Christianity as Both

I’ve been writing a lot about what Christian leadership might look like in our current context.  When I say current context I mean mainly within the American culture and Church.  Of course part of the problem is that in America there is no “the Church” per se, but that is something to be addressed at a later time.

We’ve been talking about leading with all of Jesus within the right narrative and aiming at Christ not lesser goods.  Today I want to tackle a really important idea that can help us actually do that.

One of the things that happens all the time in the current cultural conversation over Christianity is that we tend to set things that appear opposed against each other.  Or another approach is to take two Christian ideas and say that we need to balance them.

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Ideology Is Idolatry. Aim Instead At Christ.

Today I want to talk in a different way a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago.  In that post I talked about the idea that as Christians in our current culture we need to lead with the truth of Jesus.  We can’t let Jesus become simply a means to our end.  I talked about how we should use the truth of Jesus vs. the language of the present.  Or at the least we should let the truth of Jesus be our larger context for any language we use.  I said we need to lead with The Truth instead of being in constant reaction mode.

Today I want to think about another angle of this same basic idea.

What should our goal as Christians be?  What are we aiming at?  Yes each individual believer but also corporately.  What is the ultimate goal?

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The Promise of The Sermon On The Mount (Bible Study Matthew 7 – Part 6)

Today we wrap up a series on Matthew 7.  This is the closing of the Sermon on the Mount.  We have looked at Jesus’ warning about self righteousness, the fact that God wants to give us life, the narrow and wide paths, avoiding false prophets and the fact that we need to not presume that because we say “Lord, Lord” that we are in the Kingdom.  Today we will look at Jesus’ closing statement to the sermon.

Here it is:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Jesus ends the sermon with a promise in a sense.  He says essentially if you put into practice what I have said in this sermon you will withstand everything that comes at you.  That doesn’t mean that it will all go your way.  It doesn’t mean you will be successful by the world’s standards or that you will be in a particular economic or social status.  But it does mean that at the end you will be with Him, on the narrow road and sanctified.

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Only Those Who Do God’s Will Enter The Kingdom (Bible Study Matthew 7 – Part 5)

In this series we’ve been looking at the closing of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. Jesus has been teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven; who is who in it, how we should live in it and how to get into it.  We have looked at His warning about self righteousness, how we should ask, seek and knock, the narrow and wide paths, and how we should watch out for false prophets.  Today I want to look at the next teaching in this section.

Here is the whole section for some context

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  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 in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

This final paragraph is in a sense a summation of the first two.  Jesus has said that we need to strive for the narrow path.  He says not everyone will enter it and in fact most don’t.  He then calls out the false prophets – those promising life outside of His teachings even if they say they come in His name or promise similar things.  Here in the final paragraph He is reiterating that not everyone who thinks they’re in or who profess to be following Him will be in.

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Watch Out For False Prophets (Bible Study Matthew 7 – Part 4)

In this series we have been looking at the Matthew 7 which is the closing of the Sermon on the Mount.  We looked at Jesus’ warning about self righteousness, how ask, seek and knock works in the Kingdom and the truth of the narrow and wide paths.  Today I want to continue to look at what Jesus says directly following that.

Here is the section we are looking at

 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  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 in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Let’s think for a bit on the idea of the false prophets. What is a false prophet?

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Striving For The Narrow Road (Bible Study Matthew 7 – Part 3)

In the post we are continuing to look at Matthew 7.  This is the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount.  It is part of the closing argument so to speak.  Jesus has been talking about what the Kingdom of God is like, and now He is wrapping up this message.  We talked about His warning of self righteousness and how we are to understand ask, seek, and knock in a helpful way.  Today I want to begin to look at the next couple of sections because they really go together.

Here is what Jesus says:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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 in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Now again it’s important to note that this is the closing of the sermon, not the opening.  Jesus has been talking for a long time about who is who in the Kingdom, how one in the Kingdom should live and what it all looks like together.

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Do You Care If Anyone Knows Jesus? (Christian Leadership In Today’s Culture Part 5)

We’ve been looking at Christian leadership in todays culture over several posts.  We looked at checking our own hearts first, understanding and leading from God’s narrative, leading with the truth of Jesus and taking care of the home front.  Today I want to begin to talk about Christian leadership in a even more outward way.

We need to understand that the Christian worldview is not the worldview of the culture.  In some ways of course this is not new.  But we are entering a time now where western Christendom is over.  Christianity is not.  Not at all.  But the worldview that has dominated western culture, for good or bad, has changed.

This current environment is much more apostolic than that. What this means is that we are going to have to do actual evangelization in a world that does not know or does not follow the basic truths of Christian thought.

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Asking, Seeking, And Knocking In The Kingdom (Bible Study Matthew 7 Part 2)

Today we are going to continue to look at Matthew 7.  This is the closing of the sermon on the mount.  It’s sort of the application part of the sermon.  Last time we looked at how self righteousness gets in the way of helping others.  Today I want to look at the next section dealing with asking God for things.

Here is what Jesus says

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The first paragraph fits into an interesting category of scripture abuse.  This is the sort of thing that is often used to justify what is often called the prosperity gospel.  The idea that whatever you want, if you just ask God, then He will give it to you.

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Lead With The Truth Of Jesus (Christian Leadership In Today’s Culture Part 4)

Today I want to continue a series about what it looks like to lead as a Christian in today’s culture.  We first looked at the importance of starting with looking at our own heart and what we are really all about.  Then we looked at the importance of defining and living out of the narrative of God’s story vs. narratives dictated by current culture.  Next we took an inward turn to look at taking care of our own business first.

Today I want to look at leading with Jesus and His truth.

Now that sounds sort of obvious.  But I honestly don’t see a lot of it right now.  What I see is a lot of Christians using Jesus to back up their side.  I also see a lot of Christians saying true things about Jesus, but only the parts that they want to virtue signal with.  I also think there are a lot of Christians who are sort of fixated on a particular part of Jesus and are just trying to follow that one part.

Finally I think there are people who are trying to show that Jesus is relevant to all that is going on right now in an attempt to win particular people over, or perhaps keep particular people from leaving Christianity.

But frankly this is creating confusion and it’s all hijacking Jesus.  Now understand I’m not accusing everyone, or anyone in particular, of meaning to do that (although there are certainly people that are). It also risks splitting the body of Christ in places it just doesn’t have to be split.

What often ends up happening is that Jesus ends up being the support for a truth rather than the truth itself.

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The Self Righteous Person Is The Most Dangerous Person In The Room (Bible Study Matthew 7 Part 1)

Today I want to venture into Matthew 7.  Jesus is giving the sermon on the mount and this is the closing part of that sermon.  As I’ve mentioned several times it’s important to see this entire sermon (Matthew 5-7) as one line of thought, building on itself.  But we are pulling some truths out of it a piece at a time, which is also helpful.

In the opening of Matthew 7 Jesus is talking about the idea of judging others.  Here is what He says

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Now this might be one of the most misused scriptures in the bible.  People say this is Jesus saying that you should make no judgements.  But as we’ll see this is not the main idea here.

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