Tuesday, April 17, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 41: Foundations First -- the Gospel-based Word of God

In proposing a cyber-college as a means to support the church in its enduring mission/mandate in and from the Caribbean, we first emphasised: "Consolidating Life-foundations and associated Commitments" as the first of three main foci for teaching and training.

In part, that is triggered by the observation that all too many Christians in the region don't even understand clearly and biblically, basic vocabulary -- repentance, faith, prayer, praise, etc.

But also, it is driven by a disturbing observation that not only among the youth but also among long-standing believers and even among leaders at all levels, there is far too often a major gap between generic profession of Christian faith and having lives that are in fact deeply and transformingly shaped by core Biblical teaching.

So, as Jesus warns us in Matt 7, if we are to try to make a difference among the general public [helping them with the sawdust in their eyes, so to speak], we have got to first fix the planks in our own eyes. Otherwise we will simply play the old, sad, failed game of hypocrisy -- do as I say, not as I do.

I find, in particular, that we too often lack even a basic grounding in the core gospel facts and message -- the words of the beginnings of Christ, as Heb 6:1 describes. So, let us now examine the remarks in Paul's AD 55 1 Corinthians 15:
1CO 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word . . . preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

1CO 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born . . . . 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
This testimony of the core 500+ eyewitnesses of the church dates from the 30's AD, and emphasises not only the facts that they saw for themselves, but also that this was predicted in the prophets [Acts 8:26 on shows the principal of these, the 700+ BC Isaiah 53], and so also raises from Isaiah 43, the point that in the scriptures speaks the voice of the God who controls -- and so can predict -- history, centuries in advance. (DV, let's explore that in more details "next time.")

Immediately, the Word of that God who is Lord of History and our loving Saviour -- he who sent his Son, who in obedience came [Phil 2:5 - 11], descending and dying for our sins, rising as Lord and ascending to His Father, pouring out his Spirit on those who repent and receive him, sending out the church as his body the fulness of him who fills everything in every way [Eph 1, 4] -- should be our guide and rule of life. But, far too often, it simply is not.

How many times do we fall under James' rebuke, instead:
JAS 1:16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

JAS 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

JAS 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.
So, we plainly need grounding in the gospel and in the Scripture Principle:
It is through repentantly trusting God and obediently taking him at his word, that we can access eternal life, and spiritual power , and so grow in the good works God has laid out in advance for us to do.
Isn't it plain from Genesis 1 - 3 on that disobedience based on losing respect and trust for God, that got us into trouble from the beginning? And, isn't distracting us from the Word of God and leading us into deception and disobedience instead Satan's main tactic from Eden to today? Have we not been clearly and plainly warned on the results, e.g in Romans 1 as it points out how when men profess to be wise but in ingratitude turn their backs on God, they become fools who lose control of their minds and passions? [Is it any coincidence that it is exactly the substitution of misleading images made to look like men, birds, beasts, reptiles, the twisting of sexuality into weird shapes, and the rise of violence that we see ever so clearly marking our own civilisation today?]

Instead, let us repent and heed Paul's counsel to Timothy:
2TI 3:12 . . . everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2TI 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
It seems to me, such a time is upon us in Western Civilisation, in the Caribbean and far beyond. Paul's further counsel to Titus is also apt:
TIT 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good . . . . TIT 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

TIT 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Plainly, the very first topic on the syllabus of any college for disciples in our region must be foundational instruction. For, again, we may read on :
HEB 6:1 . . . the elementary teachings about Christ . . . the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Should we not therefore -- like the writer to the Hebrews invited (and exemplified, cf. Heb chs 1 - 5) -- first review these, then move on to the things of maturity:
HEB 5:11 We have much to say . . . but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil . . .
It is time -- by God's grace -- for making sure of our foundations, then building on them. END

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