Friday, December 07, 2007

Ok…now I’m nervous. I can’t get into details because nothing is for sure. But there is a distinct possibility that I can have a book published (in hardback and paperback), promoted and distributed to upwards of 25,000 Christian book stores in the United States…plus an online promotion campaign. Don’t let the number “25,000” look too big…every book store picks which books they want to stock. But by guaranteeing a full refund for books that don’t move, the likelihood of them giving the book a shot does increase. I am guaranteed those stores will be made aware of the book through promotion…but no one can guarantee demand of course.

I’ve always talked about writing a book but now that a great opportunity is before me I’m not so sure. Why do I want to publish a book? That’s a good question. My last name isn’t “Stanely”, “Warren”, “Lucado”, “Young” or “MacArthur” so it’s not likely that I’ll become the next evangelical rock star. (I could improve my chances of that if I could acquire a good southern accent, that’s fore sure.)

But I do have something to say…a message God laid on my heart. I want to pull my hair out with the current situation western evangelicalism is in and I believe God has called me to be part of a coming revival. Of course nothing happens apart from the local church and He has called me to plant churches that will plant churches (that will plant churches…on and on…exponentially) with both proper theology and ever evolving contextual methodology. He has already sent me to several local churches, in various conditions, to preach “revival”…true revival. It hurts to see some churches do nothing with the messages but I am thrilled about the churches who are awakening right here in the Akron/Canton area! These churches are now rallying behind their pastors instead of against him…and that is the first real sign that revival is coming. Many of those who faithfully read semper reformanda are from those churches and I praise God for what He is doing in your church family!

So…this book talk is now starting. First…I have to finish writing the initial installment! Those of you who visit here often know that I’ve tinkered around with it right here on semper reformanda. I think God has a series of books in me called “The God of Prophets” with the first in the series re-introducing Moses. I’d also like to write about Jeremiah, Amos, Barnabas, Peter…and even men like Polycarp, Clement of Rome and America’s greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards. My prayer would be that contemporary American pastors would compare the messages they have for both saints and sinners with the over arching message God had for those same types of people, given prophetically, in ages past.

But…organization and time management are not exactly things I have in over abundance. I need an assistant! Southside is in the process of making some very cool and ground breaking changes…which is draining much creative energy from me to be honest. Coram Deo has all of a sudden become a whirlwind of activity and I am helping with the dirty and dusty “grunt” work. I live life as an evangelist/missionary and so I get “distracted” by witnessing opportunities daily. On top of that I have a little company that I am helping to start (which is woefully behind schedule).

And now an opportunity to make a go of writing and promoting a book has popped up!

So…just pray for me. These are very exciting days…but a bit overwhelming! If you will pray for me, please pray that I operate with wisdom, boldness and strength. I've often operated with these gifts one at a time...I need them all in concert. I have painfully learned this summer that in order to go where God is leading me all three gifts must be consistently manifested in my life. So please, if you pray, ask that I operate with all three gifts together from now on.

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.” Genesis 15:17 niv

12 comments:

Zac said...

Gary,

Exciting indeed! Before I post a comment on your post, I want to briefly address your patristic quotation, by an Orthodox saint and pope, Clement, a martyr and teacher. You quote him thusly: “We also, being called through God's will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves, neither through our own wisdom or understanding, or piety, or works which we have done in holiness or heart, but through faith.” I’ll just remind you that Clement wrote more than one epistle to the Corinthians, this being a part of his first, I think.

And by the way, this is the Orthodox teaching. However, in our sound-byte world you might fool someone into thinking that St. Clement was perhaps a Southern Baptist (not that I have anything against them, they just weren’t around yet).

I thought maybe I could post a few quotations from this same epistle which might help us better understand what St. Clement is saying:

“Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition.”

So, you can see that St. Clement is NOT saying works aren’t necessary for salvation— how can we claim Christ as our Savior if we do not also obey Him as our Lord? He IS, however, saying that these things which we must do if we really are following Christ are not, of themselves, making us “worthy” of salvation.

Not all the holiest and noblest works of mankind combined could ever come close to equaling a single drop of the Son of God’s precious blood. There is an excellent writing on this by St. Mark the Ascetic, Against Those Who Think They Are Justified by Works. It’s in a classic collection of Orthodox writings called the Philokalia, which I have, and which is very popular throughout the Orthodox world.

Let me also mention that St. Clement is speaking of salvation in a way that might not be familiar to your readers, but that’s perhaps another conversation.

I will close with a quotation from a Lutheran author of the dangers that the Orthodox see in the Protestant understanding of salvation:

"In today's context, justification by faith easily becomes an abstract declaration of divine permissiveness that leaves secularized persons to work out their own spiritual ruin with a foolishly happy conscience. It ceases to represent the shattering and transforming event of encounter and communion with the crucified but risen Lord Jesus, a submission to God's holy judgment and a surrender to God's redeeming mercy - in short, a conversion to the reign of God. Justification by faith becomes a declaration of divine favor that hangs in mid-air, without providing any vision of who the human person is and what he or she is to become."
– Paul R. Hinlicky, Theological anthropology: Toward Integrating Theosis and Justification by Faith.

It is THIS misunderstanding which the Orthodox reject as poison and heresy, not the actual biblical/patristic teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

irreverend fox said...

zac,

I don't disagree with Clement or the Apostles James...there is no Salvation where there is not also a changed life or fruit.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matthew 7:21-23 niv

KEY WORD: "never"

Zac said...

Gary,

Is the keyword really "never" in that passage? I thought the keyword was "do" as in only those who DO the will of the Father are saved-- i.e., the Orthodox notion of faith and works in their role of salvation.

Here's something from the commentary on the Gospels by Blessed Theophylact (12th Century):

Here Jesus shows that He is Lord by saying, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord." Jesus in fact is saying that He is God. He teaches us that we derive on benefit from our faith if it is without works. "He that doeth the will of My Father." He did not mean, "that did the will of My Father on one occasion" but "that doeth the will of My Father continually until his death."

Also, let me just ask a question because maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Are you saying that if a person really believes then he will never ever fall away?

Zac said...

Sorry typo... italics section should read: "derive no benefit"

irreverend fox said...

hey zac...there are obviously many key words "DO" being one of them certainly.

why...I don't care what Arlie says...you do catch on fast! lol...yes...I am suggesting that "falling away" is not something that a Christian could or would ever do. The Bible teaches this most glorious doctrine.

Jn 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:37-47 niv

I of course could go on and on.

Right or wrong...this is why we rarely ask for "mercy" (loving kindness) because we are assured of it. For you see, it is as foolish (and potentially insulting) for us to repeatedly ask God for "mercy" (loving kindness) as it would be to beg our wives, repeatedly, "please love me, please love me, please love me..." No. We rest in the assurance that we are saved once and for all and that "mercy" (loving kindness) is simply assumed. Once born again the lights go on (as it were) and our relationship with God becomes real. In some ways I suppose there is a virtue in taking it "for granted"...so long as it does not lead to sin. I do not need to worry about mercy nor ask for it ever again...I have it unconditionally. So my honor, service and obedience is 100% worship and love because I merit NOTHING at all. I serve out because I honor Him...not to synergistically assist in my own salvation. That is not pure service…there is a distinctly self serving element in it. Not so for Born Again, Spirit Filled…Christians. Nope…our works do not assist in salvation at all…our only motivation is honor and worship.

I am so sure that I am saved, now and forever, that I could swing over the pit of hell on a grapevine and not worry one bit that I’d fall in. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5 niv

irreverend fox said...

opps...I think we are both tired tonight...

I'm suggesting that "falling away" is NOT something a Christian could or would do...

irreverend fox said...

one more thing to be clear...in all the Reformed branches you will not hear "have mercy" repeatedly cried for. but...you will hear "thank you, Lord, for your mercy" or "thank you, Lord, for you loving kindness, forgiveness, grace, salvation..."

we do in a sense take it for granted and we do presume it. when we gather, it is not to ask for what He has already unconditionally given (solely by unmerited favor)...but to ever thank Him for settling those things (by His own initiative, for reasons ultimately unknown to us) once and for all. our gatherings are about thanking Him and reminding ourselves of the great thing He has done. so we assume mercy and forgiveness and salvation (because He who has promised is faithful…even when we are not faithful He is faithful…) and we constantly thank Him for them...not constantly ask Him for them.

Born again Christians would understand that to be insulting to the God who "...has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 niv)

Zac said...

Well I'm not feeling up for a battle, but all the Scriptures you quoted seem to say was that God calls people to Christ, and that Christ will never drive away any who come. This text doesn't seem to actually address the possibility of falling away. And there definitely ARE texts that do speak of this possibility, ala Hebrews 6:4-8, and even the examples we have of people in Acts like Simon the Sorcerer, and Ananaias and Sapphira.

Concerning this "confidence"-- this actually has much more in common with Gnosticism than with ancient Christianity. I think this quotation bears repetition:

"In today's context, justification by faith easily becomes an abstract declaration of divine permissiveness that leaves secularized persons to work out their own spiritual ruin with a foolishly happy conscience."

I remember thinking such things, too, until I read the Scriptures through the lens of the ancient fathers. These did admit the possibility of falling away from Christ. So really I guess it's whether you take today's modern evangelical spin on this issue which has no grounding in the tradition or really in a good grasp of the Greek of the text (which is probably why no Greek-speaking Christian ever thought of this), OR whether you begin looking to the Fathers, not in order to proof-text yourself into thinking that the doctrines you hold are ancient, but to really find out what these Scriptures meant to the early Christians. Of course this is dangerous, as Cardinal Newman once put it: "To be deep in history is to cease to be a protestant."

And just one final thing-- I'll sum up the Orthodox understanding of the role of "works." No work could ever save us, ever make us worthy of salvation. BUT nevertheless God commands holiness (1 Peter 2:4) and obedience (Matthew 7:21) in order to be saved. If this is the case, then it is not that our works merit anything in God's eyes, but they are simply the manner in which we live in Christ.

irreverend fox said...

zac,

our Holy Lord, Jesus Christ, made it more than clear despite the silly and doctrinal immaturity of earlier Christians.

1. "I shall lose none of all that he has given me,..." (“none” and “all” are key words here...if one is "given" to the Son by the Father that one will never be lost..."none" means none and "all" means all in this context, right?)

2. "...but raise them up at the last day..." (who? those whom the Father gives Him. it is a promise and guarantee)

3. "...For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,..." (shall have...present tense. eternal life...eternal life...eternal life...eternal life...if eternal does not, um, eternal that please help me understand what it means...)

4. "...and I will raise him up at the last day.” (again, who? those who "look to the Son and believes in Him" WILL BE raised up on the last day)

irreverend fox said...

...and again and again and again I say...justification is NOT by faith.

it is by grace through faith in the salvation provided by the Holy Trinity.

one should not feel so confident in over coming an idea that is not real zac.

zac...you are imposing infallibility upon the dogmas of the Church without warrant...and then you proceed from there…don’t you see how this assumption you have is being read into the texts and not gleaned from them?

irreverend fox said...

after finishing the prime in the laundry room I thought that I should take back the word 'silly' when describing their soteriology...such illumination is by grace and that word is not appropriate.

Zac said...

“And this is the will of the Father Who hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth in Him, may have everlasting life;: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:39-40

I think the message of the text from a plain reading is quite clear, in that our Lord contrasts “lose” with “raise it up again at the last day.” Here is how a 12th Century bi-lingual, Greek-speaking scholar, bishop, and saint interpreted this passage, himself having learned from the ancient fathers:

The Lord repeats the phrase, “all the Father hath given to Me,” in order to impress upon the Jews their unworthiness to receive God’s gift. If the Father bestows belief in Christ as a wondrous gift, and they do not have this faith, it is evident that they have spurned God’s gift. “Therefore,” He says, “I will not lose those whom the Father has given Me, namely, those who believe in Me, but will raise them up,” which means, count them worthy of a joyful resurrection.

There will be two kinds of resurrection: the common and universal resurrection which all men will undergo; and that in which the righteous alone will be lifted up into the clouds to meet the Lord with joyful confidence. The latter type of resurrection Paul calls “exanastasis” [Phil.3:11] because it entails being lifted up from the earth. The righteous are both raised from the dead and lifted up on high [anistantai kai exanistantai]. Sinners, on the other hand, are raised from the tombs but not lifted up into the air. They remain below as ones condemned.

The Lord explains His words, “that of all which He hath give Me I should lose nothing,” by restating them differently: “that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in Him, may have everlasting life. The meaning is one and the same. “All which He hath given Me” means the same as “everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth in Him.” And the words “that I should lose nothing,” mean the same as “may have everlasting life.” He frequently mentions the resurrection to encourage men not to restrict their understanding of God’s providence to visible, earthly blessing, but to yearn for that other realm in which most assuredly we will enjoy the rewards of virtue. Though no physical reward is now apparent, by no means should we abandon the path of virtue.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’ll address the other texts later, if you like. My caution to you is only to be careful of not falling into what you accuse me of: reading an assumption into the text.

I must now go back to studying for finals, my friend. Have an excellent Lord's Day.