Churchless Christianity

I read this book a few years ago and have been struck by how well its thesis has held up since the book was written in 1991.  In fact it might have been ahead of its time.

The book deals with Hindu’s in India who become Christians but go on practicing Hinduism in regards to houses of worship, fellowship, and cultural framework.  These Hindu’s made a public profession of Jesus but did not join a local church.  Many missionaries have thought this was the elixir to solve doing missions work in places hostile to the Gospel.

No need for people to put themselves in jeopardy by stepping away from their previous faith community and facing suffering, rather than can just be secret believers.

My point being here is that when Christianity becomes churchless it is able to avoid the mockery, persecution, and suffering that comes along with following Jesus.

Church free Christianity has becoming more prevalent not just in far off places but right here in America.

In India the church is seen as needless, but here in America the church is seen as irrelevant.  People operate under the assumption they can be true followers of Jesus and have little to no involvement with the local church.  The Church and we as a body has seemed to have failed in conveying to people the deep transforming truths of Christianity that create and demand a new and deeper life.

The reasons for this are endless but a few are that we have turned church into entertainment.  Churches have striven for marketing first often at the expense of faithfulness, and doctrinal truths have been replaced in favor of subjective journeys and experiences.

All of these shifts implicitly exhalt the individual over the body.  Which makes church less and less central and more optional, even for the Christian.

ryan

Hard Truths: Election

When most of us think of the word election we think of a democratic process in which we decide who we want to vote for and select for office.

The Bible also speaks of election and it has historically been one of the hardest truths for Christians to wrestle with.

The truth is no Christian who seeks to be faithful and wrestle with the full text of the Bible can avoid the subject.  So what do you do with it?

I could of course expound all the biblical evidence for individual election and why I think it is clearly found in the text, but let me go a different direction.

Two points.

1. Election seems unjust.  It does indeed, if we are viewing things from a western democratic framework.  We think, “hey that’s not fair, I should get to have my voice heard and make my own choice.”  Ephesians 2 tells us that humans are dead and unable to make any choices for or against God.  The human nature apart from God electing them is not that some would make a decision for God and some would not, but that none of us apart from God’s grace can make any kind of decision.  Dead people are unable to choose or elect for anything, this is why God elects and gives life to those who are spiritually dead.  Dead people cannot vote and when they do, its called election fraud.  Therefore it is not unjust for God to elect, all of us are dead and God does not owe any of us life, it is all grace.

2. No matter what, salvation involves a (pardon the Bushism) a “decider.”  Either each of us make a decision for God or God makes a decision to save us.  The bottom line is that decisions are being made.  So while this question is outside of the biblical scope, and assumes my first point is incorrect, I would ask who is it you want making such weighty decisions?  Creator God who is kind, wise, and all-knowing; or sinful humans that often make foolish choices that are not wise or in their best interests?

Though the truth of election is a hard one, especially considering our cultural framework and perspective to which we approach it from.  It is a major mountain I believe believers must summit as they progress in their delighting and submission to the word.  Let me leave with a quote from Paul Jewett.

The question of individual election has led more people to read scripture for what they want to find ( rather than listen to scripture for what they are afraid to hear) than virtually any other theological issue.

Yet I believe that letting the Bible speak clearly on the matter of election regardless of how it first sits with us, has exponential value to our souls.

ryan

On The Other Side Of Repentence Is Joy

I have been obsessed with Psalm 74 for the last month or so.  I literally cannot get it off of my mind.  In a good way the Holy Spirit is haunting my soul with attempting to deeply live out and grasp what it is trying to say.  Let me share two verses with you and plead with you to linger, the way you would over a new dress, or iphone.  Take time to absorb it.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 74:25-26).

For my last post was about repentance and constantly proclaiming that Jesus is our God but we do this so that we may have the joy of our Lord.

Repent but do so with the joy that God is your only desire.  That nothing in this earth holds any weight in comparison to the richness and pleasure of God.

I imagine that when we stand on the other side of this life we will be bewildered at what we loved, thought about, served and focused on.  As we spending eternity enjoying God forever.

ryan

Why We Repent

The Gospels constantly call us to repent.  Why?  Some feel it is as if God wants to rub our noses in our sin so that maybe we will not do it again, hardly.

The call to repent is how we ongoingly reaffirm our devotion to Jesus as Lord.  Jesus is Lord and the source of my identity.  I am not defined by the sins I have done or the sins that have been done against me, but by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

Repentance re-orients our affections to Jesus, because it is only when our sin becomes bitter that Jesus becomes sweet.

ryan

Charismatic Church Service

I post this not to just for an easy laugh, but out of curiousity.  What is a church service this chaotic really like?  Is there any concern for orderly worship that builds up each other?  Or is some of the service organized and then the rest of it is “spirit-filled time?”

ryan

Grace And Other Religions

This photo is on Justin Taylor’s blog and ties in with a conversation I had tonight with a friend about God’s grace.  Grace is fundemental to the entire message of the Bible.

Rather than walk away when rejected, betrayed, and offended as many of us do in when sinned against; God at great expense continued to love us.  His grace is unimaginable to any of us and what we are all saved by.  We do nothing, God’s grace does everything.

Tonight a friend suggested to me that if God’s grace was so pervasive it would certainly have to be in other religions.  That God would make allowance for followers of other religions…right?

Yet as I was thinking about it I wonder if in our emotive pluralist upbrings we desire to infuse grace to where it is not naturally found. Shintoism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, do not place much if any emphasis on grace, in fact to most it is quite foreign. Most world religions primary emphasize self-denial, good works, and personal effort.

The central emphasis on grace is unique to Christianity.  No way any human comes up with such a radical idea that we are helpless and at God’s mercy, in fact no other religion even comes close.

ryan

What Kind Of Church Is This?

David Platt talking about what kind of culture is being built up at his church around The Word.  And most beautiful about it is the transformation in life and lifestyle that is being fostered there.

I go to other places, such as house churches in Asia, and they study for 11 or 12 hours, knowing they risk their lives. They’ll dive in deep. We came back and tried to do something similar here. We call it secret church and do it a couple times a year. We gather together for intensive study with no frills, nothing flashy, no entertainment value. The first time, about 1,000 showed up. We studied Old Testament overview from 6 p.m. to midnight, but usually it goes longer, supplemented by times in prayer for the persecuted church. It’s all ages, but the predominant demographic is college students and young singles. It’s grown to the point where we need to offer tickets at $5 for reservations and the cost of a study guide. We’ll do it again in October with 2,500 folks. It’s theological in nature. We’ve done a night on the Atonement, another on the doctrine of God. This time we’re doing spiritual warfare. It’s one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out at 12:30 a.m. and see a room full of 2,500 people, their Bibles open, soaking it in.