When Politics Become Savior

“Salvation doesn’t come on Air Force One.” Chuck Colson

I find the current cultural view of politics…. concerning. On both sides of the aisle there are winners and losers and perhaps both are in need of an adjustment. Not unlike a visit to the chiropractor, perhaps our culture needs an adjustment for our aches and pains.

Continue reading When Politics Become Savior

Is There A 3rd Option?

Benches

 

Proud Calvinism?!?

6 Signs of proud Calvinism

After these two blog posts (linked above) a friend asked:

“Two realities, which I personally struggle with, because they seem to be in tension are: How do you show this kind of humility while at the same time standing firm in the faith one for all delivered to the saints…aka, not being a sort of post-modern, uncertain, wavering, passive type of Christian.

I fear that I all-to-often sound like the proud Calvinist, but often the only alternative seems to be compromise and sounding like a post-modernist—you know, “we can’t really know the truth, so let’s just agree to disagree.”

 

Thanks for asking the question! I sure don’t want to come across as the guy who has this all figured out! Because, I don’t! But, I do have a couple thoughts that might be helpful, and if not helpful… there is a great little book listed at the end of the post.

First of all we need to recognize there are not two options. We need to know there is a third option.

We tend to think in 2 options:

Option 1:  Humility means watering down the message and convictions.  So to keep the peace, I need to be a “passive – keep the peace” Christian.

Option 2:  Arrogantly defend my views and convictions to the death of all future conversation.

Option 1 is not helpful as it misses truth.

Option 2 is not healthy as it misses grace.  Can you hear the clanging cymbals that Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

Now while the context of I Corinthians 13 is NOT chatting theology with a friend.  However, there is a helpful application of the text for us.

How sad, the Corinthian church was gifted, but their lack of love seems to be noise in the ears of everyone around them. Option 2 is not a good option.

But is that all?  Might there be another option?  This is where a person may have the “right” argument but he presents them it in the “wrong” way. (Sounds like my parenting at times!)

We don’t want to just be “right”. It is not simply about being “right” – we need to communicate what is right and do so in the “right” way.

So that…. we realize – This conversation is not only about the message, but our character in delivering that message matters as well!

In a similar way:  The Corinthians had the “right” gifts but they used them in the “wrong” way? So Paul basically tells them to knock it off!

There is a 3rd option.

Option 3:  Humility that flows from the gospel.  (Truth and Grace)

1.) The Gospel Informs The Conversation:

Think about it: When we present the gospel, arrogantly….  we are disconnected from the very gospel we are presenting. How odd is that? It should stop us in our tracks.

The gospel is humbling! We are sinners, separated from God. God in His mercy sent His Son to die for our sins and redeem us. We were not smart enough to figure this out nor are we holy enough to deserve it. Rather, God in His unfathomable mercy drew us, saved us, chose us!

“For by grace you were saved and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God….” Ephesians 2:8-9

How in the world does my pride crawl into that?

The truth of the gospel informs our character in the midst of the conversation, even when we disagree, we can disagree with humility.  Because Christ dying for undeserving sinners is… humbling.

Disagreeing with a brother arrogantly is a disagreement that is disconnected from the Gospel itself.

We want to let the gospel not only be the content of the conversation, but allow the gospel to inform your heart in the conversation.

Is it possible for a believer to blast a friend with ones supposed superior knowledge AND be affected by the gospel at the same time….?  I don’t know – because I have never been able to pull that one-off!  :-)

2.) The Sovereignty of God releases me.

Isn’t it great! I am NOT the Holy Spirit! And neither are you!

Last time I checked there was no job opening in the Trinity.

This is wonderfully liberating. I don’t have to convince someone of my convictions. I do not feel the need to win an argument. It is ok, God is able to reveal Himself to this person. And, since I DO NOT have it all figured out… God is able to take care of me too!

By the way, isn’t it funny how it can take years to become convinced of something. God is kind and He is soooo patient with us. But, eventually God works in our hearts and change soon follows.

How weird is it then that what takes us years,  we turn around and demand someone to “get on board” with what we are saying in a 30 minute coffee chat?

“How’s come they don’t get it?”

It’s ok – chill out – Tim!

I love it when Paul says in Philippians 3:

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:14-15 ESV)

What a relief, the apostle Paul seems to release himself from this burden and turns it over to God.  That does not mean that Paul waters down his convictions or refrains from the truth.

3.) My knowledge is not all that!

We think so highly of ourselves, don’t we?!? We read a bit, study some things, and think we have it all figured out. I wonder how much we really have figured out.

I think it is likely that we will all have a lot of “ah ha” moments in heaven!!!!

Lastly, I think we would do well to remember this does not need to be the end of the conversation. There are times when the stakes are high and the truth must be defended. But, even in that, I want to make sure that the person that sits across the table from me knows that I love him and care about him. If we want there to be a future conversation than the arrogance and noisy gong is not going to help.

Book Recommendation:

This is a liGrace and Truth Paradoxttle book that I have gone back to often.

Grace and Truth Paradox By Randy Alcorn

 

 

 

 

6 Convictions Needed When Approaching God’s Word

Bible

God’s Word is…. well God’s Word and because it is, we would do well to read it with a set of convictions. Below are 6 of those convictions. Certainly, there are more. Feel free to comment below on convictions you have when you are sitting down to read the very Words of God.

1.) It is GOD’S Word

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Scripture is the God breathed out Word of God.

What does that matter?

Well, if this is our conviction it will affect how we approach or even if we will approach God’s Word.

When this is our conviction we will approach God’s Word not seeking to impose my thoughts and will on it. Rather, our desire is that the Word brings to us the thoughts and will of God for our lives.

If it is God’s Words than it is my Authority! While my thoughts can tend to be shifty, God’s Word remains. It is objective and unchanging! Shifty people need an anchor for the soul!

Consider: Without this initial conviction:

What do you have?

What is the Bible?

How does your view of the Bible affect how you read it?

2.) God’s Word Is Understandable

The Word of God is not veiled. It does not need someone to come along and decipher the code! God intends us to “get it”.  He is a revealing God.  He is not a code to be cracked – He is the God who reveals Himself on every page.  Through His Word He makes known to us, who He is and what He has done for fallen man.

3.) God’s Word Is Useful

2 Timothy 3 (see above) shows us not only that the Word is God breathed, but that it is useful.

…….profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

4.) God’s Word Is Effective

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

How effective is the Word of God!

5.) God’s Word Should Be Approached In Humility

  • Am I the authority or is He?
  • Do I Submit to God’s Word or Does the Word submit to me?
  • My life vs Gods Word – what must change?
  • Feelings vs Truth – subjective vs objective – fleeting vs never-changing

“I’ve heard the story of a man who was in Paris visiting the Louvre. He was particularly interested in seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. After examining the painting for some time with a critical eye, he announced, “I don’t like it.” The guard stationed there replied, “Sir, these paintings are no longer being judged. The viewers are.” It is the same with God’s Word, which is not what is being judged. Its readers are.”

Bullmore, Mike (2011-08-02). The Gospel and Scripture: How to Read the Bible (The Gospel Coalition Booklets) (Kindle Locations 163-167). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

6.) God’s Word Is About Christ

The entire Word of God is about God redeeming fallen man. That redemption comes through God the Son, Jesus Christ. As we read the Word with Christ in view, we will see that everything prior to Jesus death anticipates Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. All that we read post Christ’s death looks back to that event. God’s Word is about…. Christ!

 

For further study check out this easy to read booklet:

The Gospel and Scripture:  How To Read The Bible By Mike Bullmore

 

6 Signs Of Proud Calvinism

Calvin and Hobbes

 

By the way, the below 6 points are true of any Christian conversation.  Theological or casual. Coffee among two believers or a chat that is more evangelistic in nature.

Disagreements are not a license for arrogance.

I once walked into my local Wal-Mart during the Christmas season. The bell ringer was outside.

Initial impression?

He seemed to be a cherry man, Christmas hat, and a strained attempt to grow a Santa beard. He merrily greeted all those who came into the store with a hearty, “Happy Holidays”! Nearby, and at the same time, there was a refined, well dressed, middle aged woman entering the store. With eyes of fire she looked at the bell ringer with disdain. Angrily she shouted back to the poor bell ringer:

“It’s not Happy Holidays, it’s MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Bam, there you have it. I guess she made her point. It is about Christ….mas. I am sure that is what the bell ringer went home to tell his wife. “Hey Honey, Guess what I learned today……”

Wow, I was not sure what part of this exchange was either Happy or Merry.  I had never imagined “Merry Christmas” as a oxymoron! (See previous post titled: Proud Calvinism?!?)

6 Signs of proud Calvinism?

1.) You enter a conversation with a goal. The goal becomes winning an argument rather than Christian fellowship.

2.) You like to hear yourself talk. Rather than genuinely listening to your Christian brother or sister, which shows respect, you are thinking of the next thing you want to say.

3.) You are right about…… everything.  Every Scripture, every argument, gun is loaded…. let’s go!  Every question asked, every scripture questioned – you have the answers and you are right. Congratulations!  You are amazing!

4.) Unintentionally, the conversation becomes more about you and your knowledge and less about Christ and His saving glory.

5.) You have no room for a gospel loving Arminian. (Oh, brother….. -sarcasm and pun intended)

6.) You naturally mock, without thought, the “other” view in a group setting. This mocking is to display to the group your theological prowess. This is a masked attempt to look strong, put on a good face, and silence those who may disagree.

God, help us!

Consider: when the apostle Paul described God’s work of grace:

  • When Paul bumps up against the saving grace of God his posture immediately turns to humble worship

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

  • Paul is regularly overwhelmed by the mysteries of Christ.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

  • “Unsearchable judgments”!
  • Paths that are beyond tracing out…”

 

Let us join with Paul in worship.  “to Him be glory forever. Amen!”

 

 

Proud Calvinism?!?

John Calvin

Full disclosure:  I am a Calvinist.  Yep, all 5 points…. Offended?

Stick around, it will be ok!

Now that we got that out-of-the-way, the point of this post is NOT to make a case or argue for Calvinism.  Have you noticed? It has kinda already been done!  There are many better places to make a humble argument for or against Calvinism.

So, Let’s dive in!

It is a great day we live in where there has been a resurgence of reading, studying, and learning of theology.  10 years ago you could not pay a guy to read a theology book.  So, I begin with gratitude!

I am grateful for those who have taken up big, thick, theology books written by dead guys and living guys.  LOVE IT!

I also enjoy the conversations that the reading has stirred.

And, I love, most of all, OUR great God! He is God, the focus, and the reason for all this great theology!

BUT

I have this growing concern for my friends in the reformed theology camp.  (Oh, Oh… perhaps this post will offend BOTH Arminians and Calvinists? I hope not.)

It is with the reformed brothers that I have the most agreement….. and well, disagreement.

You see, amidst this surge in theology, there seems to be an accompanying surge of pride.  Yikes!  Not the pride word! How dare I mention it while so MUCH pride is still hanging on to my heart and life? Dare I attempt to write about “Proud Calvinism”?

“Tim, what are you thinking!?!”

Well, I press on and pray for a work of humility in me. Besides, if you think about it, today’s topic falls under the scope of this blog.  “Gospel Connections.”

There seems to be a gospel disconnect when it comes to proud Calvinism.

How does one subscribe to reformed theology and do so with a pronounced arrogance??

At the core of Reformed theology is the Sovereign God.  

I don’t like to use the term “Calvinist”.  Not that I don’t like John Calvin, or have gained from John Calvin. Rather, it’s because I don’t think John Calvin would like the term “Calvinist”!  The term immediately takes the glories of Christ off of….. well, Christ.   And, it places an emphasis on….. a man.   Ugh!

A right understanding of Reformed theology specifically points the attention away from man and seeks to center the attention where it belongs…. God!

Reformed theology is not about Calvin!

Reformed theology is not about you or me!!

Reformed theology is about GOD!!!

Here is what I am getting at…. How is it that there seems to be in this surge of theology an accompanying surge of pride?

 

It’s in the coffee shop in Anywhere, USA.  Two brothers sitting down, sipping their Americano, debating theology.  (By the way, I have NO problem with brothers debating theology!  Quite the contrary!  May there be an increase of humble theological discussions over coffee!)

The Reformed brother believes he is saved by the grace of God, the Arminian brother does too. And, it is in that moment Barney Fifethat my Reformed friend kicks into high gear.  Feeling the need to unpack everything he learned the night before.  Like Barney Fife he has a bullet.  This brother knows enough….. to be dangerous.

Arminians…. don’t get overly excited about the above paragraph. The temptations are the same in both camps.

Like the clanging gong Paul references in I Corinthians towards the “we are so proud of our spiritual gifting” Corinthians.  I don’t think your friend can hear you over the noisy cymbals and gongs. We must ask, Where is the love for my brother?

I know my Arminian friends are saying…. “yep, I have met the proud Calvinist” Please be kind in the comments section below and don’t try to add to the noisy gongs we Reformed guys are creating.

Isn’t proud Calvinism an oxymoron? You know…..

Jumbo Shrimp

Pretty Ugly

Proud Calvinist

Consider our salvation: we believe we were “dead in our transgressions and sins….” Ephesians 2.  And dead means….. dead.  Not almost dead, just….. dead. We believe that in our spiritually dead place, God by His Spirit called / chose / elected us to salvation.  And because He did – we then responded to His gospel call.

Praise be to God! We were once dead in our sins and now we are alive in Christ Jesus!  (I know the above paragraph is overly simplified! Did I mention, the intent of the post is not an attempt to unpack the reformed view of salvation….)

My point is to simply say – isn’t the above paragraph inconsistent with the accompanying pride we see in the coffee shop?

To my reformed brothers of whom I AGREE…..

Do we really have it ALL figured out?  AND, even if we did……(which we don’t!)  But, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume we have it all figured out. Does it then become our right to blast our brothers and sisters with the sum total of all our reformed wisdom over a 60 minute coffee?  The damage we do in the name of Reformed theology – in the name of Christ!

I believe God is sovereign over my salvation! That said – God is sovereign over my salvation does not equal…..pride.  When we rightly understand that God is sovereign over my salvation the accompanying heart response is humility and worship.

God chose me and did so in spite of me… How does my wicked heart bring pride into that equation?

Reformed theology is not a gonging cymbal. God forbid! It is brokeness and humble gratitude.  Thanks be to God – I am saved!  Praise Him!

We might do well to leave that bullet in our shirt pocket and instead worship and glory in OUR Savior.

Stay tuned:

Next post:  “Signs of Proud Calvinism”

 

 

Comments?  

To the Arminian followers of this blog – give us your perspective!  How do we Calvinists need to grow?  Be honest, humble, and gracious in your thoughts.

To the Calvinist followers of this blog – give us your perspective!  How have you been proud? How are you seeking to repent and change?

 

Trinity (3): 4 Ways To Think About “Deep End” Theology

Swimming pool

When we talk Trinity we are entering into…. the deep end of the theological pool!  Remember as a small child playing in the shallow end?  The deep end was…. scary.  It was for the big people.  The experienced swimmers!  Not me…. I was a shallow end kid!  Guys like me were sure to drown in the deep end.

And so, I never ventured out… until the lure of all the fun that was being had in the deep end drew me!  It begins by edging your way around the pool while hanging on to the side.  And slowly but surely you found yourself…. in the deep end!  And, while the deep end should be respected by a little kid – it should also be enjoyed!  And enjoy it I did!  Almost daily!

Some think:  Why venture out into the Trinity.  They say: “you can’t fully understand it, so why bother?”   Oh friend, we need to bother.  Yes, it is the deep end and yes the deep end should be respected, but the deep end is GREAT!  It is here that we learn who God is and what He has done for us.  The deep end creates worshipers and it stirs passion and love for God. It is in the deep end that we begin to behold the glory of our God.

So, are you ready?  The following posts are all: deep end theology.  I don’t pretend to have it all figured out!  Nobody has God all figured out!  Are you kidding me?  He is, after all…… GOD!

Ok, here we go – let go of the wall…..

God is both 1 and 3!

Got it!?!

If so, your brain is far better than mine!  Trinity = 1 God 3 persons.  And that is the deep end theology we will be getting into in the posts to come.  But before we venture too far out into the deep end, let’s head back to the shallow end and ask:  “How are we to think about the deep end?”

4 Ways to Think About Deep End Theology

1.) Humility

Pride demands to have it all figured out.  Our pride actually thinks that the created should be able to fully grasp – in entirety – the Creator.  Think about this for a minute.  How silly is that?  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that we should throw up our hands and say – If I can’t figure Him out… why bother.  Please…. Bother!  Remember the deep end is fun!  Humility is not opposed to study and diligence or deep thought.  BUT, what do we do when our study brings us to the Infinite, Almighty, Eternal, God?  HUMILITY!

2.)  Joy

Consider…. if you are a Christian, you serve a God who is without limits.  He is beyond us.  The fancy word for this is transcendence.  God transcends us.  Here are some good synonyms for the word transcendence: incomparability, matchlessness, peerlessness,magnificence, excellence, supremacy.

Yep – that is God – the 3 in 1

He is beyond us, He is infinite and that fills my heart with joy.  Because, if He were not transcendent……  then He would not be much of a God!

3.)  Worship

What does it mean that the infinite, transcendent God came and dwelled among us?  (John 1)  That’s right the infinite God took on – human flesh – skin and bones and…. limits to dwell among us!  WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?  He did that so that he might live a perfect life and die on the cross for our sins and rise from the grave ascending to the Father so that He might send us His Spirit and the Father might adopt us as His children.  Deep End Theology stirs my heart to worship Him!

4.)  Hunger

I WANT TO KNOW HIM!  It becomes a Psalms 27 moment for me, how about you?

 

One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

(Psalm 27:4 ESV)