What Kind of Religion is This?

(A friend of mine named Aaron Gray originally posted this quote and it came up with Connie in a recent conversation. It’s one of my favorite illustrations of why Christianity is not a religion. In fact, one of the charges brought against Christians, by the Romans, was atheism! Anywho, I thought this was far too awesome of a quote not to share here also. Hope you enjoy!)

“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.

“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”

“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”

“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”

“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”

“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”

“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”

“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.

And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”

—Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.

“No man is an island…”

Today I read Jonah as part of my reading plan. I think Jonah is one of those stories that many people like, particularly because we can relate to his tale. Many of us have run from God. Perhaps we ran because we were afraid of what God would ask of us. Perhaps we didn’t want to submit to His calling on our lives. Perhaps we fail to see God’s authority over our lives so we run away from His will. Or, perhaps, if we’re as honest about ourselves as Jonah was, we don’t want to see certain people come to know Christ. Earlier this year, I did a couple posts on The Storms of Life, and I thought I’d add another one that really jumped out to me today.

Not Alone

In 1624 a man named John Donne wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” Too bad these words were written long after Jonah ran from God. Today, perhaps for the first time, I really understood that when Jonah ran from God, he wound up on a boat with a whole crew (Jonah 1:3). Jonah, in the midst of his rebellion and folly, was not alone. There were lots of other people on the boat with Jonah! Now, all the other people who are on the boat are about to have an encounter with God they’ll never forget.
I think it’s easy for us to focus on Jonah. We seldom think about all the other people what were on that ship, too. They were terrified and lost many of their possessions (Jonah 1:5, 10); they were in anguish over whether or not they should throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:12-14). They even fought to save Jonah (Jonah 1:13)! They tried to save the guy that almost got them all killed!
We all know what happens:  they throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:15) and the fish swallows Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The rest is history…
Our Folly, God’s Glory
But what about the other dudes? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about them before. Particularly, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone mention the fact that, after their night with Jonah, they starting worshipping God (Jonah 1:16).
I think it’s important for us to realize that when we rebel against God, we seldom do it without causing others to suffer in our storm. No man could have an addiction to porn that doesn’t affect his entire family as a result. No divorce doesn’t affect the children for the rest of their lives. No one could commit suicide without leaving a permanent mark on their family and loved ones. Even smaller sins, like stealing a candy bar from a 7/11, can have secondary and tertiary effects on other people. This is why it’s important for us to walk blamelessly before God and men, because when one Christian sins it affects the entire Church (1 Cor 12:26).
I also think it’s amazing that God will use our folly and rebellion to draw innocent bystanders to Him as well. God is able to use man’s rebellion to bring glory to Himself (Gen 50:20). Our God is an amazing God and I pray that I won’t be rebellious; but I pray that even if I am, He will still use me for His glory.

(For some great content about Jonah, check out the Jonah series at The Resurgence.)

Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love

I stumbled upon this video and found it very encouraging. I feel as though we as a society have lost our understanding of what it means to enter into a covenant relationship with our spouse. We actually don’t make our commitment to them, we make our commitment to God! May we all grow in our appreciation for the covenant we enter into when we say “I do.” And, may we grow in our appreciation for the faithfulness that God shows us when we enter into a covenant with Him!

Piper, Carson, and Keller on Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Two Dimensions to Freedom

Today is the 4th of July. For us Americans, it’s a pretty big deal. There will, no doubt, be lots of families gathering, grills cooking, and fireworks exploding. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of freedom for the last month or so and it all started when I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller called “Absolutism: Don’t we all have to find truth for ourselves?” I’ve also been reading The Reason for God, in which Tim Keller shares some of the same thoughts. Finally, yesterday at church, our pastor—Jered Rothwilson—gave a really great sermon about freedom.
Those three messages have been swimming around in my head and have really given me a lot to think about. Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to:  modern Americans have no clue what freedom means nor do we have an appreciation for how to keep it. We only know freedom with width, but for the most part I feel like we do not know freedom with depth; there are two dimensions to freedom. Allow me to elaborate.
According to dictionary.com, freedom is defined as:
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.
The general idea of these—the top three—definitions is that freedom is a complete lack of constraints, the ability to do whatever you want. I think this idea is reflected in our art, too. I did a Google image search on the word “freedom” and here are the top 8 results:

Notice all of the images (expect one) depict a wide, open area. Over half of them feature just one person. All of them envision the people with their arms spread wide or lifted to the heavens. These are all depictions of a one-dimensional freedom:  a freedom with width.
In his sermon, Keller argues that freedom is a lot more complex than you think, and I agree with him. He gives the example of a fish; a fish is only truly free when it embraces the boundaries of staying in water. Later he uses the illustration of a musician who forgoes many of their freedoms to become a world-class musician; they gave up some of their freedoms to enjoy a richer, deeper freedom. Here are some examples I came up with:
  • A single person can enjoy a wide dimension of romantic freedom, whereas a married person will enjoy a deep dimension of romantic freedom.
  • Someone who spends all their money however they want, whenever they want will enjoy a wide dimension of financial freedom, whereas someone who saves and invests will enjoy a deep dimension of financial security and freedom.
  • A person who eats whatever they want, whenever they want, and however much they want will enjoy a wide dimension of dietary freedom (as well as a wide waist-line), whereas someone who eats healthy foods in moderate proportions will enjoy a far healthier freedom.
Thus, freedom is not exclusively concerned with width, but also depth, and you cannot have both. There is a trade-off required. I can’t just go out with any woman I want because I’m married, but I enjoy a degree of intimacy and love with my wife that I could never have with a superficial girlfriend.
The same is even true for our great nation, which is why our founding fathers wrote the Constitution. Did you know that the Constitution was actually a follow-up to something else? Initially, the U.S. was loosely governed by the Articles of Confederation, which gave all the independent states a very wide dimension of freedom. In fact, the Articles gave a freedom that was so wide that it was useless, which is part of why the Federalist Papers were written and the U.S. Constitution was later adopted.
Freedom demands boundaries. Either we will place a boundary on how deep our freedom goes and we will enjoy a wide freedom, or we will place a boundary on how wide our freedom goes, and we will enjoy a deep freedom.
Jesus did the same thing when He came to earth. Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus came in human flesh and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of dying on the cross. In this, we find Jesus limiting the width and even the depth of His freedom in order to grant us the deepest of all freedoms possible. Jesus talked about slavery and freedom in John 8:34 where He says “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Sin is an oppressive master that holds us under an oppressive and shallow freedom. But Jesus follows up by saying that if He sets us free we “will be free indeed.” To get a better idea of what exactly Jesus meant in this passage, I looked at the Greek and found out that the word for “indeed” in this passage is ont?s, which means “truly, really, or in truth.” By embracing the boundaries that Christ places on us we can know true freedom with real depth. Could this be what Jesus was describing when He said He came to give us “life to the full” (Jn 10:10)?
My prayer is that all who read this have a wonderful 4th of July and come to a deeper appreciation of our freedom. God bless and happy 4th!

I want to live a Spirit-filled life.

Connie & I have begun a study about the Holy Spirit. I feel like this is an oft-neglected area of Christianity in America. While I think it’s neglected theologically, I think it’s even more neglected practically. Here’s a challenging quote from Forgotten God by Francis Chan that I thought was worth sharing:
Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again say that they they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, out sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them (Pgs 32-33)?

Another great quote, from the same book, is about the confusion a caterpillar must experience and a challenge for us to live a Spirit-filled life:
For all its caterpillar life, it crawls around a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. And then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body and gorgeous wings?
As believers, we ought to experience this same kind of astonishment when the Holy Spirit enters our bodies. We should be stunned in disbelief over becoming “new creations” with the Spirit living in us. As the caterpillar finds its new ability to fly, we should be thrilled over our Spirit-empowered ability to live differently and faithfully.
I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit’s leading on a daily basis. Christ said it is better for us that the Spirit came, and I want to live like I know that is true. I don’t want to keep crawling when I have the ability to fly (Pg 37).

Do you know any Christians like this? Do you know anyone who is undeniably filled with the Holy Spirit? It’s my prayer that Connie and I continue to grow in this area!

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit