“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…)
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 of compassion and patience and peace (in fact, a community of people committed to those ideals)? What if the most important expression of our faith is not a Doctrinal Statement signed but a life well 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…)
The original Methodist revival was a movement intended to produce “real Christians,” that is, Christians who would actually live out the faith they professed. In my opinion: we are in desperate need of such a thing today.
In the Methodist revival, the means used to achieve this goal were:
- a message of experienced religion & holiness which drew heavily from the Bible,
- large praise and preaching gatherings (the Societies),
- small accountability groups (the classes, bands & select societies),
- works of service and mercy (generally: addressing the needs of the poor or imprisoned).
This was not intended to produce “Church Growth” or some such thing, it was intended to produce Christians who visibly and noticeably loved God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and their neighbors as themselves.
What can be learned by this evangelistic & discipleship strategy for our day? (more…)