Thursday, October 18, 2012

living by more than just bread

Bread in Oven

living by more than just bread

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6 that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1

The desire to be rich, the love of money, living by bread alone; where is the sin in that temptation? When we look at the temptation of Jesus to turn stones into bread we wonder don't we? Where is the sin in that? What could possibly be wrong with satisfying a God given hunger? Is that a question or an excuse? Can't you hear just a smidgen of an excuse in that question? What if we applied the same question to a different God given hunger, sex for example? Ah! That's different we have laws for that! We say.

I maintain that Jesus wasn't concerned about dietary laws, would the bread be clean or unclean etc. He was concerned with His relationship with His Father and the work that the Father had given Him to accomplish. Jesus was all about His Father's business. Jesus had a meta-directive, His relationship with the Father. I would like to suggest that our definitions of sin, those that only define which behavior is acceptable or not, are not adequate. They miss a whole other sphere of human experience, relationships. Sin to me is anything that does damage to my relationships, starting with my relationship to God.

Jesus couldn't turn the stones into bread because His Father had not directed that. Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father do and that He did nothing on His own! John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” What a picture of total dependence upon God! 

Paul warns us that it is through God given cravings that some have wandered away. We need to be loved and it is like a hunger. When we attempt to satisfy this need with anything apart from the will of God we fall into a snare. Like Israel who took the God given spoils from Egypt and melted them down at Sinai into a golden calf. We exchange our God given image for whatever we have substituted for Him. We become like whatever we set our affections upon.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

What are we to do? I can never have total dependence upon God like Jesus did! I forget Him daily! The answer is ancient and simple, repent, believe the gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand! We don't have to live a perfect totally dependent life. Jesus has already done that for us! We only need to trust in His sufficiency as our atonement. The same meta-directive that prevented Him from acting on His own and turning rocks into bread is the same meta-directive that kept Him upon the cross. 

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. When you realize you were the joy set before Him you will swell up with awe and worship!

1 All scripture taken from, The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Center Church by Tim Keller

Center Church: doing balanced, gospel-centered ministry in your church by Timothy J. Keller, Zondervan, Grand Rapid Michigan, ISBN 978-0-310-49418-8

I love this book! Dr. Keller has given a wonderful resource to the church. Any leader or pastor who wants to become clearer and more relevant to the people they are trying to reach would be helped by this book. It is not a book to speed read or skim through. It is a book that requires reflexion and thought, hard thought especially to apply to your specific situation. Dr. Keller argues for a theological vision and then builds a matrix one can pick up and apply with effort to ones own place and time. Dr. Keller starts out asking a few essential questions;

  • What is the gospel and how do we bring it to bear on the hearts of people today?
  • What is this culture like and how can we both connect to it and challenge it in our communication?
  • Where are we located, and how does this affect our ministry?
  • To what degree and how should Christian lay-people be involved in civic life and cultural production?
  • How do the various ministries in a church, word and deed, community and instruction, relate to one another?
  • How innovative will our church be and how traditional?
  • How will our church relate to other churches in our city and region?
  • How will we make our case to the culture about the truth of Christianity?
Next Dr. Keller fleshes out the answers in a clear and concise manner, making it simple for leaders to develop their own answers for their own situations. This is building what Dr. Keller calls a “theological vision” which he defines as “a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history.”

The one minor objection I had for this book (I now see it as an advantage) was that there are many large sidebars throughout the text. At first I found these distracting but only because I wanted to plodge through as quickly as possible. This is a book meant to be digested, ruminated upon, and reflected. The sidebars are actually rich fields of supporting material by way of story or illustration. And the well footnoted references are worth the price of the book all by themselves.

My favorite sections were: What is the Gospel? The need for Gospel Renewal, and The Gospel and Contextualization. I especially enjoyed Dr. Keller's piece on Biblical Contextualization, he states, Romans 1 & 2 provide the basis for contextualization, the bible takes a mixed view of culture. 1 Cor. 9 speaks to our motive for contextualization, flexibility, ready to adapt. 1 Cor. 1 gives a basic formula for contextualization and shows how to keep a balance between affirming and confronting culture.