Friday, May 15, 2015

Issues in Christian Discipleship: Six Articles

What Does It Mean to "Accept Jesus"?

“You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9

You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is something like a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and many others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision.

We are like that. We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we are just indecisive. We are held back by small thoughts of Jesus. Keep reading

How Do I Know I'm a Christian?

Whenever counseling Christians looking for assurance of salvation, I take them to 1 John. This brief epistle is full of help for determining whether we are in the faith or not. In particular, there are three signs in 1 John given to us so we can answer the question “Do I have confidence or condemnation?” Keep reading

Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness

When I first became a Christian I was introduced to the priorities of the Christian community. I learned quickly that it was expected of me that I have a daily devotion time, a time reserved for Bible reading and prayer. I was expected to go to church. I was expected to have a kind of piety that was evident by not cursing, not drinking, not smoking, and the like. I had no idea that biblical righteousness went far beyond these things. However, like most new Christians, I learned to emphasize such things. My personal letters took on a new pattern of language. They began to sound like pages from New Testament epistles. I soon learned to use Christian jargon in my everyday speech. I didn’t “tell” anybody anything, I “shared” it with them. Every good fortune was a “blessing,” and I found I could hardly speak without sprinkling my sentences with spiritual platitudes.

Soon, however, I found that there was more to the Christian life than daily devotions and sanctified words. I realized that God wanted more. He wanted me to grow in my faith and obedience, to go beyond milk to the meat. I also discovered that Christian jargon was an almost meaningless form of communication, both to non-Christians and Christians alike. I found myself more interested in echoing a subculture’s lingo than in finding true godliness.

My error was this: I was confusing spirituality with righteousness. I also discovered that I was not alone in this. I was caught up with a crowd who confused the means with the end. Spirituality can be a cheap substitute for righteousness. Keep reading

Why doesn't the Holy Spirit do anything to me?

t can't just be me. But one night, it really seemed like it. I was a teenager, standing in an unfamiliar charismatic church at the height of a 1990s phenomenon called 'The Toronto Blessing.' I was a new Christian, quite uninitiated in theology or the practices of the average church, and so very much unprepared for what was now going on all around me....

n the 22 years following that experience, I've stood in countless charismatic churches and festival environments where leaders have ministered 'in the power of the Spirit'. In almost every case, the result has been the same: I've stood unmoved, my hands haven't shaken, I haven't felt remotely close to impersonating a duck. For a while I thought there must be something wrong with me; some deep unresolved sin in my life that needed dealing with before God could work. Then I began to get cynical, and consider whether the whole thing was some sort of NLP-style illustration of the power of suggestion. I don't believe either of those things. But here's what I have realised.

It's got nothing to do with 'my heart'

The Holy Spirit doesn't wait for people to have their lives in total order before he moves powerfully. There are many, many testimonies of people who weren't even Christians, but have felt the incredible power of the Spirit – often it's been instrumental in their decision to follow Jesus; the Alpha course is built around a weekend which makes exactly that assumption. A feeling of unworthiness in the face of God is only natural when we don't fully grasp his grace, but I see no biblical precedent that says God can't work in us while we're still 'sinners'. In fact, the reverse is true; that's the foundation of how we believe God engages with us. Keep reading

Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation?

A common question for many is, "Can I lose my salvation?" I've heard both sides of the argument, and only God truly knows a person's heart, but I can share a few thoughts. The reason there is a debate is because the Scriptures teach that salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned, but they also offer warnings about falling away. There should be a healthy tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. This issue should not create a spirit of division, elitism, or theological superiority. Keep reading

6 Reasons Why Membership Matters

“Why bother with church membership?”

I’ve been asked the question before. Sometimes it’s said with genuine curiosity-“So explain to me what membership is all about.” Other times it’s said with a tinge of suspicion-“So tell me again, why do you think I should become a member?”-as if joining the church automatically signed you up to tithe by direct deposit.

For many Christians membership sounds stiff, something you have at your bank or the country club, but too formal for the church. Even if it’s agreed that Christianity is not a lone ranger religion, that we need community and fellowship with other Christians, we still bristle at the thought of officially joining a church. Why all the hoops? Why box the Holy Spirit into member/non-member categories? Why bother joining a local church when I’m already a member of the universal Church?

Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many times “member” actually shows up in the New Testament. But many others are open to hearing the justification for something they’ve not thought much about.

Here are just a few reasons why church membership matters. Keep reading

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