Friday, July 29, 2011

Hand Picked: 1 Peter 2:9 Part 1.

Photo courtesy of Mattox
Today my aim is to begin a five part series of posts on 1 Peter 2:9. In this one verse we have a beautiful explanation of who we are as believers in Jesus Christ and children of God. Not only that, but at the end of the verse Peter tells us exactly why God has made us and called us to Himself. The inspiration for this series came to me, not from the book of 1 Peter itself, but actually from 1 Corinthians 3:3 which says,

for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are walking like mere men?

To understand this verse it is important to know that Paul is admonishing the Corinthians church and at this point is basically telling them that they are not living like who they really are. Therefore, the question arises, "Who are we in Christ?" I will say that there have been many, many people who have done an amazing job at discovering what the Bible tells us about who we are in Christ. People like Bill and Anabel Gillham, the folks at Grace Life International, and my former pastor and good friend Paul Crews have all gone to great lengths to share with believers about their true identity in Christ Jesus. This short series is not meant to supplant anything these wonderful teachers have put forth. On the contrary, they deserve credit for enlightening me about the subject and I pray that this is a small addition to the foundation they have laid in many people's lives.

If we look at 1 Peter 2:9 we find that the first thing that we are in Christ is a "chosen race." Depending on your preferred translation it may read "chosen generation" or some other similar phrase. No matter the particular wording we can be sure that the Word is telling us that we have been hand picked by God for His purposes. This has massive implications if we look to other passages to add clarity to the idea of being chosen by God. For instance, if we look at Romans 8:29-31 Paul tells us this,

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that  He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

There is so much in this short passage that it could easily be a sermon or a post all in itself, but I want to point out a few things concerning the nature of God's choice of us. First, we are told that He "foreknew" us. That means that God knew you and made His choice of you long before you were even a sparkle in your father's eye. God didn't wait until you were grown up to see how you would turn out and then think to Himself, "Hey, this Christian fella seems alright. I think I'll choose him to be one of my children." He knows us, not only in our mother's womb as David would write, but even before He set the foundations of the earth in place. From and earthly point of view God picked us sight unseen. He didn't take us for a test-drive or wait to see how we performed in the minors. He picked us long, long ago. Not only that but since He predestined us, He also called us. That means that God has given each of us a special calling for Kingdom purposes. We each have a part in the Body of Christ and a valuable and crucial part at that! Furthermore, it is He that justified us. He is the one who makes the call regarding our calling and eternal fate, no one else. When you add all of this up we are left with the same conclusion that Paul comes to, If God is for us, who is against us? Paul goes on to ask another question in verse 33,

Who will bring a charge against God's elect?

This statement should bring with it an incredible degree of assurance. First of all, because it was Christ who make the way for our justification and He is God then Satan has no jurisdiction over our heart, mind or soul. One of his most cunning strategies is to remind us of our past sins and failures, things that have been forgiven and cast into the sea of forgetfulness, removed as far as the east is from the west. No man or spiritual principality can ever hold those things against us because the One God of the universe has said they are forgiven. The flip side of this is also important. God can bring charges against us. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sins. If that conviction comes from Him then there is no doubt that it needs to be dealt with. However, once it is, it is done, over, finis, kaput.  The beautiful conclusion to this passage begins with yet another question that Paul answers in glorious fashion,

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

The answer? Nothing. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we have been chosen by God we are sealed for good and nothing in this world, seen or unseen will ever change that. The mystery lies in the fact that this is not because we are lovely or loveable. It is because of the unconditional nature of God's perfect and holy love. God loves us because we are His and it is His nature to love.

Look also at Ephesians 1:5 which states,

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Here again we find that we have been predestined to be God's children. Also, we see that it was because of His "kind intention." Not having anything to do with our merit or goodness but solely because it was His divine choice. The word "adoption" in the verse also has far reaching implications that we will soon see as 1 Peter 2:9 continues to unfold. For now let me just encourage you that it means we are brought into God's family forevermore.

Brothers and sisters, dear friends in Christ, you have been picked by God to be part of His people and His family. This is who we are. We are not second rate, outcasts. We are a chosen race, and chosen generation, set apart for His will and Kingdom purposes in this world and the next.

Godspeed,

Christian

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Behind the Podium vs. In the Field

Photo courtesy of tvvoodoo
I have mentioned before that one of my passions is the discipline of Christian apologetics. I even went so far as to write my master's thesis on the subject and I believe it is extremely valuable for Christians to be able to defend and explain their faith in ways that make sense to the world around us. Of course, there are many who disagree with this position stating that our faith is just that, faith, and reason has no place in it. On the contrary, I believe that the Bible is full of teachings that encourage the defense of the faith using reason, science, history, etc. Peter tells us to be ready at all times to give an account for the faith that dwells within us (2 Peter 3:15). God even tells Isaiah that they should "reason together" (Isaiah 1:18) and we are told that Paul reasoned in the synagogue with the Pharisees (Acts 17:17).

With all of that being said, there are some pitfalls to apologetics that we could fall into if we are not careful. I want to take a few moments today to address what I think could be the most dangerous of these. If we are not careful with our apologetics we run the risk turning our faith, the Faith of Christianity, into a cerebral exercise and forgetting that there must be an interaction between our mind, our heart and our actions. I have seen debates between atheists and Christians where the Christian seems to have lost sight of the fact that we are admonished to speak the truth in love and that our words should be seasoned with salt, as the saying goes. In the end it becomes a situation where the Christian debater seems to be saying, "I'm right, can't you see it? Its obvious you dummy. Ha ha ha, look at the silly atheist." No doubt these thoughts may be running through my mind sometimes while watching such a debate. However, I think it is vital that we remember, as Stuart McCallister has said, we are not trying to win an argument, we are trying to win a heart for Jesus. The goal of Christian apologetics is not to prove that we are right and carry the debate. The goal is to show that Christ is right and Truth.

Recently I was listening to a message by Ravi Zacharias via his podcast "Let my People Think." If you are familiar with apologetics at all you have probably heard of Zacharias and I would submit that he is one of the best, most well-rounded apologists out there. In this message one of his main points was that we need to practice apologetics "with a touch." What in the world does that mean? A touch of what? Quite simply, he means a real, physical touch. Our apologetics, Zacharias submits, must be accompanied by our presence in the lives of those we are attempting to reach. I believe this could become the most powerful argument for Jesus Christ because it was the way of Christ. To have the combination of a solid, reasonable argument for the Christian faith in concert with the tangible evidence thereof is almost impossible to argue with. Let me offer an example of what this looks like. Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and author who hails from Great Britain. He is also one of the most vocal and adamant opponents of religion. He has engaged in debates with well known Christians such as William Lane Craig, Frank Turek and Dinesh D'Souza. Also, for the past year or so he has been fighting cancer. I have heard (I don't have source for this. It is just something I have heard through the grapevine so it may or may not be true but the example still stands) that throughout his battle with the disease he has received many letters from Christians, the very people he persecutes, letting him know that they are praying for him and for his healing. While he was not willing to make the step of admitting faith in Christ, word has it that he was deeply touched by the gesture. That is apologetics with a touch.

There are thousands of other ways that we can put legs to our reasonable faith but I want to turn to the Bible for a moment and see what James has to tell us about the matter. In James 3:17 he tells us;

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 

It is easy for us to line up all of our ontological, teleological, moral and cosmological arguments for the existence of God backed up by our evidence for the reliability of Scripture and forget what really defines godly wisdom. Look again at the verse from James. "Reasonable" is in the list but "pure, peaceable" and "gentle" come before it. We are to be unwavering in our stance on the truth but it is also to be displayed with "mercy" and "good fruits." We, as Christians, should stand as ones who are not only right but have been made right with, and by, God Himself. This verse shows us the wisdom with which Jesus walked and operated on a daily basis while on this earth and it is wisdom we should seek to display to the world.

In science, or any other subject for that matter, it is one thing to come up with a theory that looks good on paper. It is another matter entirely to have a theory that works on paper and in the real world. The theory is not proved on paper, it is proved in the field. Our faith is not proved behind the podium of debate, it is proved in the world in which we live it. That is the kind of apologetic that we should promote. That is the kind of apologetic that will help truth make the journey from a person's mind to their heart.   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: Crazy Love

In the Christian culture here in America we love our books and every so often a book comes along that sweeps over our collective radar like a wave of B-52's heading for enemy territory. Over the past couple of years Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan has done just that. In nearly any church or Christian circle of friends you will find someone who has read this book and been blown away by it. After reading it it is easy to see why.

If we can compare reading a book to a boxing match then the first few chapters of Crazy Love is Chan feeling us out, throwing a few calculated punches but for the most part just dancing around while we try to get a bead on him. Then, around about chapter four, he lands the first punch that lets us know he means business. In fact, after beginning the book I was almost underwhelmed and found myself wondering what the fuss was all about. Then he began to hit me where it hurt. In the chapter entitled "Profile of the Lukewarm" he goes on for 12 pages describing various images of what it looks like to be a lukewarm Christian. At the conclusion of the chapter I found myself in the corner of the ring wondering what the number was of that bus that just ran me over.

As the bout continues the blows keep coming from every conceivable direction but the knockout came in chapter nine when he put, of all things, real names and lives with his exhortation to live completely abandoned and in love with God. You see, in chapter eight Chan outlines what it means to live as one obsessed with Christ. By all accounts he sets a pretty high standard and leaves us asking the question, "Who could live like that?" Enter chapter nine. Any time we are faced with the example set by our brothers and sisters in Christ it is a humbling experience. To know that there are those who have truly sold-out to God and are living each and every day on nothing more than His promises.

Now, let me talk a little bit more in the way of review. First of all, Crazy Love is a well-written book, there is no doubt about that. Chan doesn't seem to be in the business of trying to make a certain page-count so the pace is brisk without him repeating himself and beating the proverbial dead horses that some do. In that same vein, he lets the Scripture do the heavy lifting while he shed insight on the passages. I appreciate his liberal use of Biblical passages because, as Christians, that is our standard not someone's opinion. Also, Chan makes it clear, especially in the last chapter, that he is not suggesting that we should all fit into one of the examples he has given. God calls us all to do different things and live in different ways. He puts it this way;

Should you put your house on the market today and downsize? Maybe. Should you quit your job? Maybe. Or perhaps God wants you to work harder at your job and be His witness there. Does He want you to move to another city or another country? Maybe. Perhaps He wants you to stay put and open your eyes to the needs of your neighbors.

I so appreciate an author who doesn't say, "This is how others have done it and this is how you're supposed to do it." The fact of the matter is, there are some broad imperatives that we find in Scripture like, "Love your neighbor as yourself." How God wants that to look in our lives may be different for each of us. Francis Chan seems to understand that and that is one of the beauties of this book. So, if your looking for a serious critique of Western Christianity and a book that will challenge what culture has fed you, then this is a great starting point. You may find that it goes against the grain of what makes you comfortable but that is part of growing in Christ and being in love with Him.


Other books by Francis Chan: Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.
Similar books: The Road to Reality by K.P Yohannan.

Link to book on Christianbook.com



768513: Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

By Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski

Friday, July 8, 2011

What if He is leading our Nation?

Photo courtesy of dimitri C
I was having some prayer time this morning and written on my prayer list, as I am sure it is on many of yours, was a note to pray for our nation's leaders. Whether we agree with their policies or not most Christians would say that it is important for us to lift up our national leadership to God in prayer and this is something that is practiced by thousands, if not millions of Christians across our country. This morning something unique happened though. As I was asking God to guide and direct the leaders of our country I was struck with this thought; "What if He is?" Now, am I claiming that this was placed in my mind and spirit by God? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know for sure. What I can tell you is it didn't come alone and a wave of implications filled my mind as I contemplated the idea that God may be directing our leaders already. For now, I want to look at this in two ways that, I pray, will not make anyone upset but rather push us beyond the box a little bit.

1) Many of us pray and pray and pray that God will direct our leaders and it seems like these petitions are falling on deaf ears, or God is simply choosing to ignore our requests. We think this because what we are seeing in Washington and our state capitols does not look like something that is being guided by God. However, what if God is guiding them and it is simply not in the direction we think He should be going in? This is a toughy because we all have our preconceived notions of what a leader would look like if God were at the helm of their life. Just stop and think for a moment about what a godly leader would look like in our nation. What if we are wrong? What if our "civil religion" and Christian faith have become so intermingled that we can't tell one from the other? There is actually a biblical reason that I say this and it came to mind when I had the initial thought. Listen to the words of Isaiah 55:8-9;

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And my thoughts than your thoughts."

What if God's higher ways look a whole lot different than we think they should? What if we're praying earnestly for God to guide our national leaders and He is, it's just on a higher level than we can comprehend? In all honesty, I think the real take-home lesson here is that we must be willing to admit that we don't have God all figured out. No matter how much we think we know, the reality is we know next to nothing when it comes to the divine mind and plan. God has given us what we need to know in His Word but even that is just a drop in the bucket of who God is.

2) The second option that comes to mind when contemplating the idea that God is guiding our leaders is this; "What if He is guiding them down this path on purpose?" This is where we as a nation come into the picture. What if God is leading them down a path of suffering because of the sins of the nation? The two books of Chronicles in the Bible are a litany of idolatry and reform, sin and obedience and so on. By the time we get to 2 Chronicles 34 God has made up His mind that Israel will soon suffer in captivity. Despite the fact that Josiah is one of the greatest kings Israel had seen since David, and he instituted sweeping reforms throughout the land God still says;

Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched (2 Chronicles 34:25).

Then He tells Josiah;

Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants (2 Chronicles 34:28).

Even though Josiah tried as hard as he could to stave off the disaster that was coming, God's mind was set and the machine of His wrath was set irreversibly in motion.Could it be that this is where we find ourselves today in the United States? We pray, now that God would direct our leaders and He is but it is down the path of His judgment and as Hebrews 10:31 reminds us, It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Dear friends, there is no doubt in my mind that we, in the United States, "have burned incense to other gods." I don't mean that God is going to punish us because we allow people of other religions to worship freely in our midst. That freedom, I believe, God honors. I mean that we worship the gods of fame, power, money, "things," beauty, death and so many others. These are the gods we worship, adore and burn incense to, all the while tipping our hat to the living and true God. This, I assure you, He will not stand for.

So, what if God is guiding our nation's leaders and it just isn't the direction we envisioned? I will say this, I do not think we should stop praying for our leaders for any reason whatsoever. For one thing, we do not know that we are beyond to point of no return. Take Josiah as an example again. He never stopped trying to honor God with his leadership even though he knew the wrath was inevitable. No matter how grim the outlook is we should, as Winston Churchill would say, "never, never give up." On the other hand, what if God is leading our leaders and His direction just doesn't match our preconceived notions? Then the burden lies with our own prayer life. Can we learn to pray "Not my will but thy will be done"? Can we find it in ourselves to trust in God's plan no matter what it is?

This is a tough thought and I think that is okay. I hope that it has caused you to think some about what is going on in our nation. I know it has given me pause on some of my own notions. Let me close this in the only way that seems appropriate right now, a prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Lord, I don't know what all is going to happen in our beloved country over the next months, years and decades. I know that we have strayed so far from your commands and your ways and I pray that we would repent of those sins and turn back to You. Father, I do want to lift up our national, state and local leaders to you. They have a difficult, and many times thankless, job. Lord, they help set the pace for our nation and they have the power to legislate all kinds of things and so we pray for your guidance in their leadership. That being said Lord, I pray that you will would be done no matter what it is. It may be that you are leading in a direction that we don't see right now; or it could be that you are taking us down a path of judgment. No matter what God, I pray for your will and I pray that we will be able to accept it and rejoice in it. I pray this all in Jesus' name.

Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Unless the Father Draws

Photo courtesy of hisks
If Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare's doing. Hamlet could do nothing. C.S Lewis in Surprised by Joy.

Compelle intrare, "compel them to come in."

It seems that I've been on a bit of a C.S Lewis kick here lately but then again I can't envision a scenario where that would be a bad thing necessarily. The quote above comes from Lewis' account of his conversion to theism in 1929. It is found in the second to last chapter of his autobiography Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life, which is appropriately titled "Checkmate." Along with being a conversion account that only a literary great like C.S Lewis could pen, there are also some powerful truths found in his imagery. In a sense it is not unlike the way he explains the Christian faith through the medium of Narnia. Of course, this is no fantasy novel or anything remotely related to it. Rather, what I mean is that Lewis has a flare for using deeply meaningful metaphors even in his non-fiction writing.

In the quote about Shakespeare and Hamlet, Shakespeare is to be seen as God and Hamlet represents Lewis. This much should be obvious. With that point in mind it is clear that Lewis means that if he were ever to encounter God it must be something that God would do. It could not be of his own manufacturing or effort. Hamlet could no more extricate himself from the pages of the play to meet Shakespeare than Lewis could force a meeting with God. This is an interesting idea and one that could be somewhat disturbing to people whether or not they are believers. I mean think about it for just a moment. That means that we are powerless to come to God on our own terms. However, Jesus told us as much in John 6:44;

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 

This is almost a scary thought because it means, as I said, we are powerless to effect our own salvation. This means we couldn't go to God even if we wanted to...right? Let me say, I do not think this means that if someone earnestly wants salvation God will not give it to them, and here is why. I don't think we can even desire salvation apart from the unction (there's an old school word) of the Holy Spirit, that drawing call of God. If we look at the passage this verse comes from we find that there was a group of Jews who were "grumbling" about Jesus claiming to be from Heaven. They were saying, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? This is not the image of someone coming to Jesus, admitting He is the Christ and begging for salvation. Nowhere in the Bible do we find someone humbly coming to Jesus as savior only to be rejected.

Additionally, we have to look at this verse, and this idea for that matter, in light of another passage, Luke 14:16-24. This is the parable of the dinner where the master invited many people and no one showed up. Why did they not show up? Jesus tells us they all made excuses not to come...they didn't want to come. Then in verse 23 He says this;

And the master said to the slave, "Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled."

This parable is ripe with meaning and one of the truths that Jesus is getting at is that there will be others besides the Jews who will become children of God, e.g. the Gentiles (that's us by the way). There is something else that I draw from this parable and it relates to the subject at hand. The master told the servant to go all over the place and compel all kinds of people to come to his supper. The image here is not of a master who had a select list of people that he gave to the servant. Instead it was a broad invitation to as many people as he could get to. Furthermore, in verse 24, Jesus says;

For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.

This shows us a very, very important truth. Even if we are called upon by God to "come" we have the choice as to whether or not we will go. When they were called from their fishing nets and tax booths the disciples could have chosen not to follow Christ. When he was confronted with the option to sell all he had and follow Jesus the rich young man decided to turn away. You and I all have the option to either accept or reject the call of God, but He alone decides whether or not to call us.

Again, this can be a rather unsavory thought. However, I do not believe that there has ever been a person who honestly wanted to follow God who was rejected by Him. The one who should be afraid is the one who has never wanted to go to God. It is like people who say they are afraid that they may have committed the unforgivable sin. My response is, "If you are concerned that you have committed it, I can assure you that you haven't." The ones who have probably either never know it, or worse yet, don't care.

Let me give a few more promises from God that will help salve the soul that is concerned over this issue. First, Matthew 18:14 tells us that, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. God does not delight in seeing any of His beloved people perish in Hell. He wants as many people as possible to crowd Heaven for all of eternity because it will be as big as it needs to be, there will be room! Secondly, Jesus beckons every person who reads the Gospels with these words in Matthew 11:28;

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 

He doesn't say "some" who are weary or "a few of you who are heavy-laden." He says "all." The sad reality is that all who are called will not respond affirmatively. Make no mistake about it, all who are called will respond but that response may be like the guests in the parable. Many will make excuses or simply say "no." As cold and hard a fact as it is, it is not our concern who God chooses to call. Our concern, first and foremost, is how we respond to that call. Furthermore, we must be ready to be used by God to call others to Himself. This is the essence of the Great Commission, God using His children to call other people into the fold.

In the end it may be a hard truth to accept that God calls those whom He chooses. It may be difficult to understand that if we are to come to God in the first place, He must initiate the relationship. However, this is the core of the Gospel. We are powerless to effect our own salvation and it is because of that fact that God sent His Son to die for us. It is a gift that we are given and our only role in the matter is to either accept or reject it. If there were any other way, it would be based on our works and then there would be cause, if even only a minute one, for us to boast in ourselves.

I freely admit that I do not, and never will, fully understand the mind of God. I certainly don't have all the answers to this question but the few things I do know give me comfort enough to press on.

1) To come to God He must call us first.
2) God's will is that none should perish.
3) God's call is broad, not narrow.
4) God has made the ultimate effort to reach out to us by His Son living on this earth, dying for our sins and rising from the grave for our justification.
5) When God does call we are left with the option to follow or not.

And finally, the words that the great theologian Karl Barth is said to have summed up his knowledge of God with,

6) "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Godspeed,
Christian 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The "how" doesn't really matter.

Theories about Christ's death are not Christianity: they are explanations of how it works.
C.S Lewis in Mere Christianity.

One of the books that has had the most profound impact on my (and I suspect many others) spiritual life is Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis. It is, at once, accessible to most believers and a beautiful example of how the English language is not so vulgar after all. This may stem from the fact that Lewis, over and above being a philosopher, was a student and professor of Literature, and indeed the author of one of the finest fantasy series' ever written, The Chronicles of Narnia. What Lewis sets out to accomplish in this book is, not to expound something I could call 'my religion,' but to expound 'mere' Christianity, which is what it is and what it was long before I was born and whether I like it or not. This is one of the things I appreciate the most about this work. He is not telling us what it means to be Baptist or Methodist or even Anglican. He is trying, as a fallible human being himself, to boil Christianity down to the lowest common denominator. Enter the quote from the top of the post.

When I read that line from the chapter entitled "The Perfect Penitent" I was struck by both the truth of the statement itself and also one of the greatest flaws we, as believers, have: making mountains out of molehills, as it were. You see, one of the things I learned in seminary was that there are a variety of theories for each aspect of Christian doctrine. For instance, we spent and entire portion of our Systematic Theology class hashing out the doctrine of the Trinity. The perfect evidence of this is that while the Bible fits neatly into one volume that, depending on the font size, can be put in one's pocket, there are entire libraries filled with books about the Bible and all aspects of Christianity. In seeing that it is hard to take seriously the old adage, "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it." While I agree with the underlying sentiment of that statement it seems that for the majority of believers that doesn't settle it! Even with just one authoritative body of Scripture there are a variety of theories regarding the essential doctrines contained therein.

Lets take the issue of Christ's atonement as an example here. If you type in "atonement theories" into Google you can find several lists of those theories. The website religioustolerance.org gives us four theories: ransom, penal substitution, satisfaction and moral. Each of these is espoused by various flavors of Christianity such as Roman Catholics, evangelicals, orthodox and liberal Christians. Each of these theories is an effort to explain exactly how Christ's sacrifice saved us from our sins. As Lewis puts it, this is a desire to not only agree that some law of nature works but to understand how it works as well. We believe that there is gravity, for example, but how does gravity actually work? I think the point that Lewis is trying to make is one that we should take heed of today, it doesn't really matter. Figuring out the "how" of the atonement is far less important than understanding that it happened at all. Beyond that it is much more important to understand the "who" of the atonement, e.g. Jesus Christ atoned you and I. I seriously doubt that when we stand before the Almighty He is going to quiz us on atonement theories to make sure we had it all figured out before we arrived in Heaven. In fact, I believe that if the "how" was that important it would have been made plain in the Bible so that there would be no question.

Now, let me say this so there is less room for misunderstanding. I do not believe that meditating on deep theological questions is completely useless. That, I believe, is part of understanding our faith and growing more mature as Christians. However, when our faith becomes nothing more than a cerebral exercise to the point that it grows impersonal we have a serious problem. First and foremost the Christian faith is about a relationship with a person, and that person is the Triune God of the universe. Understanding how God does everything is secondary to being in a relationship with Him. One of the beauties of the Christian faith is that it can withstand critical thought and you can plumb the depths of it until you die and never scratch the surface. On the other hand it is simple enough for a child to understand it and even the most unintellectual person can grasp the truth contained in the Gospel.

In American Christianity I see this issue most vividly in the divisions over theories regarding the end times. There are those who believe that the Church will be "raptured" before the Tribulation, those who say after the Tribulation and those who say during. No matter how hard I try I cannot figure out what difference it makes. This much is clear to me from the Bible, one day Christ will return for His people. Here is my question, how does figuring out when Christ is going to do that effect our lives? Are we going to be more or less likely to share the Gospel with people depending on our view of the end? Does our eschatelogical view effect people coming into a relationship with Christ? I would submit a hearty, NO. Does this mean we should spend no time pondering these things? Heavens no, but let us place them in the proper place as secondary to the larger message of the Gospel.

Let me wrap this up by taking us back to the quote from Lewis. Christianity is not about agreeing with the correct atonement theory. Christianity is about agreeing that Christ died for you and accepting that sacrifice however it was actually carried out. Never forget that our faith is not about a theory it is about a person and that person once lived on this earth, He died, was resurrected and now lives forevermore seated at the right hand of God. How did that all work? I have no idea but I know it happened and I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Tim. 1:!2).

Godspeed,
Christian