So you think you’re a Christian

I recently came across this article citing a Barna survey that only 17% of Christians (or those who claim to be Christians) have a biblical worldview. Now, the idea of a biblical worldview needs unpacking a bit. I plan on launching a series called Bible in a Nutshell in which I want to show the cohesive story of the Bible. I think this is important as it directly links to this question of what makes a Christian a Christian.

What struck me about this survey is this statement here;

The percentage being so low means practicing Christians have accepted many more worldviews including ones based on other religions—especially when it comes to millennials and Gen Xers.

What is a worldview? Just as it suggests, it’s the framework by which we view the world, how we make sense of it in terms of its existence and purpose. I think this definition from pretty much sums it up.

A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important.

How we define a Christian worldview has everything to do with how we define Christianity. How we define Christianity must relate to it’s author, who is Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus and what did he come on earth to do?

While this might seem mundane and basic to some of you reading this, the truth is this Barna study is quite revealing about the way people define Christianity and develop a worldview based on that belief. It’s not surprising to me that the results of the study go on further to suggest that many have developed an unChristian worldview and call it Christianity; Continue reading

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The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).

Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.

In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption  is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection? Continue reading

The hidden deception of spiritual idolatry

rock concert_man on stageWhen think of idolatry, it’s not uncommon to think of those things that take us away from the Lord. And certainly, that is what idolatry does. Usually, when it’s addressed items assigned to idolatry include career, hobby, politics, sports, etc.

As a side note, I think we should be clear of what idolatry is and what it is not. I typically hear this explanation: it’s anything we worship more than God. But what does that mean exactly and how does that square with Scripture’s treatment of idolatry? If we look at both Old and New testaments, I don’t know that this vague description really covers it. Idols took the form of gods in which people placed their hope and trust for existence in life. And while we can become self-absorbed in careers or sports, loving a thing is not necessarily idolatrous in and of itself.

I appreciated this description in my Bible encyclopedia, which succinctly captures the heart of idolatry;

Idolatry was the embodiment of human desire and thought. Idols, though made of many shapes and sizes, really represented the image of man, for they expressed his thoughts, desires, and purposes.

Those wooden statues in ancient times meant something more than just the object but provided the allusion of safety and security for one’s life. It gave people a sense of satisfaction. Of course, we don’t have little wooden statues that we bow down to. But keeping in mind what idols were in the ancient world, the “thoughts, desires, and purposes” translate into what we place our confidence in. Therefore, the warning against idolatry needs to go beyond just something we love more than God. Continue reading

That moment you trust in the Lord

man-praying whand raisedWell, first let me preface this post by saying I’m not so much referring to the moment of conversion, when you become a Christian. But I’m referring to is the on-going process of trusting in God to be who he said he is.

The other day I got into a good discussion with friends about trusting in the Lord. “What does that mean?” one asked. I think on a surface level we understand that to be trust that God is on our side and work things out. But I think it needs to deeper than that – trusting in who God says he is and relying on that in the face of contradictions.

Now, I’m about to get real honest in this post. What about to share is not for those whose life has gone pretty well or even better than expected and/or those inclined to dismiss the realities of living with deep disappointments. If that’s you, you might want to sit this one out.

For those who have experienced disappointing twists and turns, busted dreams, failures of various sorts and the overwhelming feeling that you thought your life would turn out better than it has, and boatloads of unanswered prayer this post will probably resonate with you. Because let’s be honest, all of these factors can take a toll on our ability to trust in the character of God.  You can be substantially challenged when experiencing a good amount of unanswered prayer, when you’ve longed for him to intervene in situations and circumstances and he hasn’t and those nagging questions if God really cares bubble up.  It’s when you’ve poured your heart out to the Lord for years for personal concerns to get back…nothing. It’s when you’re confronted with pending change of circumstances for the worse, and you wonder is God going to hear me this time? I know I have. And I know how easy that is, over time, to allow those thoughts to dominate, to shape how we see the character of God. Continue reading

Why church matters matter . . . Revelation and deception

seekersI’ve been working on a post on Rev. 13:16-18 and in doing some commentary diving, was struck by Greg Beale’s commentary on Rev. 13:11.  The passage of Rev. 13:11-14 sets the backdrop of my next post and Beale’s poignant assessment of what this passage is saying;

And I saw another beast coming out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercies all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that even he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast who, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

As I indicated in my post on reading Revelation, it helps if we understand Revelation to be a series of visions that describe the goings  on of what happens between the first and second Advent of Christ, these visions describe the reality of what occurs during that period particularly in relation to the opposition that comes against Christ’s church. In other words, it doesn’t help to see these visions transpire after the church is taken out of the way via a Rapture and isolated to a 7 year period, but rather describes happens from the tine of Christ’s ascencion until his return. As evidenced by the presence of the church, very much describes the onslaught of deception that eventually pits the mainstream culture against Christianity. (It also helps to see chapter 13 as a reflection of a larger series of visions beginning at 12:1). By way of observation in our culture, I have much to say about this, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found this section from Beale compelling and sobering. Continue reading