‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ — Romans 8:16.
But what is the witness of the Spirit?
“The original word μαρτυρία may be rendered either (as it is in several places) the witness, or less ambiguously, the testimony, or the record: So it is rendered in our translation (1 John 5:11), ‘This is the record,’ the testimony, the sum of what God testifies in all the inspired writings, ‘that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.’ The testimony now under consideration is given by the Spirit of God to and with our spirit: He is the Person testifying. What he testifies to us is, ‘that we are the children of God.’ The immediate result of this testimony is, ‘the fruit of the Spirit;’ namely, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness:’ and without these, the testimony itself cannot continue. For it is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sin, or the omission of known duty, but by giving way to any inward sin; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God. (more…)
The writings of the prophets are especially appropriate during the season of Advent. They frame the story of Jesus, they provide us insight into the expectations of the people of Israel at the time Christ was born.
Chapter 64 of Isaiah is only 12 verses long. If I were using it as the basis of a sermon, I’d read the whole thing rather than just verses 1-9 as the lectionary suggests.
The book of Isaiah is now generally considered to have been sort of a group project. Yes, there was a prophet named Isaiah who lived from 740 to 680 B.C. Yes, much of the material in the book of Isaiah was written by him (especially in chapters 1-39). But, it is generally supposed today that large portions of the book were actually written by other people who lived much later. These people sometimes get called Second Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah, if you want to sound educated) and Third Isaiah. (more…)
Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.
— John Wesley, Sermon #1: “Salvation by Faith”
whose divine tenderness
ever outsoars the narrow loves and charities of earth,
grant us a kind and gentle heart towards all that live.
Let us not ruthlessly hurt any creature of thine.
Let us take thought also for the welfare of little children,
and those who are sick,
and the poor;
remembering that what we do unto the least of these his brethren
we do unto Christ our Lord. Amen.
— John Baillie (1886-1960).
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 NRSV.)
These are remarkable words. Lying behind them are the frustrations of the apostle Paul’s religious life. His religion had once been a religion of Law. He had sincerely sought to please God through his own righteous efforts. But, the whole effort had ended in frustration and failure. Thus, he writes: “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:14-19 NRSV.)
The way of religious discipline had failed him. The way of strictness did not bring freedom & hope – it brought a life of contradiction. The way of religious attainments was not satisfying. (more…)
A List of Scriptures that Teach or Imply that Christian Salvation can be Lost.
WARNING: This is a very long list of Scripture passages, along with some comments from myself and a few historic Bible commentators. Don’t expect to read this straight through in one sitting.
The Bible warns us time and time again about the danger of falling away from the faith. The following list of Scriptures is by no means complete or exhaustive. Much of the the New Testament can be quoted against the “once-saved-always-saved” doctrine. (more…)
So, when we get to verse 6 of chapter 2, we come to the heart of Amos’ message. Everything has been a preparation for this. (You can find my comments on the earlier portions of this prophecy here: Amos 1:2, Amos 1:3-15, & Amos 2:1-5.) The other nations have been condemned only to underline the message of judgement against Israel.
The dramatic, repeated formula appears again:
כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה עַל־שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל־אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ
“Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn back….”
What had they done? (more…)
One of the most disturbing things I have read recently is this lengthy article by Kathryn Joyce: The Next Christian Sex Abuse Scandal: By Grace Alone. Joyce writes about the work of Boz Tchividjian and the group he leads called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in exposing and rooting out sexual abuse in the church — particularly in the evangelical world. Boz Tchividjian himself is the grandson of the famous evangelist Billy Graham and teaches law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The article (as I said) is long, but it is well worth reading.
The fact of the matter is that sexual abuse is a problem in the church and has been for many years. I was shocked by the revelations in the article about the mission field and mission agencies — but I can’t say that I am totally surprised. (more…)
I have previously written about spirituality in what might be called a generic sense: as a human capability. A simple way of understanding the spiritual side of human nature is to see it as the capacity for self-transcendence.
As I say, it is possible to see all of this as “spirituality” in a generic sense. It’s a human capacity.
But, to go further in discussing this, I need to draw on ideas explicitly from Christian theology. At this point, the Christian perspective gives us some help in understanding how human spiritual capabilities connect us with God and with the world around us. The helpful concept in this case is the idea of the Holy Spirit. Our human capacity — and yearning — to reach out beyond ourselves is answered by the reality of God’s Spirit reaching to us. This is only natural to expect. We have an desire to connect with a higher reality than ourselves. Our desire to breathe is answered by the air around us. Our desire for food and water are answered the reality of food and water. Our desire for a connection with God — which would give a framework of meaning to our lives and our moral choices — is answered by the Holy Spirit of God. (more…)
Holy God, you so inspired Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a great awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by your Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share your Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
No faith can command a man’s final and absolute allegiance, that is to say, no faith can be a man’s real religion, if he knows that it is only true for certain places and certain people. In a world which knows that there is only one physics and one mathematics, religion cannot do less than claim for its affirmations a like universal validity.
— J. E. Lesslie Newbigin, A Faith for This One World? (1961) quoted in: Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today: Why we Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge HarperOne 2009 page 2.
Amos continues his prophecies against the nations (which I discussed last week) in this chapter.
Review: You don’t see what the prophet is doing here until you see that Amos 1-2 is a unit. And, it is carefully structured. Verse 2 pictures the LORD (YHWH) roaring like a lion. Then a series or oracles of judgement follow. Each is for a different nation. They are introduced with this repeated formula:
“For three transgressions of _____________,
וְעַל־אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ
and for four, I will not turn back….”
There is a certain rhetorical power in this repeated formula. But, this whole poetic prophecy is going somewhere. It’s building. It is going to end in an extended prophecy of judgement at the end (in our chapter 2). And, the weight of this prophecy of judgement is going to fall on Israel. (more…)
What if its not about your opinions but your choices? What if the Final Judgement before God is about how you lived your life, not what religious opinions you espoused — or even what religious experiences you had? What if our actions are more important than our words? What if what God really wants are people — and a community of People — of compassion and patience and peace? What if the most important expression of our faith is not a Doctrinal Statement signed but a life will lived, under the Lordship of Christ? What if the real evidence of faith is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23)? What if God wants us to be making this world a better place — and we’ve spent our days hiding in our churches?
What if the real scandal of Christianity is the huge gap that lies between our Biblical and theological knowledge and the actual lives that we lead from day to day? (more…)