Justified Journal

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Testimony

What do you think of when you hear the word testimony?  Perhaps you think of a court case where a person is called on to testify about their observations of a crime.

In modern evangelical circles, a person might tell the story of how they ‘made a decision for Christ’ publicly.  That person would talk about the darkest aspects of their past in order to highlight the change they went through as a result of that decision.  People who had the worst stories are often considered pseudo-celebrities for coming to Christ after all they’d been through.

The point of this exercise is to encourage the Christian audience that God is still at work.  Additionally, the ‘unchurched’ might feel that the person who is giving the testimony is a kindred spirit, and feel motivated to make a decision for Jesus just like s/he did.

For those of us who were raised in the church, we might feel that we haven’t had such a dramatic conversion.  We went to church on Sundays, attended Bible study and went through confirmation.  Our testimony seems rather weak compared, to say, a drug-addicted mother of fourteen who found the Lord and reformed her life.  Let’s face it, we’ll never end up on the lecture circuit with a resume of lifetime church-going.

But is our testimony the one that matters?

The apostle John’s account begins with testimony after testimony about Jesus.  He begins this account with what the Holy Spirit inspired him to write:

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.d 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1, ESV)

John disappears into the background.  In fact, except for the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”, John is hardly seen in his testimony about Jesus.

As the first chapter progresses, John writes of John the Baptist’s testimony:

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (ESV)

What an incredible declaration!  And that is not the end of it.  Jesus talks of himself in the “I am” statements made throughout John’s account.  These statements would have clearly reminded the Jews of Jesus’ day of Moses encounter with God in Exodus 3:14 at the burning bush:

13Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”

Jesus is declaring that He is the self-existent God!

For you and I, this is good news.  We don’t have to worry about the relative strength or weakness about our personal testimony, instead, we can repeat the testimony of John the Apostle, John the Baptist and the all of the disciples who declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This leads us to God’s testimony about us in 1 Peter 2:

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

No matter what your background is, Jesus has made you his own.  Through Him, we have become one people, united through His death and resurrection.  ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’ through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  That is God’s testimony about you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Pastor John

Hide and go seek

I ran across a term that I hadn’t heard before in the book, “Left Behind and Loving It”.  The term was ‘epistemological crisis”.  It is when you learn something that turns your whole world upside-down.  It’s not just a paradigm shift, but it is a moment when your belief system is challenged by a truth discovery.

How do you respond in such an instance?  Perhaps the better question is, “How many time have you changed political positions, religious conceptions or intellectual positions when something challenging has been presented to you?”

The Scriptures can effect such a crisis.  Actually, that is what Scripture should do.  The individual should be confronted by issues, problems and confusing texts.

How do you respond to Scripture which challenge your belief system (even a ‘Christian’ belief system)?  Do you ignore it, shut it down, rely on cultural Christianity to save the day?  Or, do you just say, “That must be wrong”, and forget about it?

Maybe you decide to look for answers from someone else.  You look for someone who is ‘on your side’, and who you can trust.  You reinforce your beliefs to defend yourself against the troubling questions Scripture brings up.

These are simply the efforts of the Old Adam to avoid the onslaught of the challenging propositions in Scripture.  The Old Adam can hide behind ignorance, other people’s knowledge, avoidance, or changing the subject.  This is all rooted in fear.

We are afraid that God will kill the Old Adam.  We identify so closely with him, that we find fig leaves to protect our vulnerability from a God who is trying to expose it.  Ultimately, this means we fear the cross.

You see, the cross is not just for Jesus.  It is for us, too.  We use our strengths, resources or other means to defend us against a God who inspired the authors of Scripture to put some challenging things before our eyes.

However, once the text troubles us to our core, then God is able to make us new; to re-birth us through the process.  If you allow this to happen, it is scary.  You will have to depend on the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Scripture.  He will have to be your guide as you try to distinguish between Law and Gospel.  He will have to guide you to find Christ in the passage that troubles you.  He will have to be the one to hold your hand as you are transformed from arrogant to humble.

Church plays a vital role in this process of ‘letting go’.  You may experience a crisis of faith (this is not necessarily a bad thing).  Without the guidance of your pastor, you can end up in heresy or agnosticism.  The pastor is concerned with your eternal salvation, and can be a support as you struggle to understand, reflect, and ultimately, grow through the reading of Scripture.  Forsaking the assembling together would be foolish and dangerous.

May God keep you in His will,

John

free-alarm-clip-art

A couple of weeks ago, one of the Sunday readings (periscopes) was from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  I spent a considerable amount of time working through the text, because it is from this text that some theologians developed the concept of a rapture. I came to understand a great deal, and as it is with any […]

Rate this:

To promote greater understanding

If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:

That is all.

Don’t worry if you don’t have faith in Christ …

When I studied Greek, I learned that the -ou endings meant possession.  For example, we say, “That’s Bart’s Car“.  In Spanish, you would say, “That the car of Bart“.  So, the -ou means ‘of (name)’.

So what?  Why should I care?  Because the New Testament that you’re holding is a testament to the efforts of the Old Adam to resist Grace Alone through Christ alone.

Here are my two examples:

1. Galatians 2:16a:     “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ

Here’s the Greek:

πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ   – “faithfulness of Christ Jesus”

Now, the corrected translation mash-up – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus.

That’s a shift from man-centered religion (and worrying about the quality of your faith) to Christ centered religion which is what Christianity is.

The same translation choice was made in Philippians 3:9a:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ”

The following is a better translation:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through the faithfulness of Christ.”

His faithfulness trumps yours.  Sorry.

Paul wrote the following: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). 

Check the translation against the overarching message of these letters.  Is the author (Paul) concerned with the strength of your believing in a “You just gotta believe bro” way, or is He focused on setting you free from the navel-gazing religion by looking up at a cursed man on a tree who was faithful to the end?

Lay your burdens upon Him

Bitterness is an expression of pain.  People who feel bitter have been wounded at some point in their lives.  When they talk about their bitter feelings, it may sound ugly and hateful.

I read a series of threads on this issue, and almost all of them recommended staying away from such people.  But, what are you to do if you have to counsel a person with this issue?

The complexity can be daunting.  Allow them to spew out their bitterness (as long as it’s not directed at you); it can be therapeutic.  Every once in a while, you can sympathize with a statement that you find true.  You can also say, “I can understand how you felt/feel!”.  If something has clearly happened to them that was someone else’s fault, you can acknowledge that, too (this is a little tricky because perceptions are not always reality).  It is a good idea to assume the positive about others instead of the negative, and a counselor can be drawn into the negativity.

After that individual has exhausted their bitter expression, and they appear more relaxed, they might be receptive to the gospel.  It depends who they are.

If they enjoy ‘wallowing’ in the bitter feelings, it may be a source of their identity, meaning and purpose in life.  In truth, all humans have a penchant to enjoy negative feelings.  If this is the case, you won’t make much ground in counseling such people.  All you can do is love them and pray for them.  In my church, I can continue to feed them communion and tell them that Christ is their mercy.

If they seem open to your input, then you have an opportunity to tell them … the gospel.  I think some counselors want such people to alter their behavior without addressing the emotional issues.  This is a mistake.  To give a law, command or demand is to add a wound to a wounded person.  This is the ministry of death.

Instead, the opened person wants to hear that they have not been treated well.  The wound they have is real.  The savior they have is a real savior for real wounds.  In fact, the Greek word in the New Testament for ‘save’ is also ‘heal’.  He alone is the great physician.

Sometimes, he uses human hands, like psychologists or psychiatrists to treat ‘soul wounds’.  At other times, we can bear each other’s wounds and take them in ‘pair prayer’ to the Lord.  It might take a while to overcome, but it is only the Gospel of the Christ wounded for us that will heal those wounded by the world.  Starting over is only possible at the hands of the Re-creator, Jesus Christ.

This is the ministry of reconciliation.

Grazing on worldly food

I live in a suburb. That means I live in a place that’s full of people who have jobs (probably somewhere else). With the money they make, they buy smart phones and other technology like tablets, phablets, etc. They do this to “keep in touch” with the world.

Some people are actually addicted to “information gathering”. It reveals an insatiable hunger that all people share.

I have that hunger, too. Over the years, the way I have feed myself is through television shows. In the past few years, I have gotten into those home improvement programs where a contractor helps a family take their home from outdated or damaged to pristine condition. If I am not able to see the show in its entirety, I feel like I have been cheated out of a fulfilling experience.

Even if I do watch a program all the way through, I will only be satiated for a little while. The next day, I am back at it again, watching episode #462.

It is an unhealthy way of dealing with the hunger of the soul.

What is it that we are missing?

Jesus said in John 6:27;

“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

Further down, Jesus says:

48“I am the bread of life. 49“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

52Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55“For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58“This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

This presents a conundrum. If you are a modern evangelical, you must find a way to explain away what Jesus has said. He can’t really mean what He said, after all. Or, can he?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: