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!

Eanology: That’ a Big Word

Eanology: That’ a Big WordThe “if then statement” is a logical statement.  For example “If I have money and I have time, I’ll buy food at the store.”  If I have no money or time, I won’t be able to buy food.

The objective in this blog is to get a clear target for understanding the Gospel.  Many people assume too much when it comes to salvation and have over simplified it, much like a person who shoots an arrow at the side of a barn and quickly paints a red bullseye around their arrow, exclaiming “Perfect shot!”  Obviously we need to paint the target first and then take our shot.  Here is the target.

I John and Hebrews are the two texts I’ll focus on.  The scriptures are listed at the end of this blog.  I have put the scriptures together into one sentence. The following is a synthesis of these scripture both in the negative and the positive:

If we are in the darkness, or do not love our brother, turn back, deliberately keep on sinning, disobey, do not give to the needy, love the world, or if His word doesn’t remain in us, or if we do not acknowledge the Son, do not love our brother, or give up our hope and courage, are not firm to the end, or do not continue in the faith, then we are liars, we do not know Him, His love is not in us, He doesn’t remain in us, we do not love Him, He does not live in us, we are not His house, we do not share in Christ, and we are not saved.

These are all the if then scriptures in these two books combined into one sentence. They say if such and such is true then the following is true. The obvious implications are, that if such and such isn’t true then then neither is the following. Here it is in the positive.

If we are in the light and obey, if His word remains in us, we give to those in need, acknowledge Jesus, and if we love our brother, we do not love the world, hold to the courage and the hope, firm to the end, and continue in faith then the truth is in us, we know Him, His love is made complete, the Son and Father remain in us, His love is in us, God lives in us, we truly love God, we are His house, we share in Christ, and are saved.

Here is a condensed version of the positive statement of these scriptures:  If we remain in faith in Jesus that results in love for one another (as defined by Jesus and His life) until we die then we truly have fellowship with God and eternal life.

And here is the negative:

If we do not remain in faith in Jesus to the end or our faith does not result in loving one another (as defined by Jesus and His life) until death then we do not have fellowship with Him and will gain eternal judgment.

Here is the target:

1 John 2:5-6 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. NIV

Hit this and you have a Bulls-eye!  This is the target “Walk as Jesus walked and be saved.” Requires faith doesn’t it?

1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. NIV

1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? NIV

1 John 4:20-21  If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  NIV

Heb 3:14  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. NIV

Heb 6:6  if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  NIV

Heb 10:26-27  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  NIV

Heb 10:38-39  But my righteous one will live by faith.  And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”  39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.  NIV

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  NIV

1 John 2:3-4 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. NIV

1 John 2:24-25  See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us — even eternal life. NIV

1 John 4:12  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. NIV

1 John 4:15-16  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  NIV

Heb 3:6  But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.  NIV

Heb 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  NIV

1 John 2:5-6 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. NIV

The House

Eanology: That’ a Big WordThe “if then statement” is a logical statement.  For example “If I have money and I have time, I’ll buy food at the store.”  If I have no money or time, I won’t be able to buy food.

The objective in this blog is to get a clear target for understanding the Gospel.  Many people assume too much when it comes to salvation and have over simplified it, much like a person who shoots an arrow at the side of a barn and quickly paints a red bullseye around their arrow, exclaiming “Perfect shot!”  Obviously we need to paint the target first and then take our shot.  Here is the target.

I John and Hebrews are the two texts I’ll focus on.  The scriptures are listed at the end of this blog.  I have put the scriptures together into one sentence. The following is a synthesis of these scripture both…

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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!”

Church Growth: Rearranging the Furniture

ImageI think it is always helpful to the atmosphere of a facility to rearrange furniture. My mom used to do this and I made fun of it then but really it does help. My wife used to do this also until I ruined her life by following Jesus. To the horror of many we live in a travel trailer. Not much of a life for a wife.

Churches are always trouble shooting the effectiveness of the church. They want to reach the community and grow their influence.  There are many books on this issue along with conferences and books on counseling, small groups, men, women, kids, youth groups, worship styles and the list go on.

It feels good to change things. It brings a feeling of life and excitement. Building projects, interior design, high tech presentations and sound systems; It is forward leaning, a lot of activity.

We can do all these things mentioned previously and grow a church. It works for some but not all. The church growth from this is mostly transfer growth, moving people from one church to another. It gives a real sense of productivity. It is like a business drawing more customers. Lowes draws more than mom and pop! But we must not confuse activity with productivity!

Why does the church exist? Most answer this question correctly, to spread the gospel…make more Christians. But having more people in a congregation doesn’t mean we have made more Christians. Yes, more may claim the title but how do you know the difference between having more Christians and simply having more claiming the title?

I contend it is about productivity. If you have people that are rearranging their time and money for the Kingdom you really have something. If people’s eyes are opened to the needs of the community, we are on our way. If more finances are flowing through the church to help the community I suspect we are preaching and living the gospel. If individuals take responsibility for the problems around them, not looking to an institution that’s the best. When the individuals of the church are planning new ventures to help the broken we have hit the mark.

As this happens in a growing way we have a church. If the percentage of people doing this is low we need not rearrange the furniture but goad them to love and good deeds, isn’t that why we meet?

When this ratio of people who are doing this is high, we are doing well. This ratio should be growing. If only one in one hundred is the doing these things it is an indicator that we are not doing well.

However if the ratio is 1 to 10 it is better. The goal is that all would be productive in their community.  We would aim for everyone working hard. Yet we will never have this if we are doing our job rightly. Why? Because we will always have new people, fresh to the church….my guess the right ratio in a church of 100 would be 80 to 20, 80 people working and 20 on their way. This would be cool.

But you can’t get their through the methods currently employed. This change  comes through the example of leadership and a constant vision building from the pulpit. This leadership needs to regularly give ideas and team people up with those who are doing it. It requires continuing to show and tell the congregation this is normal behavior for a Christian. They need to know this is central to the gospel, laying down your life like Jesus for the world around them.

This approach may not draw other Christians from other churches but it will reach the lost. It will give an ongoing challenge to the congregation and make them highly productive.

It isn’t as fun as rearranging furniture but a lot is accomplished!

A Hell of a Memorial

I hate going to funerals. I am confident it isn’t for the same reasons as most people. It isn’t because death freaks me out. I’m well acquainted with death; I’ve had family close to me die, friends and others. The Christian faith is centered over developing a life that recognizes death; it comes for everyone and none can predict when or how. We all need the Savior and a reason to live!

I hate funerals because of the lying. Relatives lie and so do pastors. I always hear the same lies. I understand speaking well of the dead. I understand how family tends to wish relatives to Heaven. I’m not sure it would work well at the memorial telling the family that their beloved is in misery. This subject would need to be handled delicately and humbly and probably before the event. But this shouldn’t keep the Pastor from telling the truth.

I know pastors do not feel like liars. A pastor told me at the most recent memorial “Well today I am just going to tell the truth.” I smiled and said “Good.” but I was silently skeptical. Off course he wouldn’t tell lies knowingly. He just can’t help it because he tells the same unwitting lie each Sunday; like most pastors.

Of course at the memorial he avoided talking about the youth’s lifestyle, manner of death or eternal destiny. It makes sense; it would be a great challenge to address this in a beneficial way. The family testified with confidence that the youth was in a better place; he believed in Jesus.

After the announcements, testimonies, and video presentation the pastor boldly stated “If you believe in Jesus; who he is, what he says and what he did, you’ll go to Heaven!” He left it to God and the people to decide what happened with the high-schooler. He played it safe. That makes sense.

Then it dawned on me “What if they are right?” What if all I had to do was believe? Had I wasted the last 22 years of my life? I decided then! I was convinced! They were right!

That day I decided to change my life. I would live my life as was alluded to by the pastor and believed by those at the memorial. I had been so foolish! After the memorial I decided to quit going to church and reading my Bible. I’m going back to my previous life of self-interest. I’ll pray when I’m in a tight spot. I’ll enjoy the rest of my life unencumbered by Christianity. If all these people who “believe in Jesus” are going to Heaven then I’ll be just fine.

Maybe I’ll get drunk and watch TBN this Sunday, heck maybe I’ll go to a Sports bar instead…”God knows my Heart.” I believe who Jesus is, what Jesus says and what Jesus did!

Selah

Obviously this is written with tongue-in-cheek; this is what I could have concluded after the message. However, I write this not to make fun of but to expose this damning half-truth.

Here is the truth: only those who do the will of God are the believers the pastor was alluding to. Faith will result in the Jesus lifestyle. I didn’t use the word Christian because it has been perverted. There are many renditions of Christianity: religious types, hypocrites, and those blasphemous lives-confessing Jesus with their mouth but denying Him with their lifestyle.

Here are a couple scriptures:

1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. NIV

Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ NIV

You can read. What do you conclude?

Yep, everyone left happily believing the youth is in Heaven. They heard the pastor’s partial message, saw the life of the youth, had heard the same message at church before and witnessed the same scenario in other memorials. They saw the room agree together that the youth went to Heaven. It was exactly what everyone expected and wanted to hear. Everyone was as content as could be at a memorial!

So, technically the pastor didn’t lie. The pastor gives this message at each worship service. It is how he handles each memorial. The people who spoke at the memorial said what they wanted to believe. Each has received their booster-shot to protect from the Gospel of Jesus Christ: inoculated against the cure.

Everyone hears the same message each time they go to church. Their friends reinforce this message and all this while damnation rejoices and Heaven weeps!

Death makes another deal, one more sale; paid in full. Each attendant was given an elegant pitch for the once in a life time deal; a time-share on the warm sandy beaches of Perdition with all its amenities. Deaths doors never close, the light is always on, expectant of another eager customer.

I hate memorials!

I Do Not Preach Faith in Jesus, Why?

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” These are the words of Christ. Luke 11:28

The traditional approach to preaching the Gospel is to gin up faith in Jesus. This faith is expressed through a creedal prayer. You know; the sinners prayer. Through this they are forgiven for sin and granted eternal life through the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Jesus constantly preached believe in me or you shall perish. Others have preached the same. But to conclude this is gospel preaching simply causes problems and wasn’t the way of John the Baptist and Jesus. The Kingdom is the context. This helps us understand what we should preach and how.

The context of telling listeners to believe in Jesus was what John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples preached: the Kingdom of God. They described the way of the Kingdom and its likenesses. Then at various times they would comment on believing in Him. Why do you think?

Missing the point of their preaching, we miss how to preach the Gospel ourselves. Remember they preached the Kingdom. They taught what God wanted in the lives of the people. Doing what they taught, required faith that what they were saying was true. You wouldn’t obey if you didn’t believe. They were who they said they were, which gave their word authority. So believing is central but not first. Preaching the Kingdom is first which requires faith to carry out.

Doing what He says presupposes belief. Sometimes we remind the listener why they should trust Christ. But the leading edge of our preaching is the will of God. The need to know what God wants and then why they should believe the message. The Sermon on the Mount and “…the least of these…” scripture in Matt 25:31-46 are a good sampling of Kingdom preaching.

Of course a thorough study of the Gospels will clearly demonstrate the will of God. This is what they preached. Basically, “This is what God wants so do it!” Obedience to this requires trusting who Jesus is; he has authority to command.

Here are the pros and con of preaching faith in Jesus without the Kingdom:

Pro’s

They believe they are forgiven and free of the power of sin and the consequences.

They believe the Holy Spirit resides in them: Counselor and Helper.

They are told it is not by works but faith in Jesus which keeps them from pride and condemnation.

This can launch them into the mystery and mysticism of the faith.

Con’s

They believe they are forgiven when they are not. They are still under the power of sin and its consequences.

They believe the Holy Spirit resides in them when He doesn’t.

They believe they are saved because they believe and are not compelled to obey Christ.

They are free from guilt which rightly should lead them to repentance.

They are launched into a deception that God is leading them when He isn’t.

This is devastating for the individual, the church and the community. We have inadvertently duped many into believing they are heaven bound. They think they are safe from judgment and aren’t. As a result the church looks bad. They profess Christianity with disastrous results in the community. No wonder we sport the black eye of hypocrisy!

My experience of preaching the will of God expressed by Jesus is that it results in guilt of sin and a desire to do right. New people come into church, hear His word and come to me for baptism. They hear and are struck at heart and want to transform. If they are resisting the Lord they know it is the evil that resides in them that refuses and are convicted of sin. Acting in accord with the will of God requires faith. No action; no faith; no salvation! And again, No action; no faith; no salvation!

When one hears the will of God; so loving, so invasive-taking the whole life, partnering with Christ in His way of sacrificial love: they are challenged, enlightened, encouraged, and recognize their condemnation and need of forgiveness.

When I was seven, I recall going to a church for a few months. They picked me up on a little bus. I remember waiting in the morning California sun for the bus and thinking “I do not want to be good now. I like being bad. I’ll be good later.” I believed but did not want to obey. I knew faith required living a new way. How did I know this? It is even obvious to a seven year old.

Are we inadvertently convincing those who disobey but “believe” that they are saved?

For many the concern over this is that of works. But this is a misunderstanding also. The works he spoke of were the religious duties. For the Jew it was the circumcision, ceremonies of cleansing, tithing, sacrifices and celebrations. For the Protestant it is believing the creed and doctrines, baptism, tithing, bible reading, prayer and the like.

The action that God requires cannot be fulfilled by a check list. It is not less that God is requiring in the message of Christ but more. All! He will have nothing less than total commitment and all of your heart.

It is a mission of fulfilling the command to love; to friend and enemy. It is a daily fulfillment of the law of love. You may fail at times but we do not situationally turn it on and off.

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” NIV

So who loves Jesus? Who gets revelation from God? Yes, the one who obeys! Obeys what? THe new heart and Spirit of love.

John14:23 Jesus replied, “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. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. NIV

And in whom does God reside? Yes the same, those who obey! And what does it say of those who don’t?

These are the words of our Lord!

Jesus’ mission is our mission: Compassion! This is salvation.