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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Eternal Life in the Present

Today’s word comes from my church this morning. The pastor spoke from John 3:16-21 and made several eye-opening points, but I want to focus on a few questions he presented.

He started off with this: “Why are you a Christian?” As in, do you know your motivation or payoff for being a Christian. Why do you bother doing what you do? What do you get out of it? Everyone has a reason even if it’s just because they enjoy feeling like a good person (which, by the way, is not what being a Christian is about).

In verse 16, John says Jesus gives us eternal life; that’s our undeserved, unmerited reward. Eternal life could mean to you a future in heaven, but the popular thing to say in recent years has been that eternal life means life in the present. We have life in the full now. The pastor told us not to discredit this belief just because of its popularity. He believes this is what John meant, and it follows with what Jesus taught. John records Jesus praying, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent” (John 17:3).

This distinction becomes more important when related to how you live. The pastor gave us two more questions: “Will you go to heaven?” and “Will you have full life (eternal life) today?” These do not ask the same thing. If your motivation as a Christian is just heaven, you will ask if you’re headed to heaven when you’re wondering how to live. You might ask, “Can I ignore that dirty man on the street with a cardboard sign and still go to heaven?” God forgives, so you should be fine. Walk by and don’t worry about it. Your future is secure. The same goes with giving into temptations. Lying, over drinking, looking at porn, what do they matter on the grand scheme as long as Christ has you covered?

On the other hand, what if you want life right now the way God intended for you? Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” Abundant life sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Can you get it living however your sin desires? Will passing the man on the street and getting wasted on the weekends give you a full life? Now there’s a question that comes with a challenge.

If you call yourself a Christian and only have heaven in mind, you’re missing out on real treasure in the meantime. “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Don’t be the walking dead. Live seeking eternal life in God right here, right now.

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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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God in the Second Person

My Christian Theology class discussed today an interesting book called A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. With only 41 pages, it truly is “little,” barely long enough to count as a book. Quick readers could finish it in under an hour. It’s worth the hour.

The book warns theology students of various dangers that can come about from theology study. Thielicke was a German professor who used this as an introduction reading for his classes to guard against what he calls theological “puberty.”

For the sake of time and space, I’ll touch only one of his many valuable points. He expresses a fear of slipping into thought of God in the third person. Instead of studying theology to know God personally, it’s easy to distance yourself and read the Bible without remembering it was written to you. The first time the Bible records someone speaking of God in the third person is when the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say?” And we all know where that led.

“In contrast with this, the crucified Jesus, out of the uttermost darkness of abandonment by God, does not speak to men, does not complain about this God who has abandoned Him,” Thielicke says. “He speaks to Him at this very moment — in the second person. He addresses Him as My God and even expresses His complaint in a word of God, so that as it were the circuit between Him and the Father is complete.”

When we have trouble in our lives, do we first ask, “Why is God doing this?” or, “God, why are you doing this?” Jesus turned first to God, and so should we. I’ve often prayed before reading this little book that God would not let me slip into that pattern of thinking. I don’t want to think about God. Why should I when I can speak with Him personally in every moment? That is also my prayer for this blog. My blog isn’t just for friends and strangers to read and leave comments. This is my conversation with you, God.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Books

 

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Theology is a Scary Word

The term “Christian theology” is not as straightforward as I had thought.

My blog’s banner says, “Thinking about faith, publishing and Christian theology.” The “About” page goes into more depth on what that slogan means to the blog, but even there, I assume you know what I mean by “Christian theology.” A bad assumption.

Spring semester classes just entered their second week at my university. I am particularly excited about this semester because my classes cover all the fields of my academic interest. There’s a couple major classes in journalism and communications, there’s an English creative writing course, there’s one with a practical focus on the work of the Church, and then I have Christian Theology. Yes, it’s a class.

Now the first thing we addressed (besides, you know, the class syllabus) was what “theology” means and how people react to it. If you bring up theology in conversation, some people give you a blank stare before asking why you are talking about rocks. Then, you have to politely repeat for them, “I said theology, not geology.” I get that happens. Other people I meet generally don’t have as much interest let alone knowledge of theology as I do. I think that’s sad because I really don’t know that much and it must be one of if not the most important topics for people to discuss. But it never occurred to me that people, including Christians, could have a negative outlook on discussing theology.

We tested in class different objections to theology. When we came to our professor’s argument in defense of theology, it boiled down to people not understanding the difference between “good” theology and the “bad.” My professor explained, like many other things in life, theology can be abused and distorted, but that does not mean theology cannot be useful when treated properly. He summed up theology as “speaking about God by following after what God has already said about himself.” It’s human thinking in response to revelations God has given us. Literally, “theology” means the “science of God.”

My professor suggested a synonym for Christian theology: witness. Basically, theologians ask questions and seek to know God better. Through this, they are a testimony to others. Christians who participate in theology learn more about their faith, the Church, and who God has shown himself to be. This means we can defend our faith, aid the Church, and be a testimony to the world of the living God.

Not only are there such benefits to studying theology, Christians can suffer from a lack of theology. IMere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains the danger of avoiding theology:

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones — bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression — like believing the earth is flat.

The point is “Christian theology” shouldn’t be intimidating. It is a gift God hands to us so we can get to know him better, not in a cold analyzing of theories, but through questions that build our relationship with our Father.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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