April 26, 2009 Commentary:
This program is rebroadcast from April 1, 2007
Right now we're talking about Scripture, and in this program, biblical ignorance. Gentlemen, this is not a difficult point to establish... you look at Gallup, you look at Barna, you look at a whole host of surveys--across the board you have a common recognition that people even being raised in "Bible-believing evangelical churches" do not know what they believe or why they believe it, don't know even the basic plotline of Scripture, the names of the apostles, the Ten Commandments...
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April 19, 2009 Commentary:
Hello, and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. We are taking a look this whole year at what it means to proclaim Christ in a post-Christian culture and we've been looking over the last several weeks particularly at First Corinthians - Paul's letter to a church which was, in many respects, trying to proclaim Christ in a pre-Christian culture, and yet in so many ways becoming assimilated to the world around it. And in this program we are going to sort of summarize what Paul had to say to the Corinthian church in general, take a look at some of the passages in Second Corinthians, and really focus on why it is that the Gospel calls us outside of ourselves to cling to Christ in faith and out to look at our neighbors and what God is doing out in the world.
A lot of headlines come and go, they grab our attention for awhile and then a few days pass and it gets filed away in our memories. Every now and again though, there is a big one that changes our lives. Many people remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy was assassinated or on September 11, 2001. When it is big enough like that, news not only informs it changes our lives. I think we will always remember this last inauguration, the significant turning point in our nation's history. A while back I came across the famous 1945 cover photo of Life magazine announcing "Victory in Europe." I had heard people talk about it, but I wanted to see it for myself and it was really amazing because a Navy sailor is lifting in the air a woman he had never met before in a jubilant embrace that she gladly returned. In the background were perfect strangers doing the same thing. Good news, if it is good enough, can do strange things to people. In that moment these strangers were not asked to do something, but they were simply hearers - recipients and beneficiaries of the news of what had been accomplished by the Allied troops. It wasn't even their believing the news that made it true, but the announcement of the news that made them believe it.
The Gospel is not only good in terms of its content it is good news in the form of its delivery, and that's the point that Paul makes in Romans 10. He begins by lamenting the fact that his brethren according to the flesh, ethnic Jews, were still seeking to justify themselves by their own righteousness instead of embracing the righteousness of Christ that God imputes to sinners as a free gift through faith alone. First, there's that well-known lament concerning the offense of the cross, a lament because so many of Paul's flesh and blood stumble over that rock. But the rock cannot be moved, it cannot be softened, broken into pieces or absorbed in to the environment. It cannot be made relevant to the concerns generated by other stories that we happen to starring at the moment. It's just there in the way, God demands a perfect righteousness which Jews seek by their own law-keeping rather than by faith in Christ alone. And Paul works out the logic of grace quite clearly throughout that epistle, but especially beginning at Romans 8:29 it becomes a tight logical argument, "those whom he foreknew he predestined, those whom he predestined he called, those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he glorified. What shall we therefore say? If God is for us who can be against us?" And then in chapter 10 he laments that his brothers and sisters according to the flesh substitute their own religious zeal for faith in Christ, and his perfect righteousness. You don't have to go up and pull Christ down, Paul says, or go into the depths to bring him up. He is as near as the gospel that we preach.
You know, this is a very important discussion for us today, because the spirit of works-righteousness always says "How can I climb up to God and bring him down to me - where I am in my own experience?" Where do you think you'll find God? In Tibet or rock climbing in the Alps? Maybe a surprising spiritual epiphany? How about a visit with the Dali Lama? The spectacle of the Mass or experiencing transcendence at a Hindu ashram or Buddhist temple? There are Christian ways of trying to ascend to God, maybe the Pensacola revival or the latest outbreak of the Spirit somewhere according the extraordinary means rather than the ordinary means of Word and Sacrament. Newsweek isn't likely to send a reporter to your church next Sunday just because the Word is going to be preached. That's not where the action is and yet Paul tells us this is exactly where the Spirit is miraculously at work by his grace, and he told the Corinthians that also in Second Corinthians chapter three.
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April 12, 2009 Commentary:
If Christ is Not Risen
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. Etched in my memory from childhood are those lines from a familiar Easter hymn in Evangelical circles He Lives. "You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart." In spite of the warmth that such sentiment offers, it hardly fits the bill that is sketched out by the Apostle Peter when he said, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
In a recent informal survey of Evangelical Christians nearly everyone agreed with the statement "It is more important for me to give my personal testimony than to explain the doctrines and claims of Christianity." That is remarkable, especially given the fact that not even the eye-witnesses of Christ's saving acts gave much attention in the New Testament to their own experience and feelings. "What Jesus means to me", or "how Jesus changed my life" are simply not notable headlines on their accounts when they have so much to say about what Jesus said and did. The testimony that concerns Biblical Christians is that of eye-witnesses who observed events upon which we cast our hope for eternal life. "That which was from the beginning," says John in First John 1:1, "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled concerning the Word of Life." That's the Christian's confidence. The Bible just doesn't separate faith from reason and history in the way that we do in our Modern era. In fact, the burden of proof rests on the Christian to make the case for the Biblical faith with the resurrection as its cornerstone. Because God became flesh the Christian Gospel is public and open to view. Now that's not to say that our faith is founded on reason, for only when reason receives the light of revelation is it capable of guiding us into such marvelous truth. It is one thing to say that the resurrection can stand up to questions, but can it confront doubts? That is what we are going to confront in this edition of the White Horse Inn as we look at First Corinthians chapter fifteen.
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April 5, 2009 Commentary:
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn where we are continuing our year-long theme “Christ in Post-Christian Culture.” And we are doing a little mini-series within that year long theme on First Corinthians, taking a look at it meant for Christianity to penetrate a pre-Christian culture. Seeing what we can learn from the Apostle Paul especially in his letter to a very immature church in the city of Corinth.
Many of us remember those spiritual gift charts where you answered a questionnaire, kind of like a “personality profile.” I am sure it was for the best motives, but it’s easy to turn those sorts of things into another occasion for our own navel-gazing narcissism. A Christian alternative to finding out whether you are a Taurus or a Virgo, a summer or a winter. Controversy over spiritual gifts especially widened in the late twentieth-century with the charismatic movement. Josh Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that there were two types of Christians: those who were saved and those who were perfectly sanctified. Pentecostalism, which began at the turn of the twentieth century out of the Wesleyan holiness movement, took a further step of saying the chief evidence of the new birth was speaking in tongues. When this teaching became more mainstream in the charismatic movement of the 1970s in a modified version, many churches were embroiled with internal divisions and believers often separated into factions under the banner of its favorite leader and movement. While this movement has produced a number of insightful teachers and preachers, highlighting the importance of the Spirit’s living presence and the outpouring of his gifts on all of Christ’s people, it has also spawned a host of sects and movements that are doctrinally aberrant, riddled with moral scandal, and leave devastation and burn-out in their wake.
The situation I have just described was very similar to the situation in the Corinthian church to which Paul wrote his letters. Although there are other references to spiritual gifts in the New Testament, the three primary passages are found in Paul’s epistles in Romans 12, in Ephesians 4, and here in our passage today: First Corinthians 12. Significantly these are also the primary passages in which Paul employs the metaphor of the head and body for the relationship of Christ and his church, so in this program we are going to take a look at the spiritual gifts and their place today – are they still around? What do we think of tongues, prophecy? Are these things still going on today? We will be looking at this and related issues in this program.
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