Monday, March 1, 2010

Born Again

I used to hate the phrase "born again". It brought images to my mind of a backwoods preacher who didn't get it.

I am now starting to appreciate the term. It has fresh life for me.

In John 3, Jesus tells a religious leader that he has to be born again. He has to have a spiritual birth.

Jesus eludes to the Old Testament, referring back to when God prophesied through Ezekiel about giving people a clean heart in a way that the Law never could.

The reason this truth of being born again is so important is because of the subtle lie that is going around in our culture about salvation.

Salvation is now a trendy topic. Everybody wants to have a "spiritual" life and reach a higher level of harmony. The prevailing mood is that there are many paths to this peace and joy. The other subtle false prophecy that comes to bear is that its all based on self.

This modern way of spirituality and finding God, is all completely selfish. Its all self-improvement, self-fulfillment, yada yada yada.

The part that tricks us is that this sounds good right? God wants us to be happy? Right? Can't people just find their own way to God? Can't we just all get along?

The problem is that the starting point is all wrong. The starting point makes the false assumption that we are just sick. We just need a little work and a little improvement and we'll be in tip top shape. Annnngggghhhh! Wrong!

The Bible teaches that we are DEAD in our sins, not just a little sick. We need new life. We need a complete overhaul. I.E. we must be born again. We need a new life that is from God. We can't get over our sin with a self help program. We can't get over our sin by trying harder. We can't just try to be a better person. We have to completely start over and be born again.

So "born again" is not a troublesome phrase, its the reality of what needs to happen for God to make us alive and saves us from our state of death.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Children of God/Mission

Last Sunday the pastor preached from 1 John 3. He brought out that Christians are children of God.

Not children in the physical sense but in a spiritual sense? Isn't that a strange thought? We are God's spirit children? Huh? 1 John is a letter written by John to a church. In this letter he keeps using the "birth" metaphor to describe this shift in reality that we experience when we encounter God. Is it real to you that we are God's kids? Does that fit inside of your view of what can exist? If you remember the pastor was talking about an "ontological" shift. That crazy long word is just talking about our perception of reality. The pastor was saying that being "born again" is a shift from the physical reality that is widely accepted by most people, to the spiritual reality that God calls us into.

Well that is the mind bending part of it but the comforting part is that God is our daddy. And he is the most loving, caring dad of all time. And we are his kids. He will take care of us and protect us with a fierce love. We can have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe. God is not some far away voice in the sky. We can know God like we know our dads.

Also, as children of God, we have all the benefits of being the kid of the richest person in the universe. We have been adopted by God. We are adopted children, not biological children of God, because we were born into sin. That is a sermon all in its own so I won't go any further with that. God, in his deep love, adopted us so that we could have a good home.

Sin = actions against God that cause spiritual death and that separate us from God.

The pastor also talked about sin and Jesus' role in destroying sin by his death on the cross. He used a big term - "double imputation". Even though that sounds like some kind of surgery, its really just talking about the 2 things that happened on the cross. #1 Jesus took on all of us. #2 We took on all of Jesus. So even though its true that we were born into sin and that we still sin, Jesus paid the bill that we owe. This starts to get a little overwhelming but you have to go back to the Old Testament (especially the first 5 books of the Bible) when they killed animals for their sins. The Jewish people were told by God that their sins had to be paid for in some way. God allowed them to transfer their sins on an animal. When that animal was killed, God accepted that as a substitution on the person's behalf.

This helps to explain why Jesus had to die on the cross and why his death paid for our sins. I guess in a way, Jesus was that animal sacrifice that took our place. He is even called "The Lamb of God". The book of Hebrews in the New Testament teaches that Jesus was the final sacrifice. In other words, we don't have to kill animals anymore to pay for our sins. Jesus once and for all took on all the sins of the world when he was killed on the cross. So now all sins have been paid for. That is why the New Testament uses the word "victory" when talking about what Jesus did. Jesus defeated sin. He did everything necessary in God's eyes to make people be able to be the children of God.

The pastor directly tied this in to what Christians are to be working on every day. Also called our "mission". Christ has already defeated sin and death, so our mission is not to defeat sin. No need for that. Our mission is many things (that we will talk about in the future) but in this "context" (the specific set of Bible verses that we are basing this discussion on) mission is talking about the Christian's response to sin in the world. Just because Jesus paid for all sins, doesn't mean everybody just stopped sinning. It doesn't say Jesus stopped sin, just that he paid for it. Sin is a reality in every person's life. The Bible says that everybody sins and falls short of what God requires. The verse that the pastor talked about says that we are all dead in our sins. It means "spiritually" dead. You obviously don't drop over and die when you sin. What does it mean to be spiritually dead? For one thing it means we need Jesus to save us. We can't save ourselves. We are not just a little bit sick, we are dead.

This is where the application for our mission comes from. The Church is not a self help group. Our purpose is not to give people 7 steps to a healthier and happier you. Our message is that without God, you are dead. That's an attractive message that people want to be a part of right? Yes, we are about hope, love, mercy and joy. Christ gives the most abundant life possible. However, there is a subtle lie floating around out there that Jesus is just one of the many ways to fine peace and harmony in life. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way to save us from our ugly, messed up lives. People are dead without Jesus. They are not just slightly ill, needing only that secret recipe for success. I think the warning here is that we are in danger sometimes of saying that there are things other than the death of Jesus that can save people. We can't let our mission turn into a self help support group. We are on a mission that is a matter of life and death for people.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Here are a few questions to think about from today's sermon.

How can humans be children of God? What does that mean?

Why does Scripture call our bodies "lowly"? If we are created in God's image then how are we lowly?

What exactly does it look like for God to "transform" our bodies?

Where does a Christian find their identity?

Why is it so important that we make missions our ordering principle? What is the definition of "mission" for Christians?

Why does matter if believe we are "dead" without Jesus?

Was Jesus' death on the cross a cosmic victory or a means of personal salvation?

Why does the word "ontological" matter in this discussion?

Why does "double transference" matter?

If Christianity is not a self help system does that mean being a Christian doesn't help us?

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Reason To Blog

I've had this blog for a long time but I couldn't find many reasons to write. Now that we are starting this small group and I am responsible for helping everybody to understand the weekly sermons, I want to use this as a place where I can write out my thoughts every week.

This might also serve as a place you can read about what we discussed if you were not able to make it that week.

I hope that you will write your comments as well.