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

“In Christ Alone”

“In Christ Alone”

#hymnsforHim

This will be the first hymn I have done this year that isn’t a traditional hymn, and more of a modern hymn. I haven’t done one yet to drive a point home! So many Christians now-a-days think that traditional, older hymns are boring – or out-of-date. But they are so beautiful, so well thought out, and so deep. Praise and worship songs are, in many ways, today’s answer to a new style. However, I want to be purposeful in showcasing the older hymns. So, let’s look at “In Christ Alone.”

 

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

 

One of the reasons I like this song so much is that it again speaks as a sermon in, and of, itself. That is the beauty of hymns, when written expertly, speak to a deeper truth than the words themselves. When we sing hymns, or songs, often times we simply follow the tune and rhythm. A good song follows a story, it draws you into it’s truth. A good hymn speaks words of truth – of the Truth. In Christ Alone brings us along through the life of Christ, the One who came to take away our sins!

Throughout the entire song we hear the words of the title, “in Christ alone.” It is a mantra reminding us what the foundation of our faith is. It isn’t our work. It isn’t our repentance. Not our prayers, or desires. It isn’t how good – or bad – we are. It isn’t us working along with God. It is not some kind of cooperative work that gets our salvation worked out. No – it is in Christ alone. In Him alone do we find the power. The imagery is biblical, the words emotive – it brings a little more light to the awesome might, and amazing Will of our Lord and Savior.

I am a bit of a theology nerd (Adam 4D: theology nerd) and this song touches on a number of profound theological truths that you may not register at first. Historically, the Truths that we take as obvious about Christ and the faith have not always been so. For instance, the Truth that Christ was 100% God, and yet 100% man was settled, in part, during the Council of Ephesus (431AD). “Christ, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe…” It is this Christ that could die a perfectly sinless life (as 100% God), while also providing the perfect atoning sacrifice for a sinful man (100% human). He was a true gift of Love, and pure righteousness. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” Many read this to be an emphatic expression of God’s care for the world. I think it can be more explicitly read as “in this way, God showed His love for the world, that He gave His one and only Son.” In this way meaning as a man, as a servant, as a perfect example of what God called His people to be. This Jesus took on flesh, to die a perfect absolution for His people – His called people.

And yet… this sacrifice… this willing sacrifice… He was scorned, shamed, hated for His words… hated for His miracles… As another hymn laments, “ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” This was the life He came to lead. He knew what He was getting into – He had seen this day from the inception of all days. Yet, even after all the misdirected hatred, even after the betrayal… after the abandonment of His closest disciples… after the whipping, and the mocking… after the nails… after the excruciating and indescribable pain… After all of that, He never once used a fraction of His power to call down even the smallest legion of angels to rescue Him. He took the sins of His chosen upon Himself… and He exclaimed “it is finished.”

One of my favorite things to do is to connect a text to readers in a way that many may not know. Take the phrase “it is finished” for instance. We read this and think, “yea, it is here that Christ has finished His duty to save us. He is letting those in attendance to His death see that He has finally died.” But no, there is more to that phrase. Remember that this event happened in history. It happened with language – real language – and real people who lived in a real time in history with cultural context. The Greek words used to recall Christ’s final words would have been very common to the reader of the time. They were used on a constant basis in the court room. They described a full payment. A debt was owed, and Jesus just exclaimed that that had been paid in full. Full restitution had been made… Just let that sink in… Christ was literally telling the Gospel. He was the very first to proclaim it! The Good News was proclaimed by that News that the Gospel is speaking of!

But the song, and the history books, don’t end there! The ground could not hold Jesus. Not even close. While His body would be laid there for a time – He bursts forth into a new day, a new dawn! Sin has lost its sting! Sin has lost its grip on the elect of God. It is but a memory. It may always tug at our flesh – but it has no real grip anymore. Christ has now brought in the beginning of the Kingdom of God. We now live in the time of the “already and not yet.” Christ’s reign has begun on earth, but its culmination has not yet come. But we are seeing glimpses. We have His Word recorded – and sustained through His power for millennium! We have the Spirit – Who attests to Him and His work in the world and on the Cross! We have Christ, a risen and living Christ – who intercedes for us at the right hand of God! Honestly, what else do we need??

Now finally… we reach that glorious last verse… If this verse doesn’t shoot right through you in an inexplicable joy, then I don’t know what will!

 

No guilt in life…

No fear in death…

THIS… this… is the power of Christ in me…

From life’s first cry to final breath… Jesus commands

Jesus commands

my destiny

NO power of hell…

NO scheme of man…

Shall EVER pluck me

from His hand…

Until He returns, OR

Calls me home…. HERE

In the power of Christ

I. STAND.

You cannot put this truth into better words. You cannot explain this joy with a better phrasing. You cannot show such power with a better image. Let me finish tonight with a question. It is a question that I must admit I don’t ask myself enough – but it is an important question that should shape our day-to-day lives. Do we live like this is true? Do I live a life that seeks a foundation in Christ alone?

When I wake up to a screaming kid, or a barking dog, do I praise God?

“He is my light, my strength, my song!”

When I am getting ready for my day – whether it be one of work, or one of relaxation, do I preach this gospel to myself?

“And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!” 

When trials assail you from the left and right. When the world piles annoyances, temptations, frustrating coworkers, irritating situations, loud children, and so much more… do I remind myself that God is eternally in control?

“No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand!”

When all seems lost – when we lose that one we love – do we sing the truth of His sacrifice to ourselves, to our friends, to our family?

“Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand!”

Brothers and sisters. This is what we are called to every day. To live each day as for Christ, not for yourself. Not for your boss. Not even for your family. When every day is lived for Christ, then every day is lived to it’s fullest. Amen?