Monthly Archives: September 2012

“Christ Our Mediator” by CJ Mahaney

Christ Our Mediator by CJ Mahaney

 

We walk into the mediation room unkempt and unrepentant.  We know there is we are guilty of a great offense, but we’ve convinced ourselves our hands are clean.  The other party sits across from us at the table.  His holiness and perfection causes our pride to swell within us.  We know we have no shot at the case ending in our favor, but we persist in going on with the mediation.  Our Mediator stands in the gap and begins to present both sides.  He is at once like us, but not exactly like us.  He begins to walk us through the dispute, starting with the majesty and authority of the One sitting across the table.  He finishes our long list of defamations, blasphemies, and rebellions.  There really isn’t much to mediate.  We are obviously guilty.  We just wanted to stick it to Him one last time.  Then we are shocked, stunned, dumbfounded when He pronounces the final verdict.

 

We are absolutely guilty and the Mediator will take the punishment that we deserve.

 

This is the grand portrait that CJ Mahaney paints for us in his book Christ Our Mediator.  With a sincere humility and absolute devotion to Christ and His Word, CJ Mahaney paints a picture of the Gospel that pushes back against the entitlement age in which we live.  You don’t have to look far to find a religious teaching that would have us believe that Jesus stands in the gap for us to excuse our sin and calm an overreacting, unreasonable judge who has obviously misunderstood us and our motives.  Mahaney pulls no punches in delivering the transcendent truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: God is holy, we are guilty, and Christ has made a way for us.

It should be pointed out that Mahaney is clearly writing this book to believers in Christ.  And for the believer, it will be a breath of fresh air.  It is not necessarily just for believers, but some of the language used could be misunderstood if the audience were thought to be the general public.  I would highly recommend this book to any child of God.  It is a warm blanket for the soul, and CJ Mahaney is a great friend to have for the journey.

Book Review: “Real Church in a Social-Network World” by Leonard Sweet

“Real Church in a Social-Network World” by Leonard Sweet

What is the greatest longing of the human heart?  What are the fundamental elements of humanity that transcend time and culture?  Leonard Sweet seeks to answer these difficult questions in his book “Real Church in a Social-Network World.”  Sweet goes into great detail of how the longings of the human heart are communicated by what we pursue as a culture.  He uses the rise of social-networking as a silent cry for relationship.  Sweet also tries to distance the life of Jesus from the non-relational elements of the church that tend to love philosophical concepts rather than people.

Sweet does a tremendous job in emphasizing his points about the need for Christians to pursue deep and meaningful relationships both with God and with each other.  Sweet is obviously well read and attempts to pull several different perspectives to prove his point.  Sweet makes the transcendence of relationships across moral and cultural lines foundational to his argument by pulling from Jewish rabbis and mystics as well as quoting theologians, scholars, and philosophers.

Sweet’s writing style is smooth and engaging if you don’t mind a few big words here and there.  And he expounds on his points without seeming repetitive or dry in his delivery.  It is clear that Sweet’s desire is to encourage believers to live lives worthy of the gospel as Sweet sees it.

There is, however, a huge problem with Sweet’s conclusions about the nature of the Gospel, Christ, God’s relationship to mankind, the Bible, and ultimately the definition of “Christian.”  Sweet tries very hard to convince the reader that there should be a definite and absolute divorce between what we will call “doctrine” and the follower of Christ.  Sweet even goes so far as to say that truth is not singular and cannot be essentially known; it is, rather, misty and multiple (Chapter 1: Orthodoxy and Paradoxy; para. 2).  If we are to say what Sweet will not, essentially, Jesus did not come to fulfill the law but to abolish it.  Jesus is very clear that there is truth and He is it.  This is not a copout that suggests we should deny doctrine for the sake of relationships.  Paul, a devout follower of Christ, was one of the foremost teachers of doctrine.  The book of Romans is essentially the first book of systematic theology.

Sweet tries to encourage believers to neglect the divisive “doctrine” for the sake of establishing relationships and an “experience” that will make outsiders feel judged or shunned.  It would appear that Sweet wants to push the church away from graceless, judgmental, better-than-thou Pharisaism, and I am in full agreement.  But when Sweet starts uprooting this life of grace from the soil of truth, he is misrepresenting the kingdom Christ came to instill in the hearts of His people.  Christ absolutely lived a life of grace sharply rebuking the Pharisees who trusted their own righteousness to save them, but that does not mean that He stood for relationship over truth.  Christ message to the prostitutes and tax collectors was not simply an invitation to relationship but an invitation to holiness.  Not a holiness imputed by men after years of hypocritical self-righteousness, but a holiness imputed by the only One who perfectly met all the requirements of the Law.

Leonard Sweet’s book ultimately calls Christians to live lives of full, deep relationships, and I am in full agreement.  At the same time, we must weigh his words carefully.  Anyone who tries to divide the truth from the relationship Christ exemplified for us must have his words tested by the fullness of the Word.  May it be that the Holy Spirit awakens our hearts to the truth of who He is and may that awakening drive us to love and serve those around us.  Grace and peace,

JOT

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Job Part 4 – The Gospel Problem (Job 1-3, Philippians 3:5-11, 2 Corinthians 11-12); August 22, 2012

Job Part 4 – The Gospel Problem (Job 1-3, Philippians 3:5-11, 2 Corinthians 11-12)

 

There is a huge misconception in modern Christian thinking that it is okay to feel what we see others feeling.  We often read ourselves into stories this way.  This brings a great deal of relatability to characters.  If a character is feeling fear, we tend to justify our own fear. If a character is angry, we feel justified in our anger.  We do the same thing with non-fictional heroes or people with whom we relate.  For instance, if a friend is upset, we feel perfectly justified in being upset even if the situation does not affect us in the slightest.  I believe there is real danger in making this empathy an unconscious habit, especially when reading the Scriptures.

Now, I must say that there are Scriptures that command us to mourn with mourners and rejoice with the rejoicers, but we must allow a loving distance when our brothers and sisters wander into the dark night of the soul.  We must resist the impulse to wade into the waters of their doubt, fear, anger, and struggle.  We do this not because we want to be cold or unfeeling to their situation, but because that should be a grace given to us in not feeling the full brunt of their struggle.  This distance is not one that we muster and impose ourselves, but is a working of the Spirit within us through the power of the Gospel.

We talked last time about Job’s limitations in being able to adequately deal with his situation.  Job did not have a Bible to flip open and immerse himself in.  Job did not have a pastor or church leader to point him back to God.  Job didn’t even have the example of Christ to look back on and find strength.  Job was limited by the revelation of God available to him.

We cannot be satisfied with empathizing with Job when we hold God’s Word in our hands.

Sadly, we have drifted so far from our need of God’s Word, we believe that God is no longer the God of the Bible.  He has evolved.  He has modernized. He no longer wants us to be satisfied in Him, He care about our happiness more now.  He wants us to have stuff.  He doesn’t want us to struggle, fight, change, or be uncomfortable.  His dreams for us are our dreams for us.  He calls us to follow Him down the streets of gold not the road to Calvary.

People love to read Job and relate with him.  They remember the times that they were being good people when something went wrong.  Teenage girls remember the day their boyfriend broke up with them and that was their “Job day.”  Young men remember when their team lost the big game and that was their “Job day.”  Some people remember losing a loved one.  Others remember their parents divorcing.  Some remember war. Others remember sickness.  Paul remembered floggings, beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks.  The difference for Paul was that he had nothing to lose.

The full weight of Philippians 3:5-11 is often lost on the modern church.  We equate knowing Christ with wealth, health, and prosperity.  So counting things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ is not a sacrifice, it’s a socio-economic upgrade.  Paul had something else in mind.  Paul was looking beyond the accomplishments and materialism of this life and focusing the prize of Christ for eternity.  There were no more “Job days” for Paul.  There was nothing that could pull him from Christ.  There was nothing he could lose, no tragedy that could befall him that could ever cause him to question God as Job did.  So why do we?

The pains of this life are real.  There is nothing easy about losing loved ones, struggling with sin, losing a job, hunger, poverty, war, or a thousand other thorns that pierce our souls.  There is real pain and suffering that takes place in this life.  But our hope is not in this life.  Comfort and peace in this life is not proof of our eternal home, neither are they statuses due us for being obedient.

If history has shown us anything it is that there will be days that we are tempted to ask the same questions as Job.  We will want to die or wish that our lives had never happened.  We will hold high our own righteousness and question God’s justice.  Children of God, when this day comes for you, I pray that you run to His Word.  I pray that you wrap yourself in the comfort of His love.  I pray that you have surrounded yourself with better friends than Job – friends who know the Word and will speak it faithfully to you even if it stings a little.  May we be people of the Word, and may we stop holding on to the things of this world that do not satisfy like Christ does.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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