Johnny’s Crunch

3-16
John 3:16, the most quoted and most misleading scripture in the Bible, has a context that gives it clarity. However, how 3:16 is generally used such that context is ignored. Wandering the scriptures, I made a discovery. John wrote another 3:16 that augments the former and gives it the necessary clarity.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

This is the same writer, Apostle John, not John the Baptist. In the Gospel of John he is writes an account of the life of Jesus and his words. In 1 John, he writes to clarify the churches understanding of what it means to be saved.

So “I believe in Jesus and have eternal life” but the question John answers in 1 John is “How do I know my faith is genuine?” The answer he gives is, having believed we will love, laying down our life for others like Jesus did for us. (Just a note: it is common for people to base their confidence in a feeling or experience and that is not what John points to for confidence that faith is genuine.)

So the statement of John 3:16 is augmented by 1 John 3:16. So th “believe in Jesus and have eternal life” is enhanced with “live as Jesus did.”

So we can synthesize these scriptures and it goes like this. “If you believe in Jesus you will lay down your life for others and as a result have eternal life!”

I call this the Johnny Crunch!

The Cross: Conundrum of Church America

When I thought about this subject all I could think of was “Conundrum.” It popped into my head. We speak and live in cognitive dissonance. What is puzzling is that we preach and claim the crucified life, but scripturally we don’t seem to match-up. The scriptures mention a few things worth looking at.

Matt 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. NIV
This begs the question, does our righteous surpass that of the Pharisees?

Luke 9:23-25 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? NIV

What does this look like? How can I tell if I am in self-denial, cross bearing, and following Him?

The first scripture is intertwined with the second. The general understanding of the first is that we are righteous, more righteous than the Pharisees because of Christ’s work on the cross. We are imputed righteous because of the faith in Jesus and the cleansing of the blood. Great! We could move on but. Shouldn’t we also exceed their practical, actualized righteousness?

The Pharisee did the religious part and were commended by Jesus: Yes commended: Tithing, praying, fasting and the like. But on the practical love of God, standing for justice, compassion, and mercy, they fell short. Ask yourself how are we different? Is there something we are doing distinctly different than them? If we know Him shouldn’t our goodness exceed theirs practically speaking? Obviously the answer is “yes”: We have the Holy Spirit, the unstoppable Spirit of Love. This is the enigma. Why isn’t their a difference? Hold this idea and let’s work into the next.

Deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him! Our typical understanding of this is fair but incomplete. It usually goes this way “Hypothetically, if we were asked by Jesus to give up home, profession, car, cha-cha-cha, would we do it?” We say “Yes!” Relieved that He probably won’t, we feel we are done. Because we said “yes” we are justified and feel it is accomplished. “He knows our heart.” This reminds me of a movie I watched of boy that could become invisible if no one was looking. lol

Another understanding is to remove hindrances. Those things that would hinder righteousness should be removed to fulfill this command. We abandoned friends, family, and habits for Jesus. Anything that caused us to stumble in our pursuit is removed. Take note that this must be done as a result of faith, proving our faith for salvation. Both this and superseding the righteous of the Pharisee is what happens under the power of this faith. Both are required: this reveals the truth of our faith.

Let’s look at the primary components: the denial, the cross, the following of Jesus. Put more concretely: Put away the bucket-list, expend your life-force on others like Jesus. We are no longer like cultural Christians or the good people of our community. Our life is filled with the trouble of others; our money and time are depleted. We hunt for trouble. Didn’t Jesus? It isn’t enough to wait for the hungry to beg bread or homeless to knock on our door. We are no longer satisfied with endless, motionless Biblical studies. Church service wouldn’t be complete without drawing a beggar to the bread line.

This cross is the place of sacrifice. He did and so do we. We are CHRISTIANS so now we sacrifice ourselves. We can’t take away the sins of the world but our sacrificial life helps them come to know Him. It isn’t hypothetical, faith can’t help itself. It doesn’t wait for a special invitation because it is a command. And the faithful are eager to fulfill it.

Those of faith are distinguished by this righteousness. This is the crucified life of self-denial; we walk as Jesus did: Daily sacrifice for the world.

So go to the jail, the homeless center, the food bank, and the mental health facility. Grab up the problems of those you find and help them along. Along the way, it easy to draw them to Jesus. Maybe 1 in 10 will come to Christ but still another nine will be helped. We win either way. Live outside the Conundrum; The Cross, this sacrificial life of love!

A Perverse Gospel

cowPervert! We often think of a sexual deviant but this primarily means to “alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.” Paul warned in Galatians that to pervert the Gospel deserves eternal condemnations. Yes, “Eternal” “Condemnation.”

I have had people fight against the Gospel of Christ in the Church. They are correct to avoid Jewish law, there is no problem here, it is that they counter with a false gospel, a gospel of no re requirements. Of course, just saying “requirements” makes them react by responding “Requirement is another word for Law. As a result, they find themselves defending the gospel of oblivion, one of no action or pick and choose. They find themselves at odds with Christ and subject to the judgment pronounced by Paul, eternal condemnations for a false gospel.

Galatians illuminates faith through contrast with the Law.

Here are the germane quotes that help us see clearly from the book of Galatians.

Law:

The Jew under law separated themselves from Gentiles (2:12 separate himself from the Gentiles) and followed Jewish customs as prescribed by them (2:14 Jewish customs).

They were required to celebrate special days (4:10 special days and months and seasons and years!) and were required to be circumcised (5:3 circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.)

These are the only descriptions noted in Galatians but these are great to look at and compare to faith.

Faith:

In faith in Christ for eternal life, we take care of the poor (2:10 remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.) We live for God (2:19 Live for God.)

His Spirit resides in those of faith with a connection with God (4:6 calls out “Abba, Father.”) In Galatians, he clarifies again expressing the essence of faith (5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.)

Then Paul shows the goal of faith and the summation of the Law (5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”) He also identifies what the Spirit is like (5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.)

This shows the Law of Christ noting there is a requirement (or at minimum) a way to determine if you are truly in the faith. (6:2 in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.) He emphasizes the good works resulting from faith and the cost/trial (6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good.)

Finally, he draws us to a great point of clarity; what faith is like or better “is” (6:10 let us do good to all people) and (6:15-16 what counts is a new creation.)

To sum this up is easy. Law is, one fulfills superficial obligations it imposes but faith results in adherence to the Law of Love: compassion.

Faith will result to active allegiance to Christ. We become a new creation, living for and loving God. This is expressed in caring for the poor and all in need without tiring. This fulfills the law of Christ.

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, he made the same contrast as Paul in Galatians.

Luke 11:42

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Matt 23:23-24

23 “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. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Luke 11:39-42

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give what is inside [the dish] to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. NIV
Faith moves us beyond ritual and spiritual observance to the love Jesus exhibited, laying down His life for others: “….do likewise and you shall live.” Jesus

Paul:

Gal 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! NIV

Fishin-Man

Image1 Thess 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

Workers are underestimated in their value, underemphasized from the pulpit, suspect by the lazy and sometimes warned by those of the new age of American Christianity. Why?

Through years of study and observation, and active involvement in ministry, I have some heartfelt theories. I believe the reader will be substantiate this by their own experience. There are three reasons why so little is produced in our churches today: 1) A misunderstood theology of salvation- soteriology 2) Security and 3) Laziness.

A proper understanding of the doctrines of salvation separates sheep and goats and obliterates the fears and slothfulness in His Body. From a tree you will know its fruits. One can determine that, if Christian works are not performed by the Church, then there is a problem. If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, do you call this normal? I would say something is wrong. If we call it normal, maybe we have a grave misunderstanding of the work of Christ and His church. Either there are few Christians in the Church or those who attend misunderstand what the meaning and value of salvation is.

Today our churches fish for a certain catch. In fishing, a certain location, method and bait is used for a particular type of fish (I’m not a fisherman). We know that trout are in lakes and salmon are in the ocean (and at times rivers…please no fishing comments, this isn’t a fishing blog.). You get the idea! So, what are we fishing for?

Churches are making a comfortable place to come and enhance peoples families. Fine! We are fishing for middle and upper middle income families. Do not be surprised that this is what makes up the super majority in the church. Families go to churches that support their desire to have a good healthy family, which includes sound finances, good kids and strong marriages. Of course this is important but not at the exclusion of the mission of Christ. The mission is the reason!

Since families feel they could benefit from the church and the Christian religion, the church organizes around this school and tie their lure to capture snag them. It is a great strategy, but what about the mission?

The result of fishing for this “great” catch is that certain things fit well and others do not. Talks on morality are good, Biblical tenants on child rearing and family fit well. The topic of marriage and the roles in marriage are great. These teaching are fitting and what these fish want, but do they want the cross of Christ: sacrificial love?

It is hard to challenge these families to the sacrificial living exemplified by Jesus. He is great to admire and even worship but emulation? It is a challenge few are up to, emulation! Emulation  is: well; extraneous, unpopular, and dangerous to the security the family. This is counter to why these families came in the first place! If latter they are given the full implications of the gospel, they are resistant, even feeling betrayed, as if given a bait-and switch. Of course, it is a whole package. This is way to heavy for most of these average sized fish. The pastor is intimately aware of the their phobia and as a result they get what you are fishing for; happy middle class families.

So let’s talk about the gospel they are lured with. It is a simple “Believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven” and by the way, if you want to be more like Jesus, we have a whole set of choices to choose from: Kindness, honesty, courage…and the list goes on. Now some churches really go for it! They add to this that you must stop cussing, getting drunk, watching porn and other things, if you are going to heaven. (This list really makes a lot of women happy! They have been dying to have someone fix their husbands.)

Since security is important for the family, a message of self-sacrifice is unpopular. You can’t catch a lot of those fish telling them repentance means giving your life away for others like Christ did for us! This is left as a nice ideal to worship, but it is considered by many to be legalistic; an overlorded, cruelty imposed by the sadistic. Many would consider this outside the pale of orthodoxy and an enemy to the message of grace. But since these pastors are fisherman can they be trusted? (You know the legacy of fishermen and their fish stories.)

Asking for abundant giving, extensive time, personal care for others, downsizing a lifestyle, working with the poor or moving to a location in town where they could serve the poor for example, would be out of the question. This all requires faith and by its nature, puts you at risk. The faith they came to was about security for the family and eternity. This other message is risky. It is unpalatable, and incompatible for those whose ultimate goal is security. These anglers do not talk about it or live it because…..Yes! It will scare some fish off!

These fisherman are going to have to be satisfied with smaller catches.; quality not quantity. The gospel scares some fish and draws others. Let the Holy Spirit do the work! Our job is to articulate the gospel clearly, with the costs and benefits. It takes faith to believe what he said and do it!

The simple message should be like this: Jesus said to live a sacrificial life of love as He did. If you believe Him, do it! By this faith in Him, you will be forgiven your sins and a result be saved from Hell and delivered to Heaven forever. This is simple language and understandable to anyone. Maybe the catch will be smaller but the fish will be grade A!

1 Thess 1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

Paul was writing what he saw was important and needed to be fostered. The hope in Jesus  empowers us to labor in love and faith. The result of Jesus’ gospel is an enduring labor of love as he demonstrated. He is called the living Word, the express will of God. It as if with His life He is saying “Now this is how you do it…Get to work!”

Buck-a-Soul: Slashing Prices on Salvation!

Image“Buy now while prices are low! This deal can’t last forever! The boss is out and he would “Pop His Top!” if he knew the deal we were giving you! Come in now and you’ll get a free latte with every purchase!”

This a typical sales pitch on radio and TV, and it works!

Heck, most have used a similar pitch for the gospel! It is a formula for sales; get them excited, show them the great deal they are getting and close the deal quick before they quit feeling. If they start to think, we might not close the deal!

They seem to have discovered the secret to winning souls at a low, low price!

When my wife and I were raising support as missionaries, I ran into a guy who was trying to be a good steward. He said “The organization we give to has a salvation ratio of a buck-a-soul!” This ministry would carry video equipment to show the Jesus Film. They would play it all over the world in remote villages. Then they would give a gospel message and individuals would respond.

He could give $1,000. Vavoom, a 1,000 souls!  I couldn’t compete with that. My ratio has been thousands of dollars per soul. I’ve never calculated it, I don’t think I could.

I think you as I, are not convinced of the buck-a-soul ratio. A couple things to note: They don’t calculate the funds to pay evangelists to travel from their home to the destination and other overhead costs. But I can’t prove that.

I spoke to another individual recently. He touts a similar ratio. I know their calculation only includes the initial equipment cost and nothing else; cooking the books.

But here is the real issue. The gospel they preach is simplistic; believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved.

To most of us this sounds great; what is the problem?

It is like a business that cuts prices in desperation to make a sale. If a business is doing poorly it is tempting to reduce prices. In spite of these sales the business will collapse! It is also like a person who is starving themselves. The body begins to consume itself and is destroyed.

And the same destruction is being dealt upon the church.

With a motivation to see people respond to a gospel message, we have slashed prices on the gospel!

This is nearly universal but due to our paradigm we can’t see it.

The result has been, people believing they are forgiven when they aren’t. It works as a great inoculation against a Biblical Gospel. 200 million people now call themselves Christians in the United States. We know this number can’t be correct because if it were we would live in a virtual utopia! It isn’t the case but there has been a result. So many call His name but so few exemplify His life. Ever wonder why we are categorically called hypocrites? The institution is being destroyed!

Regularly I hear of such-and-such pastor and the great gospel he preaches. Then I go listen! The prices are slashed using the same old rhetoric. People respond and numbers are reported. “10 people were saved at such-and-such meeting!” The people rejoice!

How many people return to church? How many continue to the end? How many have a changed life? How many take up the cross? How many live the sacrificial life of love, consistent with salvation?

Few! Those who stay on get en-cultured into the modern American gospel and Christian-ism. At best, they produce a good church member and a descent family; rarely anything else!

Jesus only had 500 followers at His ministry’s termination. This was after three years of miracles, three years of preaching, and His resurrection! After His ascension and Pentecost a few thousand more were added. Paul didn’t have great number afterward.

The numbers given by ministries today are dubious! I’ve been told if you added up the conversions in India over the years we would have to determine the whole population is Christian and as a result Hinduism is dead.  Obviously this is not the case.

Time always tells the real number, a small fraction of what is reported.

It feels good to report high numbers; validates the ministry and helps draw people and funds. There are quite a few immediate benefits.

If we quit slashing prices, state the costs and benefits of the Gospel, we will have fewer so called conversions. However, those who come are more likely to finish the race and produce 10, 20, and 100 fold! These are the real numbers.

Sorry to say, this approach will kill the buck-a-soul ratio!

Now read this again…it’s ominous!

“Buy now while prices are low! This deal can’t last forever! The boss is out and he would “Pop His Top!” if he knew the deal we were giving you!” What do you think?

Cheap Grace: Only for the Indoctrinated

and simple Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes Cheap grace in his book “Call to Discipleship.” “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Cheap grace or the half-gospel is the primary message given at the pulpit. It has been there for many years. It is vigorously held by most in the Protestant Church. The carnally hearted defend their dogma forcefully. Blinded by desire, they hate the cross but love its benefits.
Interestingly this half–gospel message is rejected by the Elect, Mormons, Catholics, Secularists and others but not the indoctrinated of the protestant church. It is rejected because it is non-sense. It is not ignored because the hardening by sin necessarily. They can accept the gospel of the cross, while they may not have faith to live it and still refuse the perversion of the Gospel. They can’t buy that people, worse morally than themselves, would be welcomed into Heaven and themselves rejected.
This bankrupt philosophy advocates impurity with its allowance for sin.  It is self-evident that man must change to God’s standard of “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Cheap grace gospel “Believe in Jesus and go to heaven.” is rightfully discarded by outsiders.  In this message there is no obligation to the cross. This message stands in stark contradiction of the Bible. Sin is accepted as normal, love optional, and the sacrificial-Christ-like life is rarely seen.
This gospel is rejected vehemently by the church at large by word and action, or lack there of. And inexplicably, many contend against it. Even worse, some imply that attempting sacrificial love may indicate simple self-righteousness. In their twisted view, you might be damned for a fundamental view of love from the scriptures. Of course this is ludicrous. Who would love like Christ without trusting Him? Who thinks they could rise to Heaven on their own? You can’t over do love.
At best the Cheap grace gospel produces nice middle class families whose righteousness simply rises to the best moral people of our culture: Don’t smoke, don’t cuss, take the kids to a ball games, clean your yard, and add for the quasi-Christian a Bible and church service chachacha… This a low bar! Dietrich states “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”
The rejection or acceptance of the Gospel should be after clearly understanding its promises and ramifications. If you believe, it follows that you will obey Christ’s command to love sacrificially. Even then some may admire it but still resist it. That is fine. One may not have faith to do this and at the same time understand the Gospel of Love and be convicted by their unreasonable resistance to this active love. This should be the basis of decision.
If one spurns the gospel, it shouldn’t be due to a crude, incomplete rendition of the Gospel. This gospel should not be diminished to simply an acceptance prayer absolving their sin for the sake of a “conversion.” Rejection should be because of the absence of faith in Jesus. The Cheap grace gospel is unbelievable, false and damning. Yet, the indoctrinated can’t see this even with a Bible in hand.
Mormons, Catholics and Secularists are right to reject this disgusting misguidance. This message has blocked the way of forgiveness and liberty for many. In addition, this nightmare has given a dreamy false consolation for this life which will be interrupted by an awakening in Hell. It is just one more manmade religion but within Christendom; a trap laden in The Sanctuary of Hope.
I’ve found a real openness to the message of the cross with outsiders. There is no objection from outsiders. They only are left with the problem of faith. This is what they should be left with to wrestle. If this faith were found, it would lead to obedience to the cross; the forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus propelling them to the life of sacrificial love and eternal life in Christ.
Paul states to the Church that there are false gospels. These are the many spins on the truth that endanger the Church:
Gal 1:8-9
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
 “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace.” Bonhoeffer