we are to be making disciples, and those disciples are to form into to churches in order to best fulfill the purposes of God and best bring glory to God.

Posted in apostle, Bible Study, Church Planting, Church [Local], Disciple - Discipleship, God & His Glory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment