Monthly Archives: May 2014

Who we are in Christ, Part II

Today’s entry explores how a person can enjoy, know, experience this fullness, completeness, “second blessing” (and third and fourth), this “so great a salvation”.   1.  He (she) must want it.  Surprisingly, many professing Christians do not, just as many people do not even want to become Christians.  This is pride, self-ness.  2.  Obviously, she (he) must know about it, just as Paul says about believing in Christ.  We must be open, eager to learn more.  Many Christians are happy to be “scarcely” saved.  3. We must ask for it. (Luke 11:13)  Pentecost could have happened the day after Jesus’ ascension, but his disciples had to pray for it, learn what it meant, want it.   4.  We must “search the Scriptures”, soak up God’s Word into our souls, so that automatically we begin to think and act and become like God, who wrote it.  The Bible is Jesus in book form.  There is no quick fix to holiness.  Naaman had to bathe 7 times!  5. We must do all these things cooperatively, with fellow Christians.  I am not Jesus all by myself, nor do I become more like him all by myself (as some hermits think).  Christ is a Body, and I am a part of him, a member of him, through that Body.  6. Quit all self-effort (as in Romans 7).  Ask God to BE your joy, strength, patience; NOT to give them to you.

Questions:  1.  Why has the church been so slow in coming into this?  One reason; the church becomes dead a/c heresies and has to “start all over again” with the fundamentals, preaching the ABCs of the faith (though really, it is not preaching the gospel truly to preach only repentance and forgiveness; think once more of Jesus and Nicodemus).  Second; the church has confused her task of evangelizing the unsaved (by means of “invitation” hymns, amongst others) and her service of worshipping and praising God as his redeemed people.  (So, we use “Just as I am” at the Lord’s Supper celebration!)  2.  Since a Christian sins until the day of his death, why is it wrong to call him a sinner?  For the same reason that it is incorrect to call a person who can carry a tune a “singer”, or a man who changes tires on his car a “mechanic”.  Sinning is not his nature.  3.  If a Christian is a new, perfect person, how come he sins at all?  Paul says, “When I sin, it is not ‘I’, the real Paul.” (Romans 7) It is the momentum, carry-over, like an auto that keeps on moving after the motor is “dead”, out of gas.  Reflexes of the dead man.  4.  Why does the Bible tell us to put on the new man (if we are already new) and put off – put to death – the old, if he is buried?  This is like saying to a grown adult, “C’mon, be a man!” You are not telling him to become one; he already is.  You are saying, “Act like what you are!” (Much like some widows act as though their husbands never died!)  5.  How is it that some non-Christians are sometimes “better” than Christians?  Answer: They would be even better if they became new people.  (And think how worse Christians would be if they were not born again!)  Their so-called “good deeds” are all done by God on them (like King Saul), not in and through them, as with Christians. (Laws, customs, Christian influence control them.)  6.  Can all this be explained in psychological terms? Yes, indeed!  A non-Christian consists (by his own admission) of only body and soul.  The Bible calls this “flesh” (which has a sinful bent to it now), because we inherit it all from our forebears.  The Christian has or IS a third factor, a spirit which is the Spirit of Christ – the same that gave Christ birth (without a human father), thought him, empowered, guided, sustained him.  This new, perfect ego should rule our soul (emotions, thinking, and will), not just to refrain from evil, but to do God’s will before our own, or make ours agree with his.  (This is sometimes hard, and is called “dying to self”, or the sufferings without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God – here and now.)  7.  Is there a distinction then, between heaven hereafter and the Kingdom of heaven now? Yes.  Many people will go to heaven who never knew it here on earth, as every Christian is supposed to.  They are the “hardly saved”. (1 Cor. 3:12-15)  8.  Are all Christian’s “good deeds” really good?  Alas, no.  Many of them are done for flesh, soulish (rather than spiritual) reasons.  On the other hand, many good deeds of a Christian are done so second-naturedly, he doesn’t even realize he does them (Matt 25:37 and John 3:21)  9.  Do all “charismatics” have “full salvation”?  No.  It is possible for Satan to imitate, counterfeit ALL the gifts of the Spirit – miracles, tongues, prophesy.  10.  Does all this have evangelistic value (or just a “thrill” for the already saved)?  This alone is the true gospel.  It alone addresses the felt need of every non-Christian.  He has little sense of sin, and cares little about the hereafter.  But he is basically not happy, is unsatisfied with himself, and wants answers to his problems here and now.  This is the Gospel – Christ in you; His FULL joy, His peace, His mind, His glory.

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Who we are in Christ

Editor’s Note:  In celebration of what would have been Rolf Veenstra’s 101st birthday, this week and next I am posting a talk that he gave to a “Women’s Aglow” meeting.  The latter half of his ministry was centered around telling people who they are in Christ, hence the name of the blog site.  

The Church owes a great debt to its women.  They have always been its spiritual leaders.  Even Jesus said of Christian women, “You are my mother”.  This is not the same as headship.  Parents, together, are the head of a home.  And a wife supports (under-stands) her husband, not because it is his right.  Christians have no rights, but because he needs it. (Gen 2:18)  And a Christian husband is expected to lay down his life for his wife.

All this requires that any Christian must know who he is.  And God has explained all this in the Bible.  “Things which have not entered into the human mind God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”  (I Cor 2:6-16)  So we are wiser and should be more successful as parents, partners, and individual Christians than the “wisest” non-Christian psychiatrists, counselors, etc.  (Psalm 119:99,100)  As an aside, psychiatrists are often good at diagnosis, but no cures without Christ. So I am writing to you not as a minister, but as a fellow Christian.  I did not learn these things in seminary or from books, but from fellow Christians and through the Bible.

Who are we, as Christians?  Or, what does it mean to be saved?  The simple answer is, to have Christ in you.  Not just to believe in him or try to follow him but to be one with him.  “Christ in you” is found 150 times in the New Testament.  John 3:16 is a good evangelistic text, but Galations 2:20, II Cor 5:17 should be the testimony of every Christian.

Most Christians are only “half” saved; for them it means only to have your sins forgiven and to go to heaven when you die.  (Nobody gets into heaven by only having their sins forgiven.)  A Christian is a brand new person; he is not just the same person that he was when he was born, only improved, changed.  He has been replaced, born over again.  Jesus said that to good Nicodemus.  Read also Romans 6 and 8.  Jesus is a second Adam, father of a new race.  When we are born the second time we start a new, eternal existence.  We are given a new name (one of Jesus’ countless ones) that nobody else has.  (We should try to find out now what that name might be.)

Negatively, this means that my old self, what I am by “nature” (inherited from my folks and all the way back to Adam) has died and been buried, just as really as Christ died and was buried.  As a Christian I do not have two natures that fight each other and the old one gets weaker until at the end of life it dies completely.  I am just one person; my old self is replaced, when I become a Christian, just like a worm changes into a butterfly.  This means that you should not call yourself a worm (which sounds so pious) or even a “sinner” (saved by grace).  The Bible doesn’t.  We are called sons of God, little Christs, partakers of the divine nature, saints! (I John 3:1-3)  God does not regard us as if we were all this; this is what we actually are.  This is our condition, possession.  Paul says, “Reckon!”

The blessed result of all this is:  1. A Christian never has to die!  He, his old self, has already died, and his new self is immortal, eternal.  The crosses we wear and see should be reminders of this.  2.  There is no judgment that he has to face some day.  He has already been judged, condemned, and punished.  His only future judgment is like an award a judge grants an aggrieved person in a law-suit.  (The psalmist prays, “Judge me, O God” – be my vindicator.)  3. Being identified with Christ, a Christian is stronger than Satan and able to overcome ALL sin and temptation.  (I Cor 10:13 “He always leads us in triumph.”)  4. Positively, a Christian is enabled to obey God, do his will, to live the Christ-like life. “Work out your salvation…for God is at work within you, both to will and to do.”  This is as much a part of our salvation as being forgiven, and it is not something we do (or try to) by ourselves, in gratitude for being saved.  Note also that this is not doing (good deeds) so much as being.  The angels out-do us, but they are not God’s sons.  Children bring honor and pleasure to their parents because of who they are.

All the foregoing is true of every single Christian, young or old.  The trouble is, very few realize all this.  This is what grieves God.  Coming into an awareness of this (and practice of it) is what “fullness” is all about.  This is the theme of Hebrews.  Most of our songs have to do with the “first half” of our salvation – forgiveness, repentance, atonement, substitution – of which Hebrews 6:1-6 says we must not keep trying to repeat.  (This is like Israel’s 40 years in the desert; we must enter Canaan now!)

In the next post, I’ll discuss how a person can enjoy, know, experience this fullness, this “So great a salvation,”  as well as answer some questions that this raises.

 

 

Trouble and Injustice

A few thoughts on the questions raised regarding misfortune and trouble that befalls us and others.  These are questions that thinking people have raised since Day 1 and the real answers only come by painful experience (we are all at different stages), and oral “answers” are not too satisfying.

1.  First of all, in our cries and protests against what befalls us (especially versus others, who fare “better”) we all save ourselves a lot of grief by just ignoring the “other guy”.  That’s hard for us competitive Americans and Dutch-descended.  JFK said “life isn’t fair”, by which he meant “equal”, but it can’t be and shouldn’t be.  Just figure that it averages out.  So don’t get hung up either regarding somebody else’s “misfortunes”, like a person’s mistreatment at God’s/Satan’s hands.  Most of our protests against injustice are on some one else’s behalf.  Except insofar as we can help, that’s between them and God.

2.  We have picked up a lot of mixed notions on these subjects, from what we were taught in Catechism, preached in college, etc.  May I state simplistically some of these misconceptions?  a. When the Bible says that God made the world for His own glory, it means to express, exhibit, like one sitting down to play the piano even if nobody is listening.  Not to get praise or glory.   b. The Old Testament is not a record of some “nice” people whom we are to imitate in their virtues (and beware of whose faults), but a bunch of half-civilized sinners who it took God thousands of years to show that they could never “hack it”, on earth or hereafter, by themselves.  When they finally gave up self-effort, then Christ came to do it for them and in them.  c.  Salvation is not mere forgiveness.  Then God was stupid for letting a “man” sin in order just to forgive him, like a skilled surgeon who hacks off his son’s hand so he can reattach it as good as new.  God allowed the fall so that out of it we could rise to greater heights than “perfect” Adam, by means of the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus.  d. While anybody, before becoming a Christian, is indeed “dead” in sin and misery (a walking spiritually corpse), many of God’s children are born again, saved, new people from the time of their conception.  Raised in a Christian home (and environment) they are NOT full of sin and misery, but already little “saints”.  They do have to learn with age, that apart from salvation they were sinners, etc., but they do not have to say, “That’s what I am right now,” before they can become converted.  “Self” is the big thing we all have to defeat.  As an admission, as a kid I was a nice boy, always wanting to be a preacher, etc. But the trouble was that I thought I was all that by “Boy Scout” self-effort.  That feeling, that ego, that “self” had to die, and brother, it ain’t easy.  And just when you think you got it dead and buried, it rears out of the grave and you have to slap the shovel into its face again.  (Usually somebody else will do it for you, which is why the Bible describes this death to self as “crucifixion”; nobody can crucify himself.)  d.  All this, mind you, is not so that God gets his due credit; he couldn’t care less.  But what He wants to grow into us is himself, and as long as we are full of ourselves or even 10%, there’s that less room for Him.

3.  As to this whole business of who is responsible for trouble – God or Satan, God is, ultimately, on the score that if He didn’t allow Adam to fall (or Satan before that), we would be in Paradise yet.  (Which, as I intimated above, was far from perfect, fun, a bowl of cherries. What kind of life do South Sea Islanders have, without need of work, clothes, houses, etc? Only by “fighting” the elements and “fighting” to earn a living does civilization develop, inventions get discovered, and man himself grow and develop.)  God was so self-giving and loving that he wanted to make creatures as much like himself as possible, and that required giving him free will, self-rule, choice.  If God had “made” Adam choose right, would be no sin, of course, but no human either; just an animal, who does what is “right” out of instinct; it can’t help itself.

 

What Does Paul say about Women?

The Bible is full of the subject of men/women, marriage, beginning with Genesis, which Paul quotes to substantiate his teachings.  There will be gender in heaven; Jesus only said we would not be families there, but just one perfect family of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus, members of His “Body”.

The Bible is NOT male-prejudiced.  It is we, including the Church, which have not lived up to what it teaches.  Wherever the Bible has gone, women have been elevated, marriage honored, and celibates respected.  Three primary references in Paul to these subjects are 1Cor. 7,11,14 and 1Tim 3:8.  In the first he strikes a blow for “women’s lib” by exalting the unmarried.  There is more to womanhood than marriage and child-bearing.  The unwed (man or woman) is even capable of more “spirituality” than the married.  In this same chapter, Paul argues for the indissolubility of marriage (which is “in the Lord”), which shows he was in favor of women in his day (as well as today) where women pay the highest price in divorce.  At the same time, he allows for divorce in certain instances or circumstances, which is also in women’s favor.  Paul was not a marriage-and-women hater; he may have been once married, and nobody speaks in loftier praise of marriage, a picture of Christ and the Church.  Jesus and Paul honored celibacy by themselves being single.  (1Cor. 9:5)

In 1Cor 11 Paul says that women MAY prophecy and pray in public.  He would not contradict himself in the same letter!  As regards proper adornment (it is not certain whether he is talking about hats or hair-do’s) we all agree that the MANNER of showing respect is not important.  (A woman might wear 5 hats and be a hussy, and vice-versa.)  What is more, Paul is plainly speaking about husbands-wives, not men-women.  And besides this, he is talking about the relation of husbands and wives in church, at worship.  We have gone way off in reading into this that women must show respect to ALL men (sisters to brothers, etc.), may not be “over” men (especially in “teaching”) and are even inferior to men.  Nonsense!

In 1Cor 14 Paul does not exclude women from vs 26.  Women helped him in his work; Priscilla even corrected the famous preacher Apollo.  (Acts 18:26)  The New Testament mentions many women-preachers. (Acts 21:9)  In vs 34, he means “judging” others’ preaching; speaking on church “business”, particularly if it contradicts her husband.  (One practical point is that women and men sat separately.)  If she agrees with her husband, by way of discussion at home, let him speak for the family.  Eve’s great mistake was acting unilaterally.

In 1Tim 2:8, Paul is not thinking of ordinary teaching, even religious subjects.  Nobody does any more teaching of any kind than women, particularly mothers.  Herein lies their great opportunity, power, and prestige.  Satan would like to have them neglect that in favor of men’s “lesser” prerogatives.  Paul does not want women to boss their men/husbands.

All this means that Paul is interested in two big principles regarding a good home and marriage: 1. That it be united, a true partnership, a complementary whole.  He does not want husbands and wives to go off in opposite directions, much less cross-purposes.  2.  That unity is best achieved by the simple device of system, or good order.  One expression of his is a wive’s assumption of his name upon marriage.  His family is not necessarily better, or his name nicer.  It might have been the other way, but somebody has to be “first”; much like numbers and letters in the alphabet.  All this God pictured prettily in creation of man and woman, husband-wife.  This does NOT mean that women/wives are IN ANY WAY subordinate, secondary, inferior to husbands/men, whether physically, spiritually, mentally, etc.  A chairperson is not smarter than his peers over whom he presides.  As an example,  the “priority” of the three Persons in the Trinity, which marriage reflects.  Submission in marriage is mutual, reciprocal, and relative.  (1Cor. 11:11,12;  Eph. 5:21,22,25-31; 1Cor 7:4) Love, honor, maintain – SUPPORT!  Male chauvinism in the Bible is NOT normative, but a factual report of sin so that we will not perpetuate it.  Women’s-rightists have justified grievances, and their best hope lies in getting all of us to obey what God says in His Word.

The Answer to Self-doubt

A few follow-up thoughts regarding idealism, fantasizing, perfectionism, high expectations,  all confirmed by an issue of Life Magazine which was put into my library.  On page one are some stylized sketches of “cover girls” with perfect proportions, etc. (not real people), and even a picture or two of a model followed by an article on the “real thing”, some unfortunate girls in San Francisco “on the make”, whose forlorn features evoke in a normal person only pity instead of desire or even contempt.  How easy it is for us to confuse the two in our minds.

And, as I will address in another entry – which accounts for the break-up of marriages which are entered into primarily for physical reasons; they just don’t deliver up to expectations.  No person (man or woman), including the models themselves, always looks like a model, or artist’s idealism, nor our fantasizing.  So both partners to such a union (especially the male, with bigger imagination and less realism than our practical female counterparts) feel they got cheated, were sold a bill of goods, ripped off.  And since imagination dies hard, we think all this happens to be true of the particular person we chose, and the next time round will prove different.  But the grass on the other side of the fence has just as many weeds and dandelions as on this side.  That’s life.

And what’s especially dismaying and disillusioning is when we don’t measure up to our own expectations (including sex in any aspect, especially our appearance); the unregenerate “animal” doesn’t much care; he or she tries to compensate by means of clothes or car (which are advertised in sex terms), but for the rest, any one of them can “perform” as well as the next guy.    I can never get over the fact that the dumbest people and laziest, incapable  and/or unwilling to do almost anything else, are still able to copulate.  But that follows, or course, on the score that on the purely physical level – “love ’em and leave ’em” – any male animal is up to that.

The answer to  male or female self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy lies in the discovery and conviction that the real “you” is Christ, the perfect, the all-capable, and the “you” regarding which you have misgivings and feelings of impotence (versus omnipotence, which we have in Christ – so says Philippians), is NOT you; it can be disowned, ignored, denied, repudiated.  That’s a relief.  Peace.  Confidence.  Exhilaration.