3 Metaphors To Help Us Understand Christian Repentance

I’ve recently challenged people to learn the meaning of Christian repentance. I might as well describe it a bit, right?

This is important because repentance is good for you, whoever you are, because it goes alongside an important leadership quality, self-reflection. But it’s also important because you can’t be a Christian without practising Christian repentance. It’s a non-negotiable for us.

3 metaphors:

1. A U-Turn

The GPS is frustrated. Things are only getting worse. Home is not straight ahead. You need to turn around.christian repentance

We pick up this metaphor from Acts 26:20 where Paul summarizes his teaching. He says that people should “repent and turn to God”. Christian Repentance is a U-Turn towards God. The Bible is clear that you’re either for God, totally devoted to him, or you are against God. There’s no middle ground. Here’s the important thing – you should constantly be ensuring you are not off-course. But in Christianity there’s only forwards and backwards. Either your actions are for him or against him; towards Jesus or away from him.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly arrive at your destination as soon as your 180 degree turn happens. You don’t suddenly become perfect. But you make a U-Turn. Away from wrong. Towards Jesus.

2. A Tree

This was a common metaphor that Jesus used. For Jesus, the outcome of repentance is bearing good fruit (see Matthew 3:8, & Luke 3:8). Just like a tree, there needs to be internal nourishment to lead to an external good. In Christian repentance, change needs to happen from the inside out. It’s not about behaviour modification. You don’t cut off a maple branch and expect apples to grow. You plant a seed that will one day bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)

3. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Death. Then new life. Put sin to death. Live a new life. This is at the core of Christianity. This is the gospel. However, this isn’t just a metaphor but the power behind all Christian repentance. The Bible often talks about the power of the gospel. It’s powerful because all your sin/wrong/shame/failure gets transferred onto Jesus when you make that U-Turn decision towards him. But here’s the really important thing:

You can make the turn towards Jesus, and you can try to get down to the root of your sin issues, but if you aren’t centred in the gospel your efforts will be fruitless.

In the gospel we are not loved because we failed but loved despite our failures.

In the gospel we are not shameless because we don’t sin be we are shameless because Jesus put shame to death on the cross.

In the gospel we do not try hard because we have to but rather God’s Spirit breathes life into us.

In the gospel, we are continually reminded of the love of Jesus and that leads us to love others. We love because we have been loved. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We have life because Jesus put life in us. And we continue Christian repentance regularly because we want to keep turning towards Jesus, remove the weeds from our hearts, and live for the one who lived and died for us.

That’s Christian repentance.

 

// Quick note about comments. I’ve taken down the comments on this blog. I find conversations happen better through fb, email, face-to-face, or even twitter. On most websites, comments aren’t very helpful or edifying. So I’ve removed them. //

Why don’t miracles happen… when we pray?

miracles1

Some people, in an argument against the existence of God, note that miracles don’t happen. People pray everyday for miraculous things to happen, yet God does nothing.

So does that mean God isn’t real?

No. God and miracles are two completely unrelated concepts. It’s like saying the sky isn’t green therefore grass doesn’t exist. When I ask God for something, He can give three answers: yes, no, or later. I can ask my boss for a raise and just because I don’t get one doesn’t mean my boss doesn’t exist.

“But doesn’t Jesus say all our requests to God will be answered?”

Yes, but there’s more to it. Here’s what Jesus said, as recorded by Matthew (chapter 7):

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

If you stop here you may think all Christian prayers get the answer “yes,” but Jesus continues…

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

So why doesn’t God do the miracles we ask for?

John Piper explains Jesus’ words this way: “No, we do not get everything we ask for… because we would in effect become God if God did everything we asked him to do. We should not be God. God should be God… The reason I say that we do not get all we ask is because the text implies this. Jesus says in verses 9-10 that a good father will not give his child a stone if he asks for bread, and will not give him a serpent if he asks for a fish. This illustration prompts us to ask, “What if the child asks for a serpent?” Does the text answer whether the Father in heaven will give it? Yes, it does. In verse 11, Jesus draws out this truth from the illustrations: Therefore, how much more will your Father give good things to those who ask him.”

At first glance, it seemed that Jesus said that God the Father will give to his children everything his children ask. But the text doesn’t say God will give the exact thing that the child asks for. Rather, it says God will give good things to those who ask.

God is smart. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows what we need and what we don’t. He wants us to ask and he will give. The metaphor of child-father is very helpful in this case. If a parent always gives their child all the candy they ask for, then they aren’t being a good parent. God is a good father. He gives good gifts.

Implicit in the act of praying is the idea that the one you are praying to is greater than you. If you could do the miracle yourself you likely wouldn’t be praying. Let’s continue this train of thought. If they are great enough to do miracles, isn’t it also true that they are great enough to have a reason not to perform the miracle in the way you asked? If by praying you accept you can’t handle the situation, isn’t it also true you accept that God is knowledgeable enough to know how to handle the situation?

Prayer isn’t an easy thing to explain. I’ve said before it’s like the way light is both a particle and a wave. A particle and a wave are contradictory things. It is impossible to be both but that’s what scientists observe. Prayer is like that with apparent contradictions. It gets a little mind bending. But we aren’t called to understand all the complexities of God, we are simply encouraged to pray.

Keep praying. Keep praying to the one who is great enough to know when the best answer is no.

 

Why is this 3 minute video so good?

Watch the entire video and then continue reading. It’s worth the watch!

So why is this video so compelling? Why is it so moving?

Let me tell you another story. I’m stealing this story from someone else, as all great story-tellers do:

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Jesus, the King, said this of himself and he wasn’t talking about sheep.

In this video, the little girl and her dad gave what they had to others. They cared for others; even those who steal. And watching this video illuminated Jesus’ words so much to me! The little boy that they helped ended up being the Doctor who could save life. The boy is like the King in the story, as told by Jesus’ own words.

This video would be good if it was illuminating Jesus’ words. But it is great because it illuminates Jesus’ work.

No metaphor of Jesus’ work is perfect – but this video is close! Like the video, we have a [financial/spiritual] debt that has to be paid. Like the video, we do not have enough funds to pay for this debt. Like the video, without the debt paid death is imminent. That’s why this video is so powerful; this video pulls on so many threads of the greatest story in the world.

Just like the video, it is heartbreaking facing the amount of debt that has to be paid. Like the video, we can try to do extravagant actions to gain enough funds, or enough moral righteousness. And like the video, we are shocked when we discover our debt can be paid.

And like the video, a conditional payment had to be met. But unlike the video, in the story of Jesus, no payment is required by us.  Jesus said:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus did not die on the cross for those who have lived perfect lives of giving to others in need. I honestly do not give much to the poor. Do you? Sure here and there I give some money, but I really don’t think I give enough. The good news is that Jesus doesn’t heal the perfect, he heals the sick.

I am so glad that Jesus did this for me. Watching this video illuminated what Jesus did for me. That’s why Jesus had to die. He died to cancel the debt and he rose to give us eternal life. This video is all about that. I love it! I love how Jesus is so generous with his grace and I’m so glad I can receive it as a free gift. Now out of this, of course, is my reaction that I ought to do that more. And I plan to. It’s funny how this video kind of shows this necessary relationship too. When you receive a gift so great, the necessary future moral decision to make is to give to others. This is such a good video. It pulls on so many threads of the fabric of the story of God.

What do you think?

This is a phote

It doesn’t matter that you believe in tolerance

I get it, you like tolerance.

You like the whole “let’s be friends no matter who you are” perspective. You may call it acceptance, or perhaps open-minded. Perhaps you think it’s a perspective without a name; something personal to you that can’t be described in one word. You just want people loved and accepted without the unnecessary arguments about religion. Aren’t all religions pretty much the same anyways?

You say to yourself that people who believe there is only one way to heaven, to God, or to happiness are limited in their perspective.  You desire that all people have an open mind.

I get you. I get what you’re saying.

Some people would be so arrogant as to put your views in a box. They might call it relativism or post-modernism. And that’s not fair. How can they use inadequate human language based on their own subjective views to delegate to you a role which they’ve predetermined you must fulfil. That’s not a role for you. You don’t have a name for your beliefs. Who gave them the right to judge?

And all this doesn’t matter to me.

What matters to me is that you believe in Jesus. It’s important that you call Jesus, from the inside of your heart of hearts, your Saviour and your Lord. I get that there’s a bunch of baggage tied to Christianity. I get that religion is obstructive, intolerant, and narrow. I generally agree with you on many of these issues. But they’re secondary issues. They don’t matter.

When Jesus is your Lord, it means that his life is primary over your iPhone, your school, and even your life. His life > your life. To say Jesus is your Lord is to say that you will try to be like him because he is the ultimate authority figure and leader of your life. Above parents even, above your perspective… even above the government. That’s letting God be God.

Jesus as saviour is Jesus as rescuer. He is the one who is the protagonist in the superman movie. And here’s the crazy part, you must accept that in the film of your life you are the one needing saving. It’s the imperfections you can’t get past; the desire for human approval, the trap of immediate gratification. That’s you. That’s me. That’s everyone. You’re stuck in the muck we all stumbled in and Jesus makes you unstuck. I want you to believe that.

We could go on and on arguing philosophical terms that we both don’t really understand, or we could just believe that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

Belief is a funny thing. It’s not something you need to do as a modernist, a post-modernist, or a pre-Socratic. It’s something that’s existed through every wave of human philosophy.

Perhaps our beliefs do influence our philosophical views. But that’s mote. It’s secondary to Jesus. Everything is secondary to Jesus. Jesus transcends the temporary beliefs with eternal treasure… I’m just trying to share the wealth. Call on Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Live your life in light of that. That’s all I’m asking.

If you say yes. Then start living. If you say no, not now, or maybe later… can I ask you a simply question? Do you know why you’ve made that decision? Think about it. I think it’s a fair question to think about. I wouldn’t mind discussing it with you either. I promise the conversation won’t turn into a heated argument. You see I try to live me life with this perspective: Jesus is primary, everything else is secondary.

What do you say?

Who is Jesus? True and False Quiz

A dozen questions all about Jesus. Go through them one by one and at the end you can check your score.

  1. Jesus ignored talking about deep issues of what someone was struggling with family problems
  2. Jesus only hung out with good people
  3. Jesus kept to himself and avoided groups of people
  4. Jesus spent his whole time on earth in the presence of other people
  5. Jesus spent the majority of his life on earth teaching
  6. Jesus avoided giving compliments and encouraging words to others, due the fact that no one was as good as Jesus
  7. Jesus wanted a lot of followers and a religion based around himself, so he often told others about how awesome he was.
  8. Jesus avoided controversy and would only speak in towns where his opinion would be popular
  9. When facing a challenge by someone educated, Jesus simply responded to them with “repent and believe in the gospel!”
  10. Jesus thought people with mental, physical, and emotional illness were gross and stayed away from them
  11. Jesus would only eat with people who could benefit himself
  12. Jesus only befriended the poor and despised the rich
  13. Jesus demonstrated one who had authority, and did not submit to a higher authority
  14. Jesus avoided loving others where alcohol was near by because he needed to appear holy to others
  15. Jesus never cooked a meal for others. He would ask second class citizens to make food for him.

Ready?

Are you ready for the answers?

Insert white space here.

And here.

Here are the answers to the True (T) and False (F) quiz:

  1. F. Jesus was a friend. Not a superficial friend. A friend.
  2. F. Jesus thought that everyone was bad. Mark 10:18. He was called a friend of sinners.
  3. F. Jesus would get up early in the morning and pray. We know this because the disciples interrupted him a number of times.
  4. F. Jesus hung out with people a lot, but not all the time. He with a perfect introvert and a perfect extrovert.
  5. F. You know before Jesus preached and healed, he was chillin’ for 30 years as the son of a carpenter. He likely swung a hammer for a living.
  6. F. Obvious one. Jesus encourage the faith in others by publicly acknowledging it. There’s also “take courage” or “don’t be afraid.” Hang out with Jesus much? You’ll get encouraged.
  7. F. Jesus deserved a lot more respect than he got. And he asked for less respect than he deserved. Humbly, he thought of others before himself.
  8. F. Jesus got into some heated debates. There were times when he would leave an area because of how much they disagreed, but ultimately, Jesus did get into debate.
  9. F. Jesus had many conversations with Lawyers, Sadducees, and sceptics. That was a normal day for him.
  10. F. Jesus got up close and personal with those you and I would walk on the other side of street.
  11. F. Again, Jesus ate with sinners. He ate with people like you and me. How could we ever benefit the one who created the world?
  12. F. Jesus loved the poor. And Jesus loved the rich. Do you realize that the tax collectors were like the 1%?
  13. F. Jesus did have authority, and he taught like he did, but he also submitted to God as a model for us to follow.
  14. T! Jesus turned water into grape fruit juice. Am I right? Wait a second…
  15. F. Jesus served a meal for 5000. That’s a lot of dishes.

All of these could have multiple references to back them up. It would take a ton of time to prove each one in exhaustion. But anyone who knows the Jesus that is historically recorded in the earliest documents we have will recognize the attributes of Jesus I’ve listed here.

Wait. Wait. Wait. Don’t tell me this is just a cerebral list for you. We ought to walk in the way he walked. So go through the list again, consider how you can apply his example, then start applying!

Peace

Four Apologetic Approaches (according to Tim Keller)

If the gospel is the what of Christianity than apologetics is the why of Christianity. The days of Christendom are over; no longer can Christians simply tell the gospel to unbelievers and expect conversions and new disciples. No, now we must do as the early church did and be ready to have a defence for their faith. As Paul did, we must try to convince others of the truth of Christianity. Remember, this comes after telling someone the gospel. Christians must always be sharing the gospel in the context of their culture, showing the relevance of the gospel to everyday life.

Tim Keller is an expert on the subject of Apologetics. He wrote The Reason For God, a New York Times Best-Seller. Whether you’re a believer or not, that book is a must-read. At a conference at Acts 29 in 2011, he gave a message on apologetics and very quickly at the end of his talk described 4 different types of apologetics. I found them extremely helpful and thought I’d share them with the world.

Hard Constructive Apologetics

Why believe in Christianity rather than the alternatives? Because the preponderance of rational and empirical evidence is on its side.

Keller admits this isn’t the best approach and normally comes from a sinful desire to win arguments. Think of the boys who can’t master sports or video games so they become “experts” in on-line arguments while eating pop tarts in their parent’s basement. That said, this approach is sometimes necessary. In a University setting, many people require this approach. William Lane Craig, a philosopher and historian, champions this “evidentialist” approach. There are many apologetic blogs dedicated to using this approach as well such as Apologetics 315. A book related to this approach would be The Resurrection of The Son of God by NT Wright where Wright goes out to prove historically that Jesus of Nazareth resurrected from death.

Soft Constructive Apologetics

Why believe in Christianity rather than the alternatives? Because Christianity makes more sense of our common experience than the alternatives.

Do you believe in human rights? Do you believe that humans have more value than a stone or a bag of chemicals? These things make more sense in the Christian framework than if there is no God. Where hard constructive apologetics may use deductive reasoning, soft constructive apologetics would be more likely to use inductive reasoning. CS Lewis used this approach well in his famous book, Mere Christianity.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not because I see it, but because I see everything else.” – CS Lewis

Soft Deconstructive Apologetics

Why believe Christianity rather than the alternatives? Because there’s no good reason not to believe in Christianity.

In this approach, the Christian aims to take away all the barriers in the way of believing the gospel. Asking, “You should believe in Jesus, why don’t you?” rather than explaining “You should believe in Jesus, here’s why.” For most people in Waterloo, Canada, I would guess that this is the most appropriate approach. This is far more conversational and should be a natural part of a healthy friendship between a Christian and non-Christian. A book

tactics

exclusively dedicated to describing how to use this method is called “Tactics” by Greg Koukl.

The only issue with this method is the complexity of it. In hard constructive apologetics, you simply need to understand logic and reason, study up, and articulate clearly. But in this approach, you need to do all that and have a bold humility about yourself while navigating the awkwardness of challenging someone else’s view.

Narratival

Why believe in Christianity rather than the alternatives? Because of the power of its story to change lives and to account for the insights of other rival stories.

Tim Keller didn’t take a lot of time to explain this one. But basically it’s good story-telling of the greatest story of all time. In this approach, when people hear the gospel story their greatest hopes and aspirations are met, and their greatest fears addressed. Each of these approaches gets more and more personalized, with this approach going right down to each individual heartache. Not heartache as in pain, but each ache of the heart: each desire and emotion stemming from the soul. A good narrative brings these aches into the context of the gospel of Jesus and the story of God. This approach is both articulated and used by Donald Miller. Another example would be CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia which is all about the story of God. 

There are a variety of approaches to use but the important thing is to be on mission and be ready to defend your faith.

Attending religious services protects from major depression

That’s what the research is saying.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, utilizing a 14-year study of over 12,000 participants,  revealed a 22% lower risk of depression for monthly attenders (hazard ratio 0.78, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.95), compared with nonattenders, after controlling for age, household income, family and personal history of depression, marital status, education, and perceived social support. The researchers believe that this may be due to attenders enhanced ability to regulate emotion.

So what does this mean? How do you respond to research like this? Below are my thoughts.

This isn’t surprising. In my own life, I’ve found that being a Christian provides me a way of viewing the world in order to handle emotional lows. When tragedy strikes, the Christian response is to still trust in God. In fact, sometimes tragedy causes more trust. And this brings me to an issue that some people have with Christianity; isn’t Jesus just a crutch? I’d say yes. Jesus is a crutch.

And he’s a good one.

There’s about 8% of Canadians struggling with major depression and lots more that deal with depression everyday. There are various legitimate treatment options that I don’t disagree with. But in the thought of preventative medicine, this whole church thing seemed to do okay. I’m not arguing against what a doctor prescribes. But here’s what I think we forget sometimes: we cannot simplify our bodies to neurons, synapses, and chemicals. We are more than a bag of atoms. We have souls. And those souls need God. Everyone needs a crutch. Everyone needs something, or someone, to lean on in times of trouble. And that’s who God is. We were created with a God-shaped hole that too often goes empty or gets filled with a false, unsatisfying “god”. But the real God doesn’t just give you a crutch to hold you up, He actually gives you a whole new life to live.

There are so many other topics that this brings up. Does this research justify putting student funds towards churches that are nearby University campuses? Does this give an evidence-based reason for the government to tell the public to attend religious services? How does this research fit into a church world which is about much more than a Sunday morning service? Can this put the ‘exclusive religions are destructive to society’ arguments to rest? Could this affect your life right now? Could you consider the benefits of attending a Christian service?

All in all, it’s some interesting evidence. It’s something worth thinking about.