Loading...

Follow Radically Christian | Inspiring Christian Blogger on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

John’s epistles are a great example of why context, following an author’s train of thought, and appreciating an author’s unique style are so incredibly important. John assumes his audience can see the beautiful themes he has expertly woven into the fabric of the text. Therefore, we run the risk of completely misunderstanding any single verse when we rip it from its context to use it as an isolated prooftext. Here are some of the things I noticed when I sat down and read 1, 2, and 3 John in one sitting.

The Gospel of John

The resemblance in themes between John’s gospel account and the epistles of John is striking. He continually explores the ideas of light, life, love, and truth. As I read several times through 1 John, I couldn’t help but feel there was a circular pattern to the book. The ideas of light, life, love, and truth continued to swirl around and around in concentric circles. And in the short books of 2 and 3 John, these themes are apparent as well.

For John, these themes are intimately connected. Jesus is the light of the world that has broken into a world of darkness and is transforming his people into light-bearers by giving them life, love, and truth. This light is continuing to grow and will someday fill the whole world. The darkness will be completely dispelled and there will eventually be nothing but light in the world.

In a practical sense, when we are people of truth and love, we participate with God in being light and dispelling darkness. John writes, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”

Therefore, reading 1, 2, and 3 John serves a great introduction to John’s gospel account. By reading these short epistles, you can see that in his gospel account John is not just giving a historical biography on Jesus, but is giving a robust theological treatise on what it means for Jesus, the Son of Man, to be reigning with God as King.

A World of Stark Contrast

In John’s epistles, he presents things in stark contrast. There is very little nuance or gray area. Everything is either:

  • Light or Dark
  • Truth or Error
  • Love or Hate
  • God or the Devil

This doesn’t mean nuance doesn’t exist or that there are no gray areas in life or theology; it simply means that in John’s context, there was a pressing need to draw stark contrast between those who were in the light and those who were in the darkness. He was dealing with false prophets, people who were denying essential truth about Jesus, but were trying to pass themselves off as genuine followers of Jesus. So, apparently, lines had to be drawn in the sand to differentiate between those who were true followers of Jesus and those who were not.

For John, it is “evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” For John, the primary line of demarkation was love for fellow Christians. For John, if someone believed in the name of Jesus Christ and loved his brother, they were obeying the commandments of Christ and were God’s children. If they did not believe and love, then they were in the darkness and were children of the devil.

I think it’s important to realize that there is a time for nuance and a time for stark contrast; followers of Jesus need to understand which is which. When we are having a conversation about the particulars of the Christian faith, we must understand we are likely having a nuanced conversation.

Don’t treat your brother, who disagrees with you on some matter of Christian faith or practice, as someone who is “in the darkness.” Just because someone disagrees with you about how things ought to happen in the Sunday assembly, for instance, does not mean that person is not abiding “in the teaching of Christ” or that he “does not have God.” But also, don’t be dismissive of conversations and debates that are trying to work out the particulars of Christian faith and practice. These conversations are not the sort of conversations John was having, but they are still important.

Changing the World Through Love

All of the themes, ideas, and concepts that John explores are important, but there is no theme more important than love. John depicts the people who truly love others as being possessors of light and life. When you love like Jesus loves, you show the world a new way of being human and this new humanity will live forever with Jesus. John writes, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”

For John, love means taking care of one another. It means seeing someone in need and meeting their needs. He implores his readers, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” John believes if someone refuses to meet his brother’s needs when he has the ability to meet them, he hates his brother and should not consider himself part of the community of light. Following Jesus means making Jesus’ death our way of life, “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Love is selfless. Love is sacrificial. Love serves.

Love is the new way to live. It’s actually the only way to live. Selfishness and hate are the way to die, but selfless love is the way to live now and forever. This is the way we participate with Jesus in bringing light to this world of darkness.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

There are many who believe it is impossible for someone to be saved and then fall away. They believe that if a person becomes a Christian and then falls away, they were never really saved in the first place. However, I’m not sure how you could maintain a belief in “once saved, always saved” after sitting down to read 2 Peter. From start to finish, this is a letter warning Christians about falling away.

False Teachers

Peter’s big fear is that after he has died, the disciples he taught would be drawn away by false teachers. Peter not only describes the condemnation of such false teachers, but also the sorts of things they were teaching. Their false teaching was marked by things such as:

  • Greed
  • Sensuality
  • Blasphemy
  • Boastfulness

Not only were these false teachers bound for condemnation, but those they led astray would likewise be condemned. Peter warned anyone who abandoned a life of following Jesus in favor of this kind of sensual lifestyle would be punished by God on the day of judgment.

Peter makes it clear that he is not talking about people who were never saved. He is talking about people who had “escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” but are “again entangled in them and overcome.” Peter says that if a person is delivered from sin and then entangled in sin again, “the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

These false teachers promise freedom, but their teaching results in themselves and their hearers being enslaved to their passions.

Standing Firm

But just because it is possible to fall away and suffer condemnation, does not mean most will suffer that fate. It is possible to focus so much attention on Peter’s warning about falling away that we completely miss his hope that his readers will stand firm.

Peter tells his audience they will always remain in a right relationship with God if they are diligent to increase in qualities like:

  • Faith
  • Virtue
  • Knowledge
  • Self-control
  • Steadfastness
  • Godliness
  • Brotherly affection
  • Love

He certainly doesn’t give them the impression they could accidentally fall away from God at any moment. Falling away is what happens to Christians who stop resisting and struggling with sin and just totally give themselves over to their appetites. Peter assures them if they practice things like self-control, brotherly kindness, love, etc. they will “never fall.”

The Day of the Lord

In the midst of his warnings about what will happen to the wicked and ungodly, Peter describes what might be called the destruction of the world. At first glance, it might seem Peter is contradicting Jesus who says the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5) and Paul who says the descendants of Abraham will inherit the world (Romans 4:13). Peter, on the other hand, talks about things being burned with fire. However, I certainly do not believe Peter is contradicting Jesus, Paul, or the Old Testament prophets (who promised the earth would be filled with the knowledge and the glory of God).

To understand Peter’s argument, you have to understand he is saying that this world we live in now is not the first world to exist; there was a world that existed before this world. However, “the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” Obviously, the fact that the pre-flood world “perished,” does not mean it was annihilated from existence. It means that after the flood, the whole world was different, changed, and transformed. That old world was gone and a new world took its place.

Peter says the world that exists now is awaiting a similar event to the flood. Notice as you read this chapter, Peter doesn’t just focus his attention on the “earth,” but also on the “heavens.” In fact, he gives far more attention to the “heavens” and the “heavenly bodies” than the earth itself. Peter doesn’t actually say the earth will be burned up or pass away, but that the sky (or “heavens”) will be burned up and pass away. The earth itself will simply be “exposed.”

Currently, it is like there is a veil that separates the visible world from the invisible world, but on the “day of the Lord,” that veil will be dissolved with fire and all of the evil deeds people are doing on the earth will be exposed to the light of God’s judgment. We might think of it like a giant curtain being torn away so the One who is behind the curtain can come through and deal with everything on this side.

New Heavens and New Earth

Peter says that after “the day of the Lord,” the righteous will receive a “new heavens and a new earth.” This is the moment for which we are all waiting. In this new creation, Peter says, “righteousness dwells.” After the ungodly and all of their works are destroyed, the only thing left will be righteousness.

The things Peter wrote here, of course, are right in line with everything Jesus, the other apostles, and the prophets have said about the resurrection and the “age to come.” Peter isn’t saying the physical universe will cease to exist and we will all live in some non-physical realm. There isn’t even a hint of such a thing in his words. He simply says the world after the day of the Lord will be “new” in the same way the world after the flood was “new.”

I believe the new heavens and new earth will be a changed and transformed version of the old in the same way our resurrection bodies will be a changed and transformed version of the old. In Romans 8, Paul said the creation itself will “be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The creation will no longer be subject to decay or corruption. Like our mortal bodies, the creation will be redeemed (Romans 8:23).

This is our hope. This is our confident expectation. The evil and wickedness that carry on day-after-day will not always exist. Justice will be served and God’s people will be rescued. God only delays so that even more people might be saved.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

1 Peter, like most of the books in the New Testament, can be read in a matter of minutes. When you read it in one sitting, I recommend reading two or three times in that same sitting. This is one of those books that challenges a lot of our American ways of thinking. What would our lives look like if we really took the whole book of 1 Peter seriously?

Your Time of Exile

Peter calls his audience “exiles of the Dispersion.” This idea typically referred to Israelite people who were scattered throughout various nations after the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires conquered and exiled them. Even the Jews who came back to Jerusalem were, in a sense, still exiles because a foreign empire ruled over them and occupied their nation. Being an exile wasn’t just about where you were living, but about the state in which you were living.

According to 1 Peter, all Christians have become part of the “Dispersion.” We are all exiles, waiting for our exile to be lifted and for all of us to be gathered together to receive our inheritance. But it is very important to note that Peter doesn’t talk about us receiving our inheritance by flying away to heaven. He seems to assume we will receive our inheritance by the things in heaven coming to us.

Peter never uses words that indicate we will GO anywhere when our exile is ended. He uses words like “appear” and “reveal.”

  • Our faith will “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
  • Our inheritance that is guarded in heaven will be “revealed in the last time.”
  • When Jesus “appears,” we will “receive the unfading crown of glory.”
  • We will rejoice and be glad when Christ’s “glory is revealed.”

Like the Hebrew writer, Peter seems to picture Jesus, heaven, and our inheritance as things that is now hidden or unseen, but one day they will appear, become visible, be revealed. According to Peter, it does not seem Christians should be waiting to “go to heaven,” but that we should be waiting for the heavenly things to appear. This is when our exile will be over, when the “chief Shepherd appears” and gathers his dispersed sheep.

Responding to Mistreatment

The vast majority of this book deals with how Christians should respond when they suffer mistreatment. Modern readers, especially those in the United States, seem to have a very difficult time taking these commands seriously. We try to insert our own caveats, creating excuses for why we shouldn’t have to obey the instructions Peter gives to his audience.

There are no caveats. There is no nuance. No matter what sort of mistreatment a Christian is suffering, Peter tells them to respond the way Jesus responded, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” That is the simple and undeniable message of 1 Peter, do not respond in kind to those who revile and mistreat you.

But it even goes beyond just not retaliating. Peter writes, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Peter tells his audience to “bless” (speak and do good to) those who do evil to them. Why should we be surprised 1 Peter is a book about doing good to persecutors and not responding violently to those who mistreat us? The entire New Testament preaches this message without fail.

This is the message of the cross. This is how Christians are to join with Jesus in overcoming evil: when we are mistreated we bless those who do evil to us, hate us, revile us, and even kill us. I admit, this isn’t very American. It certainly isn’t John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. It’s Jesus. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus.

The Word of God

Almost as a side note, we need to be very careful when we read the phrase, “word of God” and mentally replace it with, “the Bible.” Those two phrases “word of God” and “the Bible” are related, but not synonymous. When the biblical authors are talking about the “Scriptures,” they will say they are talking about the “Scriptures.” But when they are talking about the “word of God,” they are talking about something far more specific than all of the Scriptures.

Peter tells his audience they have been born again through the “imperishable seed” of the word of God. Peter references Isaiah 40:6-8, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…but the word of our God will stand forever.” In other words, God always delivers on his word. Peter is telling his audience that even though they are suffering right now, they can take confidence in the fact that they will be rescued from their suffering because God has spoken.

So when you read “word of God” or “word of the Lord,” don’t generalize those phrases by interpreting them to mean “Bible” or “Scriptures.” Understand that “the word of God” is something very specific, a promise or command that proceeds from God and accomplishes his will in the world. It is this “word” that John says “became flesh” (John 1:14). Jesus isn’t the Bible, but he is the word of God.

Saved by Baptism

When Peter tells his audience that baptism now saves them, what does this have to do with his overall theme of, “You’re suffering right now as exiles, but because you have been born again by the imperishable word of God, you should have confident hope”?

When we pull one verse out of context that says baptism saves us, we might think it means we are forgiven of our sins because of baptism. We are forgiven when we are baptized, but that is true because other passages say it (Acts 2; Romans 6), not because this passage says it.

In this passage, Peter seems to have a slightly different emphasis. He tells his audience they are being saved right now by the water of baptism the same way Noah and his family were saved by the waters of the flood. From what was Noah saved? Following the logic of Peter’s argument, Noah suffered mistreatment by disobedient people, “while the ark was being prepared.” The water of the flood came and saved Noah from those disobedient people.

In the same way, mistreated and suffering Christians can take heart that their rescue has already begun. The waters of baptism are now saving us. The waters of baptism separate those of us who are being saved, from those who are rejecting the message of Jesus. So we can confidently and peacefully live with mistreatment because we are being rescued from this life of suffering and our new life will soon be revealed.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The book of James might be one of the easiest books for Christians to understand, regardless of time and culture. It deals with the sort of issues and behaviors that are common to religious people of every era, and there is really no misunderstanding what James is telling his audience to do and not to do. I always end up feeling incredibly convicted by this short little book.

The Audience

James simply addresses this book to, “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” This could mean he is writing to Jewish Christians, or he could be referring to all Christians as part of the new Israel. The book doesn’t seem to be a letter intended for a specific church. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to be a letter at all, because there is no formal greeting in the beginning or the end.

James seems to be writing to the kind of Christians who think very highly of themselves; the kind of people who consider themselves to be wise, religious, and capable teachers. They are critical and judgmental. They want to live comfortable lives. They envy wealth and scorn poverty. They believe themselves to have a lot of faith and a lot of wisdom, but what they really have is a lot of words.

Be Quiet and Listen

It’s interesting to me how often James’ words, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” are taken out of context. People typically quote these words as a strategy for interpersonal relationships. They say things like, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should always do twice as much listening as we do talking.” Certainly, it’s good advice to listen more than you talk, but James has a specific kind of listening in mind.

In the same context, James writes, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Too often, when someone is trying to share a word which is able to save our souls, we get angry and defensive. James tells his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word.” It is almost always a good idea to be quiet and listen, but especially when someone is trying to correct our “filthiness” and “wickedness.”

How often do we get defensive when someone shares the word of truth with us? How often do we get angry at those who are trying to help us? How often do we say, “I disagree,” when we ought to say, “You might be right, let me think about that”?

Faith, Religion, and Wisdom Can Be Seen

James touches on various issues throughout this short book, but they all seem to revolve around the idea that it is not enough to say we are religious people, people of faith, or people with wisdom. We must prove our faith, religion, and wisdom by what we do. Words do not prove what is in our hearts, action proves what is in our hearts.

James tells his audience to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He tells them that real religion is about helping widows and orphans. He tells them faith without works is as useless as wishing someone well who has no clothes or food.

To those who think they are wise, James says that their “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” prove their wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Real wisdom isn’t about the ability to conjure up the right words to put opponents in their place. Real wisdom is proven by good conduct and meekness. Real wisdom, wisdom from God, is:

  • pure
  • peaceable
  • gentle
  • open to reason
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruits
  • impartial
  • sincere

In all of these areas, James invites his readers to prove they are wise, religious, and faithful by living lives of humble and loving service to others.

Poverty and Suffering

Like his brother Jesus, James warns about the dangers of comfort and wealth. He encourages his audience to be content with poverty and trials. The book begins by encouraging people to, “Count it all joy,” when they, “meet trials of various kinds.” He promises that patiently enduring trials will result in being, “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

He warns them not to give preference to rich people, above poor people, who visit their assemblies. He implies that riches do not make someone admirable, reminding that the rich are the ones who “oppress you,” the ones who “drag you into court,” and the ones who “blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called.”

James includes one of the strongest warnings and condemnations of those who live their lives in self-indulgence, taking advantage of others:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you

James closes the book by encouraging his readers to think of themselves as farmers. As farmers wait patiently for the harvest, Christians wait patiently, “for the coming of the Lord.” We live our lives not based on what we can see, but in confident expectation about what is to come.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

On today’s episode I had the opportunity to visit over the phone with two members of the Appian Media team. Appian Media is a non-profit organization for which I am incredibly thankful. They are Christians who create amazing documentary-style videos that help viewers experience various places in Israel, and the biblical accounts that happened there. They make these videos available for free on their website, AppianMedia.org. The Appian Media team consists of several members, but this conversation was with two brothers, Jeremy and Craig Dehut. I think you’re really going to enjoy this conversation, and make sure you listen to the end because Jeremy and Craig will share a coupon code that will allow you to get a DVD from their website for free.

Be sure to use the coupon code: “crosstalk” when you order that DVD from AppianMedia.org. That offer will last until 3/31/19.

If you enjoy this show, you can help others discover it by sharing it on social media and by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. You can also help by checking out Logos Bible Software. Logos has partnered with us to give our listeners a great discount. Just visit RadicallyChristian.com/logos.

Instructions for Subscribing to the Podcast:

For very simple instructions on subscribing to the podcast (on an iPhone) – Click Here

Connect:

If you enjoyed this CrossTalk podcast, be sure to check out:

www.facebook.com/radicallychristian

www.facebook.com/theccmr

www.twitter.com/wesmcadams

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The book of Hebrews is an amazing book. The Hebrew writer, whoever he may have been, helps his audience understand the continuity between (what we now call) the Old and New Testaments. He helps his Jewish audience understand that following Jesus is both a continuation of their temple worship, but also understand why following Jesus is superior to temple worship. Here are a few things to notice.

The Audience

I might be wrong, but it seems that perhaps Hebrews was written to Christians living in Jerusalem. The author reminds them of when they were first enlightened. He said they:

  • endured a hard struggle with sufferings
  • were publicly exposed to reproach and affliction
  • had compassion on those in prison
  • joyfully accepted the plundering of their property

This sounds a lot like the “great persecution against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), when Saul of Tarsus was “ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Now, decades later, they are receiving this letter because remaining faithful to Jesus is especially difficult in Jerusalem.

Imagine being a Jew, living in the shadow of the glorious temple, and trying to follow Jesus. Your patriotism, heritage, and faith would be so intertwined with that building and all of the rituals and ceremonies performed in that building. It would be so hard to walk away from all of that. It would be so hard to live with the shame of feeling you had abandoned the traditions of your family.

For many Christians, the pressure probably became too great and they started abandoning the church community in favor of the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the city of Jerusalem; the things they could see. The writer of Hebrews desperately pleads with those Christians who remain not to neglect the Christian assembly or lose faith in Jesus.

Following Jesus is More Jewish

When speaking to a Jewish audience, the apostles had one goal, help Jewish people realize that following Jesus is the most Jewish thing they could do. If first-century Jews wanted to be faithful to the God of their ancestors, then they should be disciples of Jesus. Being a disciple wasn’t a break from the faith of their ancestors, but a faithful continuation of their ancestral heritage. And what was true then is still true today, Christianity isn’t a separate religion from Judaism; it is the true form of Judaism.

The Hebrew writer reminds his audience that being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean they have rejected the prophets, the Law delivered by angels, Moses, the temple, the priesthood, or the sacrifices. Following Jesus didn’t mean rejecting any of those things, because Jesus is the one to whom all of those things point and Jesus brings about a reality of which those things were but mere shadows.

The challenge was that the temple, the sacrifices, and the priests could all be seen, but the reality Jesus brought was “yet unseen.” Which is why the Hebrew writer explains that the Jewish faith has always been a matter of “assurance of things hoped for” and “conviction of things not seen.” By following Jesus, the High Priest they could not see, who made atonement in the temple they could not see, waiting for the city they could not see, they were living like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and countless other ancestors who had come before.

Heaven and Earth

Modern Christians have a tendency to talk about things that are “spiritual” and things that are “physical.” This is really a false dichotomy and it’s not the point biblical writers are trying to make. We might be tempted to put the things the Hebrew writer discusses in terms of “spiritual” and “physical,” but those aren’t even the terms used in the book of Hebrews.

The Hebrew writer isn’t contrasting spiritual and physical things, but heavenly and earthly things. He wants his audience to understand that the things that are right now “unseen” are no less real than the things are “seen.” In fact, there is a sense in which they can be even more real, because they will always endure; they are “unshakable” because they are heavenly.

One day those heavenly realities, that are right now invisible, will become visible. What is unseen will one day be seen. We live today in anticipation of that Day, convinced that the things of the unseen realm are the true and unshakable realities.

The World and City to Come

When the book of Hebrews was written, Jerusalem may have seemed like the center of the Universe. It may have seemed like the unshakeable city, the city where David reigned, the city of the temple. The most important city in the world to a Hebrew man or woman. But it was a city that would soon fall.

The writer of Hebrews wanted his audience to understand that they may be kicked out of the Jerusalem “camp,” but that was ok,

Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Jerusalem was not the true city of God, but there is a “city of the living God.” There is a “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” There is a “heavenly Jerusalem.” This city is the one the Hebrew writer encouraged his readers to “seek.” This is the “city that is to come” in the “world to come.”

Someday, all those who lived their lives seeing the unseen, will receive the promises for which we have waited. We will “rise again to a better life” and the city that has foundations built by God, the heavenly Jerusalem, will come and we will be with God forever.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

With the recent passing of a new abortion law in New York, my Facebook feed has been full of discussions about abortion. I’m always thankful when I see Christians stand up in defense of human life. However, I am often saddened by some of the angry and almost hateful ways I see Christians lashing out against pro-choice supporters and law-makers. So I posted a plea for Christians to voice the truth lovingly and reasonably. Soon after, I saw that my good friend Jacob Rutledge posted something which made me realize, while we are both very much pro-life, we may not totally agree on how Christians should voice their pro-life convictions online (see both posts below). But instead of arguing with my friend and brother, I invited him to join me in the following discussion, so that all of you can hear how brothers who don’t see eye to eye on something should discuss their agreements and their disagreements. I hope you find this conversation encouraging and helpful.

For context, here are the two Facebook posts which prompted this conversation. Obviously, neither of us would disagree with the other, but we certainly approached the issue from different angles:

Wes McAdams:

Here is the question that interests me: What sort of dialogue is actually going to lead to fewer abortions? What if we really tried to understand the motivations of people with whom we disagree? What if we committed to only posting things on social media which might lead to someone reconsidering their position; or might help a desperate woman, considering abortion, feel like she has another viable option? Let’s not see who can shout the loudest, but see who can be the most loving and the most reasonable. Let’s “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Jacob Rutledge:

We need to be careful of creating an environment in the church where zeal and righteous indignation are scorned.

If God’s people follow him, they will be righteously angry over evil and iniquity in society (like the recent events surrounding the abortion laws in New York). Following our Lord we “Love righteousness and hate iniquity” (Heb. 1:9); as the Psalmist says “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psa. 97:10).

The righteous are to be bold (Prov. 28:1)—not rude or callous, but also not timid and insipid. Every time some new evil is propagated in our society, and faithful Christians react in a godly way, I know what’s coming next: posts declaring we need to settle down and temper our response.

No doubt, we should be reasonable and loving in all that we do. But if we can’t get righteously angry about the slaughter and dismembering of innocent children, then what can we get upset about? A holy hatred for abortion, and speaking out against those who sign laws enshrining such evil, is at the very heart of the church. To speak truth to power with boldness, being firm in our conviction, and loving in our articulation of those principles.

I’m more concerned about creating a church that doesn’t speak out against such. A church who’s moral vigor and passion for truth and goodness has so been doused by guilt and shame that their timidity keeps them from speaking out boldly against such evil.

We speak the truth on abortion BECAUSE we love women. We passionately reveal the horror of it BECAUSE so many women are victims to the agenda propagated by the pro-choice movement. Many are unaware of the advancements in technology and the development of their child within the womb. We cry out for all the baby girls that have been lost because they were an inconvenience or unwanted. Our battles against this evil in our society is the very fulfillment of Paul’s command to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5).

If we don’t speak out—if we allow guilt and shame and timidity to keep us from crying out for these innocent children—then their blood is on our hands.

And God helps us.

If you enjoy this show, you can help others discover it by sharing it on social media and by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. You can also help by checking out Logos Bible Software. Logos has partnered with us to give our listeners a great discount. Just visit RadicallyChristian.com/logos.

Instructions for Subscribing to the Podcast:

For very simple instructions on subscribing to the podcast (on an iPhone) – Click Here

Connect:

If you enjoyed this CrossTalk podcast, be sure to check out:

www.facebook.com/radicallychristian

www.facebook.com/theccmr

www.twitter.com/wesmcadams

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Although the book of Philemon is a very short letter, it can be challenging to understand because it deals with slavery. Christians in the United States have a difficult time conceiving of slavery apart from the type of slavery that existed in the United States until the 1860s. Even though the slavery of first-century Rome was quite different, there is much that followers of Jesus in every time and culture can learn from this letter.

A Word About Slavery

I have written in the past about the evils of slavery, particularly the type of slavery that existed in the United States. The enslavement of African men, women, and children continued in American territories for over 270 years and has only been abolished for about 150 years. This evil has shaped our culture more than many of us would like to admit.

Horrifyingly, there are also many forms of slavery that exist around the world today. It is estimated that there are around 40 million people who live in some form of slavery today. Thankfully, most modern Christians are rightly outraged by the slavery of the past and the present.

When reading Paul’s letter to Philemon, we might wonder, why doesn’t Paul condemn slavery outright? Why doesn’t Paul rebuke Philemon for taking part in the evils of slavery? If you think it is because Paul doesn’t believe slavery is wrong, you need to read the letter again. I truly believe if the heart of this letter had been accepted by all those Europeans who claimed to be followers of Jesus, the African slave trade would have never existed!

Voluntary Goodness

Many years ago, when I first read Paul’s letter to Philemon, I read it as being sort of a passive-aggressive letter. Paul obviously wanted Philemon to love and forgive Onesimus and accept him back into his household as a brother. But Paul stopped short of commanding Philemon to do the right thing, saying, “I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

It’s easy to read Paul’s words, “I prefer to appeal to you” and “confident of your obedience” as being less than sincere. It’s easy to think Paul isn’t really confident Philemon will do the right thing. However, I choose to believe Paul is incredibly sincere and is exceedingly confident Philemon will do the right thing.

Paul is explicit about why he wrote this letter as an appeal instead of as a command. It wasn’t because Paul didn’t have the right to command Philemon. It wasn’t because Philemon was free to do anything he wanted to do in this situation. The right course of action was clear and anything less than that would certainly have been sinful and wicked. However, Paul did not want to rob Philemon of the opportunity to do good voluntarily. Paul said he wrote the way he did, “that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.”

This is a consistent theme throughout Paul’s letters, especially in his letters to Corinth. Paul wants followers of Jesus to voluntarily do good and be a blessing to others. Even though it is a Christian’s obligation to do so, Paul doesn’t want people to do good out of compulsion. He wants Christians to do what is right because they want to do it. He never wants to steal from someone the opportunity to choose the right path.

Transformed Relationships

I believe the most important theme of this letter is that faith in Jesus transforms relationships. Because of their shared faith in Jesus, Onesimus has been caring for Paul like a son would care for his aging father. And when Onesimus returns to the household from which he fled, the expectation is that he will no longer be treated as a slave, but will now be a family member.

My favorite line is this, “Receive him as you would receive me.” Can you imagine how that would play out if it were truly obeyed? Onesimus was a runaway slave and Paul expects the Gospel of Jesus Christ to so transform his former master that he will receive Onesimus in the exact same way he would receive the apostle Paul.

What might Philemon had done to receive Paul? Prepare a room for him, wash his feet, serve a feast in his honor, listen attentively to stories of his travels. In other words, Philemon would serve him, because that’s what a follower of Jesus is supposed to do. Followers of Jesus consider others to be more significant than themselves and serve them selflessly (Philippians 2:1-5). Paul expected Philemon to do this for Onesimus, serve him as he would serve any other honored guest in his home.

And Onesiums, who at one time could not wait to get away from Philemon’s house, was returning to serve. He wasn’t returning to serve as a slave but returning to serve as a brother in Christ. What a beautiful picture: a former master and a former slave, now mutually submitting to one another and serving one another; each treating the other as if his brother was “more significant” than himself.

Charge That to My Account

Finally, I must say a word about Paul’s willingness to pay Onesimus’ debts. Paul wrote to Philemon, “If [Onesimus] has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it.” While making a sincere offer to pay any outstanding debt, he fully expected Philemon would probably refuse to accept Paul’s money because he himself felt indebted to Paul.

This is what it looks like to follow the example of Jesus. Going to the cross, Jesus paid our debts in order to bring about reconciliation. Jesus was willing to say, on behalf of all those enslaved to sin, “Charge that to my account.” He did this to reconcile heaven and earth, bringing God and humanity back together.

Jesus’ act of selfless love also brings about humanity’s reconciliation with each other. When we become followers of Jesus, we begin looking for opportunities to bring people together, even if we have to say, “Charge that to my account.” When two parties are at odds with one another, we seek to bring them together, even if the results of their misdeeds have to fall on us.

Now that we are no longer slaves, we seek to free others from slavery. We seek to bring about peace and reconciliation in the world, even when we must follow in our Savior’s footsteps and have another’s debt charged to our account.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Paul’s three short letters to his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, might be compared to locker room speeches or a commanding officer trying to inspire his troops. In these three letters, Paul describes the type of work these young ministers ought to be doing. I noticed that there are at least three areas Paul focused on when he described the duty of these ministers.

The Minister’s “Charge”

One of the recurring words, especially in Paul’s letters to Timothy, is the word “charge.” Paul had “charged” both of these young ministers to do a job. He had entrusted them with great responsibility. Timothy had been sent to work with the Ephesus church and Titus with various churches on the island of Crete. Like soldiers sent on a mission, these were their marching orders.

Be A Teacher

The primary area of responsibility on which Paul told Timothy and Titus to focus was teaching. Both communities with which these men were working were plagued with false teachers. So the church in both communities needed men who would devote themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

Paul encourages these men to teach the women, the men, the young, and the old. He wants them to teach the people about Jesus and the grace of God. He wants them to teach people how to live the kind of lives that are consistent with faith in Jesus. Here is the sort of thing Paul tells Titus to declare:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The church continues to need men who will be devoted to teaching and reminding Christians how to live in a way that is consistent with faith in Jesus.

Be A Leader

I find it undeniably true that Timothy and Titus were entrusted with positions of leadership. Like a chain of command, Paul gave marching orders to these two men and they were expected to turn around and command, charge, and entrust various responsibilities to other Christians in their local communities.

Timothy and Titus were given the job of delegating. They were not expected to do all the teaching, correcting, or ministry themselves. They were told to pass these responsibilities on to elders, deacons, and other “faithful” disciples of Jesus. There was a sort of delegated authority Paul had, a delegated authority these ministers had, and a delegated authority the elders, deacons, and others had when the baton was passed to them.

When we seek to learn from this example, perhaps the most important question isn’t, “Who needs to have what authority?” We get so caught up in church politics, but maybe some better questions would be things like:

  • Is everyone busy serving the Lord?
  • Is the church being shepherded?
  • Is the truth being taught?
  • Are people loving and serving one another?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about the pecking order. If the answer is “no,” then someone needs to be charged with some responsibility. Pass the baton to a faithful person and encourage them to do what needs to be done.

A Model of Good Works

One of the most important parts of both Timothy and Titus’ roles was modeling good works. If Timothy and Titus taught the truth about Jesus, but their life did not reflect the Spirit’s sanctifying work, then their teaching would be in vain. This, of course, does not mean Timothy and Titus had to be perfect, but it does mean teaching and preaching always brings a level of scrutiny for which these men needed to be prepared.

These are the sort of instructions Paul gave to them:

  • Pursue righteousness
  • Pursue faith
  • Pursue love
  • Pursue peace
  • Avoid controversies and quarreling
  • Be kind to everyone
  • Patiently endure evil
  • Correct opponents with gentleness

I love what Paul wrote to Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The goal of everything Paul was doing was love. Love that issues from a pure heart. Paul knew that in order for his own ministry to be successful and for the ministries of his proteges to be successful, they had to all model love and work to bring about love in their life of the church.

Ministers in Today’s Church

Whether we are talking about preaching ministers, involvement ministers, missionaries, or youth ministers, if a person has devoted their lives to the gospel, then there is much to learn from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.

They should primarily focus on teaching. They should find and dispel the myths and correct the misunderstandings we all have in our minds. They should explain to us, from the Scriptures, what lives look like that are consistent with the Good News of Jesus. They should be theologians, saturating their hearts and minds in Scripture so they can teach others.

They should also lead and be empowered to lead. They should delegate responsibilities and equip others to minister alongside them in the kingdom. They should not be seen as hired hands, but as fellow soldiers in our battle against the schemes of the devil.

And finally, they should set examples of love and good works. And of course, when they stumble, they should find grace and forgiveness, being allowed (and even expected) to confess sins and struggles (just like any other Christian). If we do not extend grace and forgiveness to our ministers, we will continue to have festering sin hidden below the surface; which will eventually be exposed and destroy lives, ministries, and the reputation of the church.

May we all continue to build one another up, understanding that “the aim of our charge is love.”

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Today’s guest is Sam Dominguez, my former co-host. Today you’ll get a chance to hear Sam and I discuss the concept of eternity. What is eternity like? Can we wrap our minds around it? Should we even try to think of “eternity” as a really long time? Should we think of it as a time when “time” no longer exists. Is this even something the Bible discusses? What does the Bible mean when it says “eternal.” Those are some of the questions we explore?

If you enjoy this show, you can help others discover it by sharing it on social media and by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. You can also help by checking out Logos Bible Software. Logos has partnered with us to give our listeners a great discount. Just visit RadicallyChristian.com/logos.

Instructions for Subscribing to the Podcast:

For very simple instructions on subscribing to the podcast (on an iPhone) – Click Here

Connect:

If you enjoyed this CrossTalk podcast, be sure to check out:

www.facebook.com/radicallychristian

www.facebook.com/theccmr

www.twitter.com/wesmcadams

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview