Paul Comes to Thanksgiving Dinner

As I read the writings of the apostle Paul in the New Testament, I often wonder if we would get along.  He is brash and straightforward. He pulls no punches, he makes no compromise.  He is certainly unacquainted with our northern Midwest culture popularly referred to as “Minnesota Nice.”  Paul is a force with which to be reckoned.  The story was the same before he knew Christ.  As a Pharisee he hunted down Christians because they preached what he thought to be heresy!  After his conversion his zeal became even more unleashed.  Now instead of trying to condemn people, he was out to save them. 

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Jesus, The Only Way of Salvation Part 4

As I conclude the “Why Jesus only” section of my blogging, I want to pass along some insights that I have been nurturing since I heard them shared by Ajith Fernando at an URBANA Conference in the early 1990s. 

Ajith Fernando is the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, and has served as the national director for thirty-five years. His topic was “Why Jesus?” and he addressed why the Christian claims of Jesus’ uniqueness amid the world of faith beliefs is so important. They provided keen insight for me, and I share my interpretation of them here, drawing upon Colossians 2.

One unique aspect of Jesus is that He is the unique Revelation by the Creator of the world to the world. He created. In Colossians 2:2, Paul calls Jesus God’s secret, His mystery. Yet God is glad to reveal this secret in His time. The Gospel is the great revelation to the human race from the creator. Most great books of other religions give an account of people’s encounter with the spiritual truth. But the Gospel claims to be the revelation of the truth from God to people; it is revealed, not discovered! The Old Testament points to the Gospels, the Gospels tell of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament explains the Gospels. Because the truth of Jesus is given and not discovered, it is not something humans have put together. It can be trusted as correct, for it is a gift of Truth, from the Truth.


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Between Zombies and Santa Claus

 
It seems that, more and more, Thanksgiving is becoming a blip on the annual calendar.  It sits in-between Halloween and Christmas and sort of ends up being swallowed by both.  Certainly, the historical moorings of the holiday have come under fire with the advent of modern identity politics casting a long shadow on sailing puritans.  Maybe it is a marketing problem…can a turkey really compete with zombies and Santa Claus?  Sure, it’s good eating, but it is still only one meal out of the whole year.  And really, who is going to choose green bean casserole and jellied beets over fistfuls of free candy and decorated cookies? But all logistical considerations aside, I am a huge advocate of Thanksgiving. Here’s why:  

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Sitting in the Silence

 
Our church has been around for 50 years!  As I write from the perspective of a father in his mid-thirties, I am rather intimidated by such a large number.  I look forward to the days when I can say I have been married for 50 years, or it’s the 50th
anniversary of the day I did something amazing.  I may even be around to see my own kids reach such an age.
 
Anything that lasts for half a century requires work and upkeep.  A human life, a business venture, a successful invention and, of course, a church.  We know that the Church, the worldwide conglomeration of Christ-followers, is not just some fraternal organization that collects members and hosts social events.  The Church functions as the hands and feet of Jesus, as the preview of God’s coming Kingdom, as the beacon of hope in this dark world.  The Church is more than any leader or preacher…it is guided by our living Lord himself.


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The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

he 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

Five hundred years ago, a world-shaking revolution was about to erupt and change history! The world was on the cusp of a dramatic shift. Europe was Christian, divided into two churches: The Orthodox Church in the East, and the Catholic Church in the West. Each blamed the other for separating away (back in AD 1054). In the West, there were seismic tremors suggesting the coming of a major quake.

The Catholic Church wielded amazing power, and tried to use that power to keep the culture in order and Christian. In an attempt to protect the holiness of God, it mandated that worship must be kept pure and based on tradition, that the Bible must be kept in Latin, and that salvation was found only in the path the Church explained.


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Jesus, The Only Way of Salvation, Part 3

Jesus, the ONLY Way of Salvation: Part 3

I continue to answer the question, “Why Jesus? Why for Christians is Jesus the one and only way of salvation?”

For me, there are four arguments that validate the orthodox Christian position that salvation comes only through professed faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. The first is the witness from Scripture.
  2. The second is that only Jesus can save because only Jesus is fully human and fully divine.
  3. The third main witness for me is the historical witness of the Church:

 

Christians have claimed for the past 2,000 years that what Jesus did was experienced as true in their own lives. Other religious people claim to find peace in following other religious paths. Some have claimed comfort and some have claimed hope. 

But only Christians have claimed victory. Can you see that important difference? You see, Christ’s saving power is witnessed in His followers. Christians have the resurrection power evident in their lives. That is why miracles are so important. They are proof for the power of Christ’s resurrection in our own lives. Only Christians can say, “The power of God came into my life, freed me from my trap to (addiction, anger, lust, pride, whatever) and has given me new life. Followers of other religions say, “I’m trying my hardest to conform my life to what is right and good.” Christians say, “Christ lives within me and gives me the victory!” That is such a unique witness in our world, and it is credible proof to Jesus as the only real salvation. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said that the proof of the truth of Methodism is the witness of all the thousands of radically changed lives of the Methodists living around us.


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Jesus: The Only Way of Salvation, Part 2

Jesus, the ONLY Way of Salvation: Part 2
 

Sorry for the delay in this next blog! Fall is busy!!

Over the summer, I’ve been trying to answer some of the core questions I’ve been asked by youth. I continue to do that now in the fall.

Last blog, I started to answer the question, “Why Jesus? Why for Christians is Jesus the one and only way of salvation?”  For me, there are four arguments that validate the orthodox Christian position that salvation comes only through professed faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. The first is the witness from Scripture. This was the main content of my last blog. This time, I take up the next. 
  2. The second load-bearing argument for me is the Christological argument. This argument holds that only Jesus is ABLE to save, because of His unique person and two full natures. This argument starts from the utter reality of sin’s ugliness. Any claims that demote Jesus’ unique ability to save come from a demoting of sin’s reality. Christianity takes an honest stance on human sin and corruptness. I don’t have room to discuss the reality of sin. A cursory look at most religions before Christ demonstrate that religious people realized that human sacrifice was the only adequate payment for human sin. Sin is ugly, and total, and complete. There is no way out.  Religion is the way out from the human trap to evil and sin. Religions offered sacrifices (blood atonement) in place of the death we deserve.

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Jesus, the ONLY Way of Salvation

Why Jesus? Why is Jesus the 
ONLY 
way of Salvation?

 

So, we come now to one of the most common and urgent questions of our day. Why do Christians claim that Jesus is the 

only 

way of salvation? 

Mind you, there are many Christians who claim that He is not the only way of salvation. Some Christians claim that God somehow saves people through Jesus, even though those people don’t pledge commitment to Jesus, or even know Jesus. God applies the salvation Jesus won, but the people don’t have to profess salvation in Jesus. They would argue that God did this for all people who lived before Jesus’ time on earth, such as Abraham. They would also argue that people who never had opportunity to hear about Jesus could also be saved based on their faith in God of what they did know. Others (many!) would argue that Jesus is a path of salvation for some, but not for everyone. There are other paths of salvation, but for Christians it is Jesus.

Standard and historical Christianity (what we call “orthodoxy”) asserts that salvation only comes through Jesus. Acts 4:12 says about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (NIV). Or again, Jesus plainly says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

For me, there are four arguments that validate this orthodox Christian position that Salvation comes only through professed faith in Jesus Christ.


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Jesus: Liar, Lord, or Lunatic?

I continue answering the question:
 
Well, if there is a God, then why should someone believe that Jesus is the only way?
 
In my last blog, I tackled the inherent weakness of spiritual relativism. We have to separate tolerance from acceptance. But even the words tolerance and acceptance are not very helpful. I can tolerate my kid’s bad behavior, but I act to stop them. I may accept my friend’s choices, but I don’t have to approve.
 
Perhaps a different starting point is more helpful. Rather than starting from the belief or action, we can start with the person. After all, our primary desire with others is to love them. So, rather than tolerate or accept, I love. Sometimes this love means tolerating. Sometimes it means accepting. But tolerating or accepting are never ends in themselves. This is the key difference with our modern culture. Our culture puts acceptance as the core value. It is not for Christians. Love is. Above all, I pledge to love others. This may mean there are times I must not tolerate or accept their beliefs or actions. Yet, even when I don’t, I still uphold my commitment to love them.
 
To love others also means to strongly commit to my own beliefs. I do not compromise on what I belief in order to accept others. I accept others based on my love for them, not on their beliefs. So, I can accept people and not accept their beliefs. Now we’re digging deeply into love. Do you see how again it is less about reason and information, and more about relationships? So, because I hold strongly to my beliefs, and I love others enough not to say they are okay no matter what they believe, and because I love them more than I want to insist that I am right, I enter into relationship with them to talk with them as a friend. This changes the conversation!

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Spiritual Relativism

This summer I’ve been blogging about how we can know that God exists. This came from discussions I’ve had with youth this spring who are asking critical questions about their faith. In my previous blog I took a break from the more rational arguments and told my own story of how I came to put my trust in God. A crucial question that I wrestled with is a question I have been asked recently as well. I’ll try to offer my response here (and yes, again, it will be longer than one blog!).

Question: Well, if there is a God, then why should someone believe that Jesus is the only way? Is there any evidence?
In our culture of relativism today, this one is so often discussed, and so often compromised by the Church. We love to be tolerant, understanding and sympathetic. It is so much more politically correct to say that each faith expression has validity and meaning, and it is right for those who believe it. No one faith has priority over the other, and no one is right over and above the others. We all generally acknowledge a Higher Being, but we all prefer if everyone believes whatever he or she may wish. Added to this the fact that religion has divided the world since the beginning, and many wars have been fought over it. Certainly this cannot be godly, no matter what you believe. The bloodshed spilled over rightness of one belief system over another should prompt us more educated folk to steer away from such dogmatic claims of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” A much kinder, gentler approach is “live and let live.” Still further (the argument I never not hear) is that Christianity is the religion of the West. If we lived in another part of the world, we would be equally devout Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists, or such. Certainly the majority of the world could not have been wrong throughout history! (When you consider history, more people have lived and died as “other” than those who have accepted the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition).


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