Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Burdens

Having blogged previously about contentedness, I am led to another subject that, on the surface at least, seems to be the antithesis of content.

As Paul, I am learning the secret of contentedness in all situations (Phil 4). At the same time, as a leader and a man seeking the heart of God, I have a whole set of burdens that constantly chips away at my sense of contentment.

  • I have a burden to draw close to God. Of all of the things that weigh on me, the sense of urgency and priority to draw close to Jesus is the greatest. It wasn’t always the case, but I have a sense of unmet hunger to know the closeness of Jesus. The image I get is of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus sits with his disciples and teaches them. I want to be in that circle, listening and learning from my master. I want to know Him and be known.
  • I have a burden for discipleship. I want to see men and women who follow Jesus so closely that they come to act like him, having a relationship with the Father and living in a way that overflows from their closeness. Living in the reality of change that results. “He [Jesus] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)
  • I have a burden for the Church. I want to see communities of faith in Jesus that are modeled on the New Testament, where the Spirit of God is alive and vital, transforming men and women through encounter with the living God. A Church in the image of Isaiah 6:1-8, where the presence of God is so overwhelming that the people are driven to their knees in realisation and confession (“Woe to me! … I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” (Isaiah 6:5). Where they find forgiveness and restoration, healed by God, so that they might respond to the call of God to go into the world and take the presence of the Living one with them. I want to see Church that is evidently the living presence of God in the world, outshining and defeating the rule of sin and death.
  • I have a burden for the world. I do not want to see the world judged and condemned, but saved and transformed. I know that judgment is coming, for all of us. I know, in faith, that God will judge the living and the dead and that not all people will be welcomed into the eternal presence of God. That not all people have been recreated by submission to the loving power of God (Romans 8:1-8) and so are subject to the death of sin. I take no joy in judgment although I thank God for my life. My burden is to see AS MANY AS POSSIBLE SAVED so that when we stand together before God we will not be subject to the judgment we deserve for our sin, but will receive the freedom that Jesus purchased for us by dying in our place on the cross.
  • I have a burden that lies upon me like a huge cross of wood. I want to see the presence of God in a way that, currently, I don’t. I believe that in the real presence of God people cannot ever remain the same and that it is only through the presence of God that people will be changed from sinners lost into sons and daughters recreated. People are not persuaded to receive salvation. (So many churches waste their time seeking to provide a rational argument for faith in God). The only thing that really persuades people to come to faith in God through Jesus is a real encounter with Him through the Holy Spirit. Faith in God is not an exercise in rationality. Rationality is simply knowledge that can be conceived by the human mind and validated by human understanding. GOD IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN THE HUMAN MIND! How can we expect the knowledge of God the Father to be contained in human understanding? The knowledge of the love and power of God is only understood in faith by the whole being. Body, mind, and spirit.

So I find myself struggling. How am I supposed to find contentedness? I cannot express my feelings and thoughts in words so I will, once again, borrow from Paul;

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

I struggle. I have a burden for God’s Kingdom that I am helpless to express, let alone achieve. Yet, I have a desire to be content because it is clear that contentedness is a key sign that one is entrusting one’s faith entirely to the Father God.

More will follow…


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It’s all about…

This may seem an obvious statement to many, yet it is still very contentious. I have come to the conclusion that for many of us a preferable statement of truth might be…

“Jesus is all about me”.

It is amazing to me how many decisions of faith and morality are made by Christians and churches based upon the feelings and sensibilities of people. How often we compromise on the message of the gospel and the implications that it leads to because we want to include people.

It is not that gathering and loving people is wrong. Of course it is not wrong. Rather, that our first love and goal should be intimacy with God through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, we accept and love people according to His measure rather than theirs. Love and inclusion are not the same thing. Perhaps we should think more about love and invitation.

There are moral decisions and theological conclusions that are simply impossible to uphold if we put people first. How can there be damnation and sin if people come first? Of course, if people are primary in our theology, all people will be saved and all lifestyles and behaviors are acceptable because we serve people.

I believe, however, that people do not come first. God comes first. It is all about Jesus and so our faith and decisions should be shaped by, and founded upon, the desire to pursue and adopt ever closer bonds with Him. Disciples do not pursue the truth, they pursue their master. In Jesus we have the embodiment of truth. He is the way, the truth and the life. When we find Him and draw as close to Him as we possibly can we are able to speak the truth in love because we speak about Jesus.

The truth is this…

  • God did not sin against us, we sinned against him.
  • God does not need to return to us, we need to return to him.
  • Therefore, the Word does not need to be conformed to our lives, we need to conform our lives to the Word.

Is there really any surprise when the Christian Church speaks the truth of righteousness through relationship with God and people rise up against it? Sin alienates people from the truth of the Word of God and so, when the Word is declared the sinful nature rises up within us in indignation.

“How dare God tell me that I am wrong!”

“How dare the Bible tell me that my life and choices are leading away from God rather than towards Him!”

All of us experience this in some way or other. I HATE it when people tell me I am wrong… but under Jesus I must listen and discern the truth according to His Word. It is the truth that will set me free and it is catastrophically dangerous for me to use the truth to justify my actions.

Following the truth of God alienates people because, really, all people think that they know better than God. Original sin is a reality that stalks our humanity and frustrates our discipleship. Often we will make attempts to redefine sin so that we are not subject to it. We only have to look at our own lives and the life of the world around us to realise that when humanity sets the agenda and the path, things go wrong.

It is all about Jesus! His way. His truth. His life. Our salvation through submission to these things by faith.