“It’s a tragedy that the young girl died but I hope you’re not insinuating that her depression was demonic”, commented the cheeky-and-rather-deceived-young-upstart of an individual. (more…)
We feel like it’s a good thing to honestly review Christian lifestyle. It shouldn’t be an offence to us to do that or to suggest that others do as well. (more…)
This week’s blog is indebted to a good friend who wrote to me requesting that I have a listen to Remona’s view of spirituality in the radio show, above. My friend had seen my post a few weeks ago about an encounter I had with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Glasgow and wanted to know what I thought…
I was reading 2 Peter earlier this morning in the ESV as I leaned in to God for a cuddle. A phrase struck me that I found immediately vivid and helpful:
Right at the beginning of the letter in 1:21, Peter refers to the human writers of Scripture who were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. Right at the end of the letter in 3:17, he warns of not being “carried away” with the error of lawless men.
Carried along and carried away – two phrases that, though having different roots in their original Greek, are constructions Peter clearly contrasts with each other as a word play.
Bumbling Peter, the restored rock of the church who, on more than one occasion, knew what it was to be carried away by the deception and cowardice of Satan. But also Mighty Peter, the stalwart Great on whom Christ would build His church as its Spirit-carried leader.
Have you seen the new version of the Disney classic Jungle Book? We watched it the other day and loved it! But there’s a scene in the original 1967 animated movie that illustrates Peter’s point here better than the new one and that came to mind as I read:
- Do you recall Mowgli drifting down the jungle river sitting on Baloo’s cushion-like belly without a care in the world? This helps us to understand what Peter meant by being carried along by the Spirit, by Whom we become more than our mere human nature. Becoming like God Himself as He fills us and carries us every day.
- Seconds later, Mowgli is snatched by King Louie’s monkeys. This helps us to understand what Peter meant by not being carried away by the error of the lawless.
The point is that, positively, in order to be carried along by the power of the Holy Spirit and not, negatively, to be carried away by the schemes of the devil, we must do two things:
a) Be On Guard – (2 Peter 3:17) – Every day when we wake up, and every night when we go to bed, let’s make sure to pray. Pray that you would be alert to the schemes of the enemy and increasingly aware of the power of the Holy Spirit.
b) Grow in Grace & Knowledge – (2 Peter 3:18) – This ‘being on guard’ isn’t a passive hope; it’s an active priority to take your Bible and increase your knowledge of who Jesus is as we become more like Him in His grace.
In 2 Peter 3:-3-4 Peter tells us that in the last days there will be scoffers. This means that there will people and spiritual entities who will scoff at the reality of being carried along by the Holy Spirit.
So, let’s do what Peter tells us to do in response to this in verse 8:
Do not forget this one thing….with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.
He is nearer that you think.
Read Acts 17:27 then ask Him to show you His nearness again.
The Spiritually Comatose Church
Sardis Church was one of those churches which everyone knew was a ‘great church’. Its auditorium was packed, its worship services were humming, it was involved in loads of great stuff in the community, its statement of faith was sound, it was growing, it was a strong church… but then Jesus gave his verdict: “You are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:1-2)
I think Sardis would have been stunned by that diagnosis. In fact, all the surrounding churches would have been shocked as well. Surely not Sardis Church! Everyone knew that they were the alive church, the happening church, the buzzing church (Rev. 3:1). But Jesus says they are the spiritually comatose church. They have “soiled their clothes” – how’s that for an image!
What was the problem?
I appreciate the courage to rethink and examine the Christian faith as a response to the difficult (even distressing) loose ends that there can be for all of us in this life – like a kind of jazz music that ‘just doesn’t seem to resolve’ or sit pleasantly with us (any more).
But, without wanting to disappear down a rabbit hole by immersing myself in all the nooks and crannies that I’ve seen on Facebook lately, I’d like to just say one thing (in two halves) that, though likely to be disregarded as being too simplistic or naive, remain the absolute and inescapable centre of these multifaceted debates. This needs to be said because although these conversations are personal in origin, to some, they nevertheless manage to create very public ripple-effects in the lives of others when they’re broadcast:
a) The Christian faith is a biblical faith, i.e. it is unashamedly based on the written word of God, regardless of how you respond to it personally. Christianity never pretends to be anything other than utterly biblical and the serious study of the biblical text will show far fewer grey areas or ‘interpretation weaknesses’ than we might like to think. The problem is that we don’t study it seriously enough.
b) The Christian faith is also just that: faith. If the starting (and ongoing) point of Christianity becomes anything other than faith then it ceases to be biblical and, therefore, Christian. This is not to say that faith is incompatible with general enquiry or even a millennial type of examen, but it does mean that you can spend an eternity trying to ‘work stuff out’ to find the illusive musical resolve of the jazz, but it will never come without faith…faith is always required despite our varying urges to fight and even rage against this order of design.
Therefore, the Christian faith is not compatible with scratching the itch of needing to ‘know’ that something is real before ‘knowing’ it is true – in the sense of needing to ‘see before believing’ – in other words, the bible says you can ‘know’ THE truth by seeing but only via a sight that comes by faith.
Finally, it’s worth saying that examining the Christian faith can (and should) be done while still exercising faith…it is solidly robust enough to endure historical, philosophical and theological enquiry while still recognising that, at its core, is this mysterious but indispensable element called faith.
Christian FAITH – you may call it blind, childish or even ludicrous, but it will always remain the staple ingredient for any saving vision or relationship with Jesus Christ.
And He remains EVERYTHING
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Mark 10:15