Friday, 19 December 2014

Comments on "4 Teachings of Jesus That His Followers (Almost) Never Take Seriously"

The original article written by Brandon Robertson can be found here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandan-robertson/4-teachings-of-jesus-that_b_6343320.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

I thought I would spend time commenting on the article itself and see if his points do stand up to scrutiny.

"It's no secret that those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ consistently fall short of living up to the way of life of our Rabbi. Being a disciple of Jesus is a lifelong journey towards conforming ourselves to the image and way of life that Jesus taught. However, so often, followers of Jesus chose to blatantly ignore some of the clearest instruction of our Rabbi and obscure it with vague theology so that we can get off the hook. Other times, followers of Jesus are taught something explicitly contradictory to the plain words of Jesus and then spend their lives obeying the instruction they received instead of the commands of Jesus."

This is something that is correct, there are Christians who do say "Lord Lord" but do not do what he says. There really isn't much for me to say on this point since so far, it's legit.

"However we end up at the place of disobedience, all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus struggle to obey the commands of our Lord. One of the most transformative periods in my faith was when I took time to re-read the Gospels of the New Testament and get reacquainted with Jesus' himself, in his own words. As I studied the words of Jesus, I discovered that so much of what he asks of us as his disciples is incredibly clear and yet so much of it was new to me. I had never heard it in church or Sunday school or actually heard someone teach the exact opposite of the words of Christ. It was during that season of my life where I took inventory of how I lived and what I believed and aligned to the person and teachings of Christ that my faith was radically transformed for the better.
Below I have compiled a short list of 4 clear teachings of Jesus that most of us who exist within Evangelicalism have either never heard, refuse to acknowledge, or believe the exact opposite of. It's my hope that by rereading these teachings of Christ, you will be inspired, like I have been, to return to the Gospels and begin to reshape your faith and life around the way and teachings of our Master, Jesus. Get ready and buckle up, because most of what Jesus says is pretty bold and potent. It'll shake up your faith!"

Well Sunday school to be honest really isn't going to give man a solid foundation regarding the word of God and in some cases in church, there is more tickling of the ears rather than actually preaching the truth, no matter how much it hurts. There are things I have concluded that I wouldn't find in Sunday School.

"1. Jesus, not the Bible, is God's living and active Word that brings life.
"You don't have His word living in you, because you don't believe the One He sent. You study the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life."- John 5:39-40 HCSB
The Christian life is one that is fundamentally rooted in the reality that Jesus Christ is living and active. He interacts with us on a day to day basis and desires that we cultivate an intimate relationship with him. The more we commune with the Spirit of Christ, the more life and truth we are exposed to and are able to comprehend. However, for many Evangelicals, we rely more on the Bible than we do on the living and active Spirit of God within us. We fear that following the Spirit could lead to confusion and subjectivity and so we root our faith in the Bible. The problem is that a faith that is rooted in the Scripture alone is not sustainable. It will dry up and wither on the vine. While the Bible is an important and authoritative guide for Christian faith and practice, it isn't the foundation or center of our faith- Jesus is. And if we truly believe that he is alive, we should also have faith that communing with him will produce spiritual life within us. He is the living Word that we can ask anything to and expect, in faith, to receive and answer. Sometimes he will speak through Scripture. Other times he will speak through our friends and family. Other times he will find unique and special ways to reveal himself to us. But in order to maintain a vibrant and living faith, we must not make the Bible our substitute for communion with the living Word of God. Studying Scripture is valuable, but nowhere near as valuable as cultivating a day to day relationship with the God incarnate."

Sola Scriptura itself doesn't deny Jesus is the word of God, nor does it hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who himself can help Christians understand the scriptures. A belief in Sola Scriptura and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit points to Jesus as the center. In fact a Sola Scripturist is concerned with what Jesus himself said rather than the teachings of men.

Sola Scripturists like myself acknowledge that God himself can use other people to convict us, judge us, HOWEVER, We need to test what is of the Spirit and what isn't. You cannot assume every voice in your mind is of the Spirit, you need to discern what is of the Spirit and what isn't and God will not lead a man into disobeying his commands.

There are individuals who look at say the actions of heretics like the Kansas City Prophets and the Word Faith movements and say that the Spirit is with them, which is something those groups claim. You here this "I have this word from the LORD" and yet their word contradicts the Bible.

In the function of the church today, The Spirit and scripture work in unison, they don't contradict each other. We need to be careful whose words we hear in out mind.

Sam Shamoun highlights the following in his paper on Sola Scriptura:
"2. Does not deny the ultimate importance of the Holy Spirit.

It is only by the Holy Spirit’s illumination that a person is able to understand and believe in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who enables a person to accept the inspiration, sufficiency, infallibility and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures: 

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:13-14

“Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” Ephesians 1:17-18

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth… I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him.” 1 John 2:20, 26-27" Sam Shamoun, A Brief Articulation of Sola Scriptura.

As you can see, Sola Scriptura doesn't leave the Holy Spirit out of the equation. Some individuals do, but not all.

"2. The only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is through DOING the will of God. 
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21 ESV
"An expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?""What is written in the law?" He asked him. "How do you read it?"He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."You've answered correctly," He told him. "Do this and you will live."- Luke 10: 25-28 HCSB
"We are saved by faith alone, apart from works!" This is a very popular Protestant catch phrase. The doctrine of sola fide (faith alone) was developed by the Reformers in response to the Roman Catholic Churches corrupted teachings that emerged in the 16th Century teaching that one could gain favor with God and shave off years in Hell and Purgatory by giving money to the church or doing acts of penance. The intention of the doctrine of faith alone was very good- to correct the error that our salvation could be earned or that God's grace could be manipulated. But like most doctrines that are formulated in response to another group's doctrine, it often goes too far. One of the clearest teachings throughout all four Gospel accounts is that the way to enter the Kingdom of God is through living in obedience to the Law of Christ. Time and time again, Jesus makes very clear statements that condemn those who think that they will be saved because they believe the right things or do the right religious rituals. Jesus responds to people who believe they are religious and deserve heaven by saying that their outward religiosity is detestable to God and the only thing God desires is that they would exercise their faith by obeying the command of God- to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. (Micah 6:8) Jesus says if anyone claims to be right with God but doesn't serve the poor, needy, oppressed, marginalized, sick, diseased, and sinful, then they do not have a relationship with God. No matter what they proclaim with their lips. No matter how religious they may appear. Jesus says those who don't obey will have no part in his Kingdom. He makes very clear that the way to "inherit eternal life" is through loving God and loving our neighbor. Isn't it astonishing, then, how many Christians today have been taught that salvation comes through right believing instead of right practice- a message that is fundamentally contrary to the words of Jesus. (And even more to his little brother James who says, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." James 2:24 ESV)"

What is seen here to me is an abysmal understanding of the doctrine of faith alone.

Justification by faith alone is a legal declaration. It is saying that those who have come to Jesus in repentant faith are washed clean from their sins. They are born again, they do not earn their salvation and good works that they do are something done in gratitude to Jesus, NOT to earn salvation. It is trusting in his finished work on the cross rather than relying on our good deeds.
"Romans 3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

Good deeds are something the Christian himself is prepared for, not something that gains them entry into heaven:

"Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Those who have been justified and truly root themselves in Christ, don't do good works to get saved, but do them because they have been saved. If your faith is really there, then your works will demonstrate it and prove it to others.

Read the following article I have written on James 2 for more information the passage:
http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/james-2-does-it-refute-justification-by.html

Keith Thompson makes the following observation in his article:
"Now, the other argument is that since James 2:21 says Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac on the alter in Genesis 22, this must mean Abraham was justified more than once in the same way in which Paul describes in Genesis 15:6. However, the problem with this argument is that James and Paul are talking about two different things. Paul is talking about Abraham being declared righteous or acquitted by faith apart from works based on righteousness being credited or imputed to Abraham’s account. This is not what James is talking about. As New Testament scholar Robert Reymond observes, “Whereas Paul intends by ‘justified’ the actual act on God’s part whereby he pardons and imputes righteousness to the ungodly, James intends by ‘justified’ the verdict which God declares when the actually (previously) justified man has demonstrated his actual righteous state by obedience and good works” (Robert Reymond, Paul: Missionary Theologian, [Christian Focus Publications, 2000], p. 442). To demonstrate the existence of this concept Reymond further notes, “That a distinction must be drawn between God’s actual act of justification whereby he pardons and constitutes the sinner righteous and his subsequent declaring act of justification whereby he openly acquits the justified sinner before others is verified by our Lord’s actions in connection with the woman who washed his feet in Luke 7:36-50. He openly declares to Simon the Pharisee and to the woman herself that her many sins were forgiven (vss 47-48) ‘because she loved much [ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ]’ (47). But it is apparent that she had already been actually forgiven on some previous occasion because her acts of devotion toward him – the fruit and evidence of a lively faith – were due, he states, to her having already had ‘her debt cancelled’ (41-43). The chain of events then is as follows: On some previous occasion Jesus had forgiven her (her actualjustification). This provoked in her both love for him and acts of devotion toward him. This outward evidence of her justified state evoked from Christ his open declaration that she was forgiven (herdeclared justification)” (Robert Reymond, Paul: Missionary Theologian, [Christian Focus Publications, 2000], p. 442 n. 27). Indeed, James is teaching by doing works Abraham was declared to have already been justified by faith (James 2:23), that is his "declared justification," not that he was made right with God through works. Paul is clear that comes by faith apart from works so that no one can boast (Romans 4:2-8). James is affirming, then, works are the evidence of being declared righteous or justified by faith and they result in God openly declaring the person to be justified. Every true believer will exhibit these works, not because they merit right standing with God or contribute to actual acquittal, but because they are the evidence of justification, or the completion of faith (James 2:22)." Keith Thompson, Justification is by Faith Alone: Issues and Evidence: http://www.reformedapologeticsministries.com/2014/03/justification-is-by-faith-alone-issues.html

"3. Condemnation isn't Jesus' style.
"I have not come to condemn the world, but to save it." John 3:17 ESV
"Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."- John 8:11 ESV
Many modern day Evangelical preachers spend a lot of time talking about the kinds of people that God is opposed to and who he condemns. They spend time talking about how to transition from a position of condemnation before God to a position of Grace through believing the right things about Jesus. They often talk about those who disagree or live contrary to their understanding of what is "righteous" as those who are under condemnation from God. But what's funny is that as one examines the teachings and life of Jesus, we find him not only befriending, loving, and affirming some of his societies most despised and vile people, but chastising the religious leaders who condemned them for their sin. Whether it is Jesus' conversation with Rabbi Niccodemus in John 3 where Christ explains that it is his mission to redeem the world and not to condemn it or the instance where a woman is caught in the act of adultery and is taken outside to be stoned by the religious officials (as the law required) and Jesus steps in to stop the condemnation and proclaim freedom and forgiveness to the broken woman, it is clear that Jesus is not in the condemning business. Instead, it seems Christ is in the business of restoring humanity to the most broken and wicked of people. It seems that his passion is to see the weak, sick, and broken become strong, healthy, and whole in his Kingdom. It seems that he spends very little time (almost none) telling sinners why they're wrong or speaking words of condemnation over them, but rather practically loving and extending grace to the most screwed up of individuals. Maybe we Evangelicals, who are known for our condemnation of entire people groups with whom we disagree, could learn something from Jesus on this point."

Jesus himself did indeed love unbelievers, no question about that, but that doesn't mean he himself approved of their sin., which Robertson would agree with me on.

There isn't much for me to say, but definitely the harshest words should reserved for heretics misleading the church.

Jesus makes it clear in the context of John 3 that those who refuse to believe on him and obey, will receive condemnation. Any warning of hell that is given in the New Testament is given to the apostles and the believers in Jesus, not to those who don't believe.

Unbelievers should be warned of the dangers of rejecting Jesus to be sure, but the church must remember these warnings as a reminder to abide in Christ.

"4. You're supposed to sacrifice yourself and speak words of blessings for those you disagree with the most.
"Love Your Enemies and Bless Those Who Persecute You" Matthew 5:44 ESV
It seems like every week there is a new major controversy taking place within the Church. Most of the time, the situation revolves around one group of Christians disagreeing with another and then taking to the internet to write slanderous posts about the other. If it's not infighting, then it is Christians engaging in culture wars, working to defeat those whom we disagree with politically and socially by painting them as soul-less monsters. But that response is absolutely contrary to the way of Jesus. Jesus calls his followers to love the people they disagree with most and to speak blessings over them when all we really want to do is curse them out. No matter what the situation is or what kind of enemy we have, Christians are called to bless the people who hurt us the most. This includes in theological battles, political disagreements, national wars, and personal conflicts. Christians are called to a radical position of nonviolence and forgiveness, grace, and even blessing of our enemies. There is no way around it. And when Christians chose to ignore these clear teachings, our hypocrisy is glaringly obvious to the watching world. Want some proof? Take a couple minutes to watch this clip of the famous Agnostic Comedian, Bill Maher, talk about Christian's refusal to obey the teaching of Jesus. (Contains explicit language)"

Over neutral issues, like what food Christians eat are a matter of conscience and Christians shouldn't bind us in that regard. However, when heresy creeps into the church, there has to be division in order to sift the good from the bad. Jesus did not say "Oh don't bother with theological battle, just simply love your enemies", He called his followers to BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS, namely those who sought to misrepresent his teaching and lead them astray. Christians have a responsibility to the wolves away from the sheep lest they be mislead.

Praying for those persecute you and loving your enemies is not a form of pacifism and Robertson forgets that Jesus himself did have harsh things to say to the false teachers own faces, He even called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Does this mean Jesus was being a hypocrite, no. Even Paul himself and the other writers of the NT wrote about  It's about balance.

Furthermore, Peter warns about ignorant and unstable people who distort the scriptures (referring to the OT and possibly the Gospels) to their own destruction, as well as Paul's letters. While Jesus did have harsh things to say about his enemies, but that is not a contradiction with love your enemies. You need to pray for them to repent of their sin and witness to them.

Here are some examples
"Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”"

"Matthew 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”"

Read also Matthew 23:13-36.

Here are also examples from the epistles
"Galatians 5:10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"

"2nd Peter 2:2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from[d] the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.[e] 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer,[f] who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness."

Is one going to say the apostles are guilty of being unkind, I think not.

Ignatius, an early church Father and a student of the apostle John himself in his letter even exhorted the Smyrneans to pray for the heretics to repent:
"Chapter 4. Beware of these heretics

I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that you also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power of [effecting] this. But if these things were done by our Lord only in appearance, then am I also only in appearance bound. And why have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But, [in fact,] he who is near to the sword is near to God; he that is among the wild beasts is in company with God; provided only he be so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things that I may suffer together with Him, Romans 8:17 He who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me. Philippians 4:13" The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm

Even Ignatius of Antioch did have harsh words for heretics. This is the early church, not our modern day 21st century thinking.

Don't misunderstand me, I am not saying we should deliberately go out of our way to hurt people and be malicious and nasty, there is a difference between speaking harsh words to a false teacher and just being a git to them. It is again balance that is required.

One example of an extreme which Robertson is RIGHTLY concerned about I can think of is the heretic Steven Anderson, who has suggested that the government should put homosexuals to death or we will have an aids free Christmas if they die.

Homosexuality is a sin indeed, but Anderson is taking the wrong approach. he should be speaking to the homosexual and bringing the Gospel to them, NOT calling for their death.

These is indeed one example of an extreme that Robertson is rightly concerned about as said before.

"That video may be hard to stomach but Bill Maher is 100% correct. "If you ignore every single thing Jesus commanded you to do, you're not a Christian."
The point of this post is to encourage those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus to reexamine how we are living our lives and practicing our faith. It is so easy to get so caught up in the flow that we fail to recognize just how far away from shore we have been carried. The words of Jesus are pretty darn clear, but oftentimes in our zealousness for our faith, we often get pulled away from the basics and eventually end up living in a way that we believe is honoring to God, but is actually contradictory to everything he has taught us."

Well Christians should obey Jesus. Some do fall into extremes and need to correct their thinking and line it up with biblical thinking.

That is all I have to say on this article for now. Thanks for reading.

Answering Judaism.

Edit: I put "but that doesn't mean he himself did not approve of sin" by mistake. I meant to say Jesus did not approve of their sin.

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