Schaeffer Checks the Pulse

Francis A. Schaeffer. 2005.  How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Orig Pub 1976).  Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

As a believer in the risen Christ, life sometimes resembles being stuck in a zombie invasion.  Zombies hate living people and desire their destruction.  Conversation with zombies can be challenging. Still, Christians are called to live sacrificially sharing their very lives with zombies on the hope that they too can live.  Jesus said:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24 ESV)

While we were still zombies, Jesus died on the cross for us [1].

The Watchman

How should we then live?

This question taken from Ezekiel 33:10 where Ezekiel reviews his calling as prophet.  In the original call statement, Ezekiel writes:

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand… (Ezekiel 3:17-18 ESV)

Ezekiel must prophesy exactly as God instructs or his own salvation is at risk.

This watchman motif motivated Francis Schaeffer to write his book—How should we then live? (257-258) He outlines this motif in the final chapter addressed specifically to Christians.  The chapter begins with a warning against dichotomous thinking:  separating values (non-reason) from reason (255) [2].  This dichotomy has its origins in Greek thought (Platonic dualism; Gnosticism) where the mind (reason) was elevated over the body (values).

Greek Dualism

This re-emergence of dichotomous thinking in the modern era is a Christian heresy, in part, because it rejects the divinity of Christ who was bodily resurrected from the grave. The risen Christ is no ghost (spirit only) and no zombie (body without spirit).  Dichotomous thinking (a kind of schizophrenia) leads one to believe that God can only be approached through emotional experiences or, alternatively, only through theology.  By contrast, the New Testament teaches unity of mind and body—faith and action [3].  For example, James writes:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22-24 ESV)

The splitting of mind and body (or faith from action) robs the Gospel of its power to transform lives and of its moral teaching. By contrast, the resurrection of Christ accredits Jesus’ divinity (Acts 17:31) and lays claim to the whole of us—both our minds and bodies.  Schaeffer especially sees dichotomous thinking leaving us to accept authoritarian rule because it facilitates manipulation (256-257).

Schaeffer’s point about the manipulative potential of dichotomous thinking is like a bad movie re-run.  During the Second World War, for example, economists of the Vienna School justified working for Adolf Hitler through the development of philosophical school called logical positivism.  In this paradigm, politicians set the goals and economists simply find the most efficient way to execute them.  The guard arguing that he was only following orders when gassing prisoners, for example, is applying logical positivism. In this manner, economists (and prison guards) tried to escape moral judgment by making no judgments at all [4].

Organization

Schaeffer’s book is a survey of key philosophical developments in history, politics, and art dating back to ancient Rome.  It is written in 13 chapters:

  1. Ancient Rome;
  2. The Middle Ages;
  3. The Renaissance;
  4. The Reformation;
  5. The Reformation—Continued;
  6. The Enlightenment;
  7. The Rise of Modern Science;
  8. The Breakdown in Philosophy and Science;
  9. Modern Philosophy and Modern Theology;
  10. Modern Art, Music, Literature, and Films;
  11. Our Society;
  12. Manipulation and the New Elite; and
  13. The Alternatives (7).

If you are one of those who think that this is a book written to justify positions of one generation over another, perhaps you should read with particular care.

Reformation’s Influence

For example, the Renaissance and the Reformation occurred at almost the same time—Renaissance thinkers accepted dichotomous thinking while Reformation thinkers refused to (79-81).  Reformation thinkers refused to accept dichotomous thinking and relied on the Bible to discern God’s truth—an absolute standard for ethics.  In some sense, the enlightenment simply revisited this same split.  Dichotomous thinking remains popular today because it supports humanism and relativism [5].

Assessment

In all his writing, Schaeffer covers a lot of ground.  The details of his discussion are fascinating and provide context for understanding the vast changes occurring in our time.  Unless you are a student of Western Civilization, be prepared to be challenged.  How Should We Then Live? is a classic.  Thank you Crossway Books for keeping it in print.

Footnotes

[1] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

[2] Schaeffer felt so strongly about this topic of dichotomous thinking that he wrote an entire book on the subject:  Francis Schaeffer.  2006.  Escape from Reason:  A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thinking.  Downers Grove:  IVP Press.

[3] An interesting  example of this integrative principle arises in the biblical idea of beauty.  “Our modern images feature surface and finish; Old Testament images present structure and character.  Modern images are narrow and restrictive; theirs were broad and inclusive…For us beauty is primarily visual; their idea of beauty included sensations of light, color, sound, smell, and even taste” Dyrness, William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, page 81.

[4] Hannah Arendt studied this problem at great length.  For example, read her book:   1987.  The Life of the Mind:  The Groundbreaking Investigation of How We Think.  New York:  Harcourt, Inc.

[5] In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians he confronts the problem of false teachers who added the Gospel of Christ other teaching.  Paul writes:   I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)  In the Galatian context, the added teaching was over-reliance on the Law of Moses.  In our context, the added teaching is primarily philosophical or social.

Schaeffer Checks the Pulse

Also see:

Wicks Seeks Availability Deepens Faith

Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

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Easter. Monday Monologues (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I offer a prayer and reflect on Easter.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Easter. Monday Monologues (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019b

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Mark 16: Easter

Empty Tomb on Easter“And he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.

He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6 ESV).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the most vivid memories I have as a young person was the experience of an Easter sunrise.  Easter is mysterious, earth-shattering news.  How could I sleep through it?

Funeral

At my grandfather’s funeral, I was given a head of wheat which hangs now in my kitchen.  The wheat reminds me of Jesus’ saying:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24 ESV).

Resurrection Reminders

The mystery of resurrection is everywhere in nature.  Sunrise is the resurrection of the day.  Springtime is the resurrection of the seasons.  The metamorphosis from caterpillar to cocoon to adult butterfly is a beautiful, dramatic resurrection.  The Apostle Paul writes:  “all of creation groans in anticipation of our redemption” (Romans 8:19-23).

Messianic Prophecies

Prophesies of Jesus’ resurrection start early in scripture.  Systematic theologians see salvation history as creation, fall, and redemption.  Because sin is the cause of death, eternal life requires forgiveness of sin which is brought about in Christ’s resurrection.  This transition is prophesied in Genesis:  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15 ESV).

Other theologians see resurrection arising out of righteous suffering.  The prophet Job writes not only of Christ, but his own resurrection:  “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27 ESV).  At the birth of the church on Pentecost (Acts 2:27), the Apostle Peter sees resurrection prophesied by King David:  “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).

When asked to produce a sign Jesus himself spoke of the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32).  In the belly of the whale Jonah prayed:  “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2 ESV).  And the whale spit him out on dry land, another resurrection story.

Old Testament Resurrections Accounts

Resurrection did not start with Jesus.  Some see the story of the binding of Isaac as a resurrection account [1] and a prophecy of the cross (Genesis 22:1-18).  The prophet Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-37).  In the valley of bones, Ezekiel prophesied about resurrection of the Nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:3-6).  The exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt and the return of the exiles from Babylon are both resurrection accounts where a dead nation rises to new life.

New Testament Resurrection Accounts

In the gospels, Jesus himself performed several resurrections.  He raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead (Mark 5:22-43).  He raised the widow’s son (Luke 7:12-17).  Most remarkably, after lying four days in the tomb he raised Lazarus from death (John 11:1-45).  Like other resurrections, Jesus’ healings and exorcisms brought hope where there was none.

Some scholars believe that John Mark’s gospel recorded Apostle Peter’s testimony while he was in Rome during AD 41-54.  Mark later traveled with Paul.  Mark’s role was to teach about the life of Jesus.  Later, Luke may have assumed this role in Paul’s missionary team.

Mark’s Unusual Ending

Interestingly, Mark did no see the gospel ending with Jesus.  Neither did Luke whose gospel was followed by the Book of Acts.  Mark’s gospel starts with:  “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 ESV).  Scholars believe that Mark’s gospel ends with the woman going out from the tomb to relay the angel’s message:  “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee” (Mark 16:7 ESV).  Likewise, our part in salvation history is to pass on the story.  As the hymnist Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) writes:  “I love to tell the story, of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love…” [2]

Christian Hope

Christian hope starts with the resurrection: we know that death is not the end of life’s story.  And because we know the rest of the story, we can invest in life and live each day with boldness and joy

Footnotes

[1] Did Abraham believe God would raise Isaac from the dead?  Why did the angel have to tell Abraham twice?

[2] www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh156.sht

Mark 16: Easter

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Resurrection: Monday Monologues (podcast) March 29, 2021

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on resurrection. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Resurrection: Monday Monologues (podcast) March 29, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Resurrection of the Body

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

One big anxiety that amputees experience is that lost body parts embody their identity in ways that must now change. The pain is particularly acute when the body part is associated with a beloved activity. Our hearts go out, for example, to the runner who loses a leg or the brilliant researcher who develops Alzheimer’s disease. Our body is part of our identity.

God knows who we are and feels our pain—to be human is to be whole in body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus raised the widow’s son out of compassion (Luke 7:13) and he wept before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:35). How compassionate would Jesus have been if he had raised the widow’s son from the dead only to have the son live on as a paraplegic? Or if Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but left him mentally handicapped?

During my time as a chaplain intern, I knew a dear woman who had been resuscitated after her heart stopped for eight minutes. The resuscitation left her afflicted with dementia and forced to live in a lock-down, Alzheimer’s unit. The affliction left her family guilt ridden and torn over their decision to resuscitate her.

Resuscitation leaves scars. Scripture reports that the widow’s son and Lazarus were returned to health without scars. Consequently, Jesus did not resuscitate them; he re-created them as only God can. Meredith Kline (2006, 220–21) uses the term re-creation in reference to the flood narrative and sees this idea already present in 2 Pet 3:5-7. In other words, Noah was a second Adam even before Christ..

Resurrection is an act of grace—bodily resurrection completes the compassion.

Jesus was bodily resurrected. When the resurrected Christ appeared before the disciples in Jerusalem, he asked for something to eat; the disciples gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it (Luke 24:41-43). Furthermore, Christ’s compassion for his own disciples, who had deserted him, reveals that Jesus, in his perfection, did not harbor the deep emotional scars that might normally accompany the trauma that he experienced (John 21:17).

Consider the alternative. What if Jesus had been raised only spiritually, how long would he continue to empathize with us? Or what if Jesus harbored grievous handicaps or emotional scares? Would he still have pity on the rest of us? Would we really want to stand before such a scarred and potentially vengeful judge?

Christ’s resurrection was a re-creation, not resuscitation, event. Christ’s resurrection gives us hope because our judge is healthy and whole. He is still human and he harbors no grievances.

References

Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Convenental Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Resurrection of the Body

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Resurrection: Monday Monologues (podcast) February 8, 2021

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Ken Burtram Photography

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on resurrection. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Resurrection: Monday Monologues (podcast) February 8, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Resurrection

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“The third day he rose again from the dead.” [1]

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Why should we believe in the resurrection?

The truth of the resurrection became the most important confession of the early church. In John’s Gospel faith consists, primarily, in believing in the resurrection (John 20:25–29). Paul’s letter to the Romans states it plainly: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). Paul knew this truth first hand because the risen Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus—a story recorded three times in the Book of Acts [2]. At one point, the risen Christ appears to more than five hundred witnesses in just one setting (1 Cor 15:6).

The resurrection event changed the Apostle’s lives forever. Ten of the eleven faithful apostles died a martyr’s death [3]. The fact that they were willing to die for their beliefs is strong historical evidence for the truth of the resurrection.

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Jerusalem speaks of both the prophecy of the resurrection and the eye witness accounts. Peter cites this prophecy: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Ps 16:10). The original context of the Psalm points to King David [4], but Peter, as an apostle, correctly interprets the “holy one” as referring also to Jesus (Acts 2:27–31). Peter’s next statement is most telling: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:32) Peter’s argument was both truthful and compelling because it convinced more than three thousand people to be baptized that day (Acts 2:41).

At least three reasons motivate us to believe in the resurrection. The first reason was given by Paul: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:17) We obtain forgiveness from God only because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God. A second reason follows from the first. Jesus’ resurrection makes our resurrection and eternal life possible. A third reason is that in the resurrection God attested Jesus as the Christ (Acts 17:31). Jesus’ path in life, death, and resurrection then becomes the template for our faith and the only source of our salvation (Phil 3:10–11).

Footnotes

[1] The references in this chapter to the Apostle’s Creed are all taken from FACR (2013, Q/A 23). Another translation is found in (PCUSA 1999, 2.1—2.3).

[2] Paul’s conversion was so powerful that he ceased being one of the church’s chief persecutors and he became one of the early church’s strongest evangelists (Acts 8:3). Also see: Acts 8:3–5, 22:6–8, and 26:13–15.

[3] The Apostle John was the only one of the eleven faithful disciples that did not die a martyr (Fox and Chadwick 2001, 10).

[4] The verse is a Hebrew doublet. The two parts repeat the same thought. Therefore, holy one refers to my soul.

References

Faith Alive Christian Resources (FACR). 2013. The Heidelberg Catechism. Cited: 30 August, 2013. Online: https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=372.

Fox, John and Harold J. Chadwick. 2001. The New Foxes’ Book of Martyrs (Orig Pub 1563). Gainsville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC USA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confession. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Resurrection

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Stott Outlines Gospel; Speaks Plainly

Stott_review_20200427John Stott.  2008.  Basic Christianity (Orig pub 1958).  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Apostle Peter reminds us:  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

Our ability to respond to Peter’s admonishment is clearly challenged today.  Outside of the criticism of our faith arising from the advocates for modern science, we are confronted in our shrinking postmodern world with a host of alternatives to Christianity from other religions and from complex and confusing voices in secular society.  In the midst of this whirlwind of controversy, John Stott’s book, Basic Christianity, offers us a plainspoken starting point.

Introduction

Stott outlines the Gospel in eleven chapters.  After a brief introduction, he presents has four parts:  1. Who Christ Is, 2. What We Need, 3. What Christ Has Done, and 4. How To Respond.  The first part focuses on the claims, character, and resurrection of Christ.  The second part focuses on sin.  The third part focuses on Christ’s death and salvation.  The fourth part brings us to count the cost, make a decision, and live the Christian life.

Background

John Stott (1921-2011) was rector (pastor) emeritus of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London and founder of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.  He was one of the authors of the Lausanne Covenant which started as a 1974 Christian religious manifesto promoting active world-wide Christian evangelism and continues to influence missions work today.  My first acquaintance with Stott came in 1983 when I visited Bonn in Germany as an economics student and a friend gifted me with Stott’s book—Gesandt Wie Christus (1976).  At the time, I assumed Stott was German.  Needless to say, Stott is still one of the world’s best known evangelical writers.

Apologistics

Stott acknowledges the enormity of the task of defending the faith–apologetics.  For example, he recounts a conversation with a young man having trouble reciting one of his church’s creeds because he could no longer believe it.  Stott asked him:  If I were to answer your problems to your complete intellectual satisfaction, would you be willing to change the way you live?  The answer was clearly no.  His real problem was not intellectual but moral (25).  This conversation is not an isolated event–advocating a disciplined life-style today is a tough sell. Why give up self-control to Christ and live a disciplined life when in Alice’s Wonderland every headache can be solved with a different colored pill?

Children Expected to Grow

Stott’s final chapter on being a Christian is most interesting.  He writes:  Our great privilege as children of God is relationship; our great responsibility is growth.  Everyone loves children, but nobody…wants them to stay in the nursery (162).  We grow in two dimensions—understanding and holiness—which work out in our duties to God, to the church, and to society (163-166).  This growth includes growth in our prayer life.  Stott advises readers to respond to God in prayer in the same manner that he speaks to you—do not change the subject.  If he talks about his glory, worship him; if he talks about sin, confess it; if scripture blesses you, thank him for it (164).  Stott’s comments about the spiritual practice of daily examine flow right out of this discussion.  In the morning, commit the details of your day to God’s blessing and, in evening, review what happened during the day.

Assessment

John Stott’s Basic Christianity provides a well-ordered accounting of the Gospel that is worthy of study and reflection.  His summary—God has created; God has spoken; God has acted—is brief but compelling (18).  The Apostle Peter’s admonition sounds initially like evangelism.  But, if the truth be known, the accounting of our hope in Christ benefits us at least as much as anyone we meet.

Stott Outlines Gospel; Speaks Plainly

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Books, Films, and Ministry

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Death Means Resurrection

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101When Jesus saw her weeping, and

the Jews who had come with her also weeping,

he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 

And he said, Where have you laid him? …

When he had said these things, 

he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus,

come out. (John 11:33-34,43)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The two-part form of a lament sets us on a spiritual journey. When Jesus weeps, the dead are raised  (Mark 5:38–41). When Jesus dies, our lives are redeemed and we find hope (1 Pet 1:3), as the Apostle Paul writes:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

Paul advises us to imitate Christ and to place our emotions in God’s service (e.g. Rom 12:14–15) so that the physical world might itself be redeemed (Rom 8:22).

Christian hope redeems our mourning. The hope of resurrection permits us to look beyond the grief in this life to our future in Christ, as the Prophet Jeremiah wrote so eloquently:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

We hear an echo of Jeremiah in the Sermon on the Mount, when he writes about anxiety:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25)

Anxiety is a form of grieving over life’s daily challenges—what to eat or what to wear—in a kind of despair over present circumstances.

As Christians, we know that present circumstances give way to a future in Christ—death does not have the final word (1 Thess 4:13). Because our future is in Christ, we are like children who can delight in hearing scary stories knowing that the stories have a happy ending. The Apostle Paul writes: 

For godly grief [θεὸν λύπη; “theo lupe”] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor 7:10) 

The word for grief that Paul uses means: “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” (BDAG 4625). We grieve over our sin; we lament over our brokenness; and once we have poured it all out, we turn to God and repent, as the Psalmist writes:

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Ps 126:5–6)

This sounds similar to Luke’s version of the Second Beatitude: “Honored are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) 

Through godly grief and repentance God gently leads us to salvation

Death Means Resurrection

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Gospel as Divine Template

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christianity began in a graveyard with the resurrection (Ps 16:10). The resurrection could not have occurred without Jesus’ crucifixion and death which was, in turn, associated with his life and ministry. Because Jesus’ life and ministry were chronicled after the resurrection, each sentence in the New Testament should be prefaced with these words: Jesus rose from the dead, therefore . . . Jesus’ life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection are the Gospel story, which we know because after the Gospels themselves, sermons by both Peter (Acts 2:14–41; 10:34–43) and Paul (Acts 13:16–41) all focus on Jesus’ life story.

The Template

Just before his death the Apostle Paul writes from prison:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

In other words, the Jesus story—life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection—was for Paul a template for the Christian journey of faith, beginning with the end in mind. Yet, we know that the end of the story—like its beginning—is in Christ and provides Christian hope (1 Pet 1:3). 

While our eyes remain on the prize (Phil 3:14) and our expectations for the end times, our relationship with each member of the Trinity sustains us day to day. The Holy Spirit is with us, empowers us, and helps us to break the power of sin. Jesus Christ’s life and ministry models a faithful life in a stressful world. God Our Father demonstrates love, grace, and sovereignty over all earthly powers. Because of God’s sovereign power and presence, our hope of the resurrection transforms into our hope in Christ (Col 1:24).

Begin with the End in Mind

The resurrection accordingly influenced how early Christians read the Beatitudes, as in: Jesus rose from the dead, therefore “Honored are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3) Notice that the Beatitude explicitly refers to the kingdom of heaven—a place of healing and rest where the resurrected are assumed to go. Because early Christians read this Beatitude in view of the resurrection, so should postmoderns. 

More typically, postmoderns read the Beatitudes as “pie in the sky”—unobtainable and unrealistic. But how much risk is there in buying a stock if you already have tomorrow’s stock report? If tomorrow’s paper eliminates today’s risk, why dawdle in buying the stock? Unobtainable and unrealistic goals suddenly become reasonable— in light of the resurrection common fishermen become extraordinary apostles.

Knowing that the end of the story is in Christ, the Beatitudes outline the three tensions in our spiritual life: our inward tension with ourselves (poor in spirit, mourning, and meekness), our upward tension with God (righteous, merciful, and pure), and our outward tension with the world (peacemakers, persecuted, and reviled). Inward tension exists, but we know the Holy Spirit will guide us. Upward tension exists, but we know that God loves us. Outward tension exists, but we have Christ’s example in seeking reconciliation and an open door to the future (Rev 3:20).

Tension was not the Plan

Because of our reconciliation with God, we know that our sinful nature which drives this tension was not part of God’s original design. Breaking God’s design, sin emerged in the Garden of Eden as Adam and Eve turned away from God and allowed sin to enter their lives (Gen 3:6). Yet, even as sin entered the world and tensed up our lives, God provided for our restoration through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gen 3:15).

Jesus rose from the dead, therefore our faith starts with God, not with us.

Gospel as Divine Template

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/XXXmas_2019  

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