Saturday, 23 July 2011

Let's keep the world moving forward


I find this the video very disturbing... 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Google Effect

What do you think?

The researchers on the Google-Effect have hit on something about the human condition. They conclude that Google is doing something to change our brains. I think they have scratched only the surface of the problem. In other words, it goes much deeper. This Google-Effect is another of those symptoms of a vulnerable, and desperate vacuum of the human heart. It is not Google actively ‘changing’ one’s brain. It is the human heart’s tendency to prefer the easy way out. Just like more water preferring to flow down a steeper incline, the human soul prefers to go down the trail of self-seeking desires to anything else. Refusing to exercise one’s desire to remember things, one unwittingly lets the computers do the remembering. The net effect is that humans will have lost a part of their identity, and computers will have gained no meaning beyond additional amount of binary data comprising simply of 0s and 1s. 

The other aspect of the human condition is to seek its sense of identity through its own means, rather than God’s ways. Lost, restless, and impatient, the human soul thinks that it is the master of its own destiny. Here are three areas of concern I have, to argue that Google is doing something more than changing our brains.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Most Risky Profession

An article from Christianity Today:


What makes the pastor's job even more spiritually vulnerable is the expectation that he also be the cathartic head of the church—someone with whom members can identify and live through vicariously. Someone who articulates their fears and hopes, someone to whom they can relate—at a distance. This is key, because the pastor has time to relate to very, very few members. Thus it is all the more important that he be able to communicate in public settings the personable, humble, vulnerable, and likable human being he is.
Thus, preaching in the modern church has devolved into the pastor telling stories from his own life. The sermon is still grounded in some biblical text, and there is an attempt to articulate what that text means today. But more and more, pastors begin their sermons and illustrate their points repeatedly from their own lives. Next time you listen to your pastor, count the number of illustrations that come from his life, and you'll see what I mean. The idea is to show how this biblical truth meets daily life, and that the pastor has a daily life. All well and good. But when personal illustrations become as ubiquitous as they have, and when they are crafted with pathos and humor as they so often are, they naturally become the emotional cornerstone of the sermon. The pastor's life, and not the biblical teaching, is what becomes memorable week after week.
Again, this is not because the pastor is egotistical. It's because, again, we demand this of our preachers. Preachers who don't reveal their personal lives are considered, well, impersonal and aloof. Share a couple of cute stories about your family, or a time in college when you acted less than Christian, and people will come up to you weeks and months later to thank you for your "wonderful, vulnerable sermons." Preachers are not dummies, and they want approval like everyone else. You soon learn that if you want those affirmative comments—and if you want people to listen to you!—you need to include a few personal and, if possible, humorous stories in your sermon.
The inadvertent effect of all this is that most pastors have become heads of personality cults. Churches become identified more with the pastor—this is Such-and-Such's church—than with anything larger. When that pastor leaves, or is forced to leave, it's devastating. It feels a like a divorce, or a death in the family, so symbiotic is today's relationship between pastor and people.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians - Done

That's the whole essay

any comments or thoughts?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (6)

So in conclusion, in this epistle, slavery is simply living the life of the flesh. Freedom is to crucify the flesh and live the life of the Spirit, a life lived to God the Father, through faith in the crucified Christ.

It is expounded in these ways:

1.      We are free from the slavery of sins in this present evil age[1] – that is the true ‘good news’[2].
2.      We are free from seeking the approval or justification[3] of fellow men – for we are justified by God in Christ.
3.      We are free from the fear of men[4], even the persecution of men[5] (especially those who are ‘religious’), for we are safe in the salvation of God.
4.      We are free from the law – its legal demands[6], its curse[7], its imprisonment[8]. We no longer have to prove our own righteousness – ‘it is finished’.
5.      Through faith in the crucified Christ, we receive the Spirit of God[9] - that is the basis of the free life we now live[10]. This has always been true – proven by Abraham’s life recorded in the Scriptures[11].
6.      We are free from regarding anyone according to the flesh, but only according to Christ Jesus[12].
7.      We are no longer slave to either the stoikeia[13] (initially the Jews) or those who by nature are not gods[14] (the Gentiles) – but we are all free sons of the Living God (Christ is formed in us[15]): children of the promise[16].
8.      The free life of faith in the Spirit, expresses itself in love[17] – including love for our neighbour[18] (which is what the law required[19]). The enslaving life of the flesh only produces the works of death[20].
9.      The free life longs to set others free[21], the slave’s life only enslaves others, and ultimately destroys everyone[22].
10.  The cross of Christ frees us from boasting in our work in ‘building-up’[23] others[24] (implying that we have a ‘better system’ than anyone else) – for all is the work of God[25].

So we can infer that the root cause of our slavery is insecurity with our new identity and status in and through Christ’s crucifixion that causes human religion to creep back in. The desire to set up systems and practices that are supposed to ‘ensure’ our justification before God (and cause us to boast in others as they join ‘our system’) – yet they only undermine our faith, causing more slavery than before! Freedom on the other hand, comes from understanding and trusting in the crucifixion of Christ. That we, with Him, are now dead to the world and the world’s influences – because we are alive in God, a new creation[26].

The result is that if one continues to grow in faith and maturity in Christ, one slowly begins to be free from self[27], as the self dies on the cross with Christ – free from the need to self-glorify, whether it be in front of men or God. God accepts us in the cross of Christ – there lies our freedom, our righteousness, our justification, and even our sanctification, through firmly abiding in that truth. That freedom allows us to willingly serve others[28], since we no longer need to serve self and because that is what the Spirit always does.

True Sons and Fathers

The true son rests solely in the love of God shown in the cross of Christ – He needs no other affirmation, encouragement or reassurance. The Spirit of God is the one that constantly pours that love fresh into our hearts[29]. If we are true sons, like Paul, we can become true fathers to others – to beget others through the same Spirit and not through the flesh.

If we are insecure[30], then all our disciple-making will only bind others to ourselves[31], to boost out own standing with men and God – while actually making others slaves to the same insecurity. We will insist on certain practices and systems that we have invented[32] for others to follow in as well[33]. Once the Son sets us free, we are free indeed – people are allowed to express the one faith differently, in a way that harmonizes together[34] – that the world may know we are a liberated people – for the flesh has no hold on how we view one another. We are a crucified people, through the cross of Christ.

(Appendix A - I used Dave Bish's article:

[1] Gal 1:4
[2] Gal 1:7
[3] Gal 1:10
[4] Gal 2:12
[5] Gal 6:12
[6] Gal 2:16
[7] Gal 3:10
[8] Gal 3:23
[9] Gal 3:2
[10] Gal 2:20
[11] Gal 3:7, etc
[12] Gal 3:28
[13]Gal 4:3
[14] Gal 3:8
[15] Gal 4:19
[16] Gal 4:23
[17] Gal 5:6
[18] Gal 5:13
[19] Gal 5:14
[20] Gal 5:19
[21] Gal 6:2
[22] Gal 5:15
[23] Although according to Paul, he implies we are not actually building-up if we do this, but rather, tearing-down
[24] Gal 6:4
[25] Gal 6:14
[26] Gal 6:15
[27] As Luther, quoting Augustine comments that sin is man ‘curved in on himself’ (homo in curvatus se)
[28] Gal 5:13-15
[29] Cf. Romans 5:5
[30] See Appendix A for an example of insecurity
[31] For further discussion, see D. Bonhoeffer, Works Volume 5, Fortress Press, 2005, pg. 44-5
[32] Whether or not it is through ‘Scripture’ (as the Pharisees often claimed)
[33] For example, even something like attending Sunday church eventually becomes a measure of someone’s spirituality. Although it is highly beneficial – it is definitely not the basis of salvation, and not the basis of spiritual judgment.
[34] God is the Chief Musician who arranges the symphony – not us

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (5)

The Offense of the Cross

            Preaching the free grace of Christ always causes offense[1]. “The offense of the cross is the abolition of all religion[2]. The cross proves that we can do nothing to save ourselves. The cross shows that we are cursed and condemned. The cross demonstrates the sinfulness of our sin, the cost of our corruption… It is always easier and more popular to preach about religion and self help rather than the offense of the cross and the crucified Jesus.[3] Indeed to truly preach Christ crucified alone, brings everyone into condemnation and all efforts to vanity - this is the stumbling-block to the Jews[4]. It is this very way of practicing religion that enslaves, and it is the total destruction of the self in the flesh of Christ that sets one free.

The Root of the Matter

The problem in Galatia is just as much about justification about men, as it is about justification before God… Paul identifies with Jesus, the ultimate outsider – crucified outside the camp, a reject, a traitor. Therefore the world cannot intimidate him nor has any power over him[5] - the men of the world hold no persuasion. “If you want to be justified before men, you don’t understand justification before God – you don’t need to be patted on the back by the crowds because you are justified before God.”[6]When we finally get everything out into the open, we can see that what they (the circumcisers) want is to boast in the flesh… their bragging reveals where their confidence lies (in the world)[7]. When we are free from the slavery of self[8], our only concern is to be faithful[9] - causing us to boast only in the cross of Christ[10].

[1] Gal 5:11
[2] In the sense that religion is all men’s efforts to reach or prove oneself to God
[3] Blackham, pg. 62
[4] Cf. 1 Cor 1:23
[5] S. Timmis, A Gospel Centered Community, Total Church Sermon Series
[6] Ibid.
[7] Blackham, pg. 74 – cf. Gal 6:12-14
[8] “The trouble with these seekers after glory is… All they think about is whether people will like and praise them. Theirs is a threefold sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they are very sly and wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors is not what it should be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in the estimation of the people. Thirdly, once they have established a reputation for themselves they become so chesty that they stop short of nothing. When they have won the praise of men, pride leads them on to belittle the work of other men and to applaud their own. In this artful manner they hoodwink the people who rather enjoy to see their former pastors taken down a few notches by such upstarts.” – Luther commenting on Galatians 6:4
[9] Gal 6:4
[10] Gal 6:14

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (4)

Childish Slaves

            In fact to be under the law, is to be under the curse[1], is to be a captive, or a slave[2]. The law was given to be like a guardian[3] to imprison the Jews, much like little children under supervision – through the angels[4]. To be free in Christ is to come to maturity, when rules and regulations are no longer needed; “ready to enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibilities of the full life of Israel across the whole globe[5]. To be enslaved is to be like a child[6], constantly needing to be told what to do to prevent one from going out of control.

            For the Gentiles, they were enslaved as well, by other beings ‘that by nature are not gods’[7]. Therefore it is quite foolish for Gentile Christians, once being under these beings that seem to encourage ‘sinning behaviour’[8], then being set free in Christ, to go back to other slaving angelic beings[9] that encourage ‘religious behaviour’[10] – both of which enslave in two different ways!

The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage… As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faithYet so many religious people are in bondage to their religion! They are like John Wesley… He was the son of a clergyman and already a clergyman himself. He was orthodox in belief, religious in practice, upright in conduct and full of good works… But they were bound in the fetters of their own religion, for they were trusting in themselves that they were righteous, instead of putting their trust in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. A few years later, John Wesley (in this own words) came to "trust in Christ, in Christ only for salvation" and was given an inward assurance that his sins had been taken away. After this, looking back to his pre-conversion experience, he wrote: "I had even then the faith of a servant (slave), though not that of a son." [11]

Solus Christus

            True sons of God are free sons no longer under the enslaving yoke of the law[12], but under grace, under the Spirit of God[13]. To even remotely toy with the idea of wanting to do something else in addition to trusting Christ is to diminish faith[14]! “In this way, we can never have too much freedom (just as we can never have too much faith, or Christ, or grace etc.) The answer to the abuses of freedom is never to curb freedom… Instead Paul insists on more freedom, better freedom, purer freedom. Thus, freedom is not balanced by other forces like ‘service’ or ‘responsibility’.  It is never a case of ‘Yes we are free, but we must keep that in check by remembering our…’ Such concepts as service or responsibility do not stand outside freedom as its referee. Service and responsibility are, instead, included as integral factors in our unmitigated liberty.”[15]

            Entertaining even small thoughts of this type of Pharisaical way of thinking[16] can quickly spread throughout the entire church and destroy it – Cole’s suspicions were true – and Paul hunts them out like rabies-infested dogs!

[1] Gal 3:13
[2] Gal 3:23
[3] Gal 3:24
[4] Gal 3:19
[5] Blackham, pg. 47
[6] This aspect of childhood is not commended by Scripture like other aspects e.g. child-like faith, innocence to evil, etc
[7] Gal 4:8
[8] We imply that there are all kinds of demonic forces out there, making people sin in different ways (e.g. the 2 different prodigal sons of Luke 15). This letter is primarily about the ‘religious sinners’, and Gentiles that switch from the rebels to the religious, rather than perhaps the epistle to Romans – which may be talking about convicting everyone that they are ‘sinners’ according to traditional definitions.
[9] Stoikeia
[10] Such as those listed in Gal 4:10, and 1 Tim 4:1-3
[11] Stott, pg. 109
[12] Gal 5:1
[13] Gal 5:18
[14] Gal 5:2
[15] Scrivener
[16] Gal 5:9, cf. Mark 8:15 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (3)

            The Case of Peter

            Peter lived under the same traditional Judaism as Paul, and had now been set free to ‘live like a Gentile’[1]. Possibly commenting from Psalm 143[2] he argues that no flesh can be made righteous through the law. Thus in coming to Christ, they confessed they are all sinners, and therefore ‘Gentiles’[3], and that was the point of the law – not to help the flesh become righteous, but to point it to trust in the Messiah, and thus show the flesh it was weak and sinful[4].  Thus even though turning to Christ proves one to be a sinner, it does not mean one can go back to the law to deal with sin, since one already died to the law in Christ[5]. This is exemplified in Peter’s actions: “The fact that Peter was now turning back to it (the law) proves that he is actually opposing the true purpose of the law. To turn away from Christ to the law is a betrayal of the law, the ultimate law-breaking.”[6]

            Comparing it with Titus’ circumcision case, then to go back to the law after one has been set free by Christ in an attempt to deal with sin, is the definition of slavery here. And behind all this we can see that Peter’s real motivation was the fear of his fellow Jews[7].


            At the crux of the matter, is the crucifixion of Christ.  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.[8] Paul wants them to know that if Jesus was crucified, then even Jesus is not considered righteous by the law, but cursed[9]! “Crucifixion and the law will not go together. The law defines crucifixion as a cursed death. The law told Paul that if he was crucified with Christ he is cursed… however, to choose Christ is also to die to the law and therefore to escape its curse.”[10] If one started in faith by hearing the Word[11], one must continue in faith through that same Word and Spirit[12]. Luther explains the heart of those trying to live out their ‘faith’ through law-keeping: “Instead of doing the Law, these law-conscious hypocrites break the Law. They break the very first commandment of God by denying His promise in Christ. They do not worship God in faith. They worship themselves. Those who intend to obtain righteousness by their own efforts do not say in so many words: "I am God; I am Christ." But it amounts to that. They usurp the divinity and office of Christ. The effect is the same as if they said, "I am Christ; I am a Savior. I save myself and others."[13] Keeping the law in this manner is opposite to faith in Christ[14], it is faith in self - and no wonder leads to making disciples for self, rather than Christ[15].

            It is no wonder Paul emphasized that through the law, he was joined with the crucifixion of Christ, and thus now the old flesh is dead, and he only lives this fleshly life to God through Christ, by faith[16] – and that is freedom.

[1] Gal 2:14
[2] See Blackham, pg. 28
[3] For all Gentiles are regarded as sinners. We believe that this whole section is a continuation of Paul’s debate with Peter with regards to Jews.
[4] “As long as he remained a faithful and loyal Jew with the divine law as the way he was meant to live, he was ‘kicking against the pricks’ for he could never keep the law fully” - Morris, pg. 88
[5] Gal 2:18-19
[6] Blackham, pg. 28
[7] Gal 2:12
[8] Gal 3:1, See Morris, pg. 94 for more details on the meaning of the phrase ‘publicly portrayed’
[9] Deut 21:23
[10] Blackham, pg. 28-9
[11] Gal 3:2
[12] Implied in Gal 3:3. We note briefly that a we define a life lived crucified in Christ has the same meaning as a life lived in the Spirit of God. See Fee pg. 204-5 for more details describing ‘the life in the Spirit’.
[13] M. Luther, Commentary on Galatians, – commenting on Gal 3:10
[14] Gal 3:12  - note Jesus’ interpretation on the same passage, Lev 18:5 – it is in opposition to a man who wanted to justify himself rather than trust in the Lord (Luke 10:29)
[15] Cf. Gal 4:17, 6:13
[16] Gal 2:20