Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Letters to Emerging Christians

posted by xscot mcknight

“What is a Christian?,” you ask, Matt. I want to change that question to the better one: Who is a Christian? And before I try to answer that question, I have a higher one: “Who decides?” Not me, not you, not your local church, not your denomination … leading to this: God decides. We better get that straight before we try to straighten out others. God, if we read the Bible, surprises us at every turn and we need to be ready for more surprises when we see who is finally in God’s presence.
Odd that you ask me this because I get asked this question about once a month. Maybe it is because the Jesus of Nazareth class provokes such a question. Who, then, is a Christian? According to the Bible it will vary on the person you ask. I think we should begin with Jesus.
First, if you ask Jesus in the first three Gospels, the Synoptics, I think you could answer the question with this: the one who follows Jesus. I could give fill a small truck with references from the Synoptics about this, but I’ll just give this one: Come follow Me, Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, James and John (Matt. 4:18-22). And then Luke 9:23 says this following is something done ever day.
Second, if you ask Jesus in the Gospel of John, you get this answer: Believe. The word “faith” or “believe” (these English words translate the noun and verb coming from the Greek root pist- in words like pistis and pisteuo). What does it mean to “believe” in John’s Gospel? Well, we can begin with John 1:12 and 3:16 (the famous one) and then jump around in John’s Gospel and we get ideas like abiding, following, trusting, and obeying.
Third, if you ask the apostle Paul — and why not just settle with something like Romans 10:9-10? — we get something like this: a Christian is someone who believes in salvation through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and who is filled with God’s Spirit.
Fourth, if you ask the apostle John — and read 1 John on this one because the answer jumps from the page — a Christian is someone who loves God and who loves others and who walks in the light of that love.
We could ask other NT writers, but I think you get what I’m getting at: Who is a Christian is answered by different writers with different language games. Do they point to one basic answer? Yes, I think so, but I don’t think it can be reduced to one of these words — like believe or follow or obey — but I also think we can reduce the whole to each of those words. I hope that makes sense. If we are careful, we can say the one who is a Christian is the one who follows Jesus or who believes in Jesus or who loves God, but when we do that we need to keep our eyes on the other writers. They’re in our NT to make sure we know there is more than one way to say important things.
Matt, you haven’t asked this question, but I know it’s coming because correspondents are always asking me the same thing: How do you, Scot, define who is a Christian? Here’s my answer, and I think this encompasses it all:
A Christian is someone whose identity is being transformed because of relationship with Jesus. I think Jesus, Paul, John, are all saying this very thing: the one who is a Christian is the one whose very being and identity are shaped by Jesus.
Blessings,
Scot



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BeckyR

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:23 am


Oh boy! I get to be the first to comment. I’m not sure you mentioned this Scot, thought you would with the 1John reference, but the transforming, I think, comes from abiding in his love. What we do comes from the branch soaking up the nourishment in the vine, the nourishment being love, at least being one thing. Is it the Ephesians prayer that is in the beginning of the book about all we do coming from knowing the height and breadth of God’s love for us? We are transformed from abiding in the love of God, basking in the love of God.
I once asked a serious person in our church, asked it flippantly, what the meaning of life is. He said “to enjoy God’s enjoyment of us.” I think that’s profound. I’ve had to keep my focus on God loving me, what that means, because my life experience can knee jerk so easily the other way. The love of God is there for us to tap into every day, like the white light coming down from the heavens. When we are out of joint may be when we are not soaking up that white light.
Dang! I must be back. Health things have impacted by brain and I’ve been unable to read Jesus Creed, much less contribute or read comments. It’s a big deal to me that I can come here and read, and put thoughts in some kind of coherency, and read the other comments.
As far as I know, and I try not to put too much thinking into deciding, I am the only christian in my blood family. Some point in the road, I figured my job was to live my Christ life in front of them, point the way. Words do not do much, but I’m there when discussions are wanted. I hope what they see is a life in God is a life of living in his love and other stuff comes from that. It may be other people’s calling to figure out who is and who isn’t christian, but I’ve felt what my thing to do is to live the life God has pointed toward, as well as I can. All else comes after that.



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Ted Gossard

posted January 29, 2007 at 5:54 am


Thanks, Scot. Good thoughts. A sense of identity than, is something to be working on, both in ourselves (to keep growing in that way), and others who we may be praying for and hoping to see them become “grounded” in Christ. This really does seem to get at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, for me, as well.



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Duane Young

posted January 29, 2007 at 6:59 am


Seems to be some sort of “abiding connection,” doesn’t it? The popular word these days is relationship, which in the contexet of your letter does have purchase. Thanks for this. I will share it with many.



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Alan Knox

posted January 29, 2007 at 7:43 am


I’ve read many definition, and I think your’s may be the best that I’ve seen. I think I’ll incorporate that into my defintion of the church. What is the church? All those “whose very being and identity are shaped by Jesus.” Thank you!
-Alan



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Keith Schooley

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:15 am


Good post Scot, although I wince at you quite rightly saying, “We need to keep our eyes on the other writers. They’re in our NT to make sure we know there is more than one way to say important things,” and then coming up with a one-sentence definition that you think “encompasses it all.” I loved that you went back to various biblical writers and got a variety of answers. The real solution, it seems to me, is in the harmony and tension among those answers.
I think the problem with Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism (really, all of Protestantism since the Reformation) is that we’ve made the sole operative criterion “believe” (is this why we tell new Christians to read John first?) and then spent all our time hammering out precisely what we are supposed to believe and (in effect) excommunicating everyone else who doesn’t believe in precisely the same way. We’re so afraid of any hint of “works-righteousness” that we can’t deal with the other writers and scriptures that develop any other dimension in Christian life.
My follow-up question would be, how are we supposed to recognize other believers? Because there are places in Scripture that tell us that at times we are to make that distinction (e.g., 1 Cor 5:9-13, 6:1-8; 2 Cor. 6:14-18).



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:23 am


Keith,
Good comment and question. I’m all for simply using the various biblical expressions and not synthesizing them, though I think we are incapable of not synthesizing to some degree. My only worry here is to run everything through one of these words all the time.
The shift to believing the right thing as the virtual equivalent, if not the real equivalent, of trusting Christ is a serious mistake.
How are we to identify? At one level, it is not our job; at another level, it is inevitable. That one too has the same kind of language games: Jesus (by their fruit) or John (walking in the light, loving God and loving others).



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Bill Van Loon

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:29 am


I like the word list supplied for the facets of “believe” (abiding, following, trusting, and obeying). Can we add “knowing” and “loving” to that list too?



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:32 am


Bill, my “Fourth”?



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Keith Schooley

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:32 am


Scot – you wrote,

The shift to believing the right thing as the virtual equivalent, if not the real equivalent, of trusting Christ is a serious mistake.

Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
What do you think of the idea that “pistis” and “pisteuo” should both be translated “trust”? It preserves the etymological link that is broken by using “faith” and “believe,” respectively, and (to me) connotes a Person as the object of trust, as opposed to a statement as the object of belief.
But yes–Jesus said that we were to trust in him, not to assent to certain particular propositions about him.



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Bill Van Loon

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:34 am


Scot,
Sorry. I read too fast. Thanks.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:34 am


Keith,
When I was in college I was amazed by some folks who insisted on the radical difference between “believing” and “faith” — with the latter much less. When I pointed out that the two words translated pist- words it didn’t matter.
And I’ve always gravitated toward explaining both as “trust”; you are right, it connotes a deeper, or more comprehensive, engagement for many.



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Brian

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:37 am


Scot, in regards to identity, I am curious what place you give to baptism in answering these questions? Thanks.



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monts

posted January 29, 2007 at 8:52 am


or it’s someone who’s being born again and again and again and again and again…



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Mike Lamson

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:14 am


Scot,
I just got done with the Isn’t She Beautiful conference at Mars Hill, and Rob Bell did a session on the nature of salvation, I did a couple of posts on it:
http://lambonica.typepad.com/soul_renovatus/2007/01/rob_bell_on_the.html
http://lambonica.typepad.com/soul_renovatus/2007/01/rob_bell_on_the_1.html
Just to add to the discussion.
Mike



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Rich Scheenstra

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:27 am


Scot, I like your description of a Christian. But I preach to a pretty simple group of folks on Sundays. How would I explain the word “identity” to them?



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Del

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:34 am


Scot, thanks for a very good essay with an insightful definition. Can I ask a question for further clarification? You say that a Christian is someone whose identity is being transformed by a relationship with Jesus. Do you not think, then, that there is some kind of minimum amount of transformation necessary in a person before they “qualify?” I guess I don’t mean that ethically, as in “Don’t they have to clean up their lives to a certain extent first,” but what about theologically? Is there a certain amount of clarity needed in their understanding of who this Jesus is that they have a relationship with – e.g. his atoning death on the cross, his resurrection, his divinity? Is belief of these elements secondary? Or would you hold that a basic knowledge of these things is implicitly necessary for a transforming relationship with Jesus? Or….? I certainly don’t mean this to become a discussion of the importance of systematic theology in general, but how do we fold these basics into the bigger picture?



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Cheryl

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:38 am


Good post, Scot. Looking forward to the discussion.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:43 am


Rich,
Fair question; hard one.
How about this: “Do you see yourself as ‘worker’ or ‘player’ or ‘Christian’?” What comes to mind first when you think of yourself? How soon does the “follower of Jesus” enter the picture? I “do” teaching, but I “am” a follower of Jesus.
Del,
On Jesus, I think they have to trust in Jesus — and as they learn about Jesus (as did Mary and Peter and John and Paul) they modify and adjust and identify. As Jesus’ picture unfolds before their lives over time, they are summoned to continue to respond and to let him re-shape the core of who they are. So, yes, a Christian believes in Jesus’ resurrection and in his deity, but those may unfold over time.



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Kate Johnson

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:43 am


Thank you for the explanation about believe and trust. For many years I transposed the verse to read “I trust, please help my mistrust” not knowing I was really doing what was already there…. if I understand correctly. I believed Him, I just didn’t trust Him much…
I like your definition, Scot, because it encompasses what a person says with what they do. “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”
I also like Piper’s explanation that man’s purpose on earth is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever… the relationship. I also get tired of people saying “he says he is a Christian”, as if it is their place to judge… and then they follow it up with, “but I don’t think he is”…. as you say, God is the ONLY ONE who knows….



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+ Alan

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:00 am


I think I’ve read everything here so far. I would agree that “being” a Christian is a matter of indentity – and that more than, or even over/against the notion of what one does. Identity, as I see it, is more of a mystical thing here – a metaphysical connection. So, things may start with believing or faith, but that’s certainly not all there is to it. It’s really about our union with God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit – and that’s substantive, real stuff, not just a matter of concepts we hold in our brain matter.
Other than that, I’m curious as to, in this whole discussion thus far, there has been no mention of Baptism or the Church. As far as how we can tell who is a fellow Christian, it would seem these things would be in the realm of primary. Who’s a Christian? (in simple terms?) One who is in the Church. One who has been Sacramentally unified with the Body of Christ through baptism. As far we we know, these people are “Christians.”
Anyway, just thought I’d add a couple of cents. Interesting. Peace.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:05 am


Alan,
I agree about union with Father, through Son, in Spirit: I think that is unfolded from believing, abiding, etc..



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Rick L in Tx

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:28 am


I am replying to Del in #16. I think that the transformation you are thinking about is a “changing of the mind” that is called repentance, and that it is awakened by the Spirit. In other words my bias is to believe that we can not initiate anything, including our own transformation. The Spirit reveals our need to see Jesus in a different way than before – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. The Spirit reveals; the heart and mind respond via faith, given by the same Spirit. But God starts it all and it starts like a very small mustard seed – perhaps consisting of nothing but awareness of personal sin and belief that somehow the person of Jesus can be trusted to solve that sin problem.
$.02



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Rich Scheenstra

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:46 am


Scott, you’ve really got me thinking this morning. Allow me to toss this one out: A Christian is someone whose central identity and purpose is to know and be transformed by Jesus Christ and to be an agent of His Kingdom.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:50 am


Rich, sure that’s a good definition. I like “knows and is being transformed.” Yours seems to get it out there as an object.



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Lee

posted January 29, 2007 at 11:18 am


I like that, a Christian is one whose being and identity is being shaped by Jesus. I think that covers it.
“Is being shaped” implies process. So while the kinks are being worked out, we benefit from grace and mercy.
That’s a concept that some Christians are going to find difficult to deal with, especially those who have already reached a state of sinless perfection. They’ll have to put up with those of us who are still working our our salvation with fear and trembling.



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T

posted January 29, 2007 at 11:26 am


Scot,
I really identify (no pun intended) with what you’ve written here. ‘Trust’ and other terms seem to communicate some very important elements of being a Christian that “believe” (by itself) seems to leave behind. We evangelicals have a wide variety of opinions about this issue that tend to revolve around what “believe” (by itself, because of the significance given to the term) looks like, even over the long term. Whereas ‘trust’ has within it a stronger relational component with necessary impact on our actual lives. Maybe we chose believe in evangelistic zeal precisely because it is the least costly of all of scripture’s terms. However the isolation ‘believe’ happened, it has resulted in, among other things, the challenge of getting my ‘Christian’ clients and my ‘Christian’ business students to trust Jesus in their careers and financial decisions. The concept is thin at best and completely alien at worst. Trust deals with objects in motion who are already ‘trusting’ lots of things and ideas every day; whereas ‘believing in Jesus’ can be more easily segregated in our day to special religious transactions and events–like ‘believing in Santa Claus’ at Christmas–with similar magical and very isolated relevance. I like your ‘multiple term’ approach, or, the recognition of that approach in the Scriptures.



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Cheryl

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm


Scot,
As you know, your question here is one I’ve asked you directly, and I’m sure we could all have a loooong conversation that tries to extrapolate the nuances of every single word in your statement, someone whose identity is being transformed because of relationship with Jesus.



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Cheryl

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:39 pm


Well, pooh, the rest of my statement was cut off! Give me a few moments to retype it.



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Dana Ames

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:44 pm


>>digression>end digression



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Dana Ames

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Mine too…trying to be artsy and I think I clogged something up with code. Thanks Scot and all commenters so far.
…minor digression…
Becky! So good to “see” you!
Many hugs to you- you are in my prayers.
…end minor digression…
Dana



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Cheryl

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:47 pm


As you know, your question here is one I’ve asked you directly, and I’m sure we could all have a loooong conversation that tries to extrapolate the nuances of every single word in your statement, someone whose identity is being transformed because of relationship with Jesus.
I’d like to use a metaphor to make a point: Imagine this “transformation” as us Christians being Play-Doh (clay), our understanding of Jesus is the piece of equipment that molds us into a new shape, and our will and the Holy Spirit as the force that acts on the clay to move it through the equipment into a new shape. (Do any of you remember that Play-Doh toy? :))
Anyway, my point is that the shape that emerges on the other side is our place in the Body of Christ. We do not come out as a “mini-me” of Jesus. We might be a foot and become a missionary. We might be a brain and become a teacher (HT, Scot). We might be a hand and be inclined to a very social gospel. Sometimes, I think I’m a colon, but even that has a very important role in the body! :)
My point being is that our identities are indeed transformed, but we don’t end up necessarily looking like one another. We should look like and be the part of the Body where we’re most needed. It’s when hands start thinking that the whole body should be feet or mouths or brains that the power of the whole ceases to be effective.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 29, 2007 at 12:56 pm


Cheryl,
A string of little oddities … and now we get this really suggestive point. Yes, I think the identity-formation that occurs leaves us as unique little “Jesus-shaped individuals in community with other Jesus-shaped individuals.”
The key for me in all this is that our very identity gets absorbed into the Final Reality (Trinity) that draws us into the very life of God.



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gymbrall

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:07 pm


Cheryl said:
We do not come out as a “mini-me” of Jesus. We might be a foot and become a missionary. We might be a brain and become a teacher (HT, Scot). We might be a hand and be inclined to a very social gospel.
Cheryl, I think Scripture supports that both are true. We are both conformed to the image of Christ and specifically suited for certain types of service.



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BeckyR

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm


Thank you Dana. Even cyber hugs do a heart good.



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Cheryl

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:13 pm


#32 & 33,
Yes, you’ve both stated it better the reality of what we should be.
I’ve been so distressed by the conflicts going on within the Body of Christ, that it seems what I stated is often the cause of it…an expectation that we are spit out of our transformative experience with Jesus as fully-formed and complete and placing more value on “being alike” rather than utilizing our strengths.
Thanks for taking it further and clarifying.



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brad grinnen

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm


Scott,
while reading your post i was struck with a remarkable similarity in thought to richard rohr. this is what he has to say…
Richard Rohr: “my simple definition of salvation would be when one begins to live in conscious union with God. this, of course, grows and develops and jesus makes it plain that this has to begin in our bodies, in our human lives, in our experience in this world, now, and for that Jesus is surely necessary for salvation. it is not a formula or a mere affirmation but a change of identity.”
thanks for this post. enjoyed it and will for a few days:)
brad



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 29, 2007 at 1:59 pm


I think there is more than one way to say important things; and with that in mind would you be so kind as to consider this way of becoming and being a Christian. (Please bear with its length remembering that the writer of Hebrews calls his letter “short”. Please!)
God told me that my heart was deceitfully wicked; not overtly wicked but self-servingly ever-able to call good evil and evil good in order to justify my choices as just and right and good.
God told me that his wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth in their wickedness.
He then went on to list some godless and wicked behaviors.
Naturally wanting to justify myself, I saw some areas in which I might fall short; but the “worst” sins were not mine!
God pointed out my self righteous justification and said that I was as guilty as the “worst” sinner.
He told me to get his heart.
He told me that the same forbearance that was keeping his wrath away from me extended to everyone and that he is withholding his judgment so that everyone will have time to recognize, relinquish, renounce and abandon their sin.
God provided a way for me to be forgiven my sins and he provided a way for me to constrain my sinner.
God told me that without the shedding of a perfect man’s blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
He told me that Jesus is that perfect man.
He told me that Jesus’ life blood was poured out so that I could use it for what it is worth and have my sins forgiven.
When I acknowledged my sin and asked God to forgive me on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood, he forgave my sins.
He said I could participate in his divine nature and told me what I needed to do about my sinner.
He told me that my sinner would be with me in time but when time for me is no more, my sinner would be gone.
He told me that those who have a hope of resurrection in Jesus purify themselves just as he is pure.
God told me that temptation to sin is not sin.
God told me to take all my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Jesus.
He told me to stand at the crossroads of my mind and consider which way to take by asking him where the good way is so that I can walk in it.
He told me that thoughts that could lead to things worthy of death should be mortified by taking them captive to Jesus’ cross.
He told me that thoughts that could lead to things worthy of life should be vivified by taking them captive to Jesus’ perfection.
He told me that he would be faithful and would not allow me to be tempted beyond what I could bear but along with the temptation would provide the Way and Truth and Life of Jesus to be the means to stand up under temptation without sinning.
He told me that he would never leave me or forsake me to my old way.
He told me to be holy because he is holy.
He said he gave me the life of Jesus and as a regenerate person he expects righteous behavior from me.
He told me not to be upset that my sinner was still with me but to consider it pure joy that he has so graciously allowed me to be united with Jesus so that in him I can walk in victory over sin, one step at a time.
He said someday Jesus’ perfection would perfectly come and I would have no sinner to deal with, but for now he wants me to show what can be done by living in Jesus where he is and by letting his Spirit live in me where I am.
God has given me faith and he has given me the Spirit of himself and his Son.
He told me that by combining these two I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
God is not a liar; in all these things he has done as he purposed and promised.
When I always rejoice, when I let Jesus’ meekness be evident in me and when I am not anxious about anything but bring everything to God, Jesus (who is my peace) passes all understanding and guards my heart and mind in himself.
I have treasured up Jesus as the Word of God in my heart that I might not sin against him.
God’s grace to me has not been without effect; it is amazing how he continues to work in me both to will and to do his good pleasure.
He is waiting to do all these things for anyone who asks.



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gymbrall

posted January 29, 2007 at 2:38 pm


Keith Schooley said:
My follow-up question would be, how are we supposed to recognize other believers? Because there are places in Scripture that tell us that at times we are to make that distinction (e.g., 1 Cor 5:9-13, 6:1-8; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Don’t these verses (particularly) the first reference, tell you specifically how to make that distinction? (At least to the level of who we should have fellowship with within a local body?)



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John Frye

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:07 pm


In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus enlists some disciples, then calls the Twelve, sends them out and apparently they are effective in kingdom work. It is not until chapter 16 that Jesus asks the doctrinal quiz question about his identity. Can you be a Christ-follower, chosen, empowered, effective and only later be asked, “Well, who do *you” say that I am?” I thought that question had to be asked up front?



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Bill Van Loon

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:13 pm


John #39,
I think He can ask us that question any time He wants. I affirm who He is everday.
Peace.



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John Frye

posted January 29, 2007 at 3:42 pm


Bill #40,
I like your insight–maybe it is His asking and our answering daily that shapes our identity as Scot suggested.



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Bill Van Loon

posted January 29, 2007 at 4:10 pm


John #41,
I am firmly convinced that Jesus loves to affirm who we are in Him. I think it’s how He changes our hearts and affections and directs our attention to Who He is and Who He is to us and who we are to Him.
Peace.



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SelahV

posted January 29, 2007 at 7:24 pm


Who is a Christian? I AM. And Cheryl, I believe the Spirit has made me the heart. It breaks when I see anger, hatred, meanness, bitterness, attacks on others, spewed venom, talebearing, haughty piety, and down-right ugliness. It mends when I take it back to the Father daily–many times a day. It beats when all the “fruit of the Spirit” is fresh in my fruitbowl. When any of the fruit has even the appearance of spoiling…the heartbeat becomes irregular…skips beats and sometimes thunders within my mind. It pulses with excitement and joy when I see love extended, compassion exercised, empathy expressed, mercy abound, and others become part of my body. I like your mini-me Jesus example. May His grace be sufficient and abound in your life. SelahV



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SelahV

posted January 29, 2007 at 7:25 pm


Who is a Christian? I AM. And Cheryl, I believe the Spirit has made me the heart. It breaks when I see anger, hatred, meanness, bitterness, attacks on others, spewed venom, talebearing, haughty piety, and down-right ugliness. It mends when I take it back to the Father daily–several times a day. It beats when all the “fruit of the Spirit” is fresh in my fruitbowl. When any of the fruit has even the appearance of spoiling…the heartbeat becomes irregular…skips beats and sometimes thunders within my mind. It pulses with excitement and joy when I see love extended, compassion exercised, empathy expressed, mercy abound, and others become part of my body. I like your mini-me Jesus example. May His grace be sufficient and abound in your life. SelahV



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SelahV

posted January 29, 2007 at 7:27 pm


Who is a Christian? I AM. And Cheryl, I believe the Spirit has made me the heart. It breaks when I see anger, hatred, meanness, bitterness, attacks on others, spewed venom, talebearing, haughty piety, and down-right ugliness. It mends when I take it back to the Father daily–several times a day. It beats when all the “fruit of the Spirit” is fresh in my fruitbowl. When any of the fruit has even the appearance of spoiling,the heartbeat becomes irregular–skips beats and sometimes thunders within my mind. It pulses with excitement and joy when I see love extended, compassion exercised, empathy expressed, mercy abound, and others become part of my body. I like your mini-me Jesus example. May His grace be sufficient and abound in your life. SelahV



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 29, 2007 at 9:16 pm


Gymbrall #38
I am convinced by Scripture alone that it can be known who is a Christian and who is not.
Jesus says by their fruit you will know them, He does not say that only God knows for sure.
The Lord knows those who are his and those who confess the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.
In the parable of the weeds among the wheat the master never doubts his servant’s ability to accurately distinguish the difference between the weeds and the wheat; he only tells them not to disturb the roots of the wheat by pulling the weeds.
Jesus who has become for believers wisdom from God is proved right by action.
From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks and actions spring.
A so called brother is identified by what he approves that is contrary to the will of God for a genuine believer.
Jesus says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him”.
We are specifically told that anyone who does not do right is not a child of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
We are slaves to the one we obey regardless what we say; we are either slaves to sin that leads to death or we are slaves to obedience that leads to righteousness.
A man reaps what he sows. Someone who is sowing to please their sinful nature will not reap eternal life.
The test of faith is simple and is passed by exhibiting the presence to Jesus within.
We can claim to know God with our words but deny him with our actions.
Paul, who was not disobedient to the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ he saw on the road to Damascus, preached everywhere that people should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. He preached the obedience that comes from faith and that the righteous live by faith.
It is a very good thing (as only God is good) that people who are not genuine believers can be positively identified so that the Repentance, Forgiveness and Empowerment of God the Father’s redemptive plan through Jesus his Son by the power of the Spirit can be revealed to them before it is too late.
The identification is made not to condemn but to build up according to observed needs.
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Chirs Walls

posted January 29, 2007 at 10:33 pm


Scot,
Amazing! Last week I listened to Rob Bell some of the many answers that you have given at his “Isn’t She Beautiful?” conference. Like Brad Bell used the quote from Richard Rohr. I came away challenged greatly in my view of what it means to be a Christian or one calling themselves a Christian.
Is being a Christian something you do? say? pray? or believe? are some of the questions asked by Bell to prove his point. The question that Bell asked was if you gave a person who had no frame of reference of who Christ is or what he did a bible what would the person find out about being “saved.” Bell listed many more verses than you listed here with many questions.
Both you and Bell have made me probe to think about my view of how salvation comes to someone through Jesus Christ. Since we live in a world where people claim to be Christians because they were baptized, confessed, walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, attend a church or a multitude of other avenues the church has invented to say someone is a Christian, I think what you have written here brings up a valid question that challenges people to think about what the Bible truly says about what it means to be a Christian.



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Chirs Walls

posted January 29, 2007 at 11:05 pm


Man I should stop typing before 10 PM because I don’t make sense. It mostly makes sense insert “ask” omit “answers” and enter “questions.” “Like Brad, Bell” I think that is all.



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michael mcminn

posted January 30, 2007 at 1:19 am


Dr. McKnight,
Long time reader, first time comment.
I loved your “5 Streams” it was very informative and seemed to be the most balanced commentary I have read on the EC movement.
A few questions:
1) You make a distinction between Emerging and Emergent in the article, and you clearly identify with the larger descriptor of Emerging. Do you tend to feel the same resonance with those specifically a part of Emergent?
2) What do you think can be done when so many do not see or refuse to admit a distinction between Emerging and Emergent? It seems, to me, confusing/misleading when some are willing to lump McLaren, Bell, Kimball, you, and Mark Driscoll all into one camp!
3) Have you seen the Emerging TULIP? (Not to be confused with McLaren’s reworking of TULIP. I believe it was posted by Steve Camp first which is where I have linked you to. I would love to see a detailed response from you on what appears to me to be a very terse over simplification on some points while simply just flat out wrong on others. Hoping as a reader and admirer to gain some new and deeper insight from you by feeding you some fodder.
FIY: Chris Walls who’s post is above mine is a friend from seminary and he has a huge melon of a head. Really its gi-normous!
Living in the Missional Position,
Michael



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:29 am


Michael,
On #1: I’m not sure anyone agrees with everything Emergent; I know I don’t. Emerging is the trend. But, overall, no problem for me.
#2: I don’t personally see Driscoll in the emerging camp. He was, but I’m not seeing any indicators of that now. If you use Pagitt’s categories, though, he ministers “to” postmoderns.
#3: Not seen it. I’ll take a gander.



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Chris

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:02 am


Michael,
That is because I retained most of the information that I was given during seminary. I am on spiritual steroids so now I have a head like Barry Bonds.
I would agree with Scot on Driscoll. I would think Driscoll would agree that he is not in the emerging camp because of some of the disagreements that he has had with Pagitt and McLaren, also that he is unwilling to identify with some of their views of scripture.



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John Frye

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:03 am


Michael #49,
I like Scot’s PPPPP (in his recent CT article) rather than Camp’s TULIP.



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Brian

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:17 am


Scot, I too second the kudos for the recent CT article on the emergent conversation. It clarified a few things that were unclear in my mind and also gave pause to some possible excess.
Regarding the original question of identity, I am wondering if you cold repsond to the question “where does baptism fit in”? I aksed in #12 above and I know you’re not obligated to answer everyone’s comment/question but it does seem to be fairly foundational (if I may use that word!) to New Testament thinking regarding this issue.
Thanks.



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Mark Preece

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:05 am


I couldn’t help wondering if Jesus — at least as presented in the synoptics — wouldn’t have been a little uncomfortable with this question as stated. When you went from “what is a Christian” to “who is a Christian” I thought you might have stopped too soon. We also need to ask why the question is being asked. Wasn’t it a question like “what is a Jew” or “who is a Jew” that ultimately led to the Pharisees not eating with tax collectors?
What’s got me thinking about this is soemthing I noticed the last time I preached Matt 25 (the sheep and the goats). The message that’s usually drawn from that (I’ve preached it this way, too) is that we need to learn to recognized Christ in the face of people in need, and serve Christ in them. That’s fine of course, but it misses one of the central points of the parable: that the sheep gave water, clothes, and so on to people who they did not recognize as being Jesus. Their goodness was about compassion and kindness — humanity, that is, not religious obligation, however enlightened.
Anyhow, I wonder if Jesus, asked “who is a Christian”, might not have found a way to transform the question: making it sound a little less like the lawyer’s (“Who is my neighbor?”) and a little more like the rich young man’s (“What must I do?”).
All that said, the answer you gave, when applied to the question of how to follow rather than who’s in and who’s out, is terrific!
Peace,
Mark.



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gymbrall

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:36 am


Mark Preece said:
Their goodness was about compassion and kindness — humanity, that is, not religious obligation, however enlightened.
Can you explain how as a Christian you draw a distinction between (Chtistian) religious obligation and humanity?
Anyhow, I wonder if Jesus, asked “who is a Christian”, might not have found a way to transform the question: making it sound a little less like the lawyer’s (”Who is my neighbor?”) and a little more like the rich young man’s (”What must I do?”).
We do have an obligation to affirm or disaffirm the faith of those who are within the church and are recognized to be believers (i.e. in general, members of the the church, though there is more to it than that) and we do this out of love, and we ask that it be done to us as well. Those who do not claim to be of Christ do not require this, as they know they are not of Christ, but it is an act of hate to see a brother doing those things which God has called us to be separate from and to not call him to repentance. And we pray that we be treated in this manner as well, so that we do not deceive ourselves.



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John Frye

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:46 am


#55 should read “…apart from a life of…” rather than “…about from a life of …” Sorry.
—–COMMENT:
Mark #53,
I am challenged by your comments of Matthew 25. I think some believe that we “love God” by affirming correct doctrinal beliefs about Jesus, God, the Bible, the atonement, etc. and we “love people” by doing compassionate deeds in the name of Jesus. I think that Jesus in Matthew 25 and John the Apostle in his first epistle would say, “We love God by loving people.” All doctrine and it attendant affirmations are meaningless about from a life of Christ-like love. I could be wrong, however. The separation of the sheep and goats was not based on a doctrinal exam.



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BeckyR

posted January 30, 2007 at 11:39 am


Gymbrall, recently an old friend told us he is a Christ follower now. He made the distinction that years ago he did the walk down the aisle to escape hell, but finds that extremely different than living the dying with Christ and living in the Spirit. How do we figure out if someone is professing to be a christian to escape hell, if that is being a christian, or lives the life in the Spirit? Practically, how do we take each individual in a church and figure out if they’re christian or not?
Then to take into consideration Jesus saying some will call him “Lord” and he will say he doesn’t know them. That some will do things that look like they come from a christian base but he will tell them to “I never knew you.” How are we to know who is and who isn’t?
Lastly, are we? Are we to be about the business of deciding who is a christian and who isn’t? Seems the scriptures that speak of those who are and those who aren’t, it’s God who is making the distinction at judgment. We are to discipline, but are we to decide who is a christian and who isn’t?



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gymbrall

posted January 30, 2007 at 11:54 am


BeckyR said:
Lastly, are we? Are we to be about the business of deciding who is a christian and who isn’t? Seems the scriptures that speak of those who are and those who aren’t, it’s God who is making the distinction at judgment. We are to discipline, but are we to decide who is a christian and who isn’t?
I used the words affirm and disaffirm specifically to avoid the connotation that we are the Judge. A softer word would be fine with me, but I couldn’t think of one with less baggage in the time frame I had to post. Discipline might be that word, but with it, we need to remember that at a certain point in discipline, we treat the one who is disciplined as if he were an unbeliever. The discipline of the church is serious enough that it is a disaffirmation of the faith of the one who is being disciplined. “This one who covenanted with us in faith, has broken the vows of his covenant, and has refused repentance. He has choses to continue to behave as a heathen and will be treated as one.” It’s a serious thing indeed, and not to be done lightly and without proper procedure, and only within the covenant of the church.
The problem is, many in the church look at being disciplined as an evil act, rather than an act of love. It is hateful to see a brother willfully sinning and to say to him, “of course you are saved, you prayed a prayer and you meant it”. Also, it must be understood, discipline does not remove salvation. Even were I to be falsely accused, improperly treated by a church, and improperly cast out, I should look at it as the actions of a loving God who ordained such things for me, and examine my salvation. And if they had acted improperly in the name of God, what wrath that church would face. It would be better for them to be judged here on Earth and to repent than to stand condemned before God condemned.



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SelahV

posted January 30, 2007 at 12:24 pm


BECKY: In your last paragraph of questions you said: Lastly, are we? Are we to be about the business of deciding who is a christian and who isn’t?”
Even the Lord said to let the tares grow up amongst the wheat. So, if you are asking this as a rhetorical questions–my thoughts in reply are No, No. And it is our responsibility to be faithful in doing our part in whatever way His Spirit leads us to do it. I leave Jane Doe and Joe Schmo to the Lord in their profession of solidarity with my Risen Lord. In the final analysis, He is the judge. As a jurist, I can only view the evidence set before me. And I don’t want jury duty. I don’t want the responsibility of accusing someone falsely in their testimony of faith. “Actions following their testimony” is another basket of fruit altogether.
Great questions you asked Becky. selahV



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John Frye

posted January 30, 2007 at 1:01 pm


The believers in the church at Corinth had a raft of serious problems. Do we “discipline” people out of the church who make a mockery of the Lord’s Table with drunkenness and gluttony? I don’t read that in 1 Corinthians. Do we “discipline” people out of the church for human hero worship (I am of Paul. I am of Cephas. etc) that divides the church? I don’t read about discipline for that. Do we “discipline” people out of the church who deny the resurrection? I don’t read Paul urging discipline for that. The only one turned over to discipline and put out of the church was the guy shacking up with his mother. And that was because the church turned her head from that.
Just wondering…



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Winston

posted January 30, 2007 at 2:57 pm


This question is always interesting to me because it speaks to the question of how seriously to confront heretical movements. For example, would a Mormon be considered a Christian? According to my Evangelical background, the answer is an unambiguous “no” because they believe that they can attain equality with God (at least to who God is now, although by then God will have progressed further), because they reject the divinity of Christ as being something special and for other reasons. However, Mormons accept most of the narrative of Jesus’ life from the Gospels and produce many good works (bearing fruit is supposed to be a way we can judge a belief). Also, in a sense, Mormons are trusting in Jesus, even though they are wrong about many points. While there is an officially sanctioned worry about being “worthy” in Mormon circles, is this really all that different than the drive to be “holy” in Christian circles?
I guess the question comes down to: How do we draw the borders of who is trusting in Jesus, or should we? Maybe, it isn’t our place to say and we should just trust that God is just and merciful.



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BeckyR

posted January 30, 2007 at 3:29 pm


I’m a Schaeffer quoter, and in the senior, and he put conversion as being 2 bowings : 1) I am the creature, God is the Creator; 2) my sin and need of redemption. Don’t quote me word for word that Schaeffer said it that way. Why I bring it up is the idea that stepping over the line to being a christian is a bowing inside, a surrender. I did a 12 step group for awhile and there were people in there more surrendered to God for the sake of the efficiency of their recovery, than some christians I’d known years who are running their christian life. At that time in my life I started looking at the idea that crossing the line to being a christian was about surrender. And I leave it there, I don’t try to figure out if it’s surrender to the right God or not. I think that’s God’s job. And I think, truly, we’ll be surprised who is in heaven or the new heaven and earth, and who isn’t, because we all have our blinders on. I surely hope I will be there.



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 3:44 pm


#61 Winston,
My take on it is that the Bible makes it clear that only God knows the desire, intents, motives, and secrets of our hearts. The monkey wrench gets thrown in when the Bible speaks about discipline in the church. It is a thorny issue and probably will continue to be.
What strikes me is how many people seem to immediately start excluding, rather than erring on the side of a merciful inclusion. If someone’s lack of faith does nothing to diminish the strength of mine, then where is the threat and thus the rush to exclude? But I digress from my point.
How would we judge rightly between these two examples:
1) Someone who has trusted Jesus, but has been grievously wounded by the Church and doesn’t attend regularly anywhere—at least not for now. However, in the privacy of their prayer closet and in the spirit of remaining anonymous with their giving, they’ve managed to help a lot of people in the name of Jesus.
-and-
2) Someone who attends church regularly because it’s just “what they do.” Besides, it’s part of their social network, and they enjoy the fellowship. Perhaps they can always be counted on to help with the Habitat for Humanity-type ministries, but they do it more for the social aspect, than a real desire to help. As a matter of fact, if they weren’t doing it with their friends, they wouldn’t do it at all.
Now who is the real Christian? My guess is that most would consider #1 somewhat of a backslider, if they considered them at all. And #2 would be considered a model Christian.
The real answer is… perhaps both of them of them are Christians, just expressing their faith in different ways and struggling with different issues. But the reality is, none of us can judge other people’s hearts. Period.
Spirituality is not like math. From the most advanced calculus to the simplest 2 + 2 =4, both the starting assumptions and the eventual outcomes are universally accepted to be true or false. Math is based on getting the same outcome every single time the formula is rightly applied.
But if you take the formula of a (person) + (their understanding of scripture) + (their understanding of Jesus), it’s going to look different an infinite number of times—because AT LEAST one of those three factors is always a variable, and it’s usually all three factors that are variable.
Until some genius or prophet on this side of heaven finds that universal theorem to measure those human equations by, and declare “true” or “false,” I think we’re better off leaving it to a just and merciful God.



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 3:45 pm


Wow! That didn’t seem as long when I scrolled through it before I sent it. Sorry about that.



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BeckyR

posted January 30, 2007 at 4:25 pm


Hi Cheryl. I’m going to give an example of what happened in our church but first you need to understand I’ve done this one house church for 29 yrs, and it’s set up that basically everyone gets a word on how things are done.
We had a very similar discussion at one time in our church, trying to figure out what understanding of faith a child had to be to be baptized if they wanted it. That segued into a discussion of how all of our’s understanding of the implementing of christian concepts were ah-ha moments as we grew up and at what point in that do we say we understand enough, then, what about the mentally challenged. I think we ended up deciding we’d leave the deepening of the faith to time and God.
Do we apply the same to those who seem to be too critical or harsh of who is in and who is out.
Just a bit to add to the convo.



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gymbrall

posted January 30, 2007 at 4:28 pm


Cheryl said:
But the reality is, none of us can judge other people’s hearts. Period.
Which is why we preach salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Because both #1 and #2 just like the five virgins without oil (Matt 25:1-12), know whether or not they have put their faith in Jesus Christ and are truly following him or whether they are worshipping a God made in their own image and in their own mind. To go back to the parable of the ten virgins, you have ten people who all look the same, they all have lamps, they all trim their wicks, but five have oil and five don’t. And so we ask ourselves and our brothers and sisters, because we love them, and because we love Christ:

If you don’t have sufficient faith to teach your family the Word of God daily, why do you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord? If you don’t have the faith to stop partaking in what God’s word calls wickedness, why do believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord?

It does not mean that someone who fails at these things is not saved. But today, we are so frightened to challenge a brother with the Word of God. The parable of the virgins is telling: half of them were not known by the bridegroom, and they all looked great.



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 4:49 pm


#66, Hi, Gymbrall,
Two things… you probably know that as I’ve said before in many posts, I have a very open-ended view of scripture. I believe it covers everything I need to know in order to love God and love others. I do not necessarily submit to every other piece of it in every other matter of my life… including those you and many other would consider wicked or evil. We will probably never see eye to eye on that point. And because of that, I’m assuming you would not consider me a Christian. Your prerogative and belief, of course, but only time will tell. I’m not trying to persuade you to believe as I do, but to at least understand where I’m coming from.
Second, even if you do put out of the church those considered unrepentant sinners, based on your views of scripture, right there in the passages about the sexually immoral are also passages about things that might be harder to discern…greed, for example. Unless one is all up in someone else’s business, one can’t usually discern that, because it’s a sin easy to keep secret. How do you deal with that? Does your church keep records of tithers?
And interestingly, with the whole question about the place of women in the church being a hot issue, and the literalness and specificity of the gender is often called to bear as being important in the argument. Concerning church discipline, Paul specifically says not to associate with a “brother” nor a “man.” (But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.) Since he doesn’t mention women, should we presume they’re okay to associate with? And yes, I’m being facetious, but trying to make a point that we all tend to be literal when it suits our purpose and more relaxed when it doesn’t.
As I’ve said, it’s a difficult issue, but discipline in the church seems to be very selectively applied to those sins 1) which are not easy to disguise, and 2) with which most church people do not struggle.
#65 Hi Becky,
This comment stuck out to me: t what point in that do we say we understand enough. If I EVER say I understand enough, I hope someone slaps me! :)
One of my favorite song lyrics from my favorite movie, Yentl, says this: “The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” That’s me, through and through, and I try hard to assume other people are the same way.



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gymbrall

posted January 30, 2007 at 6:20 pm


Cheryl said:
And because of that, I’m assuming you would not consider me a Christian. Your prerogative and belief, of course, but only time will tell.
We’ll never stand before each other in judgement for our sins, but we will both stand before God.
Second, even if you do put out of the church those considered unrepentant sinners, based on your views of scripture, right there in the passages about the sexually immoral are also passages about things that might be harder to discern…greed, for example. Unless one is all up in someone else’s business, one can’t usually discern that, because it’s a sin easy to keep secret. How do you deal with that? Does your church keep records of tithers?
I’m not sure that scripture says that not tithing makes one covetous. Of course we can only deal with what is external. But God is sovereign. And I believe I said it in a previous comment, but again, I would not want to be the man who manages to “get away” with my sins on this earth only to stand before a righteous God. I would much rather be confronted and found out here and now. This is why I pray to God that I will catch my children in their sins that I might punish them now and give them the opportunity to repent. We have turned God’s order upside down in that we believe it is a blessing to escape being found out and punished for our sins. We believe that it is possible to avoid judgement altogether.



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BeckyR

posted January 30, 2007 at 6:57 pm


Got a problem with the word “punished.” Direct, confront, guide, ok. Punishment comes at judgment. Romans says we come to God because of his mercy, we are wooed by his mercy. I would discipline my kid, direct my kid, guide my kid, but not punish her for her wrong. When I hear “punish” is when I think one’s life experience is being laid over understanding about God.
And, truth be told, we all are blind to sin in our life, we all take advantage of not acknowledging sins in our life, we all sin because it serves us in some way, and will do till we die. God have mercy. But that’s not all the story – at the same time we are being transformed by the Spirit, we do have a measure of dying with Christ and living in the Spirit. Never perfect in this life, but sufficient.



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John Frye

posted January 30, 2007 at 7:03 pm


gymbrall #68,
You wrote, “This is why I pray to God that I will catch my children in their sins that I might punish them now and give them the opportunity to repent.”
I believe that in writing that statement you believe that you are imitating your Father in heaven. Is that true? If it is, then God is constantly watching us to find out our sins so he might punish us and give us the chance to repent. Correct? The reason we want to repent is so we don’t face God in judgment for our sins. True?
Is it, then, the mission of Christians to one another to be “the Father’s eyes” so we can help him catch his children sinning? We are his eyes seeing and acting “in love,” of course. True?
What if you were to discover that God, once the redeeming work of Christ who shed his blood was accomplished, does not hold *anyone* sins against them? What if discipline has nothing to do with sin at all (since the moment Jesus declared “It is finished!”) and has only to do with training us in righteous (or right) living (Hebrew 12)?



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 7:05 pm


#68 Gymbrall,
Just a point of clarification about the verse I referenced. I didn’t mean to imply that NOT tithing was necessarily covetous. My example was purely illustrative to show that greed is one of those sins on the list that is difficult to gauge. And if Paul took it seriously enough to list it, then why isn’t the church serious about revealing it among its members? Or is the church content to let the “obvious” sins be the only ones with which they deal?
So then, because it’s difficult to know what’s in the heart, should the church start creating methods to expose hidden sins? In this illustrative example, one way might be to start recording who the tithers are (or at least what amount people give). If people tithe, they’ve got nothing to hide. If they don’t tithe, then why? Either 1) they don’t believe in or are disobedient to the Biblical precedent or 2) they are greedy. Either way, they should be up for church discipline, right?
If one feels that following all the examples of the church as to what constitutes “serious” Christian behavior toward the body, then certainly tithing/giving would be an indicator, would it not? Don’t we put our money with our mouth is? Isn’t bringing the firstfruits one of the major tenets of covenantal behavior? And if one chooses to not give back to God His portion, is it because of greed? Disbelief? Disobedience? etc.
Like I said, while this example is PURELY speculative and illustrative to show the randomness with which church discipline is dealt, even if some churches did try to implement such a way to gauge the level of giving by their members, it would probably never fly. Know why? Because there are things that people think are best left between themselves and God—and that’s never more clear than when you start messing with people’s money! Leaving some things between God and the individual has been my point all along.



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 30, 2007 at 7:44 pm


John #60
Anyone who makes a mockery of the Lord’s Table should be barred from participating.
Anyone who is divisive should be warned twice and then the fellowship they are dividing should have nothing to do with them, being convinced they are warped and sinful and are self condemned. There are people who scoff at an accurate explanation of a Scriptural text by exalting their own desires and natural instincts above it. These are the people who are dividing the Church. We are to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in our way that are contrary to the teaching God has revealed.
A denial of the resurrection completely destroys the Gospel. A person who denies the resurrection is most certainly not a Christian; there are no grounds for welcoming them into the Body of Christ because they are convinced Jesus is dead.
The one turned over to discipline in the Church in Corinth was fully restored to the fellowship because his Godly sorrow led him to repentance. The Church did not turn her head from his sin; before Paul’s warning they were proud of what this man was doing.
The form of discipline that benefited this man also applies to unrepentant sexual immorality, unrepentant greed, unrepentant, idolatry and unrepentant drunkenness.
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 30, 2007 at 7:50 pm


Cheryl #72
Jesus didn’t tithe.
Neither did Peter, or Paul.
They did not tithe because they were not supject to the Old Covenant tithe and there is no New Covenat equivilent.
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 7:55 pm


#74, Steve,
First of all, I said the tithing example was purely illustrative as a way to measure people’s greed.
Second, tell me how you know Jesus, Paul, and Peter did not tithe.
Third, actually, in the NT, the believers went beyond tithing to giving ALL they had to support the community. Is THAT the example of the church you prefer to follow? Okay with me. Let’s see how many people go with that method of “doing church.” :)



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:06 pm


#74
Follow up to Steve’s assertion that those he mentioned did not tithe.
Took me a minute to find it, but why would Jesus say this: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. you should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:4)
You are correct in your assertion that the OT tithe is not binding as law, but Jesus thought it worthy enough to say that it should be practiced.
And no, I do not tithe to the church, for those who are wondering. I do give generously to many charities.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:16 pm


Stephen,
Tone it down, friend. You’re exceeding boundaries with overstatements and bombastic remarks.



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:17 pm


Cheryl #72
Leaving some things between God and the individual applies in disputable matters.
In fact that is the prescribed New Covenant protocol.
But that is most defiantly not what is happening here because God has given a ruling on these issues in regard to His own personal fellowship.
In regard to exposing hidden sins, we are told not to have anything to no with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
But the God ordained and blessed reason for exposing is not to condemn but to save!
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:25 pm


Cheryl #74
Your question is best answered by giving you a link:
http://www.home.earthlink.net/~russkellyphd/
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:26 pm


Ya know, I’ve been sitting here thinking that I’m getting tired of my point not being addressed.
This started off as a post about how do WE know who is a Christian. Scot would be the first to admit (and did) that only God knows the truth, and he offered a very gracious and workable “definition” for us to consider.
Then people want to know the way for us to “separate the sheep from the goats.” This is where I jumped in and suggested that, even if we should, the Church has been inconsistent about how, when, and who they apply their disciplining standards to. I’ve used point after point to illustrate the inequities.
Suddenly, the illustrative points become the topic, and the original assertion is ignored.
Stephen and Gymbrall, will you at least concede the premise that the Church and local church has been and continues to be inconsistent, not only deciding which sins are disciplined, but also in the application of those disciplines?
That’s all I want to know, and don’t want to run off on any more rabbit trails.
Thanks. I look forward to your answer.



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:32 pm


#79 Stephen,
The verse I got was from a link that says the NT does support tithing and even an “over-and-above” view of tithing.
We could trade links all night on opposite sides of the issue, both of which use scripture to bolster their “proof.” Which serves once again to illustrate how hard it is to nail down a lot of things in scripture as having only one interpretaion and subsequent application.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:34 pm


Good grief, these posts take on a life of their own. Back to Brian … you asked about baptism. I saw that the day you posted it, forgot to answer it, and then you’ve come back…
I’m low church, I believe baptism is important, I don’t think it is ex opere operato (something that in and of itself does something), I think it is original to Jesus/Church and something significant to those believers; I also think the primary mode of such baptisms were for adult believers, though I think the Church very soon moved to seeing circumcision as connected to or replaced by baptism (Col 2).
On “how is a Christian?” I’m quite happy to see someone say “someone who is baptized” if that “someone” is someone who is living out the death and resurrection of Jesus in their very life.



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:44 pm


Cheryl #80
I am in complete agreement with you:
Church discipline has been rendered usless for the God ordained reason it was initiated by those who have capriciiously applied it.
What needs to happen is proper discipline that starts with us first.
The reason we take care of the planks in our own eyes first is so that we can gently help our brothers and sisters with their specks.
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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Cheryl

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:04 pm


#83, Steve,
Thank you for responding. Would it be fair to then follow this logic?
If the system is broken and capriciously applied, it should not be used to measure others against until ALL sins in “the list” are treated as equally harmful.
And yes, as a homosexual, you would put me out of your fellowship. I understand that, but I could respect it so much more (and so would a watching world) if the church equally got rid of those other “sinners.” I mean really got serious about it. Heck, I might even start to take the authority of the church’s place in my life more seriously if I saw it act with some consistency on such matters. (Although, I think church membership would decline dramatically!!)
Until the Church/church gets serious in a real way about all the sins listed and stops being selective, is it still acceptable to cast out the one? I don’t mean to sound flippant, but the phrase that seems to sum it up best is “put up or shut up” about dis-fellowshipping. (The “shut up” here meaning moving toward a more inclusive way of fellowship.)
I have to stop now, but will enjoy reading the rest of the responses.



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RJS

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:37 pm


Scot,
Wouldn’t you say that baptism is neither “ex opere operato” nor optional? Baptism in and of itself does nothing, but all believers are commanded to be baptized. Therefore baptism is a necessary but not a sufficient indicator of who is a Christian. Certainly the assumption in Romans is that all believers are baptized.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 9:44 pm


RJS,
I can agree with this logic:
Body expression was necessary for Israel’s faith.
Baptism was the body expression for conversion.
Therefore, baptism was conversion.
In other words, baptism wasn’t an expression of faith but was faith. There’s lots to unpack there.
In the 3d and 4th Century there developed a more rigorous distinction between body and spirit. This has led for nearly 1700 years to a much more clean and radical, if wrong-headed, distinction between body and spirit, leading to much less interest in bodily expressions of faith.
Nothing more evidences this than evangelicals who think neither baptism nor the Lord’s Supper really “matter” but only either “evidence” faith or “encourage” our faith. Thus, these acts do nothing but they do nothing now because we have segregated body and spirit.
Not until body and spirit are brought into a true biblical unity (where body may mean person) will baptism really matter.



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RJS

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:16 pm


Scot,
So how does this historical sketch fit with the long history of baptism making one a Christian, in Catholicism certainly, but also in many strains of protestantism? Baptism seems to have played the role similar to circumcision well beyond the 3rd or 4th century.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:19 pm


RJS,
Even in the sacramental traditions, the simple act of baptizing an infant merely covers the child in the covenant community until that child engages the faith personally — as I understand it. It cleanses a child of original sin, but not all sin. (Again as I understand it.)
While I wouldn’t say the Church is absolutely wrong, I do think the NT evidence has been distorted.



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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:20 pm


RJS,
Now I see you may be asking a slightly different question: what was established in the 3d/4th Century became tradition.



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RJS

posted January 30, 2007 at 10:31 pm


Scot,
It became tradition – but a tradition that carried a great deal of meaning for the Church, as witnessed by the struggles of Luther with this, his ultimate conclusions, and such examples as that brought up by Dawkins where a Jewish child baptized by a maid was considered “Christian” and thus removed from his home by the Catholic Church – into the 1700′s at least. That is baptism was assumed to mean something very real and very concrete with respect to becoming part of the Christian covenant community.



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Joseph

posted January 30, 2007 at 11:14 pm


Your describtion of who a Christian is profound. In light of that can a Muslim follow Jesus in the terms you described with right living without having to be called a Christian.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 4:35 am


Reading your posts about the inconsistency of the church in addressing sins, Cheryl, I think this : there’s some inconsistency we must allow in recognizing there will not be perfection this side of the new heaven and earth. Sure, maybe it’s something for the church to address and make some changes on, but it can not be done in a spirit of accusing the church for being imperfect.
One of the phrases that’s helped me is : sufficient but not exhaustive. Or, sufficient but not perfect. The first means we know enough to know something – not exhaustive, but enough. The second applies that to the watching world we show enough love – sufficient, but not perfectly.
I would be more likely to apply discipline to the finger pointing going on in the two sides of one issue.
Taking it further and addressing things other posters have said – sometimes the disciplining needs to be on those doing the finger pointing – those in good intention of there being purity, too obsessed with the impurities in christians. And that can go 2 ways – you say I’m a sinner but I’m defending myself, and 2) you are a sinner needing to repent. Maybe sometimes the discipling needs to be applies to those seeing the sins. All in thinking it is best intetnions. Usually we think of disciplining as applying it to those doing the sins that are obvious to the culture of the church at this time. But maybe those dividing the church are those too intent in pointing out sins. And what applies in that is 2 wrongs don’t make a right. It does no good to point out imperfections in a church in a church pointing out unrepenting sin. 2 wrongs don’t make a right.
I’ve thought we go back to the Jesus Creed : love God with heart, soul, mind and neighbor as self. If that’s our focus doesn it clear out a lot of the clutter?
I think I may be done with what came up in me in reading today’s posts on this.



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John Frye

posted January 31, 2007 at 8:21 am


“‘Who is a Christian?’ And before I try to answer that question, I have a higher one: ‘Who decides?’ Not me, not you, not your local church, not your denomination … leading to this: God decides. We better get that straight before we try to straighten out others. God, if we read the Bible, surprises us at every turn and we need to be ready for more surprises when we see who is finally in God’s presence.” –Scot McKnight
I’m content with this.



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Brian

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:15 am


Scot, thanks for your thoughts regarding baptism. I agree with you re: an ex opere operato understanding of baptism.
With my question, I was thinking along the lines of baptism as a grounding marker of our identity, as Pauls seems to do in Gal 3:27 and the beginning of Romans. Concerning sacramental theology, I personally believe he is saying more than this, but not less.
Also, you add a very important qualifier to baptism as the identifying mark. (i.e., its accompaniment with a lived faith)



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Cheryl

posted January 31, 2007 at 9:19 am


#92 Hi Becky,
Trust me, I’m done with this topic too, but I did want to point out an important distinction in what I’ve been saying.
I’ve been saying the church is “inconsistent and capricious” in its discipline….not “imperfect.” There’s a huge difference—the former implying a problem in the motivation for discipline; the latter, a problem in the results of discipline.
When the Church purposely and consistently begins to adress the greedy, the liars, the idolators, etc, with the same fervor they pursue the homosexuals and the abortionists, then, despite the imperfections of the humans invloved, they will at least have some credibility in this area. Until then, the hypocrisy between what the church tolerates and what they don’t is evident.



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Stephen Alexander

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:40 am


Post #73 rewrite:
John especially and the rest of you as well, would you be so kind as to ignore my post #73 and consider this response instead?
Someone who makes a mockery of the Lord’s Table should be warned of the extreme seriousness of what they are doing.
Anyone who is being deliberately divisive should be warned that Titus 3:10-11, Jude 18, and Romans 16:17 might apply to what they are doing.
Questioning the resurrection of Jesus is not a crime, but an outright denial should be a real concern that needs addressing because the entire Gospel is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus.
When Church discipline is properly applied the results are marvelous! The man rebuked in Corinth repented and was fully restored!
The instruction in I Corinthians 5:11 should give all of us reason to consider our ways very carefully before boldly pronouncing ourselves to be obedient follows of The Way.
Just in Jesus,
Steve



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gymbrall

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:42 am


Cheryl said:
Stephen and Gymbrall, will you at least concede the premise that the Church and local church has been and continues to be inconsistent, not only deciding which sins are disciplined, but also in the application of those disciplines?
No, I wouldn’t concede that, nor would I attempt to defend the converse. I haven’t been to all local churches, but I have been to churches that were consistent. I have also visited churches that were horrible. While God’s law is absolute, I’ll be the first to admit that our understanding of it is relative and how we apply it is relative to our understanding of it (read Revelation and see the different states of the churches there). Church membership is covenantal, and God is sovereign. In other words, don’t join a church with a bunch of heretics. If you’ve been falsely accused, you are blessed of God. I do not have to apologize for a group of heretics who claim to be a church, doing whatever they want in the name of God. I do have to answer for my church, for my family, for my participation, for my declaration and my witness of a Holy God (which I don’t have to tell you is severely lacking). Church discipline starts with two brothers talking to one another and when you are dealing with people who love God, it typically ends there. One person can’t discipline a brother, neither can two, it has to come before the body (or it’s not done properly). And if you’ve covenanted with these people and with these elders, then you have to ask, why do I doubt their judgement now? The best lesson a person falsely accused may learn is to take the covenants he makes seriously before he puts his hand in and gives his word.
Regarding rooting out all sin, it is very much a matter of covenant as to what is an offense worthy of excommunication, and this goes back to the maturity of the church, the maturity of the elders, the maturity of the people, and ultimately, the sovereignty of God.



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gymbrall

posted January 31, 2007 at 10:50 am


John Frye said:
What if you were to discover that God, once the redeeming work of Christ who shed his blood was accomplished, does not hold *anyone* sins against them? What if discipline has nothing to do with sin at all (since the moment Jesus declared “It is finished!”) and has only to do with training us in righteous (or right) living (Hebrew 12)?
John,
If I were to use the word “chastise” and “scourge” instead of “punish” would that be along the lines of what you meant? I agree that punish is the wrong word and I should have used another.
Charles Churchill



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Cheryl

posted January 31, 2007 at 11:18 am


#97 Charles/Gymbrall,
Obviously, we don’t agree about some things, and that causes us to arrive at different conclusions.
I’m fighting my knee-jerk reaction to respond with more questions and assertions, but due to my need to work and knowing that, as you said, we’ll both have to answer to God, I’m content to let it go.
Thanks for your response to my direct question.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 1:31 pm


But Cheryl, “inconsistent and capricious” isn’t imperfect?
Then in general to the thread of disciplining – I think it’s a big distinction when we look at our relationship with one another as helping each other stand and do what God wants us to do, rather than looking for sins to confront in a person.
Confronting sin comes from long time one on one relationship with a person, and it comes from a relationship in which we are trying to help each other walk the walk.
Personally, I do not support in myself or others, to point the finger at the church or any thing else, as being the harmer, because that keeps me or us in the victim position. What THEY are imposing on powerless me. It is my responsibility to find the way to turn from being the victim and implement it, situation from situation. There may be victimizers out there, there are victimizers out there, but I remain the victim not when they stop victimizing but when I refuse to take on that role. And this is life experience with me in my day to day involvement with those who were abused sexually as children – those who were victimized and are in the struggle to come out of operating as the victim in this world. We can be victimized but we needn’t be the victim.



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Cheryl

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:27 pm


#100 Becky,
I’ll make this as brief a recounting as I can and maybe you will see more clearly what I’m trying to say. And then, I’m really done. :)
IF the Church was consistently and in an equitable manner (the opposite being “inconsistent and capricious”) making a real, honest (albeit imperfect) attempt to rid its fellowship of ALL the sins on the list, for the benefit of the Body, the effort would at least be respectable—yet knowing it would still result in a less-than-perfect application because of the imperfection of all of us as humans not knowing another’s heart nor perfectly understanding the scriptures.
(For the sake of the argument only, I’m lumping being gay in with other sins.)
I dare say most of us are greedy and idolaters to some degree and unrepentant of those sins to some degree, those sins tend to “get a pass.” The sins of sexual immorality (among other more obvious sins) are thus, brought to the fore—and even within that, certain sexual “sins” are dealt with less severely than homosexuality.
Where’s the honest effort to expose and get rid of ALL the sin? And if you say, well, we can’t deal with what we don’t know about, then I guess it’s okay to fellowship with gays as long as we agree on a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude of keeping secrets? Doesn’t that then mean that you trust God and me to work it out ourselves?
Another point being that greediness actually has a more real and far-reaching impact on others than does my sexual life. So why does the Church take such great pains to “dig out/point out” a sin which impacts no one but me, and does little about greediness in its midst. (I keep using greediness, because it’s part and parcel of materialism, which is rampant in all of our culture, including the church.)
In response to the “victim” aspect. Of course, I can find a local church that will accept me, and I play the victim to no one. However, IF the Church is being inconsistent at best, and just plain wrong at worst, then we’re talking about a huge impact on fellow Christians’ lives—their inclusion in the Body of Christ by their brothers and sisters. It’s not about something as inconsequential as whether or not we can play Bingo in the fellowship hall or have a beer after work. This issue has left a trail of broken hearts and lives in the gay Christian community—not so much by the stand the Church takes on sexual immorality, but by the hypocrisy evidenced when the church does NOT take the same stand on equally, if not more, important issues.
I don’t think I can get any more clear about what I’m trying to say. Hope that helps to clarify.



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BeckyR

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:43 pm


And with this, then I am done (-: I know what you’re saying, I’ve thought it myself, I’ve said it myself. It’s nuances in the way it’s said that catch my eye.
I think it better for us the individual that if we’re going to point out of the inconsistencies and capriciousness in the church, we do it having worked through already being the victim we feel has been put on us. It makes a big change in how we take on the issue.
I’m willing to leave it at this – there’s things in what you say that I won’t agree with and it seems there’s things in what I say that you either don’t understand or don’t agree with. Have enjoyed the convo tho.



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Cheryl

posted January 31, 2007 at 2:56 pm


Becky and others,
Just to be clear… I don’t expect everyone to agree with me by any stretch of the imagination. I just want to make sure that the points/premises I’m putting forth are clear so that we are agreeing/disagreeing about the same thing.
That’s the only reason I’m keep responding. :)



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Mark Warren

posted January 31, 2007 at 6:24 pm


What is a Christian or Who is a Christian (1) – In (2Cor 13:5) Paul says to “examin yourselves to see whether you are IN the Faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ is IN you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” What is the test? Well, simply put; look into yourself, with all honesty, in search of His virtues which are the “Fruits of the Spirit”; and what you may ask are the “Fruits of the Spirit”? The “Fruits of the Spirit” are those virtues that are to be found in Christ – hehehe. Seriously, the “Fruits of the Spirit” are as found in (Gal 5:22-25) “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentilness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.””Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it’s passions and desires.””Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” So, we who claim Christ by Claiming to be Christian, then should display – for ALL to see – those fruits which are grounded in the foundation which IS Christ. These are evidences that the Spirit of God abides within us, and proof that we are Born Again and do indeed qualify to claim Christ as our Lord and Savior; and claim, for His name sake, to be Christian.
In John 12:26 Jesus states “Whoever serves me MUST follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” And in John 14:12 Jesus states that “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” Christ wants us to follow Him, and IF we have enough faith in who He is, we will “do as He did, and even greater things.”
Again, in John 14:23 Jesus states “If anyone loves me, he will OBEY my TEACHING. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home WITH him.”
Do we qualify to claim Christ as our Lord and Savior? Do we rate? How can I claim that Christ died on that cross for me; that he expressed His love for me in the ultimate way; how can I claim that I love Him when I can’t even treat my own family with dignaty and respect, or even greet every brother and sister in the church that I attend with an honest, caring loving embrace. In the same way; how can I claim that I am Christian and that I love Him if I cannot forgive or even love my enemy – as He did?
If God is in Christ, and Christ is in us, then the fruit of His Spirit WILL be evident in our EVERYDAY life, not just on certain days.
When the sadducees questioned Jesus on the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your sould and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If we would would only love our neighbor, our friends, our family, even our enemies as we love ourselves, as Christ loves us, then there would be no war, no hate, no envy, no jealousy, no arguments. God gave us the Law, not to “drag us down”, but as a loving parent tells a child not to play with sharp objects to prevent the child from getting hurt; God gave us the Law to protect us from those things that will hurt us. In the same way, if my little girl asks me for help in an area that I am more experianced than her, and then pushes me away because she feels that she has it under control, all I can do is back away and let her find out for herself why daddy knows as much as he does, and why daddy is so adamant about keeping her safe. She sometimes pushes me away much like we push God away when we feel that we can do things on our own. So, rather than argue and draw Himself into sin, he allows us to experience the pain of failure. However, if we open our eyes and look, we will see that He is right there to comfort us and nurse our hurts. Just as I am there to comfort my daughter and nurse her hurts. Because I love her. God loves us and only wants the best for us. He wants us to love each other as He loves us. We glorify Him when we follow His commands; those commands which were put into place to assure that we would live a long, joyful, healthy and prosperous life – if we follow them.
But what if we fall short? Scripture states that we ALL fall sort of the glory of God. So, then how do we qualify; how can we be saved or be sure of our salvation? 1John 2:1-4 states “But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the rightous one. He is the atoning sacrafice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the whole world. We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, I know Him, (or I am a Christian) but does not do what Christ commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
So, if you qualify to BE a Christian, make HIM evident in your EVERYDAY life. Speak as He spoke, do as He did, go where He went, live as He lived and Love as He loved.
If you are not sure of any of what I have written here, or if you want the assurance of Christ in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life and make the changes necessary for you to qualify to claim Christ.
May the Lord open your eyes that you may see His truth in His Word as opposed to the darkness that the world has to offer; May He soften your heart so that you may accept His Word as truth and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior. May the Grace and Peace of God permeate your every fiber and lift you out of the darkness of this world, self and sin. May He place a hedge of protection around you to protect you from the flaming darts of the enemy.
To God be the Glory. Amen



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Scot McKnight

posted January 31, 2007 at 7:03 pm


Mark,
I don’t know if this is a sermon or a rant or you are loading into this comment a box a recent post or what … but I have to ask you to make your point more concisely. Which is?



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Mark W

posted January 31, 2007 at 11:51 pm


Neither sermon nor rant, or random comment. What I share is insight as revealed to me. There is a question of some burdon on the minds of many. That question would be, “what exactly IS a Christian?” A reasonable question I might add, because from the perspective of a non-believer (my son for one), most who claim to be Christian do not display the charactoristics of Christ, but those of a corrupted; watered down version of what the “world” will accept and still be able to “do as I please”.
A true Christian is one who follows the teachings of the Son of God. We are to continue in the things that He did, AND for the reasons that He did. As Christians, or folloers of Christ, or Disciples, we are to continue what He started when He walked the face of the earth.
As I stated in my privious post, If the Spirit of God abides within us, His charactoristics will be evident in our everyday life. His virtues will shine through as His glory grows within us, and illuminate all around us. In other words, if I claim to be a Christian and hate my neighbor, I am a liar and God is not in me. If I seek revenge, Christ is not in me. If I seek to out do my neighbor, Christ is not on me. The list goes on.
When Christ returns, He will be looking for all those who look like Him, spiritually. If our namesake is not evident IN us; if you cannot see the evidences of Christ in my everyday life, then I decieve myself in claiming that I am Christian.
However, His grace is sufficient, and if we listen with spiritual ears, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us where we fall short, allowing us the opportunity to repent and once again claim His Name.
Peace and Love in Christ.



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