Work Out Your Salvation

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Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
~Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV

“Sin is what bubbles up unbidden from the depths of the human heart, so that all one has to do is go with the flow. That has the appearance of freedom, but is in fact slavery, as Jesus himself declared. True freedom is the gift of the spirit, the result of grace; but… it isn’t simply a matter of being forced now to be good, against our wills and without our co-operation, but a matter of being released from slavery precisely into responsibility, into being at last to choose, to exercise moral muscle, knowing both that one is doing it oneself and that the spirit is at work within, that God is doing himself that which I too am doing. If we don’t believe that, we don’t believe in the spirit, and we don’t believe in Paul’s teaching.”
~ N.T. Wright, “Justification~God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision”, pg. 164

Four Pinheads or Why We Need Human Teachers

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When you listen to and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise…
~Tim Keller

But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
~1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NASB)

One of the gifts God gave to us is teachers (Ephesians 4:11). And He gave teachers to equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ. The bible tells us to appreciate and highly esteem these teachers in love. This, of course, applies to the living breathing teachers in our lives now, but also to our teachers long since passed.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Paul is rebuking four kinds of pinheads…

Pinhead #1: “I am of Paul!”

Paul: “That’s very flattering, but you’re being an idiot.”

Pinhead #2: “I am of Apollos!”

Paul: “I like Apollos, but you’re being an idiot too.”

Pinhead #3: “I am of Peter!”

Paul: “Peter is a good man, but knock it off!”

Jimmy: “I like turtles.”

Paul: “Thanks for your input Jimmy.”

Pinhead #4: “I am of Christ!”

Paul: “Well, you might think you’re the right one here, but perhaps you’re the biggest idiot of them all.”

Pinheads 1 to 3 were elevating human teachers to too high a level. Pinhead #4 was doing away with human teachers all together.

The bible teaches us we need teachers, because we’re not going to get it right, off on our own, with just our bibles. We need guidance. The problem isn’t simply “I am of Paul”, because we’re all “of Paul”, he wrote most of the new testament. The problem is elevating Paul to a position that he is unworthy of and then vicariously claiming that unworthy status for ourselves.

We do need to be only “of Christ”, of course, but under Christ we can safely also be of Paul, Peter, James, Wesley, Calvin, Piper, Keller, and Pastor __________(fill in the blank), and we can be safely not guilty of what Paul was rebuking the Corinthian church for.

Photo credit: http://www.photo-dictionary.com/phrase/6552/sewing-pins.html#b

Calvinistic Brownies

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The only thing worse than a self-righteous Calvinist is a self-righteous anti-Calvinist.

I’ve occasionally found myself among those who are confusedly obsessed with this issue. Some are for, some are against. But what I’ve noticed about many is that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. They get caught up in the buzzwords and assign shallow meanings to such words (predestination, election, sovereignty, etc.), and become highly critical of something they don’t even try to understand. It’s the same as when Atheists attack the Bible without making any effort to understand it.

“The Bible condones slavery and genocide!”

“Okay, but how much of the Bible have you read?”

“The parts about slavery and genocide!”

I remember one person using the word ‘Calvinistic’ to describe anything she didn’t like. “That worship leader is too Calvinistic!” Which meant what? I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t contort his face enough during the ‘free worship’ time. Maybe he just had bad breath. But what I do know is that she had no idea what ‘Calvinistic’ really meant. “These brownies are too Calvinistic!” Maybe they just needed more sugar.

The word Calvinist is a shorthand word used in contemporary times. It will most likely be replaced by something else one day. You could also use ‘Augustinianism’, or ‘The Doctrines of Grace’, or ‘Reformed Theology’, or whatever. Maybe in the future it will be called ‘Piperism’. One who currently calls himself a Calvinist is not necessarily guilty of what Paul is rebuking in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. That rebuke was about pride, not theology. And, of course, if one is using his Calvinism to cause division with other believers, he is indeed guilty of what Paul was rebuking, but again, not because of theology, but because of pride.

If you want to understand something, even to the point of being able to criticize it, then you must first set aside the buzzwords (Calvinism, Arminianism, those listed above, and others), and educate yourself on the subject. Read books and listen to messages by those who hold to the positions and then hold all that up to the Bible (test it!) and see where it takes you.

It seems the biggest proponent of Calvinism today is John Piper, although there are many others. Piper recently retired from his position as a pastor. About a month before he did so he gave a seminar on the five points of Calvinism, or his personal take on the theology currently called Calvinism. I have listened to this whole seminar myself. I recommend this to all thinking Christians. If you don’t like to think, then don’t listen to it — the reason I make that jab is because God gave us brains, and to truly know Him is not just a matter for the heart or the spirit, it is for the mind too.

I invite you to listen to the seminar. Set aside the buzzwords and really listen to what Piper is saying about God. It is quite profound. Here is the link…

New Course on Calvinism from John Piper

*photo credit: http://www.lolbrary.com/post/51576/vegan-brownies/