Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/06/07/christian-whats-point/

I feel like the Christian could just deflect and ask this person to be fair and look at the other faiths and ask the same thing. But, as a Christian, I believe that ultimately Truth comes from God, and I believe that the God of the Christian Scriptures is the One that doles out that Truth. SO, we should be held to a higher accountability. So I won’t ask that. (Not really at least, I do understand I technically asked it a second ago!)
What I will do is attempt to offer some answers, the answers that my specific life lives when rubbing up against the specific lives of others. 


Christian…
My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus, His life – death – resurrection and promise to return again at the appropriate (in His eyes) time. It’s not (necessarily) built on tradition, though it IS informed by it. Christ is my lynchpin of faith, for without Him my faith is foolishness and I, above others, should be pitied for my confusion. 
My hope is built upon a Word that has been tried and tested and has been found to be a strong foundation. It is a Word written by man, carried along in the Spirit. It has been saved from corruption, in its original manuscript. It tells the story of a real people. It tells that story using human literary style (poem, exposition, narration, genealogy, letter, proverb, songs, metaphor, etc) and all of it relative to its cultural context. 
I believe that this faith, juxtaposed and related to ALL others shows full Truth. Weighing the veracity of the world’s faiths I believe that this one, which centers on not what we can do for us, but what Christ has already completed on our behalf is a much more beautiful picture of salvation. We are not on a scale that weighs our good and bad throughout life, and where we fall at the end will determine an outcome of some sort (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – to the degree that it is a religion and not a philosophy – and so many others). It’s not the worship of elemental or natural gods like the many, many historical (and modern) pagans of Ancient Greece, Rome, Celts, Cherokee, Canaanites, Japanese, etc). 

I worship the Triune God of all things. The preexisting One. The Creator, Sustainer, and Consummator of all creation from the past to now and into eternity. He is not stars or earth, because He made them. He is not the thunder or rain because He controls them. He is not turned away (ultimately) because you do more good things (in His eyes) than bad throughout your life. He is not found in intense meditation. Or in the ramblings of vain preachers. He isn’t found in the darkness, because He is light, and in Him is no darkness (or variation) at all. 
This Triune God is the epitome of relationship. As He has had a perfect relationship within Himself since far before the dawn of creation, He continues it to this day, and He will maintain it unto eternity. This relationship was to be displayed in His ultimate creation and reflection of His character – man. Man is the image bearer of this True God. 

That image was marred in our first sin. Because sin, and fallenness, is real. It isn’t a tool to control. It isn’t a lie to control. It isn’t self deprecating to feel somehow good about ourselves. It also isn’t manmade to push down and oppress certain people. It is established  in Scriptures, can be seen (through that light) in the areas of science, and is pretty obvious if you’ve ever had kids or interacted with human beings at all. Sin broke the connection, which leads us back to Christ’s sufficiency and the hope we trust in. 
Finally, I believe in the tradition of historical, orthodox, and reformed Christianity. Founded in OT & NT. Perfected in Christ and His actions. Continued by the apostolic church. Preserved in the canon until the Reformation. Brought along in the Spirit to prevent bastardization from original manuscripts. Translated overtime to come to us in English. My faith is reformed, and ever reforming. It find Truth in the God of Scripture alone, in the power of Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone, and only to glorify the Triune God alone. 


What’s your point…?

What’s my point? What’s my point for prefacing a response with that? Well, in a broken world with many false narratives – I wanted to establish where I came from. Where I came from helps explain where my live intersects others. 
Those above listed points, Mr. Pavlovitz, lead me to three main life choices (lead, bring me to, allow me the freedom, oblige me). 


1. Treat all mankind as image bearers of the God they may or may not know. 

Every man, woman, and child I come in contact with bears the image of our Creator.  They may not know Him. They may hate Him. They may hate His Church. They may hate me. That doesn’t change the fact that we are called to treat them with respect and love them as our neighbor. As an image bearer they deserve respect. They deserve love. But they also deserve Truth. 

Do I do this perfectly? Well… no. Of course not. But my life that I live is reflecting this desire more everyday. I curse people sometimes, or curse at them. I engage in gossip and other things. And when I do, I tear into that image. It doesn’t make the rest of my life worthless as a Christian, just shows that I am still growing. 

My desire to treat everyone in love and care, and in Truth, I hope, shows up in everything I do. If I can live a specific life that reflects this Truth into others’ specific lives, I’m on the right path. 
2. Treat sin as sin. But do so with care, compassion, relationship, and distinction

Calling a spade a spade. If it quacks and walks like a duck, it must be a duck. Call it as you see it. All these adages fall apart somewhere, but they have a bit of truth too. As Christians we know that the whole world is fallen. From myself, to my family, the church members, to nature itself. It is all perverted. Something just isn’t right with everything. That thing is sin. It pervades every inch of creation. It is why we lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit sinful sexual acts, covet what we don’t have, and seek to usurp the Creator from His rightful place. 

Now, I could Bible thump. As many have before me. I could tell you how terrible you are, and how much you need a savior – mine in particular. But that violates the first thing I mentioned. I, you, we are image bearers of the aforementioned Triune God. He is in constant relationship. So, when He speaks, He speaks out of a place of relation and connection. 

If I want to have any shot of sharing my relationship with Christ with you I need to begin by having a relationship with you. How can I expect you to even begin listening to me in your troubled times, or jubilant times if I haven’t invested in creating a real relationship with you?? If I don’t, then yes, I will be bible thumping. I will be criticizing. I will be, honestly, hating you. And it is not ours to hate. 

As a Christian I am to love. Love everyone. Love my brothers and sisters, in Christ. But that’s just the thing. I love you in Christ. As Christ loved. And eventually. When we have a true, loving, deep relationship – I love like the woman at the well felt love. A love that stings, but like when you pour alcohol on a wound. It stings because the healing has begun. I am not the One who heals, but I may be the only Christ you see. So I will be damn sure that you see Him in His beauty, radiance, love, Truth, and justice. 
3. Trust that God is in control of our lives. 

I do not change your heart, for I did not change mine (remember the grace and faith alone). As an omniscient and omnipotent God, He alone changes hearts. Those who He called will hear His voice. I should be so lucky to be a part of that journey. But in the end it is my job to simply display His truth in my life. 

You can hate or love me. But ultimately God will judge me. You will find that to be true too someday. But I pray that my relationship with you will cause you pause. Will cause you to ask me why I act the way I do. Will cause you to call me out when I act in opposition to the faith I proport to have. God is in control, I will not “bring you to faith.” But I pray that my actions, my words, my life will cause you to want to know more. 

More about this faith that is different from the media portrayed Christians. Different from the big time names who seem to glimmer but fade at the same time. Different from the way you were taught to see Christians. Different from other faiths. And I will tell you about this Jesus who I cling to for my life. 

This post is like scratching the surface of my faith in an eternal God who wants to know you, and maybe it piques your interest to just hear more of what I think or have to say. Maybe you write it off as just another regurgitation of “what I’ve been told.” Or maybe you agree with me but couldn’t formulate the words. Maybe you have different thoughts all together. In any case, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading, and I hope it wasn’t too terrible to get through! 

Blessings,

David

Identity in Christ (GARPY pt2)

“Every word and deed as the salt and light”

Matthew 5:13-16 & Colossians 3:1-17

If you remember what I said that we would build upon this week awesome! You’re better than me! If you didn’t, no harm – no foul! 

We spoke last week about identity in Christ – same as you have been for almost a year! But, as I do, i  asked you to push deeper. It’s not just a relationship with Christ, it’s not just doing good things. It’s the why behind it… It’s identifying actual behaviors that shine Christ’s light to the world. We are His hands and feet. We are the salt and the light in this world. 
Let’s look up two passages: Matthew 5:13-16 and Colossians 3:1-17. One short one long. I want us to look at how to live with identity in Christ to be a light in the world, and how living with identity in Christ should light up our own world. 
Two questions were brought up that go hand in hand: 

  • How do we teach others of the error of their ways without coming off as rude or making them further from God?
  • How do we show Christ to some of our best friends who “believe”but aren’t living it?

Guys. Some serious questions. Some great questions. This is exactly what I was talking about last week. They can be combined, I think, into one overarching question:

  • How do we show Christ to a world that is filled with Christians, lukewarm Christians, and nonbelievers (all our friends/family) – while maintaining an attitude of humility?

This is not easy to answer. Nor is it easy to do. But, remember it isn’t us that works – it is God through us. This is heavy material. I’m not going to lie, this is tough to wade through. This is day in and day out – uphill battle kind of stuff. How do you act like Christ, without allowing your sinful flesh to make it come across as high and mighty? How do you daily battle your flesh while striving to be the salt of the earth, and light of the world? Let me first just say, I don’t have all the answers. I want to present what I feel is Scripture’s take on the issue. I’ll also admit that I am a sinful wretched man – but to go back to Scripture quickly:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2

 Romans 7:24-8:2

That is the message we need to cling to. That is why we can push forward everyday and seek to be salt and light. In my bible, I write things that I hear that I want to remember- one day I’ll have to collect them as to not lose them… But here is something that Garison once said:
When in Christ, and I am laid low by my brokenness, and we are undone… Christ speaks a better Word.

So, to move into Matthew’s passage in regards to the questions: we can present the gospel as salt and light. We get our saltiness, we get our light from Christ within. We do not find power in ourselves. It isn’t a glorious light hiding within ourselves as Disney and Hollywood tells us. And that’s what we need to relay to our friends. When they see us rejoice may they see our joy stem from Christ’s work in our lives. We we are laid low in brokenness, let us remember that Christ speaks a better word. He tells us that we have an advocate with the Father in Him. How amazing is that?? Then, we can bring that glorious Truth to our friends. So, as the salt and the light of this world we present the Gospel to wayward friends the same we do to anyone – but turning them to the One who made us the way we are.
Now that idea is all well and good, but how do we do that? I mean, daily life is literally lined with pitfalls and landmines of sin. We only need to look in ANY direction to see a way we can screw up. Whether it is by commission of sin, or omission of good to do in His name – it’s everywhere. This is where Paul’s writing to the Colossians comes in. Let’s read this again, quickly, and split it up. We will talk through each section separately.
1-4

If we can truly say Christ is our savior/redeemer then we need to be actively seeking His things! Not our things. Not things of this world that entice us! We need to realize that full contentment only comes through Him. And that isn’t easy. Because of the things in verses 5-9

5-9

Welcome to what will plague you the rest of your life. It’s Wednesday. It was a school day. Who can say they haven’t already done at least two of those things. Immorality. Lying. Anger. Cheating. Yea. We are all guilty. In just one day. I am guilty. This is something we want to push off though. I’m not that bad. I’m not as bad as that one guy I know, that one girl I know. I didn’t actively hurt someone today! But that’s the problem with sin. Someone is always hurt. God. And worse still is that if people knew what we did in secret. If they knew what we said. What we did. They would be hurt too. Never downplay sin. But the beauty of our “identity in Christ” comes next in the passage.

10-14

 We have been given these things to clothe ourselves in. And we must. We just simply must. God knows our hearts. He knows that we will sin. But He graciously gives us a new self, one with humility. With compassion. A new heart for Him and His ways! He gives us forgiveness. But most glorious of all. He gives us love. Love that binds all the other gifts together. So we have that sin that tears at us. When we are alone that sin eats away at us. Allow God’s grace to fill us. Allow His forgiveness to stop us in our tracks before the sin wins. When we are confronted by sin in our friends and family, allow compassion and humility to reign. Those pieces of Christ in us can shine brighter than anything we can say or do just to be nice. We need to bring them Christ guys. Give ’em Christ.

15-17

And be thankful. I love how that is a sentence in itself. It isn’t an after thought of another verse. It isn’t leading to another thought. Paul’s just like, and be thankful. As Tim Keller once said (I’m paraphrasing), “Cheer up, you’re worse than you think, than you ever dare admit or even believe. But the good news is that you are more loved in Christ and more accepted than you could ever imagine or hope.”

This passage relates back to the questions the strongest in the last section: whatever we do, in our words or in how we act, do it ALL in Christ’s name – thanking the Father through His Son. How do we share Christ with our downtrodden friends and family? Through our words and actions constantly pointing to Christ – giving thanks to the Father through His Son and His actions in our lives. But then how do we share Christ to the wayward Christian friend or family, far from Christ in their living and speaking. Through our words and actions constantly pointing to Christ – giving thanks to the Father through His Son and His actions in our lives.
But how? What do we do daily that points to Christ? Give me some examples! I’ll give some of mine, too:

  • Speak Scripture in times of joy and times of pain (so LEARN scripture- utilize the app Verses to memorize it)
  • Sing hymns and spiritual songs when you are with those friends who are wayward
  • Prayer. Pray for them, pray with them during the good and bad. Imagine that witness??
  • Invite them to church. Continuously. Don’t give up because they said no 100x.
  • Invite them to dinner, immerse them in Christ acting through your family
  • Invite them to retreats. Offer to pay to get them there.
  • Sneak little notes into their lockers with a candy letting them know you are praying.
  • Create a bible study and invite people of all kinds (close friends, acquaintances, weirdos no one talks to)

The list could be endless. But the The list could be endless. But the fact is we need to be doing something. Actually the fact is everything we do, whether we actively try to or not impacts our Gospel message in the world positively or negatively. Rev. Miller once said:
Everything is preparation of the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the Gospel.
Everything. EVERYTHING. Think about that … That puts in in perspective doesn’t it? If everything we do is inundated in Gospel then we need to be careful and cognizant. If we aren’t, then Christ can be slandered. That isn’t to frighten you – though it very well could!! – it is to encourage you!! Every day. Every breath is another chance to breathe the Truth of God into this world. I’d love to hear some examples that you can think of that allow you to prepare the Gospel, present the Gospel, or participate in the Gospel on a daily basis, and again, I’ll share some:

  • Wake up each morning and pray
  • Wake up each morning and go to the Word before Facebook or email
  • Download the Echo Prayer app and set a prayer rhythm
  • Download the Verses app and tackle memorizing a book of the Bible
  • Go to a Christian book store and pick up a devo on a book of the Bible
  • Use the ESV Bible app’s daily devotions. There are a ton of free ones. Just not as indepth 

Again, possibilities are endless and they allow your individuality to shine through. But let’s do something together. We all have smart phones right – and if you don’t, then parents do. If you are ok with spending $5 let’s all use the Verses app to learn Scripture together and challenge each other. Then I challenge you to get your parents involved. I truly feel that learning Scripture can really lead to a stronger faith. Sounds silly right. But how many songs do you have memorized? Or movie quotes? Or other trivial things? Sports stats? Super hero stories? Idk…. Hair braiding techniques… I’m not a girl… But then how many bible verses do you know… Ancient Jews used to memorize THE ENTIRE PENTATUECH. All of the first five books of our bibles. All of it. Every Jew. The smart ones went on to memorize THE ENTIRE TORAH. Like seriously. We can’t memorize a couple verses? Pshhh…
Let’s end tonight with this: 
Christ died for us. He bled. He died. But He rose again. Death could not hold Him. He wants to live in us – He wants to bring us into Him. We find full, true identity in Christ. Identity to be free of the shackles of this world. Identity to stand apart and preach light to those around us – our friends and family. Identity to remind ourselves that when we do sin we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ His Son, He is the propitiation of our sins. Let’s take this summer for Christ. Let’s not let the lazy summer concept take over – I know school will be over, but every day is another gift of God and the best way to take that gift is to turn around and give it to the world.