Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Gospel for the Immoral

The gospel is good news for the immoral, of which are we all.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
People of Peace

The only killing in which people of peace rejoice is the slaughter that took place just outside Jerusalem a few thousand years ago.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

The church must never become embroiled with politics, and we must understand that the Revolutionary War was unchristian at its core.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
Doctrinal Disputes

Doctrinal disputes are never over how we should love, or how grace is displayed, and most especially they are never over expanding the parameters of humility.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Calvinism is nothing but divine lottery winners being stingy with God’s redemption.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
A Mystery

It will remain the mystery of all mysteries why God’s love motivated Him to die for us and also prepared a place for us to live with Him…forever.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

There only two kinds of sinners: Those who struggle with sin, and those who struggle with sin and judge others who struggle with sin.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
The Love of Christ

If the love of Christ does not overshadow and even eclipse all other expressions of our religion, then our religion is a set of lifeless doctrines wielded as weapons of death rather than wellsprings of redemptive truth poured out to give life.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
This Life

Why would a man who has a full course steak dinner waiting for him eat from a dumpster; and why would a man who has eternal life waiting for him love this life?

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
Foolish Truth

Suggesting that the blood of a dead Jew can afford people eternal life is the most absurd, unsophisticated, and foolish concept ever proposed, but its effects provide confirmation that the foolishness of that suggestion is in fact the truth upon which all truths must find their veracity.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moral Causes

Moral causes can, and often do, overshadow, obscure, and misrepresent the gospel.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Judgmentalism is a spiritual parasite that consumes its host.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

If we as believers ever even approached exhibiting the love of Christ, we would be considered the greatest compromisers in the church.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Why is it that in the midst of such darkness the followers of Christ have so little remarkable luminescence?

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The word “Christianity” is a pitiful and benign attempt to define the immeasurable redemptive mystery given to believing followers of Jesus the Christ.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
Defending Truth

Defending certain Biblical truths by transgressing others countermands all Biblical truth.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009
The Incarnation

The Incarnation is beyond human ability to explain or understand; we have been given the privilege to simply love Him.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Without redemption there is no love, and without love there is nothing.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Reject them; ignore them; assuage them; change them; soften them; doubt them; and refuse to present them, but in the end the New Testament still contains some very ominous warnings of future events.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009


A sinner, drawn by God’s Spirit, can believe on Jesus and be born again without changing anything about his life or even being aware of any future changes.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Interpreting Calamities

On August 19, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota a tornado made its way through the town and in its wake it broke a small church steeple high upon a Lutheran church. On that day and in that town one denomination that calls itself Lutheran were meeting to decide, among other things, whether or not to allow practicing gay people to become pastors. I would personally say that no openly gay person should have a leadership position in the church. But that is not the issue with which I will be dealing.

A pastor named John Piper, from Minneapolis, announced that the tornado was a divine warning to this Lutheran denomination concerning their discussion of the gay pastor issue. This is, of course, just another instance where preachers ascribe divine intent to any number of meteorological phenomenons, and the gay community seems to be most likely the target of God’s wrath, or at least in the inerrant estimation of many preachers. As if presenting the Person and grace of Jesus Christ is not already most difficult, these types of enunciations undermine our credibility and profoundly misrepresent the gospel of Jesus Christ in these last days.

Where are the tornados for adultery, greed, pride, divorce, and all the rest of the sins that run rampant through the evangelical community? Perhaps God uses different weather conditions to confront different sins. Floods = divorce. Dust storms = greed. Earthquakes = pride.

It is noteworthy that our God doesn’t send caring believers, or healthcare, or humble, pleading Christians to these gay sinners, no, tornados are His messengers to denominations already significantly astray. And are we to assume that if the ELC rejects the ordination of gay clergy it would satisfy God concerning that denomination? No tornados heretofore about some of the other Biblical departures in the ECL, but God is especially irked about the gay issue?

It is arrogant to suggest that anyone can actually know with certainty any divine purpose in tragedy, and it is more arrogant when that purpose is mostly targeted toward those who struggle with a sin you do not. God has in these last days spoken to us through His Son. And what is decidedly outlandish is that Pastor Piper is an outspoken Calvinist, so in his own theological economy, those gay sinners have not repented because God hasn’t granted them such repentance. Against the backdrop of this recent issue, I present some thoughts about the gospel as it applies to gay people.

The gospel. It is literally “good news” in that it offers a complete and free path to eternal life, already trodden by the Son of God, already finished by the Messiah, and already purchased for the redemption of “whosoever will” receive it by faith alone. “By faith alone”, or as the Latin offers it “Sola Fide”. Easy to say, but difficult to actually believe. We as earthly sinners have been taught to achieve, to compete, and to strive for acceptance and praise for our energy and commitment to almost anything. Practice makes perfect we are told, and in sports, and business, and even relationships we are continually exhorted to “work at it” because it is that work which is the essence of success and worth in everything in our lives, and in fact, we have come to believe that our striving and achievements authenticates us as people.

It is against this backdrop that we are challenged to unpack and define the grace of Jesus Christ and dangerously consider that grace in the light of practical application to sinners. That sounds so easy and so doctrinal, but when confronted with some situations and some sinners, a retreat to the safety of the doctrinal library will not suffice; in short, we are confronted with authenticating what we have said we believe. And this is the hypocritical paradox, we are requiring sinners to authenticate their faith by works and yet we refuse to authenticate the doctrinal beliefs we have so proudly espoused concerning grace. Many of us are not willing to even entertain the possibility that a person who has trusted Christ as the only Savior, can be in God’s grace without an approved set of substantiating works. Let us examine that in the light of ourselves and the church as a whole.

Any new born sinner who has embraced Christ can rejoice and identify with the profound change that accompanies this salvation, and every child of God can also testify of the imperfect post-salvation path we all have followed. We have a camaraderie that accepts chronic imperfection among God’s people as it pertains to certain sins, and even grievous sins such as adultery and divorce have a built in plan of redemption and restoration including entire ministries dedicated to minister to these type of saved sinners. Yes, we have catalogued the sins that a saved person can fall into and those that completely cannot be committed by a regenerate person.

Now the church has also suggested that no one can be saved who practices sin, which of course in the truest sense would make everyone unregenerate since we all practice sin. How many Christians regularly drive above the speed limit? How many regularly get angry? How many lust? How many practice unforgiveness? How many gossip? In the defining context of the accepted view of “practicing sin”, we are all guilty. And not only do we practice sin that we know is wrong, we practice sin about which we are deceived and refuse to see its sinfulness including changing sin into God’s will. The health and wealth and prosperity movements have excelled in this doctrinal venture and have turned greed into God’s will. They are deceived about their sin and so they practice it. And most American believers spend money on things unnecessary and save much money to lavish on themselves in later years in direct violation of Christ’s admonition about “laying up treasures for yourselves”. The spiritual gives way to the cultural.

We must never condone sin either in others or in ourselves, however we cannot dilute redemption by culling out and magnifying the sins of others, especially certain categories of sins. The gay community has been bludgeoned enough by those who represent Jesus Christ. The gospel is offered to all sinners without any prerequisites, and we can comfortably allow God to search the heart of others to find redemptive authenticity. Our own hearts provide us with enough spiritual labor.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Subversiveness of the Gospel

Websters defines subversive: Subversiveness: a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within.

When a country sees planes and troops coming they can prepare their defenses. Open warfare, especially with weapons that are recognizable and familiar, is much easier to deal with than warfare that is covert and camouflaged. Even though America’s war machine is unparalleled, the lament is that the covert aspect of our intelligence has been neglected and that hinders us strategically around the world. And when a country gets an undercover agent inside the government of an enemy it is priceless in its value.

And the country known as mankind dwelt in contented sin and would be adverse to any attack on its entrenched hedonistic lifestyle, especially if it saw it coming and could easily recognize the weapons that were to be used against it. The world sees atonement as unnecessary and in fact a judgment upon their lives. The church has sometimes aided this misperception by projecting God’s judgment as the core of the gospel, when in reality it is God’s love. That indeed is what is embedded in the atonement, God’s unsearchable love.

This atonement, this cross, is not meant to be bandied about and used as a doctrinal tug of war, no, it is to be preached and lived wherever God’s believers breathe a breath. We are to carry the redemptive aroma of the cross into the stench of sin and hopelessness, not just pass an orthodox doctrinal exam. It is not what we know about the cross that determines our redemptive orthodoxy, it must be how much of that cross controls and is revealed by our earthly lives. And with so much teaching on the theology of the cross, along with so little teaching on the practical manifestations of that cross in our lives, to live the cross of Jesus Christ as our own is a massive challenge with few pointing the way either by word or deed.

The smugness of orthodoxy betrays the very essence of the gospel and the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Being orthodox is one thing, reveling in it undermines the concept of a Christ emulating orthodoxy on many levels. We must always be careful about the doctrinal patting on the back with each other that affirms the truth on a vehicle of self righteousness and begins to form a culture of exclusivity rather than a community of humble followers who eschew any praise themselves and set out to passionately spread the divine love that has captured them by grace alone.

Sound scholarship. There’s the problem in two words. Much of the discernment world hang their entire Christian experience on scholarship, and of course the adjective “sound” represents pride, and they seem very lacking in grace, humility, compassion, and genuine love for saint and sinner.

Representing Christ, and living His humble life, IS sound scholarship manifested. Our Lord never called us to be Bible scientists, dissecting every jot and title in your search to find a greater detail to your systematic theology with which to challenge and debate all naysayers both in the church and without. Read the words and teachings of Jesus and if you are without prejudice you will find His teachings were overwhelmingly orthopraxic, and even His teachings on theology were usually tethered to a calling to manifest those truths through a living prism of humble grace and love. This notion that just believing and telling a certain theological truth is God’s love is misguided at best and self righteous at worst.

We see Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery when there seemed to be no repentance. We see Jesus eating with the worst of sinners without any preconditions about their lifestyles. We see Jesus choose twelve flawed men to follow and assist Him, including choosing His own betrayer to whom He showed the same love and respect that He showed the rest. The entire earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth was at odds with the spirit of this world which had been adopted by the Jewish religious hierarchy as well.

And here we are today caught in the same spiritual paradox that consumed so many Pharisees of old. There is something very wrong and self serving when we use the one instance where Jesus showed anger as the template and reference for the tone of our ministries. Those believers who show sound scholarship are those who labor in war torn Angola. They are those who put their lives at risk and minister to the earthly and spiritual needs of South African AIDs sufferers. These “scholars” share the love of Christ in Iraq while knowing they could be murdered any night or day. These believers teach sound scholarship more with their actions than with their lips and they believe spreading the gospel is defending it.

Sitting around a table or on a church platform and dispensing your “sound scholarship” is a caricature of Christianity and disembowels the power of the gospel itself. Truth becomes a museum spectacle and the scholars are doctrinal taxidermists who hang dead, stuffed truths in their books and writings and preachings and think they do God a service. And when some other believers begin a movement to elevate the life and works of Jesus, these Pharisees can see no benefit in any of their assertations since some of their theology is suspect.

There is no attitude that says, “I cannot agree with much of their theology, but their focus on living a more outwardly expressive life that ministers to the world is indicting and appealing”. No, that might appear weak and might give credibility and respect to someone who is much more easily a target than a source. And so called “Christian” conferences are reduced to reinforcing the choir rather than uncomfortable challenges that invade their own pastures. Most of us who are of the free will bent are not enamored with gathering together to revel in our free willism, and yet much of the Calvinist camp in all its forms makes it clear on their blog home page and their messages and their books that their theological perspective is a brand name complete with many different designer lines of doctrinal clothing. It was not a systematic theology that hung on that cross; it was the living Son of God.

It’s like standing on the deck of a ship and watching people drown but being consumed with discussing the engineering of the ship’s life boats still hanging empty along its side. No hungry man is ever fed by people arguing over the kind of sandwich he needs. No thirsty man is ever quenched by listening to the mineral makeup of the water. No naked man was ever clothed by tailors at odds about whether cotton or wool should be used to make a coat. And no sick man was ever cured by listening to discussions on the various drugs that should be used.

Jesus Himself warned us about judging the regenerate status of others since that always leads to self righteousness. We are not to pull up what appear to be tares because we inevitably pull up wheat along with the tares. And we are not to mock what we consider to be goats.

And now we come to the gospel. The plain and good news of the gospel, profound in its simplicity and glorious in its universal application. But not content to preach it, we now must examine it and dissect it and hang stipulations upon it so that the 10 year old little South African girl will not be misled about the wrong theory of atonement. I suggest that many, if not most, born again believers throughout the ages were never conversant with the theories of atonement, and many if not most were fuzzy in the mystery that is the penal view. I would strongly suggest that the most powerful "view" of the atonement should be expressed through the prism of our lives.

But doctrinal nuances have in some quarters been elevated to religious relic status, even suggesting that without that view people are not saved. Is God such an academic that he demands sound scholarship before he accepts a sinner’s plea of faith that rests upon the Christ of God? Is the heroin addict who hears the simple gospel in the Bowery Mission and begs Christ to save him, is he refused by Christ because if we questioned him his understanding of theology would be significantly lacking and possibly unorthodox? Have we taken Christ and His gospel and created a form of doctrinal magisterium which sits in sifting judgment to all who have a different perspective, all except each other?

Most of the world suffers greatly, physically and spiritually, and they know nothing of our self gratifying doctrinal squabbles. What does God think about sinners who are made whole completely by His grace and then package that same grace with the demands of doctrinal law at the smallest level? I think He echoes the words of Shakespeare,

“What a piece of work is a man…”

And some have now created a gospel that earns its stripes by acts of compassion to the earthly sufferings of sinners, which in reality is not the gospel at all. The glorious gospel is the good news concerning the universal offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. All this focus on social justice and national peace and all the many categories of humanitarian acts is all very good, but when it finds a place within the gospel it becomes a toxic poison that is no better than spiritual hemlock. Many are draw to drink such a brew, mistakenly believing that their works will indeed find favor in God’s eyes.

This everlasting gospel is subversive to everything the world has come to expect and believe. It counters all that the carnal mind believes about itself, and at the same time it is a tour de force of what is called “grace”. To receive anything – a car, a bike, a home, good health – just by believing it to be so would be ludicrous; however, that is exactly the message of the gospel. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!

What God has done has undermined and overthrown the systems and governments of this world. Like the wind it is invisible and can only be “seen” by its effects upon the lives of those who have embraced it. We should be the most subversive people in this world, undoing this world by a warfare that accepts death rather than inflicts it. Our battlefield is grace and our victory is in our surrender; our terms are faith and our motive is love; we have no rank and we have only one leader; our enemies are our mission and redemption is our strategy; and at the end of the day, Jesus is our all in all.

Do not take this calling lightly. And do not in any way fashion your armor according to the systems of this world. Reduce yourself to nothing and refuse any recognition and allow yourself to proceed into the darkness with the humble light of Christ. Do not fear the sounds of fury and the colossal weapons of this world, just be assured Your Master has already won the victory and in that victory alone must you rest.

You are within the enemy’s camp, but you live, move, and have your being in Jesus the Christ.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Dream

Have you ever had a dream, a hopeful expectation that continued to unravel and prove itself more and more worthless? I can remember being born again in 1975, and with little more than a profound and demonstrative metamorphosis in my inner and outer man, I began my Christian walk. I was raised in a liturgical church that now seemed like Roman Catholic lite, and so for many months I had no idea what church I should attend. This was the greater New York City area and evangelical churches are at a premium.

As I entered Bible College in August of 1976 I had some wonderful expectations about what an atmosphere would be like when everyone was a born again follower of Jesus Christ. I envisioned a tangible aroma of love and brotherhood and an aura of God’s presence. With a fragile naiveté I entered this school of spiritual learning. Remember, my background was filled with all sorts of immorality and violence and here I was in the midst of mostly younger church kids. I was 24 years old.

Since I had been raised in the Lutheran Church of America, I had little knowledge of any doctrinal issues. The college I attended was a cross between Baptist and Christian and Missionary Alliance. Since I was the only person from the New York area, and since I had put down “Lutheran” as my denomination, many of the students were interested in my theological views. The guys in the dorm gathered around me and asked my views on the chronology of the rapture. My initial reply was that I had never heard of any “rapture”. With that admission they all moaned and rolled their eyes, and one guy called out to the entire dorm that I had never even heard of the rapture.

I quickly became very uncomfortable and insecure about my circumstances. Before I could slither away one guy asked me if I believed you could “lose your salvation”. I had never heard that question, and in an attempt to avoid being mocked for not knowing this question, I took a guess and said “yes”. Again there came a chorus of moans and snickers accompanied by another clarion call to the entire dorm about my view. The dream I had about unusual camaraderie and an atmosphere of joy and love seemed very distant on that first night and I can recall asking God if I had made a big mistake.

There are many things, doctrinally and in practice, that appear broken and amiss in the church of Jesus Christ today. But perhaps the most startling and astonishing paradox that is manifested in the church at large is the colossal lack of remarkable love and brotherhood among professing believers. Let the smallest piece of doctrinal difference arise between followers of Jesus and many times the atmosphere becomes toxic and the focus is concentrated on the different perspective rather than Jesus Himself.

We seemed to have lost the sacrificial love and commitment that was evident in the early church. Much learning has not only made us “mad”, it has cultivated an atmosphere of self righteousness and position defending that has all the accoutrements usually reserved for battle. The “iron sharpens iron” concept has given way to the “iron cuts down your opponent” practice. And instead of truth being such that draws us closer to its Author, it has become a battering ram and self righteous talismans. God’s precious Word is poured over in order to both find points with which to judge and attack others and to find verses that justify our creeds. And does it not seem, as we read the gospels, that we have ignored significant segments of Scripture while culling out others that fit into our rifle?

So what has become of the dream that brothers and sisters dwell in unity and love? Why does no one ever exclaim “look how they love one another” anymore? Even if we remove the core disagreements of redemption, we still do not see an exhibition of love and brotherhood among mainstream evangelicals that comes close to resembling anything greater than the members of the Moose Lodge have for each other. What possible explanation can we give to God our Father for our lack of family love? And what do we manifest that would cause anyone to be interested, much less astounded?

The Christian blog culture is not a unique phenomenon; it is in reality the dark underbelly of evangelicalism. The interaction and viciousness is just a revelation of what actually occurs in church halls; on telephones; around dinner tables; amidst lunch dates; and most sadly from evangelical pulpits. I do not speak of forcefully and graciously confronting gospel error and works based redemption; I speak of the Sherlock Holmes type of Christianity whose spiritual purpose is contained in investigating sinners and saints alike. And instead of humble and bold interactions, there must always be a conflict that goes beyond the issue in question and enters into disrespect, dismissiveness, and hyperbole.

But let us examine brotherhood within the context of those who agree that salvation is by grace through faith alone. I must admit I have tendencies that use fringe issues to fashion my overall view of everything Christian. Could it be that through the years we have made doctrinal non-essentials as walls of strife and towers of self righteousness? Is it God’s will that the leaves of truth should separate the branches? Where is the pathos and deep concern that believers should have for each other? I used to have a dream, a concept if you will, that the body of Christ lived in such love that it would be remarkably different than anything else upon this earth.

I have my issues; I have my doctrinal prejudices; I have my foibles; I have my subjectivities; I have my perceptions; I have my judgments; but I wish I did not have some of those, and in fact, I deeply wish God would extricate me from all that is not like Jesus, both inside and out. I am most miserable about the lack of significant progress in these later years. Why do many of our Christian testimonies deal with events that occurred right after our conversion and little to do with anything substantial that God did in our lives last month?? Why has the initial spiritual momentum we experienced at conversion slowed to a snail’s pace and now we are relegated to defending spiritual ground already occupied and not pursuing Christlike ground yet to be inhabited.

Read the gospel narratives of the life of Christ and see if you (or I) are closing in on the written revelation of the One we profess to be following. See if there is any room for politics and separating people according to manmade descriptions of “liberal” or “conservative”. See if Jesus was an example of castigating sinners or using demeaning invectives against all who He deemed immoral and unworthy. Watch as the Savior allowed worldy women to worship Him even before they repented of their many sins. Are sinners drawn to you or do they keep their distance so as to avoid being verbally dressed down?

Do we even have the dream to be like Jesus anymore? To be sure it is not easy, especially with a thousand voices presenting a different manifestation of Jesus of Nazareth. You can have the most accurate doctrinal representation of Jesus with all the necessary elements of Incarnate truth; but if we do not have the living model of Jesus that leaps from your creed and walks among a hopeless and hurting world within your very being than all we have is ink and paper.

Have you lost that dream? Do you even know what that dream is? Without a fresh and tangible revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ in the church we will continue to have nothing more than a doctrinal food fight which lets the spiritually hungry continue to starve.

Be sure to let God place more mirrors in your house than windows.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


A man named Vick allows and participates in the cruel “sport” of dog fighting. He is caught and serves two years in prison and loses millions of dollars and years of his football career. During his incarceration he seems repentant and even partners with the humane society to help spread the word about the viciousness of dog fighting. He is being mentored by Tony Dungy, an outspoken follower of Jesus Christ.

But even after all this, many are still unwilling to offer him redemption. I am a dog owner, and I treat my dog with a love and affection that are borderline embarrassing. I hug and kiss my dog, and I speak baby talk to him, a 120 pound German Shepherd. I realize it is overboard but I do not care. I love my dog, Rudy. Should my love for my dog override my heart for redemption?

Remember, Rudy is still just a dog. My point is this: We as Christians must always be the frontrunners for redemption. We should not mirror the tabloid journalists whose very job is to find and expose other people’s sins. Unless you have twisted the Scriptures, you must see that God has offered every sinner His eternal redemption. That is our message, that is our calling, and by God’s grace that is wherein we stand personally.

It is sad to see that redemption has become passé in this generation, and even sadder that so many Christians have replaced redemption with moral judgment. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for the immoral and not the righteous. Until you have been accused of condoning sin, you have not really preached the gospel of grace in Christ Jesus.

Redemption is the offspring of love, which the Scripture tells us, is God. Let us imitate that God by showing and exhibiting God’s redemptive love which is found in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

To Be Like Him...

Can you feel your spirit grow ever thirstier for something more, something much more than you have ever experienced in Jesus Christ? If you are one who eschews any emotion and palpable brokenness, then this post is definitely not for you. Have you grown weary of what passes for following Jesus Christ in these last days? How, in God’s dear name, can we claim to a world in need that this visible church is the living, breathing manifestation of the Lord Jesus?

Truth not lived is hypocrisy, and relevance without truth is error. Doctrinal purity can become every bit an idol as the golden calf of Aaron. If God had to wait throughout church history to only send missionaries with impeccable doctrinal credentials then hell would have been enlarged. The redemptive truths can never be compromised, however, many of the doctrinal accoutrements that some hold in high esteem are stumbling blocks to the gospel itself.

The church seems to love the world and the things in the world, and she acts like the world and lives like the darkness that surrounds her. The church is filled with adultery, lying, greed, hedonism, sexual impurity, and an astounding amount of self righteousness. And when God provides the internet to His people for a vehicle for redemption, the church has filled its electrons with falsehoods, flesh, pride, and an array of revelations that distort, and in many cases, completely miss the very Person of Jesus Christ.

Think about what we owe Him with Whom we are to do. He Who created everything and Who has sustained the entire universe, has received us as sinful rebels and washed us clean before Him. What did we bring to Him that found favor in His redemptive eyes? And after we were given His everlasting grace by a Spirit led faith, what did our Lord ask of us? The Word of God asks , if not commands us, to be like Jesus. Have we treated that like a hardship and sacrifice? And not only are we “invited” to live the most rewarding and fulfilling life available to anyone, we are given the Spirit of Christ to enable us so to do.

Why would we take that promise and that commission and drag it through the fallen mud of carnality and hedonism? And armed with the knowledge of His grace, how could we ever exhibit the slightest portion of self righteousness and pride? The suffering that was most assuredly endured on that Roman cross was not just some exercise in prophetic fulfillment, no, it begins with that glorious fulfillment and continues to travel into 2009. Those wounds are our marching orders and our banner, and His empty tomb is our power. We must put on Christ, not just defend His truth and surely not change the very truth He has eternally established.

What does it mean to spiritually and practically “put on Christ”. Did not our Lord weep over those who rejected Him? Did Jesus not reach out in redemption to those who lived in sexual iniquity? Did Jesus endure the contradiction of sinners against Himself? And as we gaze at that wooden altar of eternal forgiveness, can we at least see the selflessness that embodied the life of God’s Son? Selflessness; now there is a practice that seems out of vogue these days.
Sometimes God’s truth is most accurately defended by a remarkable demonstration that responds to attacks against it with the greater truth of humility ignited by the boundless and immeasurable love of Almighty God.
Living the tangible life of Jesus Christ is the light that penetrates the darkness with the brightness of His redemptive love. Of course the gospel must be spread by the words of our mouths, but those words must make their way to a sinner’s heart upon the wings of the humble and dedicated expression of our very lives. Words seem hollow and worthless, and even counterproductive, when they are communicated through an organic epistle that demonstrates a willing disregard for many other words derived from the same source.

We are called to abide shame; to endure attacks; to receive condescension; to be despised; to accept ridicule; to allow mistreatment; to be demeaned; and all of this with joy and humility. Our weapons are not mirrored responses; our weapons are those of the Spirit that confound the wisdom of this world and many times achieve the victory clothed in the seeming garments of defeat. We have formulated and perfected the art of responsive dialogue that uses God’s truth as a means to the victory of debate, however we have long since abandoned the Incarnate example of victory through obedience to the death of our own reputation, our own linguistic arsenal, and indeed our own lives. Have we not set our sights on the lost wanderers of this culture and taken it upon us to aggressively dismantle them by our words and actions? Jesus was a friend – a friend I say – to sinners. Let us release our moral talismans and bear His reproach in the very midst of those who so easily dismiss Him. We were once like them, were we not?

The gospel is tailor made for the immoral, and to command them to cease to sin is to abrogate the gospel message itself. We are so smug and self righteous sometimes that it is a wonder that any sinner can be reached by our abject hypocrisy that so openly suggests we have arrived at God’s truth by the strength and cunning of our own investigation. The picture of a dead Jew on a cross can only be accurately perceived through the gracious enlightenment of the Spirit of God and is only hindered by any hint of intellectual acumen. And the ones who live fully by His grace only camouflage the glory of that grace when they speak as a warrior of truth and not a unworthy conduit of that same truth; one that strives to, but falls short of displaying an unabridged version of that truth.
After all the clamor and ecclesiastical dust settles, there is one supreme truth that should consume each and every born again follower of Jesus Christ:
He is worthy of all our obedience, love, and worship from this very moment and into eternity.
So should the lost world see that Christ has made us strong or should they notice He has broken us? Are we to be blinding lights that repel or soft lights that illuminate, warm, and draw the attention of the hopeless? Is our salt meant to make us unpalatable to the lost or is it meant to season just enough to create a thirst? Is our hill supposed to be so high it cannot be seen or is it perfectly placed as a pedestal for Christ? Calvary was never meant to be Mt. Everest; it was always to be a hill of grace that beckons those who recognized its condescending zenith is made accessible through the grace of the One who scaled it for us. And when we portray ourselves as something, we are nothing; and when we portray ourselves as nothing, we are something.

There is no greater calling than to emulate and reflect the Person of Jesus Christ through an earthen vessel. It is the pinnacle of the Christian faith and it is the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a redeemed sinner. But in order to pursue that goal we must first have an accurate picture of the Lord Jesus. All the particular events in the gospel narratives that give an account of Jesus’ life are facets of the one gem called the cross. If we really are serious about doctrine and theology and systematic Biblical truth then we must begin with the cross and go forth from there.

Truth is ultimately important, but that truth is Jesus, and He must be communicated not just by the vibrations of forced air through a human larynx; He must be seen by a continuing gospel narrative that is a living extension of the Living and Risen Redeemer. Jesus is to be witnessed through both the uttered words of the gospel message as well as the uttered words of visual acts that emulate the author and finisher of that same gospel.
Let us die daily to the things of this world, and most especially to ourselves.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

We Are Losing Christ

Gal.2:17 - But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

Think on that phrase: The ministers of sin. Not just sinners saved by grace, but ministers of sin. Those who sin and by their example teach others to do likewise. And sin has all its different forms, some of which are hidden even among discussions of Christian truth. But if, while we seek to defend Christ, we ourselves also are ministers of sin, have we really defended Christ at all?

If you suggest that we are losing Christ in the community of professing believers you may well get a variety of responses. The militant orthodox crowd will wholeheartedly agree since they base that question completely upon the Biblical centeredness of their systematic theology. The emergent crowd will agree since they believe that without a post modern reformation we will be stuck with a caricature of Jesus and not the “now” revelation of His person. Many will disagree and suggest that they are fine with the Christ they have. Many, if not most, still will not even care about the statement at all.

But where can we catch a glimpse of Christian behavior that has a greater cross section of different “camps” than just our local church community? And where can we get a perspective of the overall manifestation of Jesus Christ among the overarching panorama of the many different Christian colonies? And I would like to address those manifestations without actually dealing with the important issue of “doctrinal truth”. If doctrinal truth was all that is needed to manifest the Person of Jesus Christ then all we would need to do is create legs on a mechanical book of theology and let it walk around in our cities. That may sound absurd but that is in essence how some view being faithful to Jesus Christ.

In just over three years I have found an intriguing looking glass into what passes for Christianity, and more specifically, what passes for manifesting Jesus Christ Himself. That looking glass is the internet and all the varying Christian blogs. I have watched, participated, and pondered what I have seen and experienced in the quirky and sometimes disturbing phenomenon we call Christian blogs and their accompanying forums we call comment threads. To step back and assess this genre against the backdrop of what we are called to as followers of Jesus Christ leads us to a distressing disconnect that is tantamount to spiritual fraud.

To summarize, how we interact with each other and the world in general is painfully at odds with what we say we believe, what the Scriptures command of us, and what we should know by now concerning the life of Jesus Christ, which is encapsulated in one magnificent and transparent event, namely, the cross. Is it not apparent that believers cannot even interact with each other without resorting to verbal violence? Read the high browed dismissiveness in some of the comments, or the hyperbolic ridicule of any commenter’s inaccurate or clumsy thoughts. The more masterful in the linguistic lambasting, the more appreciative are those who are of the same view. The civilized back and forth may be but a few comments before the verbal fireworks begin and the end result is a bone fide example of how a believer should not behave.

Commenters castigate each other and the indictments range from questioning their intelligence to questioning their salvation. The incendiary remarks can be laced with cursing or laced with self righteousness. And when someone turns a creative phrase that is an exceptionally caustic invective, that person is applauded as having vanquished the “enemy” by his oratorical prowess. And where, pray tell, is Christ in any of that? Even at the most basic level of civil discourse, one that requires no real sacrifice, we are found to be revelators of men and not of Christ.

And like a movie reviewer who is looking for it to be faithful to the book version, we too can and should review the evidence as to how faithful our behavior is to the original “Book”. Read some of the blogs of those believers who take on the “conservative” moniker. Are you surprised when they call President Obama all sorts of nasty and degrading names? Does it shock you when believers support and quote talk radio hosts who daily fill people’s minds with hatred for the group they call “liberals”? Where do we find that in the Scriptures and the life of Jesus Christ? We must make a choice; is the Old Testament a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ and His redemptive grace, or are we supposed to live and judge according to the Old Testament narratives?

The visceral atmosphere in so many of the Christian blogs is so unchristian that without the subject matter no one would ever suspect that they are believers. The disdainful and pretentious tone of some Christian blogs contribute to the detour away from Christ and His powerful and humble love, and lead us into the world of victory by carnal vitriolic force. And while we may be winning the debate, we are losing Christ, which is the ultimate defeat.

Do not assume that I speak of one certain group and not another. When you juxtapose the New Testament, including the teachings of Jesus Himself, you will find no interactive indulgences for those who are considered orthodox based upon the “end justifies the means” principle. Many less “conservative” blogs are no different in their tone and verbal application. And if, perchance, someone actually understood and taught the complete and perfect interpretation of the systematic theological truths revealed in Scripture, that would still not license him to speak with caustic invectives and careless and hurtful hyperboles. We are Christians, and even our corrections must have a flavor of love, humility, and grace.

It would seem that in all our battles we are losing what it means to be Christian, and indeed, losing Christ Himself. Our debates sometimes quickly escalate into personal attacks and demeaning verbiage that must grieve the Spirit and present an odd manifestation of the Person of Christ. Search the internet and you can easily find scathing invectives used against lost sinners, humorous posters meant to disparage, and an overall tone of spiritual elitism. And I suggest that if a person understood all mysteries and had captured all truth with unabridged comprehension, that person would exhibit a humility and love that substantiated that very fact. To the very degree that a believing follower of Jesus Christ exhibits and practices a humble and gracious lifestyle is in direct proportion to his comprehension of the Person of Christ and His truth.

To run clean water through a dirty pipe is to contaminate the water itself, even if that water was pure as it entered. And if that pipe was clean, and if that water ran through it and retained its purity as it came out the other end, the pipe cannot and should not boast. The pipe must feel a humility and honor that it was used to deliver such refreshing water, and that same pipe must acknowledge and be constantly aware that it was created and is sustained by that very water. In essence, the pipe is a created conduit made to bring forth the water that created it to the people who are thirsty.

It has become apparent, at least to me, that we/I have a distorted target to which we aspire as believers. The picture of Jesus has, in many ways, become a caricature that does not accurately reflect the fresco of the New Testament and certainly not the most striking examples of divine humility and love that are depicted throughout the gospels. It would be impossible to comprehend the extent of loving and gracious condescension as it concerns the life and behavior of Jesus Christ, culminating in the cross. And yet we seem oblivious to the many ways in which we as believers exhibit traits and behaviors that are profoundly inharmonious to any reasonable understandings of the gospel narratives and the commands found in the epistles.

So the questions before us are these: Are we going to pursue Christ in all His fullness, or are we going to defend His truth with the energy of the flesh that ignores the finer revelations of His character in favor of a limited doctrinal triumph? Are we willing to be perceived as weak in order to exalt Christ? Are our arguments worth “winning” at the expense of retreating from Christ Himself? Does our doctrinal orthodoxy include manifesting humility, love, and grace? Can we speak the truth in love or must we win the battle with the weapons and power of our own words? Is there an indispensible relationship between Biblical truth and Christlike behavior?

Are we losing Christ as we seek to be His witness?