Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons from Braveheart

"Men don't follow titles, they follow courage."

"Every man dies. Not every man really lives."

"You know what happens if we don't take this chance? Nothing."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lost in Translation

I have been studying ancient Greek for school for the past 2 semesters, and really enjoying it. I expected it to be difficult, but was pleasantly surprised by a few things that took the edge off. One was that there are many words that we use in English that have Greek roots - eg "foto" = light, so many times you can deduce meanings. Another reason Greek hasn't been as bad as I expected, is that there are many similarities between Greek and Hungarian grammar as regards verb conjugation.

Yesterday I was doing a word study on μαθητευω (to disciple, as a first person verb), and ran across this commentary of Matthew 28:19-20, which I found insightful:

Interestingly, the usual misionary terms are not employed here: ‘preach’, ‘convert’, ‘win’, and the like. A slower, lower-profile verb is used, an almost scholastic, schoolish word, ‘disciple’. To disciple means ‘to make students of’, ‘bring to school’, ‘educate’... or in modern-Enlish terms, ‘to mentor’, ‘to apprentice’. The word pictures students sitting around a teacher more than it does pentitents kneeling at an altar – an educational process more than an evangelistic crisis, a school more than revival. The word’s prosaic character relaxes and says in effect, ‘Work with people over a period of time in the simple educational process of teaching Jesus’. Only the Cosmocrator can do the big things like convert, win, bring repentance, or bring a person to decision – all authority is his, and his alone...(Brunner, F.D., Matthew: A Commentary: 2, revised edn. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004], 815)

The calling is that of teaching people the way that Jesus taught his disciples: spending time with them and teaching them what it means to walk in the way of Jesus.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Comprehensive Gospel

This past Sunday at White Fields I preached on Galatians chapter 3 and how the Gospel is not just how you become a Christian, it is also the means by which we grow as Christians. The Gospel is not just the ABC of the Christian life, but it is the A-Z of the Christian life.

What often happens in the church is that we are good at preaching the Gospel of grace to the unconverted, but as soon as someone receives Jesus we give them a form of the Law - "Do this, don't do that." This is precisely what Paul was referring to when he said: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3)

Rather than giving people the law as a means to grow, the model that Paul exemplifies to us is pointing people to the Gospel in order to change their hearts. The law aims to suppress behaviors, but that doesn't bring about the heart change which is at the root of the behavior. The Gospel on the other hand is the power of God, by to bring about fundamental transformation of the heart. If one's heart changes, their behavior will inevitably follow.

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback about this teaching. Give it a listen:


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Should Pastors Tithe?

I am a pastor. I tithe. I'm not telling you that to stroke my ego - I'm bringing it up, because over the years I have known a lot of people in vocational ministry (pastors, missionaries and other Christian servants who live off of donations) - and the question comes up from time to time of whether or not they should tithe, since the money that was given to them to live off of is from other people's tithes and donations.

Reading through the Book of Numbers the other day, I ran across this:
So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord's contribution to Aaron the priest. (Numbers 18:28 ESV)
This was written to the Levites - the priestly tribe - who lived off of the tithes of the other tribes. They were required to give a tithe of their income, even though their income was from the offerings of the other tribes.

I also believe that as a pastor I am called to lead by example, even when no one knows about it. This goes for giving, evangelism, and a number of different areas. I truly believe that giving to the work of the Lord is not only God's way of raising money and furthering the Kingdom, it's also his way of raising kids and furthering our spiritual growth - not to mention that it is a privilege. It is a simple fact, that a ministry like the one I'm involved in is constantly struggling with the things we would like to do, but are not able to do because of our limited financial resources.

Is this the Law? I don't believe it is. You don't have to tithe. That won't affect your standing before God. But generosity is a Gospel virtue. So is evangelism. This is how the Apostle Paul encouraged people to give to the work of God: he pointed them to the Gospel.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:8-9 ESV)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Working Hard or Hardly Working

I am teaching through Galatians these days at White Fields; it's one of my favorite books - I call it the Manifesto of Grace.
And one of the most profound statements in that letter is:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21 ESV)

I ran accross this quote in one of my commentaries:
The deepest heresy of all, which corrupts churches, leavens creeds with folly, and swells our human hearts with pride, is salvation by works. "I believe, that the root of every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has suffered, has been the effort to earn salvation rather than to receive it; and that one reason why preaching is so ineffective is that it calls on men oftener to work for God than to behold God working for them.
- John Ruskin

Now, that's probably not totally true - many of the early schisms in the church, e.g. the Arian controversy, were about the nature of God and the deity of Jesus, but salvation by works is certainly a key Gospel issue, as Paul makes clear.