Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Radical Faith

I’ve been thinking about the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. This chapter is often called the “Heroes of the Faith” chapter. More recently I’ve been thinking we could subtitle it “Examples of Radical Faith” Each of these women and men were radical in their following God’s command and the faith that they had to have to trust God for the promises that he made to them. In some cases they came to the end of their lives still not having witnessed the fulfillment of the promise that God had made. Yet each of them still believed and trusted that God had not lied to them. To me that seems pretty radical. How about you?

Hebrews 11:6 seems to say that “where there is no risk there is no faith!” It appears that faith is found not in the safe warm and gooey middle but rather on the ragged scary edge of faith is where we find God’s purpose for our lives. Obedience is pitted against comfort and convenience. Often those around you say that you are crazy for being obedient to God’s call when it is inconvenient. So we must add that often discomfort, inconvenience and questionable reputation are often the results of radically following Jesus. But heroes are people who have acted at great discomfort and inconvenience to themselves and it is only after the fact that their reputation becomes impeccable.

In this results-driven society we look at outward results such as numbers whether people, decisions, baptisms, or money. God also is results driven, but he looks at the heart. Ultimately he looks for obedience. God defines success much different than man. He defines success as being obedient.

Chip Ingram put it this way, “Just remember that were there’s no risk, there’s no faith; where there’s no faith there’s no power or joy or intimacy with God…. A lot of churches that are considered great by people are considered hollow by God. They miss the common denominator of all great Christians: radical faith.”

God considered these heroes great not because they were fearless but because they were obedient in spite of their fear choosing a risky adventure to the status quo. My apologies to my more conservative readers for my next illustration, like a poker player who sees that the pot is worth everything, after looking at his hand and calculating the odds is willing to go “all in” to take the chance to will against the odds, the person of radical faith is willing to go “all in” in the service of his King. Knowing that the odds are in his favor to win the prize he perseveres to win.

Now don’t think that I’m saying we don’t look at the odds or seek the wisdom of counsel. The difference between faith and foolishness at times can be a thin line. But being obedient to God’s will is never risky business. It’s simply the best game in town and the only sure bet there is.

The difference between faith and foolishness and faith is not the degree of risk but rather the will of God.

All of us suffer from one major concern in our lives – FEAR. Fear of failure often paralyzes people from doing what they know they should do. I believe that fear is healthy but what is unhealthy is what your fear focuses on.

  • Do you fear financial ruin? Me too
  • Do you fear failure? Me too
  • Do you fear looking foolish? Me too
  • Do you fear what others think? Me too

What is more important fear of man, or fear of God?

Probably 15 years ago, it finally dawned on me that I was preparing Sunday services with an eye on what man thought rather then caring what God thought! When I realized my failure to be concerned about God’s thoughts I had to not only repent but change my mind set and my way of doing things.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Bible doesn’t mean a petrifying fear but a fear that recognizes the transcendence of a holy God who has chosen to come near. A fear that acknowledges His otherness and our sinfulness and yet he still desires to be “with us.” Check it out, each time an angel or God appears to humans most often the first words that we humans hear is “Fear not!” God wants to hang out with us and wants us to succeed!

Now that’s radical!

Pastor Val

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Three “R”s of Christian Living

The Three “R”s of Christian Living

Recently I was thinking about education and what is necessary for person to be properly educated. I was reminded that we have always considered three things essential for a good education. You know what I mean, the “3 R’s” (Reading, Riting and Rithmetic). When it comes to Christianity I also got to thinking that there three “R”s that are also very important to Christian living: Repentance, Reconciliation & Restitution. These three “R”s are essential for life in the body and the lack of even one of these can cause the body not only hurt but also harm.

So what are these Rs and what does it mean to us in our search to be a healthy body?

Repentance, according to the Baker Biblical Encyclopedia, means a literal change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a sinful course of action to God. It means a 180 degree turn in direction. One admits that they were wrong and changes their way. This is the beginning of the salvific process and adoption into the Family of God.

After we have become a follower of Jesus Christ we continue to practice repentance whenever we sin (fail to hit the mark) in our Christian life. (1 John 1:9) Additionally when we have harmed another we need to repent to that person as well. This is so important that Jesus teaches us that if we have sinned against another we are not even to worship until we repent. (Matt 5:23-24)

Speaking of seeking forgiveness let me just suggest that when we ask for forgiveness we need to take responsibility for our actions. We often want to blame circumstances or others for our actions. I remember that I used to chuckle when years ago one of my relatives apologized by saying “I’m sorry you made me do that!” That is not repentance. A final thought would be to make sure that in taking responsibility we accept it in the first person not the third. It is so much easier to say that “Vallen Prest (substitute your own name) was wrong” then to say “I was wrong!” Don’t think so? Try it for yourself and see if it isn’t so. Third person repentance to some degree lets us off the hook.

Restoration happens when friendly relationships and of peace replace hostility and alienation. Ordinarily it also includes the removal of the offense which caused the disruption of peace and harmony. In the New Testament reconciliation also denotes a changed relationship in which formerly estranged persons or elements experience a restored harmony. Christians should seek reconciliation between themselves and any estranged community member, especially before offering a gift at the altar (Matt. 5:24) or going to settle disputes before a magistrate (Luke 12:58).

Matthew 5:24 speaks of reconciliation as an important factor in restoring a relationship with both God and the person we have harmed. The goal is always a reestablishment of broken relationships (either between God and a human or person to person) Galatians 6:1.

One might ask “What if the person I have offended is unwilling to forgive me or reconcile?” Seeking forgiveness is important for the person who has sinned. It reestablishes our relationship with Father. Jay Adams suggested that we think of it as a game of tennis. We are commanded by God to serve the ball of repentance to the offended. Regardless of if the ball is returned or not we have been obedient in serving up forgiveness. To forgive the one who has harmed us releases us from the burden of anger and frustration. It also keeps our relationship with Father fresh and unhindered.

The final “R” is restitution. This is the return of something lost or stolen so that the original situation is restored. This central theme of the OT law is supremely fulfilled through Jesus Christ making restitution for Adam’s sin, thus restoring fellowship with God and hope of eternal life. T. C. Oden says that restitution re-establishes equality where an unjust taking has caused inequality.

There are three levels of positive effects accompany acts of restitution (or reparation):

Exterior penances are performed principally to produce three effects:

  • To satisfy for past sins.
  • To overcome ourselves, so that sensuality will be obedient to reason and our lower inclinations be subject to higher ones.
  • To seek and find some grace or gift that we wish to obtain, as for instance … the solution of some doubt that is troubling us. (Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, pp. 62–63)

In Luke 19 in speaking of Zacchaeus’ repentance and subsequent salvation it is Zacch’s restitution that causes Jesus to proclaim in Luke 19:9 “Today salvation has come to this house!” Restitution is incredibly important to the 3 R process of Christian living.

Have you completed the process of the 3 “R”s? Are any left undone? All three “R”s are important for the life of the church. Repentance becomes a hollow, feigned act, without restoration and restitution.

Still studying my “R”s

Pastor Val