Archive for category The Gospel
Those who know me will know that Greg Boyd has been one of my teachers and theological mentors over the years. He continually stretches my thinking and challenges me to wrestle courageously with the Biblical text and not mindlessly adopt the traditional beliefs handed down through church history. Some of his views are controversial and I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything. In fact, I don’t. However, he is a passionate lover of Jesus, preacher of the gospel, and thoroughly committed to the authority of Scripture.
So, it is exciting to find some of the core aspects of his teaching summarized succinctly in one place — his ReKnew Manifesto. What do you think about his challenge found in these crucial areas of faith and doctrine? Enjoy! -JB
A ReKnew Manifesto by Greg Boyd
As our curious name indicates, ReKnew exists to encourage believers and skeptics alike to re-think things they thought they already knew. We want to promote a beautiful, Jesus-looking vision of God and his kingdom. We want to promote a host of related theological convictions that we believe were compromised or lost in traditional Christianity—especially since the 5th century when the Church first acquired political power and became the religion of “Christendom.” And we want to be a catalytic resource for the new tribe of Jesus-followers who are rising up and re-thinking their faith now that Christendom—which has been dying for over a century—is gasping its last breaths.
This does not mean we aren’t deeply appreciative for the multitude of true and beautiful aspects of the Church throughout history. To the contrary, we believe that all theological reflection should be humbly carried out in a respectful dialogue with the Church tradition. Yet the focus of ReKnew is to challenge those aspects of the tradition we don’t believe are consistent with the movement Jesus birthed, and with the teachings of the New Testament.
What follows is an overview of these core convictions stated in their simplest form. You might think of this as the first draft of a “ReKnew Manifesto.” Read the rest of this entry »
There are moments in our Christian walk when we hear the rooster crow, and realize we have blown it in our attempts to follow Jesus’ Way in our interactions with others. Today I heard the rooster crow. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw.
The scary thing is how “right” I was in my own eyes at the time. Even scarier is how right I would be in most people’s eyes as well. It’s a classic example of how different the “American Way” is from the “Jesus Way.” Here’s the story.
Today I was doing business with someone, and as the customer I was very unsatisfied with the service I received. The service I requested was blundered several times, they made a mess of our place, the product they delivered was faulty and didn’t end up working. I called them to come back and fix it. I also felt that they owed me a refund for the poor service and all day hassle. He would give me a refund, but then he would not finish the job that I needed done for this weekend.
I was wronged. I demanded “justice” or “recompense.” If they want my business again they better make things right. I demand my money back. He owed me. He was in my debt.
Are you with me? Can you feel my righteous indignation? Read the rest of this entry »
Let the Lord judge the peoples.Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. My shield is God MostHigh, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge…. (Psalm 7)
This is one prayer of David that we should not pray.
We see in these verses of David a plea for God to execute justice and vindicate him according to David’s righteousness and integrity. What a dangerous prayer to pray — who among us could stand a chance if we had only our righteous standing to rely on when we came to God in prayer?
The blessed Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God, in the end, does not operate according to this kind of justice. David is operating in a theological framework (here at least) where God saves those who are “righteous” and deserving, and condemns rebels and evil doers. Is David a proto-Pharisee in this respect?
But Christians must read the Old Testament in light of the fuller revelation of God’s nature revealed in the New Testament. When we re-read this Psalm in light of God’s justice revealed in Jesus Christ on Calvary, we realize that David’s prayer doesn’t yet understand the kind of scandalous justice that God would display in through Christ on the cross.
We discover in Christ that God doesn’t just save the upright in heart, but sinners who repent. God doesn’t judge us according to our own righteousness and integrity, but rather according to Christ’s righteousness on our behalf. Thankfully, God does not give us what we deserve (which is wrath because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”), but instead extends to all sinners the gift of undeserving pardon solely by His scandalous grace.
Either we must admit that God is really, in the end, not just at all (according to our typical definition), or we must redefine God’s justice in light of the cross. I just call it a scandalous justice. I just call it “saved by grace.” Below is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember: Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good; but rather to make dead people alive!
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (JESUS).
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved….For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2)
It’s already been 10 years since the release of The Green Mile (1999). The Stephen King film stars Tom Hanks as a Death row guard and the massively large and mysteriously gifted prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. I finally saw it for the first time this weekend at the request of one of my youth group boys who has been powerfully moved by the Christian themes found throughout.
Here’s a general plot summary:
“Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930′s. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He’s eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He’s been accused of the murder of two children… and he’s afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards – Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey’s innocence and his true identity.” Written by Kadi Lynnith
On a basic level this movie presents the difficulty for some to believe in the miraculous. At a much deeper level what comes through very clearly — even to the casual observer — is the obvious similarities between John Coffey and Jesus Christ as depicted especially in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Here are some of the strongest parallels between Christ and Coffey:
- John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race, reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
- John Coffey is a striking blend of power and might clothed with Jesus-like meekness and gentleness. He’s 8 feet tall with barrels for biceps yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).
- He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
- He is characterized by “light” and cannot stand the darkness. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12); “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Read the rest of this entry »
[Following the Resurrection] “When the apostles met together with Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Jesus said to them, “The times and occasions are set by my Father’s own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans,why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.” Then the apostles went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is about half a mile away from the city” (Acts 1:6-12).
The cross and resurrection of Christ was the strange and paradoxical way God chose to begin restoring his broken world and advancing his Kingdom of peace, love and hope. In another startling move, God then chose a rag-tag group of nobodies to be the vehicle by which he would spread the message and mission of this Kingdom throughout the entire world. The book of Acts tells the story of the trials and triumphs of this small, persecuted, grassroots Jesus movement as it made its way across the expansive Roman Empire.
Sound exciting? Well it was. The life of the early church looked much different from many of our experiences of the church today. Yet, early on they were faced with three threats that still tend to plague the church today — and they can be identified in the one bold question this angelic man asked the disciples immediately following Jesus’ ascension:
Why are you STANDING there LOOKING up into the SKY?
As Christians today strive to faithfully advance God’s Kingdom on earth we must be vigilant to avoid being a church of STANDERS, LOOKERS, and SKY-GAZERS.
1. STOP STANDING. God has called us to “GO and make disciples of all nations.” In the passage above, they all stood paralyzed, amazed at the power of God as he took Jesus from their sight. They had just asked whether it was the time for God to restore His Kingdom, and Jesus’ indirect answer is often taken to be a “no.” However, I believe Jesus intentionally changed the subject from WHEN to exactly HOW this Kingdom was to come. The disciples all expected a military revolt and overthrow of the Roman imperial forces. Jesus however seems to hint that it will begin to come when God pours out his Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost and they begin spreading a taste of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. The Book of Acts is not a book of beliefs, doctrines, laws or ethics. It is what it says — a book of “acts.” As we read we are swept up into the wild and adventurous MOVEMENT of the Spirit, and we travel along with Peter and Paul and the rest. The message of the Gospel MOVES thousands of miles from Jerusalem to Rome in only 28 chapters. The church today needs to become once again a people on the move, a forward-marching Kingdom-advancing church who take an active role in spreading God’s love, joy, peace, forgiveness, grace, healing and hope “to the ends of the earth.” There is too much standing around. “Go, therefore, and make disciples…”
2. STOP WATCHING. It is also easy to become a spectator in the church today. In fact, the way we have designed our “services” often encourages a multi-media presentation where the pastors and worship leaders DO everything and the rest of us sit rather passively in the audience observing the service, watching the pastors, receiving a message (i.e., “being fed”) and then leaving. Outside the Sunday service, we can also easily hide in the shadows watching others volunteer for service projects, go on missions trips, teach Sunday School classes, volunteer in the nursery, etc. Many of us generously give money toward the work of the Kingdom so that we can avoid actively getting involved in the nitty-gritty work of Kingdom-building. The mission of the church in and for the world is a truly hands-on project that involves real, messy involvement. We are called to be not only “hearers of the Word, but doers also.” Remember James’ rather pointed reminder: “My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you” (Jam 2:14)? Let us stop watching, and start actively engaging in the work of advancing the Kingdom.
3. STOP SKY-GAZING. Finally, the disciples in this episode were fixated on the sky (“They still had their eyes fixed on the sky” v. 10), as if that was where all the action was to be. Granted, you don’t see a man ascend into the clouds everyday, so we should probably cut them some slack. But 2,000 years later there are entire strands of the church who are still staring into the clouds awaiting rescue. I speak of all escapist, dualistic versions of Christianity where the entire goal of the Gospel is to wait for Jesus to come back and take us up (“rapture”) into some heaven in the sky for all eternity. Many today are realizing the folly in this gnostic-like view, and are again placing their hope in the God of Creation whose desire it is to bring the New Jerusalem down to earth, to “make all things new,” dwell once again with his people (cf. Rev 21:22-25), and finally establish his righteous, restorative reign “on earth as it is in the heavens” (Matt 6:10). We are to partner with the God of Creation and to become wise stewards of his beautiful world that is “groaning for liberation” even now (Rom 8). God is coming — no doubt about that! Yet, as we await our savior from a high, we are to be focusing our eyes on those around us who are filthy with the dirt and grime of this world, and bring God’s love, hope and healing to them. We need to stop staring at the sky, and start bringing a little taste of heaven to those suffering here on earth.
So, as we move away from Resurrection Sunday to business as usual, let us make sure we are not still “standing there looking up at the sky.” Let’s get busy announcing and building the Kingdom!
1. Which of the 3 errors do you personally tend toward? Are you a STANDER, LOOKER, or SKY-GAZER?
2. Which of these 3 postures most accurately describes the American church today?
3. Do these 3 categories help classify the particular weaknesses of various denominations of the Church?
The “most influential work of popular theology published this century…” What is it? I disagree with Ross Douthat’s answer (in his book Bad Religion) to this question because I don’t think that book has been influential even if it has been wildly popular. The issue here is how to define “influential.”
By now you may wonder what book he had in mind and if you guessed Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now you would be right. We’re only twelve years into the century, so there’s not much to go by … but still, no one can doubt that 4 million sales, plus all the stuff around it, says something about (bad) religion in America.
If you could offer a better theology to proponents of prosperity theology, what would it look like? How does an economic theory work into your critique or your offer?
America’s premier heresy is the Health and Wealth gospel, and Douthat probes here and there in what has to be seen as a violent disregard of major themes in the Bible. But more of that later in this post. Osteen “comes as close to Billy Graham’s level of popularity” and his “cultural empire is arguably larger” and more than “200 million people around the globe tune in to his broadcasts” (182, 183). Comparing him to Billy Graham, Douthat observes Osteen’s message is “considerably more upbeat” and that his “God gives without demanding, forgives without threatening to judge, and hands out His rewards in this life rather than in the next” (183).
Overall, this approach is about “the refashioning of Christianity to suit an age of abundance” and a “marriage of God and Mammon” (183). It’s attractive to many: “millions of believers reconcile their religious faith with the nation’s seemingly unbiblical wealth and un-Christian consumer culture” (183).
Chap Clark has written a must-read book for all youth workers and those who want to understand the current world of today’s teenagers. Listen to these honest words of a (typical) high school student in Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers:
“I’ve always been prone to episodes of extreme loneliness and longing for a place where I could feel safe enough to let down my defenses. Because I was extremely outgoing and energetic little girl/adolescent, no one would ever guess how alone I really felt. I was the girl who was always surrounding herself with people from all “groups,” as teenagers love to place people in, but something has always felt like it was missing. Every so often this “hole” pops up in the pit of my stomach, and it can stay anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days. I have never been able to pinpoint exactly where the emptiness begins, as hard as I may try. I have many friends and acquaintances, and my home life is more than I could ask for. I just wish sometimes I could find somewhere to belong” (p. 48).
We wear masks to hide what’s really going on inside ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we are trying to cover up; others cannot quite explain what we are trying to hide — but we know we are not ready to let people peer inside. Feelings of fear, inadequacy, insecurity, and an overwhelming sense of inability to meet all the expectations of parents, teachers, coaches and youth pastors send teens into hiding.
Why do we hide? Read the rest of this entry »
I brought in the car for a $25 oil change this week, and came home with a laundry list of significant repairs estimating over $3,550. The car has 200,000 miles on it — so we knew this day was coming. Nicodemus probably came to Jesus hoping for a simple religious tune-up — a new teaching to consider or an old teaching with a new spin. Like me at the car shop, Nicodemus found out he had a bigger problem to address.
Recently I had a serious steering alignment problem. My alignment was so bad that if I let my hand off the wheel for a split second my car would veer sharply to the right into the ditch. Instead of getting it fixed, I decided to just fight it for months by gripping the wheel tighter. Eventually my wrists began to ache from holding the steering wheel straight.
The Bible describes a world completely out of alignment with God’s will and purposes. Human sin and rebellion have jerked everything out of whack. If we simply leave things, people, nature, government, etc. to do what comes naturally, we’re all veering into ditches, colliding head on and driving off cliffs.
Religion steps in at this point and provides some guard rails to help keep us on the road and out of the ditch. God gave us his Law to show us the righteous path, the holy road, that if followed will keep us from self-desctructive twists and turns, reckless off-roading adventures. But unlike my car’s steering, the misalignment of the human will caused by sin has no quick and easy fix. Read the rest of this entry »
This Sunday I have the honor of preaching a message on one of the most significant truths and experiences in all the universe: God’s supernatural work of New Birth in the human heart. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again/from above” (John 3:3).
How do you talk about something that is necessary to experience firsthand? It’s like describing a Mozart piece instead of listening to it. It’s like talking about a Rembrandt painting rather than looking at it. It’s like trying to describe love to someone who’s never been in love.
These sermons drive a preacher to his knees, and bring him to the end of himself. I can only invite people to follow Nicodemus into that face-t0-face, personal encounter with Jesus, and pray that the Holy Spirit will come among us and open people’s eyes and transform hearts. Come Holy Spirit!
Here’s a good quote from Gary Burge’s commentary on The Gospel of John:
“Religion is not necessarily a matter of personal knowledge or ethical behavior. Nor is it fidelity to religious traditions, no matter how virtuously they evoke higher ethical, religious behavior among us. Jesus is claiming that true spirituality is not discovering some latent capacity within the human soul and fanning it to flame. It is not uncovering a moral consciousness that is hidden by sedimentary layers of civilization’s corruptions. It is not a “horizontal” experience that takes up the materials available around us in the world.
Rather, Jesus claims, true religion is “vertical.” It has to do not with the human spirit, but with God’s Spirit. It is a foreign invasion, sabotage of the first order. True religion unites humanity with God’s powerful Spirit, who overwhelms, transforms, and converts (in the full meaning of the word) its subject. Our role in this transformation is belief(3:16,18), and yet is is a belief that is aided by God’s work within us since we live in the darkness and have our spiritual capacities handicapped with sin” (Gary Burge, Gospel of John: New Application Commentary, 126).
Come Holy Spirit! Invade our presence, and sabotage our hearts! Blow mightily among us at MainStreet this Sunday and every day!