Hang on to your magic carpet!

Serkan was a magic carpet rider. He came from a long family line of magic carpet riders; and as such he was respected and well known.

One day he was travelling from his hometown to the near-by mountain range, in order to milk the goats and feed the flock. As he surveyed the rugged and sandy countryside he thought about magic carpet flying: “I wonder where this power comes from?”

So he fancied himself to some unchartered musings about the origin of these powers. Particularly one line of thought reappeared: “the power must be with me”. The more he thought on this, the more truthful it appeared to him. He got bold: “I don’t think I need this rugged rag any longer!”, he exclaimed triumphantly.

Certain that his new found conviction would measure up to reality he stood up from his seated position and stepped towards the edge of the flying rug. As he saw the ground move ever so quickly underneath him, some slight doubt crept in, and so he resolved to keep one hand on the tapestry.

And then he did the unthinkable: fully convinced that the magic of the ride would lie within himself he pulled the carpet underneath himself out, chin high, chest out, expecting to hover alongside the old, stinking rag.

He didn’t even last a split-second.

There was Serkan, hanging onto his magic carpet, being dragged through the air. It was a sight for sore eyes, to be sure. The Bedouin shepherds underneath him could not help but crack into laughter: “look at this fool, he thinks he’s a falcon.” And “the fool” hang on for dear life.

Ok, so this story is just fiction. Not even all elements of the story hold up to magic carpet stories. But I have made that story up to illustrate a point:

The magic of flying through the air lay in the carpet. Our anti-hero was defined over and against the magical instrument, he was a “magic carpet rider”. Apart from this (albeit fictional) phenomena he would not have ever known anything about magic carpet riding, true?

Now, I have met and read of many a person that takes on the name of a follower of Jesus Christ (aka Christian). Where on earth do they get this idea from that such a person ever existed? If you ask them why and what they believe they would sight something out of the Bible, or at least speak of an “experience” that, upon closer examination, unmasks itself as a personalized version of what has been read in the Scriptures.

I have never heard anyone, who claims to be a follower of Christ, to have come to his knowledge about Him by mere contemplation … or maybe the reading of tea leaves.

No.

Knowledge of God (Yahweh) and Jesus Christ is, at least in its essential details, inalterably connected with the Bible. The definition of these two realities comes from this book. God has, in a special way (apart from nature, which is a general revelation), revealed himself to mankind. And He did so in language, a medium with rules and regulations precisely because one cannot just do with it whatever fancy dictates.

Apart from the Bible there is no Christianity.

Why? Well, because the very existence of that term and its essential features comes from the Bible. And, for this term to mean anything at all, it comes from a “natural reading” (a reading that takes into considerations the rules and regulations) of the language contained therein.

That associative title, Christian, would be devoid of any reality and sense if the Bible was just a mere story book, to be interpreted by shear whim. The title relates to a very definitive body of knowledge that, apart from Scripture, is just non-existent.

So now, when there are people that claim to be Christians, and yet deny the truthfulness and veracity of the Bible, then they act like Serkan in my story above: they are pulling the magic carpet out underneath them.

The result?

The same as in the story. Once they have no ground to stand on any longer they fall. However, because they do realize their dilemma, they still keep one hand on the carpet; a witness to their folly.

The world looks at this and reacts like the Bedouin shepherds. People are not stupid when it comes to intellectual dishonesty. They laugh at this “Christianity” (of course, without discernment generalizing all into this) and put it aside as yet another assault to reason.

They turn around and leave. Wagging their heads. Shacking off the life saving message as a joke (considering the witness given to them by liberal Christianity that is understandable).

And then they die into terror.

And you want to be responsible for that?

Please stop kidding yourself and stop lying to others. Unless you are truly convinced of the truthfulness of Scripture stop calling yourself what you are not.

You are not a “liberal Christian”. You are not “enlighented”, in fact, to quote Paul in Romans 1:21, you are “futile in [your] thinking, and [your] foolish heart [was] darkened”.

Not light but darkness. Not wisdom, but folly.

And please, hear me on this: I am not after you as a person. I don’t get kicks out of attacking an individual. But what grates my carrot is the philosophy you subscribe to. It is inconsistent, intellectually dishonest, wilfully misleading and serves to erode the one message that does have the power to save (c.f. Romans 1:26-27).

Do yourself, and the world, a favour and stop pretending. It will be easier for all involved.

And it might just lift the veil you are wearing. Maybe then you can see the truth, in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6).

So, hang on to your magic carpet!

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More puppies than one can handle …

Sitting at various places today: inside, outside, plastic chairs, wodden chairs, benches, i spoke with my new pastor about theology and the faithfulness of God.

To illustrate: he spoke about how once, while staying the concrete jungle, he so longed to hold a puppy in his hand, to bring back memories of more “natured” days. Being in distress He prayed to God as he was walking along the roads. So he walked past a park, saw two young dogs playing and thought: “thank you Lord for answering my prayers, that is enough”. The next day, his pastor invited him to a dog show where he had to go. At the show there was this a “puppy room” and so my pastor went into it, to have his wish fulfilled. He said “you could not see me anymore for all the puppies over me”.

Soppy story? Maybe. But it illustrates God’s work in our lives, so well. How faithful was God in answering? Paul wrote to the Ephesian church the following: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”. We ask and God … does not seem to answer. We get frustrated and discouraged. In my case, i know God is able to do it … but i don’t trust.

However, when i look back , even just a few weeks and months (as i did today) i must agree with Paul. I see what my pastor meant: God has done far more than what i ever asked for. Granted, He has not answered all my prayers, but He has given me far more of things i did not even think to ask for; and often He has given “more abundantly” of the things i did ask for. Far more abundantly!

So i stand resolved to mediate on Eph 3 again … to make it a priority in my life, to refuse to be discouraged and overlook the obvious:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

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Musicspotting #1

This will be the first of (hopefully) many entries on what i am currentlt listening to and what has caught my attention. I will included here suggestions mainly from my neverending search for God glorifying and soul edifying worship music. But there will also be a few suggestions of secular artists, who are just too good not to mention.

Enjoy the reading and listening.

Spotted:

  • Psalms – Sovereign Grace Music: as always a fantastic source for great, God centred, worship music. Some very sweet tunes again. Am still listening to it though. Nothing has yet stuck out for congregational worship (it will come), but many item songs.
  • Revelation – Third Day: the band that brought me over from Hardcore and worldly rock. Always a soft spot in my heart. This is their latest “offering” and i must say that i am enjoying it. Also still listening to it, but there is good stuff on it. Still not quite “Come together”, but better than the previous one (and that was not bad either). Have a listen.
  • The Gates of Gnomeria – Andy McKee: those who know him will agree that this guy is just one of the absolute best when it comes to acoustic guitar, fingering style, slapping … just brilliant stuff. This is the 3rd CD i own now. Not as overwhelming as “Art of Motion”, but still very good. Some extremely sweet melodies.
  • Where the light is – John Mayer: if you liked John Mayer’s style this DVD/CD will make you like him more. I appreciate this DVD so much because it really shows how talented this guy really is. His sound is so amazingly warm and hollow. It’s trenched in blues. There is a great cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin”, you have never heard it that sweet!

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A state of love and trust

I have been recently led, through the faithful preaching of a friend and brother in the Lord, to ponder and measure the depth of my love-for and trust-in Jesus and how I may practically increase my love of Him so that His is the superlative love in my heart.

This has raised a question in my mind: What is the relation between trusting in Christ and loving Him, and what implication does this have on a practical level?

Moreover, is the imperative to trust in Jesus supposed to be a separate exercise of will from loving Him, almost like unto a blind trust without empirically testing and tasting that He is good and trustworthy?
Are these ideas of love and trust related?
Can a believer in Jesus, love Him by trusting Him more, or trust him by loving Him more?

Throughout scripture the ideas of love and trust are intermingled, not as being the same idea, but rather where one is the other shall be found also.

The objects of one’s love are usually the objects that you also place your greatest trust in.
The greater the affection for an object, the more you will trust in that object to effect for you the matter for which you place your trust in it.
I.e. If I love money, it is because I trust in it to yield me all that it promises to (although the promise may be empty) – security, comfort etc.

The psalter overflows with illustrations and expressions of trusting God. One such example is Psalm 4
Psa 4:7  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
Psa 4:8  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

In verse 7, David explains that the source of His joy and delight is God; in the very next verse he exemplifies the trust produced by the delight which he places in God. He trusts in God with a fierce, compelling trust;
Moreover, David loves the object of his trust; he has a much greater affection for the joy of knowing and walking intimately with God Most-High than for the contextual spoils of a rich harvest and the accompanying wealth and security it would bring.

The application of this concept is life-altering!
If we trust in God and delight in God through Jesus Christ, based upon His sacrifice for us,we will trust that what  He says concerning us and what He commands us to do is significantly better than our understanding of it regardless of whether we approve or disapprove of it.

This applies well to most areas of life, but a good personal and practical example is being productive at work.
I’m easily able to meet all my deadlines at work and still find time for non-work-related activities, but if I trust what God says about working (i.e. it is good, necessary and must be done with diligence) and believe that He is my reward (He is my reward, not as a result of working, but by grace) even if I have no other reward besides wages (which in and of itself is also grace anyway) then I will through delighting and trusting in Him pursue that obedience in the wake of trusting Him.

Doubtless, this will have more practical influences in our lives, as the Spirit of Christ convicts these truths to our hearts!

Fruitfully,
Charl

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Christ is deeper still!

My friend Josh sent me this piece in a mail tonight, after we had been talking about … well, basically living the Gospel and finding ones identity in Christ alone. I will noly post the link to the site where the article comes from. But do yourself a big favour and read it, it’s very much along the lines of what we have been talking about of late (also over at Tyrell’s blog).

Here the link: http://christisdeeperstill.blogspot.com/2008/07/reformed-sociology.html

Be blessed and stay tuned, there will be more about this.

because of our compassionate God.

Thomas

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Test #1: Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Walking in the light and walking in the dark

3 Tests

We all understand the polemic of light and darkness. We understand that they exclude each other as a concept, and yet, when it comes to our spiritual walk, we seem to suggest that you can have both at the same time. To this, John has something to say.

I want to show, from 1 John 1, 3 tests for you to take, so that you can see whether you are walking in the light “as he is in the light”, or whether you are walking in darkness.

Often we define darkness over the absence of light. In 1 John 1:5 the Apostle John gives us a, somewhat surprising, summary of the message he heard from Jesus during his time on earth: “God is light, and in Him is darkness at all”. So, if God is light and you walk in darkness you are walking without God. That is a very serious issue. My concern is that many “christians” are walking without God, some permanently, others temporarily. I hope that you will take those three tests honestly and earnestly for yourself.

Today i will bring you the first of the 3 tests:

Test #1Are you pursuing fellowship with God and other believers?

Note with me how John in verse 6-7 shows two sides of this: in verse 6 he shows the person walking in darkness and in verse 7 the one walking in light.

The darkness walker:

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
(1Jo 1:6)

The darkness walker is lying with his life to others. If you are there, you are saying one thing (namely that you have fellowship with Jesus) but your life (your walk) disproves your words.

A recent poll revealed that about 80% of “unbelievers” (those that would term themselves as such) would summarize Christians with one word: hypocrites. A hypocrite is one that says one thing but does another. They are the “submarine Christians”, the one going under during the week just to surface again on Sunday. That’s walking in darkness. That’s lying to others about your life.

Some questions to expose such a walk:

  • Is your Sunday behaviour different from that during the week?
  • Do you tend to be a “lone ranger”, avoiding fellowship with unbelievers?
  • Do you hate and refuse accountability (“who are you to talk to me”)?
  • When speaking to other believers is your life always “fine”?
  • When you sinned, are you sharing it with someone else, or are you hiding it away?
  • Do you love the fellowship when the fellowship is there, but love your sin when the sin is there?

You cannot call yourself a child of God and remain walking in darkness. It is impossible, for the mere fact of verse 5, namely that God is light.

If you remain walking in this way you are like a Pharisee, and Jesus had much to say about them:

“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Mat 15:3-9)

Does this describe you? If it does then pull all the stops, call off your whole life, go down on your knees and beg God for forgiveness. Repent from it and turn away.

The light walker:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1Jo 1:7)

Instead of running away from accountability and fellowship, this person is running towards it.

If you are such a person your Christianity is transparent and genuine. You are real and open, for everybody to read. You are walking your talk. Your lifestyle matches your doctrine. Your Sunday behaviour is nothing different from what the rest of the week is.

Some questions that speak of such a walk:

  • Do you love the fellowship and hate your sin so much that you would do anything just to get rid of it?
  • Do you love other believers and want to be around them all the time?
  • Do you pursue accountability?
  • Do you love the Word, the Bible, for its candor about you and it’s direction?
  • Are you being “cut to the bone” by it, or has it become bland?
  • Are you looking towards Christ for help and forgiveness in your sins?

The direction of the dark person was away from the light, away from accountability and fellowship. The light person has the opposite direction, namely:

“But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”
(Joh 3:21)

You want to be “clearly seen”, you hate the masks and hypocrisies that come so easy for us. Do don’t walk in obscurity, somewhere in between chairs.

Remedies

Here are some practical ways how you can counter your darkness walking:

  • Pray: pray to God for light and a new desire. Ask Him to change your heart and open it up for correction. Only God can do such an operation.
  • Seek accountability: If you have strong Christian friends (or somebody you know) then ask them (or him/her) to hold you accountable. If you are a guy, choose a guy, it’s just a wiser way to do it because you will be able to share with inhibition or causing a sister to stumble. Girls should seek accountability with other girls, of course.
  • Pursue God: If you don’t have a quite time during your day, in which you spend time alone with God, make time for it. Don’t just make 5 minutes either, make it a time worth spending. You need a relationship with the one you proclaim again.
  • Spend much time in God’s Word, let it minister to your soul and seek Him in it.
  • Pursue fellow believers: if you are not in a discipleship relationship, find the most admirable believer and ask him if you can spend time with him/her. Think about becoming the person to disciple another, how must your life change for that be light and not darkness?

If you have more suggestions please make use of the comments section, i would live to hear more (as i am still learning here myself. I am still in need of this myself!)

Next time we will have a look at the second test: “Is your life marked by repentance?”

Keep walking in the light!

in Him.

t

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One Spirit, One baptism

I recently did some study on the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and was quite challenged by the emphasis on UNITY that seemed so prevalent. I though it was somewhat ironic since the Holy Spirit is often a more divisive topic than unifying topic in current ‘Christianity’. What follows below is a part of my study and focuses singularly on the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and its effect on the local church.

Although the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been interpreted and explained in a variety of, often contradictory, ways, the Bible makes enough specific reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit to form an accurate understanding of what it is and what it means in the life of a believer. The primary questions that need to be answered are: “Who have and have not experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” and “What happens to the person during the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” First of all, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a current reality in the New Testament church. If 1 Corinthians 12:13 is viewed as the primary passage on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then it is clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a current reality for every believer living after the day of Pentecost (John Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, 139). By stating that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a current reality for every believer implies that every believer has already been baptized by the Holy Spirit and that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an event that occurs some time after salvation as a second and more profound endowment of the Holy Spirit. Although the Corinthian church was engrossed in many sins of disunity, immorality and worldliness, Paul reminds them in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that they still are those who are in the body of Christ because of their baptism by the Holy Spirit. This is also what might be behind Paul’s thinking when he writes to the Ephesian church and states in chapter 4:5 that every believer is characterized by one baptism. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is therefore not something that is only true of a ‘holier’ subset of believers, but is true for every regenerate person. Although the Holy Spirit purifies the believers on an ongoing basis by His indwelling and filling, the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs in the context of conversion and justification, and not of sanctification. Walvoord points out that the Bible never teaches that the baptism of the Holy Spirit needs to be sought after and pursued as should daily spiritual growth and sanctification (Walvoord, p. 140).

Secondly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the means by which a believer is placed in the body of Christ. Romans 5:12 makes the claim that all believers are “one body in Christ”. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 argues that we are one body because of our participation in Christ – we are Christ’s body (12:27). And it is all because of the baptism of Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 states that all believers are “baptized into one body”. As such, the Holy Spirit brings unity to an otherwise very diverse community of individuals. “Before salvation the individual was in Adam … [but in] salvation, the believer is removed from his position in Adam, and he is placed in Christ.” (Walvoord, p. 141) The baptism of the Holy Spirit then, is primarily identification with Christ. This fits in well with the rest of the New Testament’s teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual baptism is the very thrust of Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6:1-4 for all believers to strive against sin.

A Biblical and workable definition for the baptism of the Holy Spirit can therefore be formulated as follows: The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the means of permanently placing every believer into the body of Christ by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion and as such is a partaker of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But, where does UNITY tie in with all of this?

In the New Testament churches unity was often disrupted based on Jewish or Gentile ethnicity. Darrell Bock argues from Acts 11:16 that if the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Jews did, then the Gentiles are part of the same body of Christ, and as such, there should be no more division based on their ethnicity. He shows that the Holy Spirit was the unifying factor for the inclusion of Gentiles as the people of God (Darell Bock, Acts BECNT, 409). In Ephesians 2 Paul argues that the dividing wall between the people of Israel and the Gentiles is now broken down. The reason for the removal of division is given in verse 18: “for through Him we both [Israelite and Gentile] have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” As such, the various groups in the church in Ephesus were exhorted in chapter 4:3 to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Church unity therefore, is the unity that pertains to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the key to the unity and [is] integral to a harmonious diversity.”(Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life, 220) This unity is not only between individuals and God, but the “union by the Spirit … brings us into relationship … to one another as Christ’s body.”(Cole, p. 241) This unity is of a very unique nature. Nowhere in Scripture does unity have the extent and significance as it does in the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit’s work at the day of Pentecost created a community of believers which was “marked by unprecedented unity.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 646) Stressing the unifying emphasis of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Walvoord defines the baptism of the Holy Spirit in these words: “baptism is, then, the work of the Holy Spirit forming and adding to the living unity of the church.” ( Walvoord, p. 141)

A quick scan through the New Testament regarding the relationship between the unity of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit yields the following significant terms. 2 Corinthians 13:14 talks about the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that extends to all in the church; Ephesians 4:3 exhorts all believers to preserve the unity of the Spirit; and Galatians 5:20 mentions some of the fruit of the flesh which includes divisions and factions that are diametrically opposed to being led by the Spirit and exhibiting the peace of the Spirit when walking and living in the Spirit (verses 18-26).

The emphasis of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is therefore the unity of the body of Christ and not a more-spiritual state or more prolific exercise of the spiritual gifts.

So why does the topic of the Holy Spirit and the discussion of spiritual gifts bring more division than unity in the body of Christ? I dare say it is because of an inaccurately and unBiblical understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. When personal desires and motives cloud or even re-interpret the Biblical revelation of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, then the disruptive works of the flesh will show itself in our churches and lives. When practises rightly, spiritual gifts will bring each member in the body to a greater, not lesser unity. Do your activities in the church encourage unity or disunity?

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