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I’ve Moved to My Own Domain!

 

DECEMBER 2013 – Please join me as I continue my writing and posting journey over at my new website under my own domain name:

http://KarenHancock.com

It’s all still under construction, but much of it is at least in place, if not in final form. I’ve even transferred my subscribers and followers, so if you want to continuing following my blog, but haven’t signed up as a follower please click the link above to get to the new site. And if you’d like to sign up there to receive the new blog in your inbox, there’s a special link in the sidebar to do it.

NOTE: The link I gave above is for the whole website. It’ll take you to my Welcome page. Just click on the “blog” link in the navigation pane above it to get to my blog’s new home.

Thanks and hope to see you there.

Shift From Grace to Legalism

Christian Theology

Note: In yesterday’s post I may have given some the impression that Col Thieme taught that we have to feel sorry for our sins in order to be forgiven. He did not. In fact he taught the exact opposite (which was what I was trying to communicate.) I’ve since revised the murky paragraph to reflect this:

Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken-hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.

Now, on to today’s post.

In the process of all the thinking and researching I’ve been doing on the matter of confession of sins, I came across this quote by Roger E. Olsen in his book The Story of Christian Theology:

“Occasionally these fathers of the generation after the apostles gave the gospel their own unique interpretations that began to turn it away from the great themes of grace and faith so strongly emphasized by Paul and  other apostles and more toward the gospel as a “new law” of God-pleasing conduct and behavior… one senses a distance between the Christianity of the New Testament — especially that of Paul — and that of the apostolic fathers (2nd century). References to Paul and the other apostles frequent (in their works); but in spite of this the new faith becomes more and more a new law, and the doctrine of God’s gracious justification becomes a doctrine of grace that helps us act justly.”*

“Of course this shift was subtle and not absolute. It was a barely but definitely perceptible turn in these second-century Christian writings toward legalism, or what may be better termed “Christian moralism.” Although the apostolic fathers such as Ignatius and Polycarp quoted Paul more than James, it was the latter’s spirit that breathed through them. Perhaps due to a perceived moral and spiritual laziness and decline among Christians, they emphasized the need to avoid sinning, obey leaders and work hard to please God more than the need for liberation from bondage to the law.”

*Roger E. Olsen quoting Justo Gonzalez.

So What Do We DO About Personal Sins?

Rageboy

As I said in my last post, I do not believe that we as believers in Christ can ever reach sinless perfection so long as we’re on this earth in these fallen bodies.  We’re going to sin. The question raised was, what are we to do about it?

Well, first have to recognize that we are sinning, but after that, then what? Well, I am convinced the Bible does not tell us we must go through the ritual of “naming the sin privately to God,”  or “rebound” as I’d been taught for years.

Instead, we simply stop doing the bad and start doing the good. Which is what “repent” means: we “change our mind” with regard to that particular thought process/activity — and then stop doing it. And not just stop, but do something else, instead.

In Ephesians 4 Paul lays it all out… Lay aside the old… put on the new…

Stop walking like the Unbelievers walk, in their old way of thinking…
But renew your mind (Ro 12) with the word of God and think on the truth you’ve learned instead of that old human viewpoint stuff.

Be angry, yet do not sin — that is, sin by holding onto it and replaying it in your mind and getting more and more worked up about it; or even worse becoming bitter… Do not let the sun go down on your anger. That is,

Let it Go!

Stop stealing, and set your hands to productive work so you may have an abundance to share with those in need.

Let all wrath and malice and clamor be put away from you and (instead) be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other because Christ has forgiven you.

Because He’s forgiven us of everything, we should gratefully forgive others of their transgressions against us.  And in fact, it helps me to remember while I’m gnashing my teeth over what someone has done to me, that whatever their sin was against me,  Christ died for it, every bit as much as  He died for my judging or outrage. How can I hold anything against the other person, when my Lord has already paid for that failing and forgiven them? Who am I, to think I can’t?

This shifts the focus of our attention off what we’re doing wrong, and what others are doing wrong, and back to what Christ has done about it. And that brings glory to Him, rather than to ourselves and our little rituals performed to “earn” forgiveness…

Dogs Saying Grace

Well, after all those serious posts about confessing sins, it’s time for something lighter.   How about this video of dogs saying grace?  I’m already working on teaching Quigley this…

For By One Offering…

picture courtesy of La Vista Church of Christ

picture courtesy of La Vista Church of Christ

So I did my word search of “confess” (yadah) in the Old Testament, and as I mentioned in the last post, I did not find what I expected to find. Even when I included “acknowledge” in my search, I still came up with only 20 verses in the entire Old Testament using these words.

Of those 20 verses, less than half (8) referred to confession of sin, and the rest related to making a public declaration of something or someone (eg, a man’s firstborn and heir).

(In contrast “know” is found in 534 verses, “knowledge” in 104, “wisdom” in 154, “truth” in 91 verses,  “sins” 101…)

Since the usage is more or less evenly split between the verbal, public declaration of something, an heir for example,  and the verbal declaration of sins, I don’t see it helping to support the notion that  “confession of personal sins” is the meaning the Apostle John intended to communicate in his letter. If anything, I think it supports the other interpretation, ie, it’s a public declaration of having acknowledged oneself a sinner and believing in Christ.

So ultimately, I don’t think my word search of the OT contributed all that much to answering my question. In fact, it’s reinforced my thought that trying to use Old Testament Hebrew words to understand New Testament Greek words is probably not all that edifying, especially given the fact that as Church Age believers, we live in a new age, with a completely different operating system from what Old Testament did. In fact in some cases Paul had to coin entirely new words, because he lacked the appropriate terms to express what was being revealed to him.

Old Testament saints lived before Jesus came to die for us. For them everything was physical. The Jews saw God in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and in the appearances on Mt. Sinai. They had the physical temple where He lived behind  with the veil in the Holy of Holies. They had the overt and distinct physical, specialized priesthood. They had physical sacrifices and physical cleansing rituals and had to physically confess their sins aloud to the priest to be transferred to the physical animals which they then either watched be slain, or slew themselves. And they had to keep doing that over and over, every year, at least, if not more, as they looked forward to the coming of their king.

Moreover, Heb 10 tells us that

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which [the priests] offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”*

The physical blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. It merely covered them until such time as the One Perfect Sacrifice would arrive. Until that time the Jews had to keep confessing and being cleansed…

“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law),  then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.**

He takes away the first – the LAW —  in order to establish the second – GRACE.

Christ is our sacrifice and He did it once for all. He doesn’t have to keep going back to the Cross. It’s done. And if He doesn’t have to keep going back to the Cross, why would we have to keep on confessing? Confession in the OT was tied to the sacrifice; the Jewish believer confessed his sin to the Priest who transferred it to the animal which was then slain to cover the sin.

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;  but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD…

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.***

That is, US! Believers in the Church age. When we believed in Him, we acknowledged (confessed?) that all our sins were transferred to Him as the sacrificial lamb and paid for by His death, once and for all time on Golgotha…

AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”  Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.****

“Having” our hearts sprinkled clean, not “sprinkling our hearts clean” – He did it, not us. There is no talk here of confessing sins, only…

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering [ELPIS – confident expectation], for He who promised is faithful*****

And look! Here’s another place that shows confession to be a public profession of faith in Christ, of salvation through Christ, NOT confession of sin.

In fact the preceding verses communicate very clearly that we don’t need to do anything related to the OT sacrifices any more, neither confess, nor cleanse ourselves, because we’ve already been forgiven and cleansed when we believed in Christ.

And in light of all this, when I look at 1 John 1:9 now …

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”

…it’s become very clear that it has nothing to do with confessing personal sins and everything to do with the confession of salvation, the confession of being a sinner and believing in Christ.

__

* Hebrews 10:1 – 4

**Heb 10:5a; 10:8,9

***Heb 10:10-14

****Heb 10:17-22

*****Heb 10:23

Surprised by Jesus

Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ

Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ

Awhile back, the weekly WordPress Writing Challenge prompted bloggers to “tell us about a moment when your life was changed in a split second.”

That’s easy. The moment I believed in Jesus Christ.

It happened in August I think, in my twenty-first year, at the beginning of my senior year in college. During my time at the University, I worked in the drafting department of the Steward Observatory, doing hand drawn ink renderings of various charts and graphs that the astronomers needed to accompany their articles in various publications.

I usually had no idea what the charts and graphs meant, but I enjoyed the work and the paycheck. I shared a tiny office with a man old enough to be my father and who was in fact a grandfather.

He was a dyed-in-the-wool Introvert. I like to say I forced him to give me the Gospel.

That was back in the day when I was the rabid evolutionist, hardly surprising given my field of study which was a double major in Wildlife Biology and straight Biology. More than that, ever since the sixth grade I’d thought the theory of evolution was just the coolest thing imaginable. “Look at the way all these creatures line up!  The progression is just obvious to anyone who wants to see!” (they never tell the sixth graders that the data simply does not support the theory, but that’s another matter and maybe another post).

In any case, I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was quite smug about it, as well. Not just about evolution, but about religion in general. I remember telling my mother several years earlier during one of our “religious” discussions (she was just getting into reincarnation) that I didn’t see how religious types could hold to the views they had because clearly no one was really bad enough to deserve going to hell (I lived a somewhat sheltered life) but at the same time, no one was good enough to go to heaven, either.

I had it all figured out, yes, indeed.

Well, that particular summer, when I worked in the Steward Observatory Drafting Department, I conceived the notion that I would reconcile the Bible’s account of “Creation” with evolution. Right off I discovered where the Bible went astray — it had God creating the plants before there was any sun!  How could plants live without light from the sun. See? Ridiculous!

I spent a lot of time going on about all this with my associate, whose  name was Dave. He bore with me patiently, mostly just asking questions — I don’t recall any arguing — but later he told me that we could talk about God and the Bible and creation and evolution and the church and so forth but the moment he mentioned Jesus Christ it was like the cookie jar lid slammed shut and there would be no more discussion.

Even so, I kept reading the Bible, using one of the study booklets he gave me. It made no sense to me. I would read the stuff, but it was just… inscrutable.  Still, I felt as if there was something there, and kept with it. It was weird.

I also read The Exorcist and in the middle of reading it one warm windless day (we had no air conditioning or even swamp cooler so the windows were open) I came to a really creepy part involving demons and suddenly, in perfect timing to what I was reading, a cool wind rushed through the window.  It totally creeped me out and I wondered if maybe there really were demons.

Then I read the biography of Maria Von Trapp, and was especially struck by her depiction of the power of the Holy Spirit at one of the church meetings she’d attended later in life, after she’d become born again. I thought it was cool, but didn’t really know what to make of it…

Then, about two weeks before my fateful appointment with Jesus I was confronted by a strange guy on the steps of the UA Student Union. He was friendly, if a little weird, had a clipboard, asked me if I was satisfied with my life and myself, and if not, would I like to take a personality to test to find out how I might improve things? He reminded me of those cartoon people with the spiraling circles in their eyes.  Even so I thought the personality test might be fun.

He made an appointment for me to take my test in the Scientology building which was not far from where we were on a different day. It was a written multiple choice test that asked me the same basic questions repeatedly in slightly different guises.

In the end, the test showed me to be somewhat critical of other people. He asked me if I thought it  a fair assessment, and I did. Then he asked me if I’d like to fix that, and I said, “And I suppose now you’re going to tell me Scientology will help me do that?” He seemed surprised by my question, but yes. That was exactly the deal. For a price his organization would make my life wonderful.

Yeah, right.

I wanted none of it and left.  It was my first and thankfully last experience with Scientology.

I went back to peppering my friend Dave with my questions about religion and Christianity. Finally he told me he felt inadequate to answer all my questions, but he had a friend who could. Would I like to come over to his house after work to visit with him and his wife Daisy and their friend Orville?

For some reason I said yes.

When the day came, I remember clearly thinking as I locked the door to my house that “they think they’re going to convert me, but they’re wrong. There’s no way they can prove which view (evolution vs creation) is right or wrong.” I recall feeling quite smug and even amused.

Well, the meeting went down as advertised. Dave and Daisy opened their home, provided snacks and drinks and participated in the discussion, though primarily it was Orville and me. I don’t even recall evolution coming up. I do recall asking all sorts of questions (like what about the people who have never heard about Jesus?) and for every one Orville would send me to a scripture which I would dutifully read and have NO idea how it correlated with the question! But I would nod as if I did, and he would go on and show me another and another… and I was clueless.

I lived, first hand, the experience of the natural-minded man (in my case young woman) who “cannot understand the things of the Spirit for they are foolishness (incomprehensible gibberish) to him.” (I Co 2:16)

And then somehow they got around to the fact that I was a sinner — a fact I struggled with — I had no idea what sin even was and I saw myself as a goody two shoes — despite the earlier encounter with the Scientologist and his assessment of my judgmental mindset. I never once thought that might be a “sin.” Nevertheless I knew I wasn’t perfect, so … maybe I was a sinner… And as such, I needed a Savior who was  Jesus Christ, the son of God who died for me and rose again. All I needed to do was believe it.

About that time Daisy, who had earlier left the room, returned with the news that she’d called her daughter and family and that all of them were praying for me.

And then… the weirdest thing. In an instant I saw Him in my mind. Just a sense. A picture, not anything I’d call a vision, but a mental image of Him coming up over a hill toward me. And suddenly I knew He was REAL and I wanted to know Him. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to accomplish that.

If they wanted me to pray the sinner’s prayer, I’d pray it. Which I did, admitting I was a sinner, even though I had no clue what it was. Believing that He was my savior, probably asking Him to come into my life (even though clearly He already had).

I went home a changed person. I prayed that same prayer two more times that night, because I wanted to be sure “it took”. And from then on, I couldn’t get enough of the Word. I went to all the church gatherings every week (except the door to door witnessing night… that was much too far out of my comfort zone at the time) I told my mother and my sister and my roommate about Jesus. My sister and my roommate also believed in Him and were baptized  when I was (Dave and his friends attended a Baptist Church, so that’s the one I went to). My mother came to church a few times, but later grew angry and wondered what “that church” had given me to make me so weird.

I told my boyfriend of two or so years about my salvation and urged him to believe in Christ as well. He regarded me with a sad air of condescension and assured me it was a passing phase I would soon be over. No, it turned out that our relationship was a phase that would soon be over. Like that same night.

I went to a weekly Monday night Bible study with my roommate and not long after a new boyfriend (who  later became my husband) which Orville taught for new believers. It included a memory verse program oriented around key doctrines of salvation, Jesus as God and 1 John 1:9. He also taught the college students class on Sunday Mornings using Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Major Bible Themes as a textbook. (I still have it in my library).

In addition to Monday evening and Sunday morning, we also attended Wednesday evening and Sunday evening. My roommate and I sang in the choir.

As for my dedication to the theory of evolution, it was thrown out faster than my old boyfriend. From then on the Word of God was my standard and even if I couldn’t explain just yet why evolution was wrong, I knew that it was, because the Bible said so.

I had one friend (another Biology major) write me specifically about this matter and that’s what I told her. She thought I was a flake, I’m sure. I know now why it is wrong, of course, and can explain its flaws at length (and have done so on this blog.)

I also believe that it’s not the theory that defends itself in its proponents’ eyes, it’s the attitude of the proponent in desiring an “explanation” for everything that doesn’t include God that powers their belief in it.  I’ve read their statements purporting as much.

Anyway, that’s the day that changed my life literally forever.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” ~Acts 16:31

Fingers of God

tornado funnels

I am sort of a weather junkie and in the course of following the tornado outbreak in Oklahoma last Friday came across this video showing multi-vortices in the tornado. They form within minutes as you can see, come down, touch the ground, then dissipate. Watching it made me think of the fingers of God… how they can come down and touch something spot on… not random, but, as with all else under His wise and loving control.

The story that broke today about the three very experienced weather chasers who were killed on the same day and in the same area where this tornado was filmed, just reinforced the fact that none of us can ever have all the bases covered when it comes to knowing what’s going to happen. Two of the three men were renowned among the meteorological community, having appeared in Discovery Channel and National Geographic presentations on their work.

Tim Samaras worked out of Colorado and his first interest was research —  getting information needed to figure out how tornadoes are formed and behaved. Colleagues described him as “a veteran researcher not a thrill seeker” and a stickler for safety above all else. Yet even he, after 30 years of tracking tornadoes, found himself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently he and his team were  heading east on a side road along I-40 following the El Reno tornado some ways to the south as it plowed eastward  as well, following a straight track as it did so. Then suddenly it took a sharp turn northward  to I-40 itself, then it jogged east again to follow the interstate. When that happens the tornado can strengthen in power and size and, as one colleague put it, “you find yourself part of the tornado” and there’s no way to avoid it.

Anyway, to see Funnels Drop from Cloud near El Reno click on the link below:

http://bcove.me/nspje3up


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