Postmodern Prophet -

I Want to See

“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” (Luke 18:41, NLT)

Yes, I want the same. I want to see Jesus. I want to follow Jesus. I want to know Jesus.

Let the Little Children Come to Me

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17, NRSV)

What is the connection between receiving children and entering the kingdom?

Joel Green interprets v. 17 to say that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as one receives a little child will never enter it.” That reading transforms the way I have always thought of this teaching. It isn’t about the childlike way the kingdom is received; it’s about how we receive the lowest echelons of society.

The children are not active. They are passively received.

Church, we have some work to do.

Many evangelicals have made salvation such an individual thing that they have stopped baptizing children. Jesus would most likely rebuke us for that as he rebuked his disciples.

Like this Tax Collector

The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ (Luke 18:11–12, NRSV)

Whoever offers to God sacrifices of praise, the rational fruits of the lips that confess his name, should be very alert for the ambushes of the evil one. Satan lies in ambush ready to catch you by surprise at the very time of thanksgiving. He will get up and accuse you before God, just as he did with your fellow Pharisee in the temple. This time, he will not be puffing you up with pride over good works, as he did with the Pharisee, but he will be making you drunk with a different kind of pride. He makes you drunk on pride in the lovely and sweet sound of your own voice, the beauty of your chants that are sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. The result is that you do not realize that these belong to God, and not to yourself.

Martyrius, Book of Perfection 78.

It says that the tax collector “stood afar off,” not even venturing to raise up his eyes. You see him abstaining from all boldness of speech. He seems devoid of the right to speak and beaten down by the scorn of conscience. He was afraid that God would see him, since he had been careless in keeping his laws and had led an unchaste and uncontrolled life. You also see that he accuses his own depravity by his external manner. The foolish Pharisee stood there bold and broad, lifting up his eyes without a qualm, bearing witness of himself and boastful. The other feels shame for his conduct. He is afraid of his judge. He beats his breast. He confesses his offenses. He shows his illness as to the Physician, and he prays that he will have mercy. What is the result? Let us hear what the judge says. He says, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 120.

The stern Pharisee, who in his overweening pride not only boasted of himself but also discredited the tax collector in the presence of God, made his justice void by being guilty of pride. Instead of the Pharisee, the tax collector went down justified, because he had given glory to God, the holy One. He did not dare lift his eyes but sought only to plead for mercy. He accused himself by his posture, by striking his breast, and by entertaining no other motive except propitiation. Be on your guard, therefore, and bear in mind this example of severe loss sustained through arrogance. The one guilty of insolent behavior suffered the loss of his justice and forfeited his reward by his bold self-reliance. He was judged inferior to a humble man and a sinner because in his self-exaltation he did not await the judgment of God but pronounced it himself. Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners. Humility often saves a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.

Basil the Great, On Humility.

A Gift with an Obligation

God gave us a wonderful gift when Jesus was born. He gave us the opportunity to be part of his people. This is real amazing grace.

When that grace is appropriated in our lives, we are not done. The gift keeps on giving.

Some Christians act as if the receiving of grace is the end of the story. They seem to have the attitude that they can do whatever they want and God will wink at their sin.

Not so.

God’s grace comes with an obligation. The obligation is to obey God, to serve him. We exchange slavery to sin for slavery to Christ.

So, grace comes to us when we don’t deserve it, but it does not come without strings attached.

Get that idea right and you could become a productive Christian, part of a productive Christian community. Get that idea wrong and you will find it uncomfortable when Jesus judges us on what we have done.

More Thoughts On Burying The Term “Evangelical”

The problem is that in the 1980s evangelicalism’s leaders — James Kennedy, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell — aligned evangelicals with the Republican Party and we have people today like Franklin Graham uttering asinine and inane defenses of President Donald Trump, we have pastors standing behind the President in the posture of blessing, and far too many evangelical leaders who are afraid to speak against the political posturing of evangelicalism.

Link: More Thoughts On Burying The Term “Evangelical”

Link: It’s Not Too Late

Now that the special Senate election in Alabama is over, it is time for some Christians on both sides of the political aisle to repent of selling their souls in exchange for temporal political power.

It’s Not Too Late

Being Saved

Throughout, the Lukan narrative focuses attention on a pervasive, coordinating theme: salvation. Salvation is neither ethereal nor merely future, but embraces life in the present, restoring the integrity of human life, revitalizing human communities, setting the cosmos in order, and commissioning the community of God’s people to put God’s grace into practice among themselves and toward ever-widening circles of others. The Third Evangelist knows nothing of such dichotomies as those sometimes drawn between social and spiritual or individual and communal. Salvation embraces the totality of embodied life, including its social, economic, and political concerns. For Luke, the God of Israel is the Great Benefactor whose redemptive purpose is manifest in the career of Jesus, whose message is that this benefaction enables and inspires new ways for living in the world.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997.

It grates on me when people say, “I’m saved.” Better, in my opinion, is to say I am being saved. But even more important than that distinction is the whole idea of what it means to be being saved.

It’s more than a transaction that frees me from the fear of hell and grants me eternal bliss. As Professor Green points out, it is social, economic, and political in its ramifications.

It’s a good time of the year to think about this. The Christ-gift is the totally life-changing. It is not an add-on to life. It is life itself.

Standing Alone

Standing Alone

Do you ever feel alone? Not in the sense that there is no one around you, but in the sense that those around you don’t understand you?

Maybe it’s not popular—maybe it’s even not right—to speak out against the church. Because when I say anything that could be construed as criticism, I am usually met by silence.

Yet there is so much to be critical of. Surely I’m not the only one who sees it. Surely.

Yeast

Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. (Luke 12:1–3, NRSV)

Hypocrisy is probably the number one excuse people give for not going to church. Apparently, they would rather hang out with non-church hypocrites than with church hypocrites.

There is plenty of hypocrisy in the church to go around. People aren’t always what they seem to be. Putting on veneer and varnish is an old custom in the church.

Two things:

  1. Don’t be a hypocrite
  2. Don’t assume that anyone else isn’t

In other words, keep your eyes on Jesus.

[Added later, emphasis mine]

Jesus’ point is not that they are play-acting, but that Jesus regards them as misdirected in their fundamental understanding of God’s purpose and, therefore, incapable of discerning the authentic meaning of the Scriptures and, therefore, unable to present anything other than the impression of piety. Important from a rhetorical point of view, Jesus does not regard the Pharisees as unique in their failure to live with integrity a life oriented around absolute love of God and neighbor. His followers, too, are susceptible; hence, he presents this warning lest they contract the same ingressive agent whose decay has already become evident among the Pharisees.

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 480–481.