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Showing posts from March, 2019

Legalism versus grace.

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LEGALISM'li.gəl.iz.əmnoun. Excessive adherence to law or formula.2. Dependence on law or merit, instead of grace and faith, for righteousness before God and salvation.[Legalist 'li.gəl.istnoun.]The absence of grace is legalism: Subtract the optimistic attitude, the forgiveness which should immediately follow when we slip up, the trust that God can take care of the details and manage our biggest messes. It’s when people figure yeah, God saves, but he only cares to save those who merit it with our good karma.Most Christians are aware legalism is the wrong route to God. The evangelists drummed the idea into our heads pretty early: Salvation is through grace and nothing else. We can’t earn salvation; we shouldn’t try. If we try, we’re kinda trying to do an end-run around God and the system he set up, which is for Jesus to take out our sins. And the only reason we’d wanna do an end-run around God is pride, sin, delusion, or some other evil or self-centered motive. Don’t be that way…

“The fool says there’s no God around.”

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Psalm 14.1, 53.1.The New Living Translation renders Psalm 14.1 and 53.1 exactly the same:Psalm 14.1, 53.1 NLTOnly fools say in their hearts,“There is no God.”They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;not one of them does good!It’s because Psalms 14 and 53 are actually the same psalm. David ben Jesse wrote it five centuries before Psalms got put together—and Psalms is actually made of five different psalters. The first book Ps 1-41 had it, and so did the second Ps 42-72 —so yep, it’s in there twice. For fun, you can compare the two psalms for the differences which slipped into the psalm over time. It’s kinda like different hymnals which have alternate verses to your favorite hymns. (“Amazing Grace,” fr’instance, is a bit different from the way John Newton originally wrote it.)Differences the NLT actually muted. ’Cause it translated two different words as “actions.” Psalm 14.1 has עֲלִילָ֗ה/alilá, “a doing,” and Psalm 53.1 has עָ֝֗וֶל/avél, “an immoral deed.” The NLT’s translators w…

Being good never justified anyone. Only faith does that.

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Galatians 3.5-12.Dispensationalism—the belief God saved people one way (or various ways) in the Old Testament, but saves us by grace in the current era—is far too common in Christendom. Pretty deeply embedded, too: Every so often I’ll talk about where we see grace in the Old Testament, and somebody will pipe up, “But grace came through Jesus Christ.” Jn 1.17 They won’t mean, as John did in that reference, that Jesus is the one who made grace possible throughout all of human history. They mean grace didn’t even begin till Jesus came around. That people in the OT never experienced grace. Obviously they missed the entire point of the Exodus.Nor have the really read Paul. He never taught dispensationalism. Doesn’t matter how many proof texts dispys use from Paul’s letters to back their ideas: They’re not using a one of them in context. Paul taught salvation always came by grace. Comes by grace today; came by grace in Old Testament times. True, how salvation works was a mystery before Jesu…

How’d you go from grace to legalism?

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Galatians 3.1-4.Because humans are selfish, we’d honestly prefer the world work to our satisfaction: We get maximum output with minimal effort, or get freebies and special favor, and who cares whether everybody else does; and if others wrong us, we take it out of ’em sevenfold. But on humanity’s better days, we’re willing to accept reciprocity and karma. In fact we look at karma as an ideal: It’s fair. It’s just. Everybody gets what they deserve. It’s considered right and moral, and it’s even upheld in many a religion. Even ours. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and all that.Ex 21.24 God forbade satisfaction and revenge, ’cause we always go way too far. But reciprocity’s acceptable.Of course I remind you God’s personal practice, his ideal for his followers, is grace. Is for us to not be fair, but generous and forgiving in other people’s favor. He’s gracious to us, so we need to be gracious to others. ’Cause if we don’t pay it forward, he’ll actually stop.Problem is, humanity uplifts karm…

By Law we’re good as dead. So live for Jesus.

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Galatians 2.14-21.To recap: Simon Peter (whom Paul calls Κηφᾶς/Kifás in this passage, ’cause that’s his Aramaic name כיפא/KifáJn 1.42), in a lapse of judgment, was segregating himself from gentiles. Paul objected ’cause Peter’s motivation wasn’t based on the gospel, but on legalism: We’re not right with God, nor saved, because we obey the Law. We’re right by trusting God, and only by trusting God.Galatians 2.14-16 KWL14 But when I saw they weren’t orthodox with the gospel’s truth, I spoke to Kifa in front of everyone:“If you Jews live gentile, not ‘Jewish,’ why do you obligate gentiles to live ‘Jewish’?15 We’re naturally Jews, not gentile sinners:16We know people aren’t right with God by working the Law. It’s through trusting Christ Jesus.We put our trust in Christ Jesus so we can be right with God through a faith in Christ.Not in working the Law: No flesh is right with God by working the Law.”Peter knew this stuff already, but that’s the thing about legalism: We’ll get so fixated on…

Paul challenges Simon Peter.

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Galatians 2.11-16.Today’s passage is, as the title says, about Paul challenging Simon Peter. Because he had to: Peter had behaved one way when he first came to visit Antioch, but as soon as the legalists showed up, Peter was behaving another way. Paul identified it as hypocrisy—hey, anybody can fall into it with the right kind of peer pressure—although maybe Peter was legitimately swayed by the legalists’ arguments. But either way Peter was profoundly wrong, and Paul had to tell him so.(And I remind you Paul frequently refers to Peter as Κηφᾶς/Kifás, a transliteration of כיפא/Kifá, Aramaic for “rock”—the original nickname Jesus gave him. Jn 1.42)Galatians 2.11-16 KWL11 When Simon Kifa came to Antioch, I personally stood against him, because he was wrong.12 For before certain people came from James, Kifa was eating with gentiles.Once they came, he withdrew and segregated himself, afraid of the circumcision party.13 The other Jews were hypocrites with Kifa; so much so, Barnabas was led …

Holy communion: Regularly eating and drinking Jesus.

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An introduction to Christianity’s most frequent ritual. Holy communion, or “communion” for short, refers to the Christian ritual where we repeat what Jesus did during his last Passover with his students:Mark 14.22-25 KWL22 As they ate, Jesus took bread; blessed, broke, and gave it to the students,and said, “Take it. This is my body.”23 Taking a cup, giving a blessing, Jesus gave it to the students, and all drank from it.24Jesus told them, “This is the blood of my relationship, poured out for many.25Amen! I promise you I might never drink the product of the vineyard again—till that day I drink it new in God’s kingdom.”Roughly we do the same thing. There’s bread, wafers, matzo, saltines, oyster crackers, or those little Chiclet-size pills of flour you can buy by the case; there’s wine, non-alcoholic wine, grape juice, grape-flavored juice (made with 10 percent juice, which I like to call “10 percent Jesus”), or grape drink; Christians ritually eat it ’cause it represents Jesus’s self-sa…

Gentiles.

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Ancestry doesn’t matter in Christ. Way too often, it does to everyone else.GENTILE'dʒɛn.taɪladjective. Not Jewish.2. Not of our religious community.Years ago a Mormon friend used the word “gentile” to describe non-Mormons. You know, like I use the word “pagan” to describe nonchristians. If you’re used to defining the word another way, it’s a little odd to hear it like that; and of course I had to ask him if he considered non-Mormon Jews to be “gentiles.” Apparently he does. That oughta be super weird for any Jews who hear that.’Cause “gentile” originates from Jews trying to describe anyone who’s not a Jew. The Hebrew word is גּוֹי/goy, “people-group” or “nation”; and they translated this by the Greek word ἔθνος/éthnos, “ethnic.” It can refer to any people-group, including Israel. Ex 19.6 When St. Jerome translated it, he used the Latin word gentilis, “people-group,” and of course this evolved into the English “gentile.” (The Yiddish word, góyim, comes from the Hebrew plural for goy

The Textus Receptus: The first popular western Greek NT.

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The Greek New Testament of renaissance Christians… and conspiracy theorists. TEXTUS RECEPTUS'tɛks.təs rə'sɛp.təs, properly 'teɪk.stus reɪ'seɪp.tus, noun. The medieval western Greek New Testament, edited and first published by Desiderus Erasmus in 1516. (Latin for “received text.”)2. Any of the Greek NTs published by Erasmus’s successors before 1831; most often Stephanus’s 1550 edition.We don’t have the original Greek-language copies of the New Testament anymore. Wish we did; it’d be nice if Christians had preserved them. Then again Christians would wind up worshiping the books… about as much as we already do.But ancient Christians, like most ancient peoples, figured if you made copies and spread ’em around, that was just as good. And that’s what they did. They made copies, didn’t worry about the originals, and when the originals wore to pieces, no problem—they had lots and lots of backups! There are still thousands of ancient copies of the NT; it wasn’t just a best-sel…

Where your church meets, and where the needy are.

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My church (I’m not a pastor; just a longtime member) meets in a strip mall. We’re next to a Walmart Neighborhood Market. We moved in during the recession, before Walmart moved in and the building owners drove up the rental prices. The higher rent was part of the reason we had to give up our Fellowship Hall; there’s a carpet store there now. It’s next to a junior high school, next to a 7-Eleven, across the street from a health club. It’s not a good neighborhood. We got crime. We got homeless people. Which means it’s a really good place to put a church. Needy people and sinners need Jesus!So occasionally homeless folks come into the building. Usually it’s because we have coffee in the hall. They see free coffee; they want free coffee; I don‘t blame ’em. Come in and have some coffee! Sometimes we also have pastries, doughnuts, muffins, or other baked goods; they’ll eat those too. The hope is they’ll also stick around for the worship service. And every once in a while they do.We had the s…