Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Missional Teaching

A student of mine asked me to lunch the other day because he wanted to tell me his story and what is going on in his life because of studying about Jesus. I cannot tell his story in detail here so he will be protected. We drove to a place for a late lunch. His entire family is [other world faith], he and a sibling have attended NPU, and he will eventually to return to his Far East country to resume working for his father. But, here is what he wanted me to know:
His words: “I’m now a follower of Jesus. But, I want you to know this: I’m not a Christian. If I become a Christian everyone will disown me.”
Question from me: “What will the impact of following Jesus be on your business life?”
His words: [no kidding] “Much in every way. [I’m sure he didn’t know he was quoting Paul.] I will be forgiving and honest. I will not be a businessman to make more money. Life is more than money. I will use my work to serve God and to serve others. I can no longer look at a job as just about money.”
His English was impeccable, and his confession was clear: there is more of this going on than most of us know. Underground emerging followers of Jesus. You should hear my colleague, Boaz Johnson, talk about this sort of thing in other parts of the world. Brian McLaren, in his new book, The Secret Message of Jesus, calls this “purposeful inclusion.” Jesus says it like this: “He who is not against us is for us.”

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Duane Young

posted April 28, 2006 at 6:16 am

Can we make the leap from “he who is not against us is for us” to “he who is not against us is one of us”? Is this a legitimate queston?

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Cam West

posted April 28, 2006 at 7:13 am

Duane, your question _is_ legit. It was perhaps the most significant question for the earliest (ie: Jewish) Christians — though this label, is of course, anachronistic: they were, like Scot’s student simply followers of Jesus. If I’ve understood it rightly, the central insight of the New Perspective on Paul is the apostle’s own take on the issue: _anyone who is for Jesus is one of us_ (to use your categories). Of course we would want to nuance being ‘for’ Jesus, but essentially if one recognises him as the agent of bringing about God’s intentions for the world, and one reorients his or her life around those intentions, they are ‘one of us’.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 8:38 am


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John Frye

posted April 28, 2006 at 8:53 am

This real life conversation highlights centered-set faith versus bounded-set. It raises “who’s in? or “who’s one of us?” and “who’s out?” or “who’s not one of us?”
Cam, I think your reflection on the spread of the faith to the Gentiles is right on.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 9:06 am

We had this exact discussion in my small group a few weeks ago. Someone related a similar story – about someone from a Muslim background who had never gone through the typical profession of faith/baptism process but who was doing things that Jesus taught because he found hope and life in that Way. He was even counseling others to do those things.
At one point during the story, I impulsively blurted out: “He’s a Christian and doesn’t even know it!”
Is that possible?

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted April 28, 2006 at 9:40 am

Friends of mine living and serving in the Muslim world deal with this question a great deal. It is never easy (and likely will never be easy). Each circumstance needs to be approached uniquely and pastorally. It is an important question for us to wrestle with. Thanks for raising it, Scot.

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john lunt

posted April 28, 2006 at 9:44 am

My take on this discussion is the only thing that matters is if someone is a follower of Christ. Christian etc is just symantics. If I recall the term wasn’t even used until Antioch.
Now, does that mean the person just follows Christ in what’s convenient? That would be another issue. And it is one that all of us have to wrestle with. I suspect this student is not that shallow. He’s had to carefully weigh the ramifications and count the cost.
It sounds to me that he is becoming a lover of Jesus. No better place to be.

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Ron Fay

posted April 28, 2006 at 9:56 am

Christianity is not exclusively practice, otherwise many atheists are “Christians” or, to put it in more biblical terms, “followers of the Way.” There is a belief component as well, though I would limit it to the magnificent statement by Paul in Romans 10:9.
Faith is needed, remember. But faith with works shows the true Christian.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 10:43 am

McLaren’s quote “Jesus says it like this: “He who is not against us is for us.” is off-target.
Matthew 12.30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”(NIV)
Jesus makes the distinction of those who purposefully chose Him and those who do not.
Jesus’ own words contrdict the converse of this statement: that those who do not purposfully oppose Jesus are working for Him, indeed, Jesus says those who do not purposefully side with Him are agents of the enemy.
Although a simple distinction, the importance of this cannot be over stated.

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jason allen

posted April 28, 2006 at 10:49 am

This is a really cool story, and funny in a way b/c as I work in college ministry I have had similar conversations with our international students. One student from a different world religion has said much the same about becoming a Christian (being disowned, parents not supporting his college education, etc). He wants to follow Jesus.
His story might be a little different in that he fears (rightly so) being disowned and I am praying he will, by God’s grace, be able to embrace Jesus in the midst of familial persecution.
Thanks for sharing the story.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

Hello, all…
You raise an interesting point, Ron, that I would like for us to think about. I’m quite unclear myself, so please don’t take my questions as me trying to be sarcastic.
My question is this (and I know that I will be sniped for asking this question, so for those “defenders of doctrine”, I ask your patience). Paul says in Romans 10:9 (ESV), “[B]ecause, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So, my question is, WHAT is required for belief? At what point does a person “believe enough” to be part of the community? Does one HAVE to believe that Jesus is God before he/she is considered a “Christian”?
Here’s why I ask that. A Muslim believes that Jesus (Isa) is a great prophet. I introduce the Muslim to the teachings of Isa and say, “Read the gospel accounts of Jesus.” My Muslim friend reads them and is enraptured by the gospels and as a bonus, she reads the rest of the New Testament. She states that she wants to start following the teachings, but she cannot accept the idea of Jesus being God. She lives her life, embodying the kingdom of God and makes a great impact on the people in her sphere of influence (restoring justice, exhibiting grace, and so on). In short, she made a commitment to live out the Sermon on the Mount (she takes seriously Jesus’ words about not only hearing his words, but also doing them).
Now, is she a faithful follower? Will God be pleased with her? Or will he still hold her disbelief about Jesus’ divinity against her?
I guess, to rephrase the question, is true belief all about doctrines (trinity, ecclesiology, eschatology, Christology), which seems to be the main focus of American Christianity, whereas orthopraxy (aside from daily Scripture study, daily prayer, and church attendance) takes a very distant second or is true belief about Jesus’ way being the right way and trusting that way to usher in the Kingdom of God?
Again, I’m not trying to be sarcastic. I’ve been on the MacArthur/Sproul team for a long time, but I’m seeing things that have called a lot of my beliefs into question.

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Scot McKnight

posted April 28, 2006 at 12:46 pm

I hope no one snipes at you for your view.
Let’s take Luke 9:46-50 first. A non-follower of Jesus is exorcising demons and John wants him stopped “because he is not one of us.” Jesus says, “Don’t stop him … whoever is not against you is for you.” That is, he is for what we are doing; he’s not an opponenet; he may be neutral; but he’s doing the things God wants done.
Then Luke 11:23: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” Now we have a different context, requiring a different element of wisdom. This saying comes from those who oppose Jesus and those who oppose him are scattering and not gathering things into the lap of God.
So, we’ve got two sayings, much alike, saying the opposite. How to reconcile? Context. The one is about those who are not against but who are in support of what Jesus is doing: include them. The other is about those who are opposed to the things Jesus is doing: they are not included.
Do we know who they are? Not always. Do we have to judge/discern? Sometimes, not always. Does it matter? Sometimes, not always.
So, that is how it is, isn’t it? It is not as simple as an “in” vs. “out” and it is not ours to render final judgment. We summons people to follow Jesus; some come along but at distance; some come along right to the middle of it all. We need to be careful about uprooting weeds lest we rip out the wheat.

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Scot McKnight

posted April 28, 2006 at 12:48 pm

One more thing: those measures we use to determine if a person is “in” or “out” are never fool-proof. Ours is to strive for the kingdom, abide in Christ, in the now.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 1:46 pm

Some scriptures that occurred to me whilst reading this:
2 Kings 5:17-19 –
v 17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt vofferings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.
v 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”
v 19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.

Matt 21:28-32 –
v 28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’
v 29 “And he answered, ‘I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went.
v 30 “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir'; but he did not go.
v 31 “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.
v 32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

Romans 2:5-11 –
v 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
v 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
v 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
v 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,
v 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
v 11 For there is no partiality with God.

“Whatever is not of faith is sin.”

One can’t do good works without believing and trusting in God. If one says, and doesn’t do, it is still one’s works that are judged. If one calls oneself Christian and does not put one’s faith in Christ rather than in oneself or in politics or in armies or in guns, does one not take God’s name in vain? If one says one follows Christ and is not willing to give up family, friends, and even life itself, is one truly following Christ? And what does it mean to follow Christ?
Saying one believes in Christ is a work; it is external. It is, in and of itself, of no value at all. People LIE about it. The true measure of a Christian’s faith is what he or she does with faith, through faith, and by faith. “By their fruits, you shall know them.” “Faith without works is dead.”
It’s hard to lie with actions. When you’re hip-deep in the mud, when you’re elbow-deep in grime and filth helping someone else, what’s your attitude like? Is it still corresponding to the faith of Christ? Regardless of the label we put on that faith?
Either all my life belongs to God, or none of it does. When we segment our lives into spiritual and secular portions, we in essence tell God that He’s in charge of this chunk but not that chunk. We retain control, and God is not really in charge of our lives if we do that, is He? So how can we separate our lives like that? God wants all of us, not just the chunk that goes to church on Sunday.
To be honest, when someone shows me by her actions that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, that one is a sister in Christ, regardless of the label she applies to herself. And believe me, there’re plenty of people out there like that.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 2:19 pm

But isn’t the Gospel about _Jesus’_ orthopraxy, not ours? Isn’t our hope for the already and the not yet kingdom based on Jesus doing the Father’s will, when we could not? My fear is that if we say that all we need is to be “followers” of Jesus (however we understand him: prophet, moral guide, divine Son), we are still placing our hope in our ability to be a follower. That’s not good news.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 3:48 pm

What does it mean to deny/reject (not just lack understanding, but to outwardly deny/reject) the true essence of the One in whom (or is it “who”) we are to do the abiding?

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Chris Jones

posted April 28, 2006 at 4:49 pm

I was thinking about the issue of idol meat. For Paul it seems that the Corinthians needed to turn from that religious practice. Is it valid to apply that to the other world religions of our day? In other words, if we claim to be disciples we can not embrace other religions. But then I think about the parable of the goats/sheep and it seems that Jesus is saying that those who are not antagonistic toward Jesus’ disciples are included in the KOG. Jesus does confront Saul on the road to Damascus with that principle. Saul’s persecution of Jesus’ disciples was persecution of Jesus. This fits with the for us/against us passage. Just some thoughts.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 5:29 pm

Roger (#13),
you say “To be honest, when someone shows me by her actions that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, that one is a sister in Christ, regardless of the label she applies to herself. And believe me, there’re plenty of people out there like that.”
Would you include Mormons in this? They live very good lives and there are many who claim they are devoted to Christ. How far can this go?

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posted April 28, 2006 at 7:17 pm

Jeremy Duncan » In and Out

[…] I was reading Scott McKnight’s blog this afternoon and I was reminded of a conversation from a couple months ago around whether the church should be looking for believers or participants. […]

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john la grou

posted April 28, 2006 at 9:46 pm

[Comment ID #17234 Will Be Quoted Here]
Isn’t this the essence of being Christian? Defining ourselves by what (who) we love and cherish, rather than by what we judge or fear? Loving and doing good to others to the point of risking looking foolish by doing so? or risking being judged less-spiritual by the “religious authorities” of our day?
There’s always a time to shake the dirt from one’s feet and move on, but my reading of the gospels shows this as a last resort. Personally, I would err on the side of God being a big, welcoming, generous father – a father that waits patiently and lovingly for the prodigal son, even when it’s really hard to find love for a son in the depths of his error.

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posted April 29, 2006 at 2:00 am

john la grou (#19),
I get what you’re saying. But I think a lot boils down to Jesus’ own question, “who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). I’m not saying the little old lady in the pew needs to be able to explain the hypostatic union or defend the deity of Christ. But when a Mormon answers this honestly and fully, their understanding of Jesus becomes very different than the Jesus of Christianity and Scripture. If believing in whatever sort of Jesus you want plus righteous living gets you into the kingdom, then I’m worried. This is too off topic and so I’ll stop here.

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posted April 29, 2006 at 2:02 am

To clarify one last time on the little old lady – I get more worried by what people (e.g. Mormons) deny than what people don’t know (e.g. how to defend the deity of Christ).

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Scot McKnight

posted April 29, 2006 at 8:51 am

I think the point being made in Luke 9/Mark 10 is not quite that clear: here is someone who is exorcising demons, the person is “not one of us” and Jesus says “he who is not against us is for us” == which must mean this person has not rejected us; he is doing good things; leave him alone. Agree with that?
The “scatter” passage is clearly from an opponent.

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posted April 29, 2006 at 10:43 pm

Mr. » Missional Teaching – from Jesus Creed

[…] Missional Teaching: […]

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Hunter Beaumont

posted April 30, 2006 at 10:43 pm

Perhaps there are two ditches that we need to avoid: (1) Doctrinalism is the tendency to reduce faith to intellectual understanding of the “right theology.” So the key is that you believe intellectually that Jesus is both God and man, etc. but following in the way of Jesus is not mentioned as much. (2) Pietism has historically been a reaction to the error of doctrinalism (aka “dead orthodoxy”). Pietism tends to downplay doctrine as less-essential than praxis.
It is easy to see how modernity – which was all about knowing correctly – drifted toward doctrinalism. It is also easy to see how post-modern people could easily drift toward pietism since we (a) recognize the shortcomings of modern doctrinalism and (b) live in a world where universal truth claims are philosophically ruled-out. Postmodernity could be the perfect pietist storm because emphasizing “just” following in the way of Jesus both corrects the error of modernity and is an easy sell that won’t make people mad at us.
So, I grant that following in the way of Jesus is essential. Let’s re-emphasize that. But let’s also wrestle with these questions: Why was doctrine so essential to the Apostles and Church Fathers? Why did they write so much about it? What role should it play in discipling people who have made the great decision to follow in the way of Jesus? Do we say, “That’s enough…you don’t really need to know any doctrine?” Do we say, “That’s a great start, now let’s learn some key doctrines?” Or is the answer somewhere in between?

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