Welcome to tomthinking.com Sunday, August 19 2018 @ 05:45 AM UTC
This article is taken from my book, Real Imitation.
There is probably not a single greater attribute of God that has motivated more change in more people’s lives than the love of God. Love is not only one of God’s supreme attributes; it is also a command for every Christian. The scripture is replete with commands and admonitions to:
“Love the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44)
“Love the brothers” (John 13:35, I John 3:14)
To love the church is implied in Ephesians 5:25. Love is given as the first fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, signifying its primary importance among Christian character traits. Jesus remarked that people would understand us to be his disciples if we “have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Yet for all of these admonitions of love, including Jesus' command for us to love one another as he loved us (John 13:34), there are times when love is inappropriate, even wrong. Paul's words in I Corinthians 13 describe the attributes of love from both a positive and negative view. From a positive view: “Love is patient and kind...[love] rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing” (I Corinthians 13:4, 6, 7).
But, notice also Paul's negative admonitions about love: “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoings” (I Corinthians 13:5-6). In fact, Paul says more about what love is not than he does about what love is.
In this lesson we will learn about God’s character attribute of love, how he expresses it, and how we can become people who love unconditionally, as God loves.
Last year while attending Cru’s biennial staff conference I watched a presentation on what it takes to reach different generations, mainly millennials, with the Gospel of Jesus. Part of the presentation was sourced from a book titled, Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out” by James Choung.
In his book, Choung portrays each generation as being defined by an overarching spiritual question that helps explain each generation’s attitude toward life. I won’t dive into all of the details of his explanations, but I do want to highlight each generation then offer an observation about the generation beyond millennials.
For Baby Boomers the spiritual question that defines their generation is, “What is true?” For Generation X that question is, “What is real?” For millennials the question is, “What is good?” As for the current generation, Generation Z, but also known as Plurals, I’ll get to them in a moment.
Now, let me provide a little background. Each generation was born during the following years:
Did you know that when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 that he was not telling them something completely new? In fact, when Jesus gave the Great Commission he was not only giving the disciples something spiritual, it was something that also had vast political implications. Here’s a little background on the Great Commission and its political implications.
Politics & Religion In The Ancient World
Under Roman occupation, a religious infrastructure that built and contributed to community and economic growth was the norm. Roman rule took advantage of local deities, and established temples of its own. Whole communities thrived on the business generated by pagan ritual and devotion. The Apostle Paul experienced this in Ephesus when the metalworkers and priests of the goddess Artemis wanted Paul killed for fear of what would happen to their industry if his preaching prevailed. Culturally, the Jewish and Gentile Christians who would proclaim the faith to the known world were used to a culture where religion was a vital part of building empires and solidifying a community’s faith through the economic and political benefit that faith offered. Faith, that to a large degree helped build communities, was normal. Ironically, community building is something most of the great faiths of the East did not do. Buddhism, Hinduism, and others focused on either personal denial, or spiritual attainment, but they built no lasting communities within communities, or empires within empires. Nor did they build communities with an economy-generating component, as Judaism and Christianity did. Christianity was designed to transcend a culture, and through that transcendence, transform it. This is why Christianity was able to spread and develop beyond the cultural borders of Israel. Christianity is culturally independent: It can be applied to many cultures without losing it core values. Where its principles cannot be adapted, it will either transform the culture or be rejected. As an example: Can a cannibalistic tribe keep its cannibalism and properly apply biblical principles in that culture? Certainly not! The tribe must either be transformed in its culture, or reject the principles of biblical society.
Most importantly, even though the New Testament did not prescribe “nation-building” in Old Testament fashion, the principles of its relationship-oriented missionary venture are identical, as we will see. Christianity may not have set out with political agendas, or nation-development in mind, but the Great Commission made it inevitable. Let us be clear about this: Nation development was inevitable, it was destined to happen, it could not be avoided. The Great Commission guaranteed it.
By this time, many Christians who believe it is best to avoid all political involvement will be scratching their head. How does the Great Commission guarantee political change? You may be in for a shock. There’s a secret you should know about the Great Commission and its place in the Bible.
Three times in the scripture Jesus says, “You cannot be my disciple.”
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
“Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
There is no doubt that these three statements are hard sayings, hard for many people to accept. Now, it’s reasonable for us to say that Jesus didn’t mean that we are literally to hate our parents or hate our family members or hate our lives as if we feel hatred for these as we do for something that we have intense feelings of hate about. No. Jesus is saying something more. He is drawing a contrast between how we feel about these things and how we feel about him. In fact, his three, “You cannot be my disciple” sayings have a root in an Old Testament passage that we often don’t think about. I’ll get to that in just a moment.
In Acts 13:1-3, we find a list of men who had high standing and reputation either socially or spiritually.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Notice who was in the room. Barnabas, previously called the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). Being first in the list he was probably the person of highest standing in the room, along with two men whom even though we don’t know any details of their lives, seem to be important being mentioned so close to Barnabas. Then, Manaen is mentioned, a man who has high political connection. We can assume that these men were of high standing in the church because they are mentioned without explanation, as if the writer, Luke, expects his audience to know who these men are. Then Saul is mentioned as last in the list.
This is for our universalist friends who believe that because of Jesus' death on the cross everyone goes to Heaven; even the wicked. It's not so, and here's why.
As someone who is always exploring various topics of theology, I find myself attracted to certain concepts. One of them is the idea of limited atonement. What is limited atonement? Simply put, limited atonement is the idea that the sacrifice of Christ for sin only applies to the church, those chosen by God who will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. So while in one sense Jesus' sacrifice is enough for the world, in actuality, it only applies to the church.
In the Old Testament's Mosaic Law a person who sinned was required to bring a blood sacrifice for the atonement of his sin.
For the last few months I’ve been exploring the topic of human origins looking to solve challenges that skeptics hold about Cain’s wife, Cain’s city, and his parents, Adam and Eve. I’m not going to spell out here the details that I was uncovering, suffice it to say that my exploration of this topic ended up with me an inch away from the status of a heretic. I might be a little hard on myself, but, considering how much I hate to be wrong, it’s a big deal for me.
I was exploring the topic of origins looking for evidence in the Bible to support the idea that God created humans other than and in addition to Adam and Eve. I was exploring this because I was looking for answers to some interpretive challenges in Genesis 1-3 and found that the idea of God creating other people who were not in special relationship with him, solved some problems that we encounter in the text. For instance, how many kids did Adam and Eve have? Who occupied Cain’s city? If incest is forbidden, who did Cain marry? And other questions.
I found myself developing a theology about origins where these questions were easily answered by an interpretation of Genesis 1:27 that, “Them,” in that passage referred to many people and not simply the first couple of Adam and Eve. Starting there I found it was also easy to build a theological model based upon what scripture didn’t say as well as what it did say. Which is essentially to make scripture say something that it never really said at all, just through silence. And my solution to these interpretive challenges made everything very easy. And that, right there, should have been a warning to me. Scripture can be simple, but it’s not always easy.
Basically, I did six things. As you read this list, ask yourself, have you done these in your reading of scripture?