Letter from Polycarp to the Philippians 110-140 C.E. Chapter III.II

These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter. which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin”

FBC. Win. Pastor Bruce Taylor. September 6, 2009.

FBC. Win. Pastor Bruce Taylor. September 6, 2009.

 

Pastor Bruce starts off with a scripture reading, which is 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. He uses the ESV translation, and so he receives automatic props for that, haha. In any case, the sermon starts off with a word of wisdom, that we need to be thoughtful and be wise when we reach out to people, and that we ought to think about when and how we reach out to people. We also need to make sure that we don’t get arrogant or dismissive, and have the attitude that our way of doing things are the only right way and that just because some people use different strategies, it does not make them wrong or bad.

We’re told that we have freedom in Christ, and that we need to be ready to engage people where they are. He uses the example of if we’re going to minster to a culture, say doing missionary work, we should learn their culture, language and customs, and build and reach out by being intentional. We need to sacrifice the things don’t matter for the sake of the gospel. We need to restrict ourselves for the sake of the gospel. We need to develop a selfless mindset as ministers of Christ, and even though because of our freedom in Christ we may have certain rights, we need to be prepared to lay down our rights for the sake of the kingdom. He does add though, that the one thing we don’t sacrifice or compromise is the truth of God’s word. When talking with senior citizens, or youths, we need to connect with them on their level, and on their turf.

Note: it would have been nice to get a few bible verses in there, because I know there are some great ones to be had, or at least have him reinforce the verse he already presented. Because it seems like he read his string of scriptures, and it contains so much good stuff, but then he talks about concepts and truths found there without pointing back to the exact verse it’s found in. The more things that are anchored in specific scriptures, the better. As well, I would offer a word of caution that we don’t contextualize too much. We don’t have to dress like a goth to minister to a goth, and we don’t have to be over 60 to minister to a senior. The goal is not to be relevant, but rather to be faithful to the word. The gospel message transcends all cultures and economic and political circumstances .And I don’t think Pastor Bruce would disagree with me for a second, but I wanted to get that in.

In a slightly different vein, we are told that no one is exempt from the great commission, from going out into the world and making disciples and baptizing them. He then makes the point that “Loving God and loving other people is not optional. It is absolutely core to our faith. If you do not love God with all your heart mind soul and strength, and if you do not love people as yourself, then you need to talk to me. Because you need to understand the grace of God through Jesus Christ more if that’s the case.” At this point I did get in contact with Pastor Brent and asked him about that, specifically because I was concerned with how he was using the law. He reassured me that “Jesus calls us to live in His fulfillment of the law, we are to at least agree with the need for that in our lives, yes with brokenness in our understanding that we cannot do it perfectly but still our desire should be to live it out.” In short, I think that what is going on is not an improper use of the law, but rather a lack of precise language in defining it. For me, the insertion of “If you are not striving to love God with your whole heart” would have made all the difference, and that was what I believe he was getting at, and I agree with him on that for sure. Because remember, it’s not possible to actually love God with our hearts, soul, mind and strength, because that command to is the law and not the gospel. Rather, we rest content and joyful that Christ kept the law for us, and that through him we have mercy and grace and his righteousness when we don’t keep it.

In any case, we are told that the number one way we give God glory is through sharing the gospel, and that we need to run a good race. We need to be intentional with our whole week. That we are not being called to do more things, but rather to be intentional with our training. We can get a lot of knowledge, but not training. And in order to run the good race, and be fit for service, we need to engage in the application of our knowledge. We are then told that we need to move forward, and not be afraid of what people think about us, or what people think at work, or how we’re perceived by the community, etc. We need to overcome our fear, and do it for the gospel.

The last section is dedicated to a gospel message, and laying out for us the state of our souls and the need for a Savior. He says that a crucial element to salvation is that we admit our sins, and that “you cannot become a Christian if you have not admitted your sin. That’s the way Christianity works.” The foundations are found in a repentant heart in which we do admit our sin, and that if you don’t understand how sinful you are, you will never know that you need God’s mercy.

To illustrate the point, he does a test and starts us off at 100% “morality points” and then with each question we answer with a no, we lose 25%. The questions are about whether we love God perfectly as we should, love our neighbor as we should. Always spoken in a manner that exalts God, and always given him our talents and gifts. Inavertedly, everyone answers no, and everyone has 0%- which is to show the need for a Savior. And while I grasp the purpose and construction of the test, I think it’s imprecise. Because I would argue that as we are dead in our sins and are totally depraved, and born with original sin, that we start off in the negatives, as it were. We’re born at -1% and every sin brings us lower and lower and compounds the problem. As well, breaking one sin is as breaking the whole of the law, so that even telling a single lie is enough to send someone to hell and to render them at 0%

In any case, he talks about the great exchange, and how Jesus takes our 0 and gives us his 100%. That when God sees us, he sees all the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He tells us that it’s not a matter of getting all your ducks in a row, or dotting all your I’s and crossing your T’s in order to make yourself more acceptable to God. Not at all. In fact, when you do that you’re actually running from God rather than to God, because you’re trying to be your own Savior. [Which is a fantastic point]

Lastly, he tells us that victory is only found in Jesus Christ. It starts with his work and continues with his work. That our faith is not about figuring it out and making ourselves good to God, but that our faith is centered around the concept that I am a broken and sinful individual, and I received Jesus Christ because I have no hope other than him. And every day when I make a mess of things, I continually am receiving grace as through Jesus Christ as I am repentant and walk with humility concerning my flaws and inability. That I can only rely on God, because everything else is going to be sinful.

REFLECTIONS

This really was an excellent sermon, made all the more so once I spoke to him and cleared up that issue I had. I already mentioned that it would have been nice to have his points anchored more firmly in specific scriptures, instead of just talking theology without any references. But again- his theology was spot on. One thing I’ve notice about Pastor Bruce, is that He definitely is right up there in his understanding of what the gospel is and how it works, and he probably explains it better and more thoroughly than anyone I’ve heard yet.

One point that really stuck with me though, and that I’ve been mulling quite a bit, is the part I bolded. Not the point he was making, but rather how as a believer I make myself acceptable to God. Because I know that nothing I can do can make me more acceptable to God, and yet oftentimes I find myself trying to do exactly that. If I wake up, get on my knees and pray for half an hour, then read my bible, then not engage in any big sins, then love my wife the way I ought to, and then maybe help a lady with her groceries at the store,  and then maybe mention Jesus in a conversation, I’m feeling on top of the world. I’m feeling that I really managed to please God today, and I’m feeling really saved. And yet if I haven’t read my bible in a few days, and I get needlessly angry at my wife, and I sit around at home and do nothing, and I don’t share the gospel with anyone, then I feel miserable and really unacceptable to God, and I feel like I have to make up for it or do something “godly” to get back in with his good graces.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, and in fact that’s not how it works at all, and sometimes I have to remind myself that. Because the reality for Christians and the point which needs to be driven home, is that if you don’t understand the gospel, then when you struggle and sin [and I do mean when, and not if] you’re going to think that God is disappointed in you, and you’re going to run from him rather than to him. That’s because you won’t understand that God’s pleasure in you is not predicated upon your moral behavior, but rather on the cross of Christ, which is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. That stark reality is something that I cling to and hold dearly, and this sermon really brought that out for me. And so good stuff.

Note. sermon available at http://grou.ps/fbc/

Thy Strong Word

Thy Strong Word

1.Thy strong Word did cleave the darkness;
At thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank Thee
While thine ordered seasons run
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia without end!

2. Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness,
Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of thy salvation,
Breathed thine own life-giving breath.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia without end!

3. Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous;
Bright with thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory,
And our lives our hopes confess.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia without end!

4. Give us lips to sing thy glory,
Tongues thy mercy to proclaim,
Throats to shout the hope that fills us,
Mouths to speak thy holy name.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
May the light which thou dost send,
Fill our songs with alleluias,
Alleluias without end!

5. God the Father, light-creator,
To Thee laud and honor be.
To Thee, Light from Light begotten,
Praise be sung eternally.
Holy Spirit, light-revealer,
Glory, glory be to Thee.
Mortals, angels, now and ever
Praise the Holy Trinity!

REFLECTIONS

This is a killer hymn,  written by Martin H. Franzmann, a 20th century Lutheran theologian, in 1969. While I don’t particularly care for the version I’ve uploaded, and in fact prefer a much more modernized version of this song, this is definitely one of my favorite hymns.  from start to finish, there is so much deep theology stated, from the creation of the world, to justification, sanctification, glorification, all of it. I’m especially partial to the 4th stanza, where in the version I once heard the singers just belt it out.  So good! This is pretty much my ideal worship song, and if I had to sing it every Sunday, I would look forward to it more and more each and every Sunday.  Last thing though, is that again, I don’t like the version I posted very much, so I’ll be on a hunt to up0load a more favorable version. If you have one, please send it to me.

The More I Seek You. Kari Jobe

The More I Seek You. Kari Jobe


The more I seek you,
The more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you

I wanna sit at your feet
Drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming

REFLECTIONS

I heard this song a few days ago, and this would be a prime example of vacuous spirituality dressed up in the form of Christianity. While not knocking Kari at all, because I don’t doubt her sincerity at all, this sort of thing represents everything that is wrong with the modern praise and worship scene. First of all, It rates very high on the “man-centered/God centered scale.” 7/8 in fact. [That is, 7 I’s from 8 lines] Because who is she singing about? She’s singing about herself. The more I seek you. The more I find you. The more I. The more I. The more I.  It’s all about the “I”. Jesus just happens to be collateral damage.

And this is another problem that I have with songs like this; there are no assertions about God at all. Nothing about his character or Nature or his wondrous deeds. Indeed, there’s no content or depth at all. The people who sing this song and worship to it have bought into the lie that it’s spiritual to proclaim nothing about God. In fact, If I didn’t know it was a “christian song” I would have no idea that it was being sung to the sovereign creator and sustainer of the world. I would have thought it was about some girl crushing on some guy.

But what is most disturbing to me, and why I wanted to point it out, is because the entire song plays as homage to spiritual eroticism. The might and power and love of God has been reduced to a song about a mystical and sensual exploration into the forays of requited love to the Jesusboyfriend. That’s the imagery that is conjured up. I try to think about that scene, and the visual I get is a woman lying back against a bearded Jesus, bathed in sunlight, and his arms is around her and one hand is around her waist while the other lifts a cup that she’s drinking out of, and then she leans back against his chest and feels his heartbeat and she purrs contentedly. It’s super creepy. In fact, when I sing the song, almost voluntary my mind wants to insert the lyric

Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.

I melt in your peace,
and steal a kiss. it’s overwhelming

As a man, I do not feel comfortable at all singing that song. And in fact I wouldn’t sing it at all. I would clamp my mouth shut and probably sit there stewing and mentally shuddering in church, because I already have someone that I do those things with. My wife. And she’s not Jesus.  This is a great example of the feminization of the church, where there’s a hoard of women who would love to sing this song, swaying to it with eyes closed as they try to dispel the niggling “true love waits” mantra that keeps popping up in their thoughts. But for all the men who are feeling emasculated and squirmy and saying to themselves “But I don’t want to lean back against Jesus’ chest and feel his heart beat”, this thing won’t do. Can you imagine the apostle Peter singing this song to Jesus?  Yeah. Me neither.