Living as Canceled Christians (a response to a response)
A reader of my previous post objected to some of what I wrote. Which of course is fine. I remain grateful that we have the freedom to do that. I’m also grateful for the opportunity it provides me to interact with some of his thoughts and critiques. So, here’s my response…
First, he said he didn’t know what “canceled Christians” means. It is a reference to the “popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures… after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming” (dictionary.com). Christians are being shut down from sharing their biblically informed views (especially moral issues on sexuality) on social media and often in general conversation as well.
He said that “we are to invest much energy into this world.” I, of course, agree with that. The Bible is replete with examples calling us to do just that. One of the reasons it calls us to invest in this world is actually because of the coming of the next. Our eschatology (study of last things) is a goad to our ethics (e.g. Matt. 24:36ff; 25:13; Col. 3:1ff; 1 Thess. 5:1-2).
He also said that this world is not a “stinky tent. It’s God’s handiwork.” This world is not literally a stinky tent. The Bible doesn’t say that exactly. The Bible does, however, say that “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling… For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened… we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 4, 8). It says, “the creation was subjected to futility… the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…” (Rom. 8:20, 21, 22 see also 2 Cor. 4:16-18). It thus seems to me that the world is a metaphorical “stinky tent.” It is not our final home. We should have a certain amount of longing for our “lasting city” (Heb. 13:14 cf. 2 Cor. 5:1; Jn. 14:2-3).
God’s creation does show His handiwork and it is an “expression of His creativity.” The first chapter of Genesis says six times that God’s creation is “good” and in the seventh and final announcement God says it’s “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That, however, is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. Something sinister happens. The Fall (Gen. 3). And because of sin all manner of curse and chaos.
We live in a post-Genesis-3 world. So, while creation still attests to the goodness and creativity of God, it is also riddled with ruin because of sin. Jesus as promised in Genesis 3:15 is the one who finally remakes it. And He is the hope of the world.
I really appreciate that he says, “we are called to imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” That is very true. I am not sure why but it seems like he was led to believe that I would disagree with that truth. I am not sure why, however. No writing of any length can say everything, but especially a blog. Yes, we are to “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.”
I actually believe it’s true that unless Christians live as the campers and exiles they are, they won’t participate, they won’t invest, and they won’t forgive as God would have them. It’s being focused on the Kingdom that makes us effective in whatever kingdom we find ourselves in. It’s the person who realizes the value of the treasure (i.e. all the goodness of the new creation) that will sacrifice all to gain it (Matt. 13:44); even if it means loving those who are sometimes unlovely.
That is why we must “set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). That, as Peter explains, will help us “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (v. 22). It will help us “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” It will help us with creation care and the Golden Rule.
As C.S. Lewis said,
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
We can be so earthy minded that we’re no earthly good. And we won’t rightly love our neighbor if we only love ourselves. As we look to Christ and the heaven He’s purchased us we will more and more be drawn to live like Christ, to love and sacrifice ourselves for others (See e.g. 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-14).
Regarding his comment that “most [my] assertions are not contextualized or elaborated” and that what I wrote is “gobbledegook,” I would say that the assertions in his response are also not “contextualized or elaborated.” And had they been his response would have been much longer. I would not say though that as a result what he wrote was “gobbledygook.” I looked up the definition of “gobbledygook” and apparently it means “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms.” I’m not sure where my post earned the term “gobbledygook” but that is not a noun I want associated with anything I write. I actually wanted my post to be simple and thought provoking. Ironically, it seems to me that writings that are most contextualized and elaborated are the very writings that have the most likelihood of being gobbledygook.
I want to be clear, instructive, and helpful. And this gentleman’s comments are a spur to encourage me in that pursuit. For that I am thankful.
 Of course, I don’t expect the gentlemen’s brief response to be perfectly nuanced either. Covering every facet is not possible in a brief comment, blog post, or even a book-length treatment. We are both fallible and temporal. Scripture itself, if the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) is not rightly considered, can seem lopsided. Matthew and Luke, James and Paul, however, are not at odds even if they are emphasizing different things and coming at issues from a different perspective.
10 Hospitality Quotes
1. “Engaging in radically ordinary hospitality means we provide the time necessary to build strong relationships with people who think differently than we do as well as build strong relationships from within the family of God” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
2. “The truly hospitable aren’t embarrassed to keep friendships with people who are different… They know that there is a difference between acceptance and approval, and they courageously accept and respect people who think differently from them. They don’t worry that others will misinterpret their friendship. Jesus dined with sinners, but he didn’t sin with sinners. Jesus lived in the world, but he didn’t live like the world” (Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, 13).
3. “A cold, unwelcoming church contradicts the gospel message” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 100).
4. “If you are looking for ways to evangelize, opening your home is one of the best methods of reaching unbelievers” (Alexander Strauch, Leading with Love, 102).
5. “Some theologians go so far as to state that the growth in the earliest churches was wholly dependent on the meals and hospitality of the believers” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church, 24).
6. “Jesus does not have us here to straighten out our dinner guests’ thoughts and realign their lives, and it’s good thing, because their challenges are quite impossible at times. What Jesus needs most from us is for us to be their friends” (Verlon Fosner, Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, 73).
7. “A lot of our language presents and reinforces the idea that church is an event… we talk about ‘going to church’ more often then we talk about ‘being’ the church” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
8. “Look at any church website and what is advertised worship services for us to enjoy, sermons for us to listen to, use provision for our children, and perhaps a small group that can provide for other needs. We post pictures of our smart buildings, of our edgy youth work, and of well designed sermon series; we invest time and money and brilliant branding and hip visual identity. This all serves to reinforce the idea that our churches exist primarily as events for consumer Christians to attend” (Krish Kandiah, “Church As Family,” 68).
9. “God’s guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 16).
10. “Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive countercultural dimension” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room, 61).
“We welcome others into our home, but generally those who don’t even need it. Our hospitality is only lateral and transactional. We host peers in a system that expects reciprocity, not one that displays free grace” (Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles).
“Dear God, I want to be very rich…” (and other prayers)
“Dear God, I want to be very rich. I would like a Benz or at least a new Honda Civic with a sweet spoiler and racing stripe…”
Do your prayers sound like that? Probably not. You might prefer a BMW.
Realistically, our prayers don’t very often sound quite like that but sometimes that is about the gist of what we pray for. Stuff, sometimes good stuff, is what occupies the majority of our prayers. I am not saying it is always bad to pray for stuff. I am not saying it is bad for us to pray that our dear Aunt Ruth will get over her cold, we should do that, please do, but we must also pray for other stuff; spiritual stuff.
Philemon: A Case Study of New Life in Christ (Part 1)
We see in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that Christians are to put on the new self with new practices, new characteristics. And Paul tells us about the unprecedented unification and reconciliation that happens in Christ between all sorts of different people. Paul says, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11 cf. 1 Cor. 12:13-14; Gal. 3:26-27).
But will this really work?! Paul is talking all this big talk but can it ever be practiced. He says, here there is neither slave nor free, and yet there truly were slaves and freemen. There really were Greeks and Jews. There were and are people that are in the world and see the world in all sorts of different ways. How can they be united? Is it really possible? And if so, how?! Read More…
Living in Light of the Majesty of Christ
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul is seeking to bless and encourage the Philippian church. He has encouraged and wants his friends in Philippi to be bold (1:14), receive joy in the faith (v. 25), and live a life worthy of the gospel (v. 27).
So, how is Paul encouraging the Philippians (and us) in this passage (v. 18b-26)? Paul is showing the Philippians, and us, what is worth living for. Paul gives himself as a prime example.
So, what is worth living for? I mean, what is ultimately worth living for? And, what do you live for?
Let’s look at Philippians 1:18b-20 and see what we should live for:
“Yes, and I will rejoice [because Christ is proclaimed],  for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this [the present situation] will turn out for my deliverance,  as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
What is Paul saying here? Paul is saying that he rejoices in the midst of the struggles and trials of life because he expects to magnify Christ through them. So, we see we too must…
Magnify Christ in all of life (v. 18b-20)
First, it is important that we ask, “What was Paul going through? What was the situation he was facing and how did he magnify, honor, glorify God in the midst of it?”
Paul was in prison (1:7, 13) and it seems since he was in prison the question of death was on the table (v. 21, 23). Since Paul was in prison he must have had many physical concerns. Paul was suffering. His situation was not easy. Paul acknowledges that he needs help. He knew he needed the Philippian’s prayers and “the help of the Spirit” (v. 19). Paul knew he would need to “not be ashamed,” he knew he would need to have “full courage.” Paul was aware of the difficulties that awaited him but he was very sure that he would be able to be faithful (v. 20).
Paul believed the truth of Matthew 10:
“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved… And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell… So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:22, 28, 32-33).
What Paul did
Even in suffering, Paul’s concern was not his own welfare. Paul cared about Christ being honored (v. 20) and the church receiving joy in the faith (v. 25). So, Paul boldly shared the gospel with the Roman guards and he encouraged others to also be bold. And Paul served and encouraged others. Actually, he wanted to depart and be with Christ, that’s what he wanted to do, but he said it is better, even “necessary” that he remain so he could be a means of joy and encouragement for his friends in Philippi. That’s why Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians in the first place. Paul modeled what it means to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (2:4).
“Paul’s deepest hopes for his own immediate future turn neither on the bliss of immediately gaining heaven’s portals nor on returning to a fulfilling ministry and escaping the pangs of death, but on what is best for his converts. Often we are tempted to evaluate alternatives by thinking through what seems best for us. How often do we raise as a first principle what is best for the church?”
So, what did Paul do? Paul sought to live his life—through thick and thin—to magnify and honor Christ and encourage the saints.
What about us?
We, like Paul, should seek to magnify Christ in all we do. Yet, this is very hard. How can we?
Let’s look at Philippians 1:21-26 and see how we can live for Christ:
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose [between life and death] I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
What is Paul saying here? Paul is saying that he rejoices in the midst of the struggles and trials of life because he is motivated by the majesty of Christ. So, we too must…
Be motivated by the majesty of Christ (v. 21-26)
If we are to be motivated it is important that we understand how. So, first, how was Paul motivated by the majesty of Christ?
Paul saw Christ as so awesome, so majestic, so worth it, that he would give up all for Him, live for Him, die for Him. Paul cared about Christ. Paul saw Christ’s glory in an amazing way and it radically changed him.
If Paul lived, who would he live for? Christ! Paul said, “If I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor for me” (v. 22). Paul said, “to live is Christ.” That’s what life was about for Paul. Paul even said that he wasn’t sure which he would choose, life or death? Paul said, he desired “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23). How is departing, dying, “far better”? Because he would get to be with Christ! Everything, for Paul, is about Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 14-15).
What is our motivation?
Our motivation is often success, beauty, fun, etc. But it should be Christ. He alone is worthy. Yet, it is so easy to get distracted. Of course, success, beauty, fun are not bad. But they are not ultimate. They can’t and won’t fulfill. We shouldn’t live for those things. Only Jesus is worthy.
“In the logic of the gospel, there are no alternatives to Christ. Every other option is no option at all. When everything considered valuable in life is seen to be nothing in comparison to the glory of Christ, you learn rather well that Christ alone is worth living for. Christ alone is worthy of an entire life’s affections and devotions.”
What does understanding the majesty of Christ lead to?
For John G. Paton, it meant to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Paton who was a missionary to the South Sea Islands (where Fiji water comes from) was told, “You will be eaten by Cannibals!” Paton responded:
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
We must know, as Paul did, that “There is a greater day coming, a greater reward coming, a greater life coming, and the purpose of life while we are alive is to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, which hold the promise of life everlasting.” We will be more alive than we are now! We shall have life and peace beyond what we can imagine. We shall be at perfect peace with God and see Jesus!
Death is “far better” for us too!
Paul encouraged the Philippians (and us!) to live a life worthy of the gospel and in verses 18b-26 he gives us an inward look of how he hopes to live a worthy life: treasure Christ. Christ was Paul’s controlling core. Paul loved Christ and so he lived for Christ.
God is calling us to also love Christ with all we are and live for Him with all we have.
So, what do you live for? What motivating, explosive force, is at the core of your life? What propels you to do what you do?
And notice, if we get it wrong here, we will carry out all sorts of destructive actions.
What is at your core?
Can you say your life is motivated by the majesty of Christ? Can you truly say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain”?
A few questions
1. Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” What do you think about that? Should you be able to say that as well?
2. What’s at the motivational core of your life?
3. How will you stay on track through the temptations and struggles of life?
4. Do you currently feel purpose in living for Jesus Christ?
5. How was Paul impacted by having Christ at his motivational core? How would you be impacted with Christ at the motivational core of your life?
6. What about Christ is so majestic and beautiful and awesome that makes Him worthy of first place in your heart and life?
7. How will you keep Christ at the motivational core of you life with all the other things that fight for that place?
8. Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 14-15 and pray that you would be motivated to live for Christ because of the majesty of Christ.
 This is very hard for us to understand in our current society and situation. It “can only strike us as strange in the modern church if we have allowed the comforts of our present physical existence to usurp the place of Christ in our lives as our chief priority” (Frank Thielman, Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, 83.
 Carson in Basics for Believers, 30.
 “In the context, ‘to live is Christ’ surely means that for Paul to keep on living here means ministry, Christ-centered ministry, Christ-empowered ministry, Christ’s presence in his ministry” (Carson, Basics for Believers, 29).
 Matt Chandler, To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, 36.
 As quoted by Carson in Basics for Believers, 31.
 Matt Chandler, To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, 37.
 I concur with what C.S. Lewis says in The Last Battle,
“We can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: NY: Harper Collins, 2002), 228).
I believe we, upon arrival to the new Eden, will exclaim with Lewis’ Unicorn: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it to now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia [“old creation”] is that it sometimes looked a little like this” (Ibid., 213).
2016 and Time
“Time flies,” we say. Time, even as you read this, is tick tick ticking away never to return (are you sure you want to read further?!).
Thinking of the fleeting nature of time can be depressing. Yet, as we think of our limited time it should awaken in us intentionality and seriousness. Of course, that does not mean we shouldn’t have fun. If anything it means we should be more intentional about having fun (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
So as we think of the fleeting nature of time we must not become unhelpfully rigid. We must be intentional and purposeful not only in the good that we want to accomplish but also in the good we want to enjoy.
We must realize that much of American culture is akin to a hamster wheel. There’s many people going and doing but for what? To what end? Is it intentional, calculated, purposeful? Or is to no end (see Eccl. 2:26)?
We must also acknowledge that cultures think of time and promptness differently. Some cultures are more relational then prompt. The issue is not really about how much we do or about what people think about what we do but about being an intentional wise steward of the time that God has given us. This will likely look different in different cultural contexts but the stewardship principal remains.
God does not want us, His servants and workman, to waste the time that He has given us to labor for Him. We can rest from time to time like any worker but we must remember that there will come a time when we can no longer work at all (Jn. 9:4). We must keep in mind the perfect rest (shalom) and reward that He has waiting for His laborers.
In this post we will look at why being conscious of the way we spend our time is important. Jonathan Edwards is especially insightful here because he realized the importance of time (See esp. “The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming it”).
The Preciousness of Time
Why is time valuable and precious? Edwards said, “Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it” for you and for others. “Things are precious in proportion to their importance or to the degree wherein they concern our welfare.”[i]
“Gold and silver are esteemed precious by men; but they are of no worth to any man, only as thereby he has an opportunity of avoiding or removing some evil, or of possessing himself of some good. And the greater the evil is which any man hath advantage to escape, or the good which he hath advantage to obtain, by anything that he possesses, by so much the greater is the value of that thing to him, whatever it be. Thus if a man, by anything which he hath, may save his life, which he must lose without it, he will look upon that by which he hath the opportunity of escaping so great an evil as death, to be very precious. — Hence it is that time is so exceedingly precious, because by it we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery, and of obtaining everlasting blessedness and glory. On this depends our escape from an infinite evil, and our attainment of an infinite good.”[ii]
For example: The life preservers on the Titanic, “the unsinkable ship,” were not thought of as valuable at the outset of the cruise. People must have thought: What is the need of a life preserver on a ship that won’t sink? But that mindset changed. What was it that brought a new and priceless value to the life preservers? People realized that they were, in fact, not on the unsinkable ship; for it was sinking.
In a short time the value of the life perseveres sky rocketed. The people now clinched the life preservers tight, perhaps even fighting over them, when before they would not even give them a second thought. Just like the passengers treated the life preservers differently once they realized the ship was sinking so we must treat time differently once we see that our lives are fleeting. When we realize that time is precious we will clinch it tight and use it wisely.
Life is transitory and we do not know how long we will live. Our life is just a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). Time is so valuable, in part, because it is very short. Our time on earth is but dust in the wind, vapor that is here for a moment, grass that withers in the sun. Our time on earth is short and “the scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set a higher value upon it, especially if it be necessary and they cannot do without it… So time is the more to be prized by men, because a whole eternity depends upon it; and yet we have but a little of time.”[iii]
“Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance.”[iv] We know that time will end for all people; however, we do not know when. We do not know the date and the time.
Time is valuable because when it is gone you can never get it back. Edwards said,
“There are many things which men possess, which if they part with, they can obtain them again. If a man have parted with something which he had, not knowing the worth of it, or the need he should have of it; he often can regain it, at least with pains and cost… But it is not so with respect to time. When once that is gone, it is gone forever; no pains, no cost will recover it.”[v]
“Once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it, or another space in which to prepare for eternity. If a man should lose the whole of his worldly substance, and become a bankrupt, it is possible that his loss may be made up. He may have another estate as good. But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. All opportunity of obtaining eternal welfare is utterly and everlastingly gone.”[vi]
The way we spend our time on earth has eternal consequences. This is not a subject to be taken lightly. “A person cannot do anything to time itself—delay or hasten, save or lose it—much less ‘manage’ it. The challenge is to manage ourselves under the lordship of Jesus Christ, from whom we get our goals and values.”[vii]
May we be intentional and wise stewards of 2016.
[i]Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards:2 Volume Set, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 233.
[ii]Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 233.
[iv] Ibid., 234.
[vii] Charles E. Hummel, The Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 1997, 31.