Archive for September 2012

Thinking Soberly   Leave a comment

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… Romans 12:1-6

A living sacrifice is something that has died, yet it is alive.

Paul’s comment in Romans 12 is the logical conclusion of his teaching in chapter 6 of the same letter: Christ died and was resurrected, and we died with him and were raised with him. We are to “reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God” (Romans 6:11.)

We are to think of ourselves as living sacrifices, in other words.

This is what the “renewal of the mind” is all about. We need to align our minds with the historical reality of our co-death and resurrection with Jesus Christ. If we do so, our lives will be transformed accordingly.

But Paul does not stop there. This new type of thinking is further elaborated on in verse 3. We many no longer think “higher of ourselves than we ought to.” The illusions of grandeur that were entertained by the old self are no longer allowed. We are now to think of ourselves “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” to us. This measure is determined by our membership in our new family, that is, the body of Christ.

Our calling in life is not to live up to some projected image of the idealized self. Neither is it to try and eradicate the self in order to become nothing.

No, it is to understand the measure and calling of the new resurrected self, as it fits into the body of Christ, and to live according thereto.

Posted September 28, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Do Unto Others   Leave a comment

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

The Bible is a very thick book. With the help of some of us, it has also become a very complicated one.

God may be mysterious, but he is not complicated. His revelation to us has always been simple. There was nothing complicated about Jesus Christ, his life or his teaching. Paul wrote to the Corinthians “For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.”

The Old Testament, commonly referred to as “the Law and the Prophets”, can be summarized in a single sentence. That is how understandable God has made it.

Every single one of my children came into the world knowing exactly what they wanted. Every person I have ever met in my life knew what he or she wanted from others. Inscribed upon human nature is a script that cannot be erased: “This is what I want.”

The central message of the Bible is remarkably simple. It does not prescribe an ascendance of consciousness that will take the participant from one mystical illumination to the next. It does not prescribe decades of academic research to discover the evasive thoughts of God.

No. It takes that which is most clear to every person on the planet and uses it as a script for our lives. It takes the “This is what I want!” and prescribes it as the basis for our actions towards others.

Inside of us are the Law and Prophets of God. We cannot shake them. They are revealed perfectly. The problem has never been with the “What?” It has always been with the “Who?”

You know full well what a human being needs. Now go and provide it.

Posted September 21, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Rethinking the Great Commission   4 comments

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20

Apart from John 3:16, the “Great Commission” may very well be the best-known and most quoted verse in the Bible. Yet it contains a startling implication that we oftentimes miss when we read it, speak about it or try and obey it.

Note that the calling is to make disciples, not converts. Also note that the way to do this is to teach them “to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Some of us stop reading when we see the word “nations”.

If you are a tent evangelist up in Africa and your fiery sermons and passionate altar calls make thousands stream to the front to say the Sinner’s Prayer and “give their hearts to Jesus”, you are doing a mighty fine job. But you are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

Others stop reading when they see the word “teaching”.

If you are a Bible teacher and you devote your life to expounding the Scriptures and teaching the great doctrines of the Christian faith to people, you should be applauded. But you are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

Note again: The great Commission is about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, not “lead them to me” or “clarify my teachings to them”.

Jesus Christ is more intelligible than any one of his commentators. His teachings and commandments are crystal clear and extremely simple. The difficulty has never been to understand Jesus. It is to obey him.

We are to go into the world and assist people to obey commandments that are stated in the plainest language imaginable. That’s the Great Commission.

Posted September 18, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

Stephen Crosby’s “The Offense of Radical Grace”   1 comment

This post ministered to me in an unbelievable way. Yes, I admit it. The Pharisee within has oftentimes been deeply offended by the way in which God chooses to use people whom I would never have used (I would always use me, of course). I’m also offended that I didn’t write this.

The Offense of Radical Grace by Stephen Crosby

God uses very flawed, damaged, and “imperfect” people to accomplish great things for His kingdom interests. After all, damaged, imperfect, and flawed people are all He has to work with to begin with, including you and I! The expansion of His kingdom is not held hostage to the development of our character. Faith works by love, not by holiness and this is offensive to all spiritual over-achievers.

Some say this makes grace a license to sin. God forbid. However, this truth of radical grace is very offensive to religious sensibilities of propriety: how unholy people can be used to accomplish dynamic, holy results. It is, never the less, the way it is. Does this mean we do not deal with sin issues? God forbid. Does this mean that our transformation into the image of Christ is of no value? GOD FORBID! Transformation is EVERYTHING that matters to us subjectively and for all eternity!

HOWEVER . . . .

it also does not mean that in order to go forward in and through human vessels, OBJECTIVELY FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS, that God’s kingdom requires a preconceived notion of some level of personal holiness (Begs the question . . . How holy do you have to be, and who measures it?)

Yes, this is the offense, the risk, and the contradiction of putting His Holy Spirit in clay vessels. It pricks and irritates the little Pharisee hiding in each of us. It irks that carnal religious desire for “fairness” and “equity.” We often have a language of grace on our lips, but in the deepest recesses of our soul, we still live and think out of a merit-based system. We operate under a contractual understanding with the Almighty, rather than covenantally from a revelation of His love.

It is deeply offensive to our religious sensibilities to see someone who in thinking, doctrine, and behavior, is in error, sin, immaturity, or gross misbehavior, experience LEGITIMATE kingdom fruit in greater degree and measure than ourselves and the people we associate with. “God . . . how can so and so be so used by you?” “I mean they are______. (Fill in the blank with the egregious shortcoming of your choice)

It bugs us.

When that question comes out of our consciousness, it proves we still do not understand the grace of God. The obvious question to ask in response is “How can God use you?”

Do you really think your acquisition of personal holiness merits His special favor? The Lord is LORD of His own! He can do what He wants, how He wants, when He wants, with His own. Before Him, and Him alone, will each of us stand. How the LORD of the harvest uses other broken sheaves in His field, is none of our business.

What then of obedience? What value is there then to obeying? It breaks my heart to even hear that kind of thinking come out of believers’ mouths. It reveals such a meager understanding of the gospel.

Jesus is His own reward. Obedience is the logical fruit of the new nature, the logical return on the investment of the life of the Son of God in us. It is the reasonable expectation of the husbandman on the seed of the Son that has been planted in us by and in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t obey because of some sort of quid-pro-quo negotiated benefit contract with the Almighty! I obey because obedience is His gift in me, He is worthy of it, and most of all . . . because I love Him! Why would I not want to obey? Fish are created to swim, birds are born to fly, and horses are born to run. Obedience is the supernaturally natural response of the new creation nature! It is HIS LIFE in me, released through the power of an endless life, via the cross daily taken, in cycles of death and resurrection to my soul . . . all the days of my life. We are born to it . . . if we are really born . . . if we are really participators int eh new creation life . . . and the longer I live the more I agree with Dr. D. J. Kennedy who said before he passed that it was his conviction that 75% of the people in evangelical churches are not born again/converted. I think he may have been an optimist.

Obedience is its own reward. Our “reward” (If we must use that language) is not necessarily harvested in this life. Eternity is not a commune with everyone in a white robe and a halo sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp and singing praise songs forever! We will be occupied in eternity with unspeakably glorious co-regency privileges of mature, overcoming sons and daughters like unto the First-born . . . things so glorious that like Paul, I can’t share them with you here. But what we do with Christ, the gift of God . . . how we live . . . in this life . . . matters. It determines eternity.

I often wonder if the people who ask that question (“Well, if grace is so radical as you say, what’s the point of obeying?) have ever really met the Lord? I can’t help but think they haven’t, or at least not the Savior I know and love. They may have been introduced to some system of religious beliefs and behavior modification based on the Bible, but I have doubts about their encounter with a resurrected, God-Man in glory, the ever living Son of God and Son of Man who is the lover and redeemer of their souls, who has united His Spirit with theirs, who has taken up residence in them, and who will be in them forever . . . .

Joy unspeakable . . . and full of glory . . .

Copyright 2012, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, http://www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

Posted September 10, 2012 by naturalchurch in Grace & Law

Beholding Christ   Leave a comment

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18

The first humans were created in “the image and likeness” of God. This image was marred as a result of the fall, but is under construction yet again due to the fact that we are new creations in Christ Jesus.

The New Testament and the Old Testament are perfectly correlated as far as our reason for being is concerned. From the beginning God’s purpose for you and I was to exist in the image of God.

But there is a catch. In order to be transformed into this image, we need to “behold” it first. The word is not one we use in everyday English, but can be roughly translated as “looking with intent”.

Why? Sociologists and anthropologists may provide the answer. The process of human growth and maturation is dependent on an intricate process of identification with a “role model”, they tell us. This may be confirmed by the fascinating studies that have been done on so-called “feral children”, that is, children whose primary caretakers, during their formative years, were animals.

Feral children take on the characteristics of the animals that raised them. They typically walk on all fours, have short lifespans, develop many of the same sensitivities and oftentimes suffer from telltale growth deformities.

We become like our role models. We become like those we look up to. We identify with them and in the process trigger a magical transference of qualities that are characteristic to them.

It is the same spiritually. We become what we behold. The most important song on planet earth may very well be the classic Irish hymn: “Be thou my vision…”

Who, or what, are you beholding?

Posted September 8, 2012 by naturalchurch in Bloemnuus Columns

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