God is the Judge – Not Us

A “conservative Christian” group has mounted an internet campaign and boycott against JC Penny in response to their announcement that Ellen DeGeneres will be their new spokesperson. They say that by having an openly homosexual spokesperson JC Penny is taking sides in the “culture war” and offending those with traditional family values.

Controversy like this isn’t new for Ellen, who was also at the center of some “conservative Christians” boycotting Finding Nemo and Disney because Ellen was the voice of one of the fish in the movie.

A question: “Is it even our job as Christians, to judge, condemn, criticize, non-Christians?”

Paul doesn’t seem to think so. See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 . Neither does Jesus. See John 3:17. You can also check out any of Jesus interactions with the “sinners” of his day.

What would it look like for Christians to show Ellen, and others in the world, mercy instead of judgement, love instead of condemnation? Do you think Ellen and others in the world would respond differently to Christians who did their job and left the judging to God? Would this more accurately show forth the gospel than what is happening in this situation? What is this group communicating about the Gospel or the Triune God in their approach to Ellen?

Don’t get me wrong, sin has to be addressed in the Gospel. Mine was, and yours was. And to share the Gospel with Ellen and the world will involve a discussion of their sin and a call to repentance and faith. But shouldn’t that discussion happen in the context of a loving relationship, instead of a condemning internet campaign?

 

 

Freedom to Say Life is Hard

I saw this article bouncing around Facebook the other day, Don’t Carpe Diem. The author was writing about experiences she has had when older ladies have stopped her and her small children in stores and said,  “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”

The author comments,

“Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy everysecond, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”

This article seemed to resonate with lots of young moms who found in this article the freedom to say that they “don’t carpe diem”, the freedom to say life is hard. It resonated with me as well. She captures grace and expresses it in real world terms.

I wonder, do we give people this freedom in the church, or do people feel the pressure to have it together all the time? Do people feel like they are doing something wrong if they don’t  live up to the qualifications we have set for being a “good” Christian? What does it say about the gospel if people don’t have this freedom?

Will Creation Be Restored or Will God Start From Scratch? Part 2

Last week, we looked at 2 Peter 3:10 to see if it supports the belief that the earth will be burned up and completely done away with. We saw that it is better to translate the word as “exposed” or “found”, and the language fits well within a purification understanding, like in the refining process. This week we will look at the surrounding context to see if that translation fits.
There is more to support understanding Peter as speaking of fire purifying rather than completely destroying or annihilating this creation. Recall that Peter referred to God’s judging the earth before with water and drew a comparison between that former water judgement and the upcoming fire judgment.(v5-7) Peter says in v6 that “the world that then existed” before the flood “was deluged with water and perished.” This is paralleled to “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire” in v7. There was in some way a death and resurrection/renewal/restoration of the world. Peter uses the language “perish”, in Genesis, God speaks of the flood destroying the earth (Gen 6:13 and 9:11).   Destruction happened but we know this doesn’t mean that God completely destroyed or annihilated the earth. After the flood there was in some sense a new world (the world that existed then (v6) compared to the world that exists now (v7)). But we also know from scripture that there was a lot of continuity as the account of the creation and the flood in Genesis and our own experience tells us. The flood is seen more as a purifying judgement than a total and utter destruction.
I think that since Peter is making the comparison, we are to see the judgment by fire functioning and happening in a similar way to the water judgment. We are to see the destruction of the world by fire like the destruction of the world by water. There will be “destruction” in some sense (melting, burning dissolving etc…), but not total and utter destruction, where everything is destroyed to nothing and God starts from scratch. There will be some changes yes, “the heavens and earth that exist now” v7 will become “a new heavens and new earth” v12. But new, is to be understood as renewed or restored, transformed, even improved.  This understanding of new is seen in other places where we are described as a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) the old has passed the new has come. We aren’t completely and totally new, but we are different as we are being renewed to God’s original purposes for humanity. We can see this also as we look at Christ’s resurrected body as a pattern for our Resurrection body, 1 Cor 15. There is continuity and discontinuity, but it wasn’t completely and totally new, people still recognized him, he ate, etc…. but it will be gloriously new.
I think this understanding is confirmed by Rom 8:15ff. The creation longs to be restored, set free from bondage and corruption. It doesn’t long to be utterly destroyed and annihilated to be made again from scratch. The OT prophesies about the new heavens and new earth speak more of restoration than annihilation.
I think this also makes better sense of the flow of Scripture. God’s purpose was for mankind to dwell with Him, in His land, under His good law (rule). We made a mess of that as did Satan. But the Lord has not abandoned His purposes. Sin and Satan will not have the last word. This creation is the creation that the Lord intended mankind to dwell in for His glory, and He will insure that His purposes come about. God is concerned about His creation, of which we are a part. Creation, the flood, the call of a people for himself (Abe, Moses, Israel, David etc….), the life death and resurrection of Jesus, and His return to judge and reward, to destroy and purify, to do away with the old and bring about the renewal of things in line with His purposes forever.
There are many implications to draw from this, as Peter does in the conclusion of the letter. The reality of this should impact how we live our lives now. Does this impact how you live your life now? We weren’t created for Heaven. We were created for earth, this earth, and we will dwell here for eternity – God’s people, in God’s land, under God’s rule. Evangelism is more than just about getting people into heaven, because the Gospel is more than just about people going to heaven. If the gospel is just about “personal” salvation and a “personal” relationship with Christ, then that is a small gospel. The Good News, is that Christ’s finished work has implications for the entirety of His creation. Our Gospel message and our Gospel living should reflect that. As far as the curse had impact, and as far as sin brought destruction, Christ will bring renewal. It also means that what we do here matters. If it isn’t all going to burn up as Peter and Paul affirm, but our works will be tested by fire, then it matters how we work and live and carry about our lives now, all for the Glory of God.
How will this Good News influence your life?

Graffiti Artist Turned Theologian?

I don’t know if many of you saw this report in mid November. Police are on the hunt for the person responsible for spray painting “I KILLED JESUS”, on the marquee of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Youngwood, PA. Maybe we need to be the ones finding this guy and ask where he gets his theology from.

I don’t know if he knew what he was spray painting, but how many of us see the depth, and grasp the sinfulness of our sin in such a way to make this statement? He was killed because of our sin (Isaiah 53:4-6). Our sin was so  detestable before our Holy and Righteous God, that it took the death of the perfect God-man, Jesus, to atone for it. How easily I can forget the magnitude of my sin, and the even greater magnitude of Christ’s work. Not only did He take away the sin of His people, but he satisfied the wrath of the Father. And now the primary identity of the believer is not enslaved sinner, but Beloved New Creation (2 Cor. 5:16-21). How deep my sin! How much deeper the Father’s love!

How Deep the Father’s Love (Stuart Townend)

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

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