Posts Tagged With: theology

Jesus Loves You (and wants You to be Happy). Yes?

Over the last 8 weeks I have come across diverse theologies which had one common theme: ‘Jesus loves you’ with the added rider ‘and wants you to be happy’. Initially I didn’t have a problem with it but the more I reflected on it, issues arose.

One group stressed the love of God. It was the mantra and truth that they continually espoused but this was never really unpacked. Then later, I heard the same message in a totally different setting. Jesus loves you and wants you to be happy. One of the implications was that ‘sin’ in the traditional sense, was irrelevant because whether it was one’s sexual inclination or activity, divorce, or , in fact, anything else that hindered one’s happiness, lots of things we considered wrong in the past, were now passe because after all, God wants us to be happy.

‘Jesus loves you’ resonates with our age. We live in and era in which people are desperate to be loved. This God has to hit our ‘like’ button. We want happiness and freedom and so the two, Jesus love and happiness, make an excellent ‘twin set’.

But what does “Jesus love you” really mean? Essentially it means that he loves us that much that he doesn’t want us to live with our brokenness and sin. He doesn’t want us to live with that which kills us and separates us from God. In step one he died on the cross to remove God’s judicial judgement against us. God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil (Hab, 1:13). Jesus removed God’s judgement against us. We are declared innocent.

But in step 2 he sent the Holy Spirit who on a daily on going basis makes us more like the way that God already sees us. In other words his desire is to make us more like Jesus because after all he is the perfect son.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” In other words we want to see our old selves lessen so that a new Christlikeness ascends. That is more than just about happiness. It is about wholeness, newness and a break from our past brokenness. When we say ‘Jesus loves you’ we need to say it against the backdrop of a holy God who abhors sin and brokenness because that sin is allied with decay and death. It is a stench that God will not permit in his nostrils.

Does Jesus love us? Certainly! But he loves us that much he doesn’t permit us to pursue our form of happiness, but his.

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Curse of Dualism

What is the biggest threat facing Christianity today? Islam? Biblical and theological liberalism? Possibly, but I would suggest that an even greater threat to the effectiveness of Christianity is dualism.

Dualism is that technique we use to artificially divide life into the secular and sacred – the religious and the every day. This pernicious division carries with it the emasculation of the Christian faith, or if you like, the barrenness.

spain warning

Risk of falling

When we divide Christianity into these two portions there is an emphasis on personal salvation but this is done to the detriment of the wider gospel message. Now an individual’s salvation is absolutely critical and should be pursued but it is only part of the gospel story. The other crucial part is the redeeming of the kingdom. John the Baptist heralded Christ by declaring the Kingdom of heaven was at hand. Christ’s mission was for more than individual souls.

Dualism disempowers Christianity as it removes the larger portion of our lives from serving God. Our workplace, our sport and leisure become, at best, places for personal evangelism but we fail to see that the very activity carried on is claimed by God too.

The challenge for the Christian business man is to run his business in a way that honours God. The teacher in school is there on Christ the King’s behalf – whatever the school. The tradesman is there to serve his King too. And like so many areas of Christian existence we will not be immune from suffering – suffering in business or work. Suffering has long been a characteristic of those who willingly serve the King in all their lives. In contrast, dividing our lives into two categories is, too often,  a means of alleviating that suffering. By placing much of our lives in the “secular realm” we are saved from having to confront the values and beliefs of this world.

Dualism promotes the lie that part of life is neutral but if we look carefully at the worldviews behind much of the business world or the education world we see many gods lurking in the corners; humanist gods which promote man, money, self sufficiency and the like.

The gospel declares that we have a comprehensive King, or in the words of the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper,  ” … there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!‘”

Categories: christian, Christianity, World Views | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of Passion and a Christian World-view

Recently I encountered someone with a infectious passion for people to understand a Christian world-view. 

Mike Goheen is currently the professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. His passion is to promote a holistic Christian world-view – a perspective in which the children of God seek to serve God in every corner of life and claim it for God.

The following quote comes from his paper:

A Missionary Encounter with Western Culture (which can can found at:

“A missionary encounter is about a clash of ultimate and comprehensive stories—
the Biblical story and the cultural story. It requires a church that believes the gospel and
is committed to shaping its entire life by the Biblical story. When this happens the
foundational religious beliefs shared by the cultural community are challenged. As the
church lives fully in the biblical story, it encounters the reigning idolatrous assumptions
that shape its culture. The church offers the gospel as a credible alternative way of life to
its contemporaries. There is a call for a radical conversion, an invitation to turn from the idolatrous beliefs of its cultural story and to understand and live in the world in the light of the gospel.”

This quote highlights both Goheen’s passion but also his challenge to the church. For the C21st church to make a difference once again it needs to reclaim its calling. Christ claimed Kingship over His people and His Kingdom. The church is called to herald that by showing that redemption goes far beyond individual souls but extends to a radically new way of living.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Faith, Uncategorized, World Views | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Knowledge of God and Self

Knowledge of God
And knowledge of ourselves:
These two make up
Almost the whole of sacred doctrine.

John Calvin
Quoted in: The Piety of John Calvin
Categories: christian, Christianity, Faith, Reflections, Reformation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology and the Violin

My dad, a violin player, of whom one frustrated professor of theology once said, “One stupid man can ask more questions than 100 theologians can answer,” had lots of questions about the Bible and what it said. He loved God but that didn’t stop him asking questions.

Dad playing the violin - strings tensioned.

Dad playing the violin – strings tensioned.

“How can God be sovereign, be in control and still give man freedom to choose? How can God be three yet one? How can Jesus be God and man? Will God condemn people who have never had the chance to hear the gospel?” … and many, many more. Hence the frustrated professor. The Bible has many imponderables – conundrums that we simply have to accept by faith. Our tendency is to choose a side and try to justify it. Wesley and Whitefield were friends but took opposing views on the sovereignty of God and the free agency of man. We have those, like Wesley,  who follow Arminius’ line and make man the master of his own spiritual destiny and you have the hyper-Calvinists who won’t act because God is sovereign and in charge after all so all they need to do is sit on their sanctified behinds. It makes mission a non – priority too.

My (non) answer to these dilemmas is what I have called the “theology of the violin”. If a violin string is not under tension you cannot get a note out of it. I know because my dad played the violin and when he wasn’t watching I would “fiddle” with it. (Pun intended!)

These conundrums are like that. Say, for example, we choose man’s freedom over God’s sovereignty, then our problem is that we have an impotent God waiting for Johnny or Mary to make a “decision” for Him. He won’t act unless we choose first. This doesn’t fit with many examples in Scripture from the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (another of my dad’s stumbling blocks) to Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. On the other hand, if we have a God who is sovereignly in control and gives us no real choice, we become automatons – robots. We have no real life of our own. Yet the Bible calls us, often, to repent and believe.

In Scripture however, these two sides are held in constant tension – like a violin string. We are called to repent and believe and, yes, the Holy Spirit is instrumental in this, and God is sovereign over every hair on our head. We see the same in some of the other examples I mentioned earlier and in many other places in the Bible. Our act of faith, knowing how immense our God is, is to accept that both sides of the string are true. Loosen one end of the violin string or the other and we find our belief or doctrine will not play a tune that glorifies God.

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Rise of Scoffing

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 2 Peter 3:3

Is it just my imagination, or are we living in age in which scoffers of God and His Word are in the ascendancy? Frankly, no, I don’t think it is just my imagination. The increase in miltant atheism, the admission by the head of the BBC that satirizing Christ is more acceptable than doing the same to Mohammed, the humanistic trends in education and the collapse of Christian values and ethics in the West are just glimpses of a far wider derision of the Christian faith.

The church, because of its foolish behaviour at times, may have deserved this ridicule but Christ, the gospel and Scripture, never. So we need to distinguish, is society mocking us or God? More precisely, is it mocking us for our foolishness and hypocrisy, or because we are dauntless in our faith? The former we deserve, the latter is an attack upon God himself.

Peter alerts us that this issue will increase in the last days. In other words the problem has been with us for 2000 years and it is not going to go away. So where does the challenge lie for people of faith? I believe the challenge lies in “walking the talk” – Christians need to live out the impact of the gospel on their lives. We need to be the aroma of Christ so that the scoffing and ridicule is shown to be empty and baseless.

Most importantly, our lives are to be a living witness revealing that we are convinced that the day will come, like a thief in the night, when Christ will return. Not only should we live in this expectation for our own spiritual health, but it is also a light to those who are searching. When they see that there are people living with hope in the truth, it is an encouragement to eschew the world and come to Christ.

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