Saturday, April 06, 2013

What Were You Thinking?

We can get pretty puffed up with wrong notions and erroneous beliefs. In fact, we are encouraged that direction by the messages of the world in which we live. The New Testament uses a little phrase, “if anyone supposes ...” as an indicator of some of these wrong notions and beliefs. Here is a summary of them, with a few notes.

God’s wisdom and power trumps worldly wisdom and power
1Cor. 3:18   Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 
The short answer here is that Christ is my life. He is the source of true life, the meaning of true life, and the goal of true life. Therefore, any kind of worldly wisdom that denies this truth needs to be overthrown. Here are a couple of examples:
“if you have your health, you have everything”
“the key to a good life is a good education”
“the one who dies with the most toys wins”
There is no point in being opposed to health, education, or even toys. However, when they are allowed to supplant Christ as the source, meaning or goal of life, they are dangerous and damning.

Love trumps knowledge
1Cor. 8:2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;  3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
It is said that “knowledge is power.” I’ve seen this happen among believers. But God, who gave us our brains and our minds as gifts to be used for Him expects that all knowledge will be pressed into the service of love. Knowledge is not a leveraging tool. It is an instrument by which we express love.

Participation in Christ trumps association with Christians
1Cor. 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
“Hanging out” is the new Christian activity. We aren’t going to teach or learn. We’re just going to hang out. We’re not going to pray or evangelize. We’re just going to hang out. Well, in the Old Testament history that Paul recites at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 10, there were a lot of people hanging out with God’s people who will not be hanging out in heaven. Having Christians around you is not of much use if you do not have Christ in you.

God’s Word trumps human reasoning
1Cor. 11:16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.
I’ll be honest, the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 is tough. But what is clear is that God has a design, even if it does not always make sense to us. We may not understand the cultural significance of head coverings, but we understand that God has established a principle of male headship in the home and in the church. So while it may be true that women are smarter and better listeners and thus better corporate officers and organizers (WSJ this week), it does not change God’s design. We just need to take God at His Word.

God’s Word trumps subjective expressions of prophecy or spirituality
1Cor. 14:37   If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 
Our notions and feelings need to be checked by God’s Word. There are many people with powerful personalities and winning charisma that can be at odds with God’s agenda, whether because of some malicious motivation or being unwittingly used by the enemy. What does God’s Word say?

The Spirit of God and Glory of Christ trump human accomplishments
Phil. 3:4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:
God delights to use the weak to demonstrate His power; to take something ugly to create something beautiful. So why do we always gravitate to the best and the brightest. The company of believers in heaven will be trophies, not of human genius and greatness, but of grace. 

Self-control trumps self-expression
James 1:26   If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
Is anyone more practical than James? Ouch, ouch, and ouch. You think you’ve got it together? What do you say when you’re mad? What do you say under your breath, and inside your head? As we fail in this area, we take our minds and hearts back to God over and over again, asking for forgiveness, cleansing, and the construction of a deep and real holiness in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Baptists are not sacramental people. Some could argue that we are actually anti-sacramental, or sans-sacramental. We reject a doctrine that seeks to mutate the doctrine of God’s grace flowing through Christ “like a river glorious” into some kind of chunky ‘dose of grace’ concept that says we are better off for having chewed on a wafer or swallowed a thimble-full of juice. And yet, we observe Communion, and strive to keep the emphasis, not on the elements, but on the Person. The sappy-sacramentalists in several camps will have a field day with all of this. Stupid Baptists.

But maybe we have all missed the point. Jesus has not merely injected heavenly meaning into a very few material elements. He has transformed the meaning of life, in all of life. John 6 is the material that is poking at me, and Jesus was abusing the brains of people who are trying to work with the old definitions. Did he really say “Eat my flesh; Drink my blood”? No, Jesus, don’t say such a thing. It’s beyond the pale of reason and good taste.

Our shared case in missing the point may be somewhat like what has happened to our experience of the Spirit. We are critical of the exaggerations of the charismatics, so much so that we are almost afraid of any kind of spiritual experience or expression. We are so afraid of any form of transubstantiation, we spend our time in Communion saying more what it doesn’t mean than what it does. But what if we blow the ends off the coffin, and apply Jesus to all of life?

Can you imagine a believer so taken with Christ that he is drawn to think of Christ every single time he eats or drinks? Breakfast: I can’t afford to start my day without ... Jesus. Bedtime snack: Just a little more of Jesus. I can’t live without my coffee, and much more profoundly and deeply, without Jesus. Let’s dive into baptism. Can you imagine a believer so taken with Christ that every time he washes his hands, every day when he takes a shower, he is deeply aware of the cleansing that we have received and of which we stand in need by Jesus’ blood and God’s forgiveness? 

Let me call this the Super-Sacramental life. It stands in contrast to the sans-sacramentalism of the Baptists, and the sappy-sacramental approach of those who find the eucharist in every reference to bread, blood or water in the Bible. Jesus has not injected himself into all of life - He is our LIfe in such a way that we see him everywhere, in all that we do, in every arena, in the smallest things and the grandest things. 

We observe gathered Communion/Lord’s Table regularly. There is a distinctive character to it. Here we eat and drink in fellowship with God’s people and in fellowship with our Lord. It anticipates the heavenly fellowship that we will one day enjoy, face to face and unhindered by distance and death. Frankly, we need gathered communion because we fail to see Jesus everywhere else. But, truthfully, our Communion cannot be limited to these occasions, because we are invited by Jesus to live Super-Sacramental lives, feeding on him and drinking him in, enjoying that flow of grace, every moment of every single day.