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Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Same Old, Same Old Won't Do God's Will

Galatians 5:1-6 (NIV) 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You probably know the story of the Galatians. They were teaching that a person must become a Jew before he could become a Christian. Therefore, a new believer had to subscribe to each and every Jewish practice to remain faithful to the Lord. Indeed, as Paul stated, they had fallen away from grace and were again working for their salvation.

No doubt, the Jewish practices seemed very right to the Jews. They had practiced them all their lives. Abandoning them was denying the comfort these practices had given them throughout their lives. Surely, the Messiah, who was a practicing Jew, would want them to continue as Jews. Of course, this meant that the Gentiles would have to be circumcised too. All Gentile proselytes had been circumcised in the past.

Yet, returning to the old ways would actually prevent the gospel from being preached because it became a false story of salvation. Requiring circumcision made Jesus' sacrifice on the cross inadequate. It made man's salvation dependent upon himself. It made the shedding of blood by the believer crucial for salvation.

It seems to be human nature to return to our past. The past is the foundation for our future. It feels comfortable and right.

Years ago I learned to play a specific song on a guitar a certain way. I had watched someone play the song and did it exactly as he showed me. After playing the song that special way for about twenty years I watched the original artist play the song differently. I realized that the correct way came from the original and began reteaching myself to play the song. It wasn't very long before I returned to my old way. It just seemed more comfortable to play it the old way even though the original was a much easier finger pattern.

If we take life's experiences and place them in the denominator of our lives and take new teaching and place it in the numerator we will find that few experiences will have a lasting effect if we do not continue to repeat them time and again. We will find that older churches typically die because they cannot bring themselves to adapting to new methods of reaching people. We will find that older Christians cannot understand that many of those coming to church today have no church background. They do not know where most of the books are in the Bible. They may not know whether to look for them in the New Testament or Old Testament.They may not know who we are speaking of when we mention Paul, Elijah or Samuel. They may have heard of Moses and David but could not give any background material they haven't seen in a movie.

So, sermons change from speaking to people who have a biblical background to those who have none at all. And yes, much of this is unnecessary for those who have a solid background developed over years in the Bible. It is necessary to make the change if we want to reach new people.

It is God's will that we reach people, you know. Its just that the same old, same old is going to get us the same old, same old.

Matthew 9:16-17 (NIV) 16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."


Goda said...

Very nice post. :)

Anthony Chia said...

I want to go straight down to the part where Ps Prentis put experiences into an expression with numerator and denominator. Something said there is worthy of expanding upon; and it is this: "we will find that few experiences will have a lasting effect if we do not continue to repeat them time and again."

Nowadays, fewer and fewer pastors or preachers preach about the “how to” get there. Of course, false teachers, on the rise, are preaching “we are there” already. But if you are NOT like them believing that we are there already, but rather we have to get there, then we should also give people some handles as to “how to” get there. Because people can feel condemned because their lives do NOT seem to inch nearer to the “there” (they may NOT know how to inch closer). Again of course, for those who subscribe to “we are there” already, they feel NOT any condemnation; their easy-believism already got the better of them. Call it “the same old, same old” if you like, but this old school prescription of we need to repeat and repeat is an all-timer; in other words, while we are to be open to creativity, cultural differences, etc, etc, CERTAIN things need no changing, rather the thing to do, is to do it again and again.

For example, truths need NO change, for they change NOT. Core theological foundation of the faith needs no change; the gospel needs no change. The core tenets of the faith need no change; but they are being changed by some people, mega-preachers, and some people find them “refreshing”. To me, those who find such, refreshing, they are suffering from what Scripture would called, “itching ears”. Truths are always, “the same old, same old”. I am NOT insinuating that Ps Prentis is implying in any way that truths need NOT be “the same old, same old”; I am merely underscoring truths remain the same, and they often need to be repeated again and again to have them sunk right into our heart.

Still NOT being specific about “how to”, a general “how to” to living our faith, is actually prescribed in Scripture, and is along the line of what Ps Prentis has said, in the repeated obeying of the Word.

Many believers, including myself, do this often - paying lip service to the requirements of the Word. We “agree” with the Word, but we do nothing about it (what it is asking for); or in our subscription of the ways of God, we just do things, once, and then comfort ourselves with “been there, and done that”, and pat ourselves on the back.

The way to Christian or spiritual growth underscored in Scripture is that of understanding a word, and applying it, and allowing it to impact us; the central principle here is that we are to be transformed by it. While some people can get transformed by just receiving understanding of a word, most do NOT.

To know if you have been transformed, ask yourself, “Where is it showing?” In other words, it should be visible; and people can see it; people can tell. If it is NOT showing, it is most likely you are NOT transformed; your own heart might have deceived you!

Cont. on next page..

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

That is why our busying of ourselves in gaining understanding, like going from seminars after seminars, or talks after talks, per se, does NOT change or grow us beyond a certain level. Another thing that people do, but it, alone, is NOT sufficient, although it is required and is the starting point, is that of making (year-end) resolutions. It alone does NOT transform us either, until we actually do something.

Today, preachers are shying away from teaching “doing”, because it is NOT popular. What Scripture prescribed, and which I believe is applicable to most of us, if NOT all of us, in the way to grow, is through understanding a word, applying it, and allowing it to impact us, and then having these processes repeated again and again, as necessary, until that word becomes part of us, and then we move to next set of word, and so on and so forth.

Another phrase used for this is “through constant use” of the word. If we, instead of repeatedly acting upon the Word (i.e. instead of being a doer of the word), we would be like the one who looks in the mirror, seeing how we look like, and then turning around, forgetting how we look like; we are NOT going to be blessed, including with transformation. The Apostle James, in James 1:22-25, said that the one who reads intently or hears intently the Word (with understanding), and continues doing what the Word asked for, he will be blessed in what he is doing. It is very clear there, there is a doing; and the person is blessed in what he is doing. If there is no “doing and doing” (what Ps Prentis said as repeated experiences), going by this James’ passage, there will NOT be blessing for the person, including no transformation.

One may ask, “What does this got to do with reaching out to the non-believers?” which is what I am believing Ps Prentis is wanting believers to realize: some sort of change in us is needed before we could more successfully do this very important role of reaching the lost for the Lord. You see, the thing is this: “I know we are to reach the lost, and I know that is a very important thing that I should be doing, but I am NOT doing it!” In other words, you and I agree we have to reach the lost, for the Word said so. But our agreement is purportedly in the heart. It is of no efficacy if such an agreement is NOT given “hands and legs”; in other words, we act NOT. The Great Commission is an important set of words in the Word, but we are NOT applying it, meaning we are NOT acting upon it, and when we are NOT acting upon it, there is no doing and when there is no doing, there is no blessing, including the transformation it can bring.

The key is in doing; the key is getting started, and the key is in doing it again and again. In our doing, we will experience the blessing of God, his grant of grace and resources, his co-laboring with us, and these would impact us, and transform us. It is funny how we ignore the actual meaning of simple words like “obedience”. To many of us, obedience is NOT “Just do as you are told, or refrain from doing that which you are told NOT to do.” In other words, we somehow do NOT see the “doing” in obedience; we simply equate “I know that” with obedience; how ridiculous, yet we do it again and again – we simply stop at “I know that”!, and act NOT or refrain NOT, as the case maybe.

Cont. on next page..

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

Now, you may say, “I thought transformation comes first, before we set out to do!” You see my understanding of what happens to us, is like this: At entry into salvation, we are born-again, or what I called the “Initiation Transformation” or if you like, just “initial transformation”. This is what the Scripture called born-again to be a new creation. Initial Transformation is referring to the creation of the new creation. Thereafter, the new creation is still to be transformed from glory to glory. In other words, most of us, if NOT all of us, are nowhere as near perfection or the “arrived state”. It is in the repeated cycle of repeated understanding, applying, and being impacted as a result, that we are being transformed, most commonly (it is possible, though, God can directly transform people through supernatural encounters {Paul, for e.g.}). Initial Transformation apart, a believer’s transformation is cumulative, that is why it is commonly referred to as we are being transformed from glory to glory. It is similar in understanding to what some would say, “We build up our spiritual house precept upon precept”. So, on the question at the beginning of this paragraph, yes, there had to be transformation prior to another precept, but it is the living out of this precept that will give rise to additional transformation that is added to your cumulative transformation, that will put you in position to be more excellent in the same precept or take on another precept and another precept and so on.

And so, I differ in my understanding as to the applicability of the Parable of the Wineskins in relation to believers, post entry into salvation. If one looks at the context in which it was given by Jesus, it is NOT at all clear that it is applicable to the on-going life of a believer. Jesus was answering the Pharisees, stating that the disciples were NOT doing certain things (fasting, for example) because it was NOT yet the time. By that, Jesus was saying that He had NOT yet died and resurrected, and the Holy Spirit had NOT indwelled the disciples, and so they were yet to be new creations (Jesus upon resurrection, did come back, and breathed the Holy Spirit into the Disciples; it was at that point that the Holy Spirit indwelled the Disciples).

Yes, the wineskins parable was referring to Initial Transformation. The old wineskin was referring to us, before salvation, and the new wineskin, the new creation that we become. In other words, all believers are new wineskins, for we are all new creations. No, I do NOT think it is some believers are new wineskins and some are NOT; and so, we should NOT suggest that. It is also, in no way, applicable in such a way as to equate old wineskins to old believers and new wineskins to new or young believers. So, we do NOT put aside or worse still, shun the old Christians as old wineskins and want, in their replacement, young Christians thinking that they are the new wineskins. Yes, we can say that believers (regardless young or old) need to be transformed so that we can move forward, but it is NOT some believers among us are old wineskins.

Cont. on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

All are new wineskins, and it is all new wineskins is needing on-going transformations, even as the “new wine” which is the Holy Spirit, with His law, is already poured into all NT believers. Non-believers (then referring to the unbelieving Jews) are old wineskins, and the “old wine” was the literal law or Mosaic Law as a whole, and was applicable to them. The Holy Spirit is believed to have come “upon” non-believers, and “come into” non-believers, but NOT indwelling them (which was the case of most OT children of God, if NOT all – no indwelling). The reason being simple, non-believer has NOT the righteous standing to begin with, and the Holy Spirit cannot indwell without the righteous standing. The wrath of the Spirit would be incurred so very often that it would be likely that the non-believer would be destroyed if the Holy Spirit indwells him, so the saying - new wine is NOT put into old wineskin.

To comment on the issue of getting people to move in one accord in the approach to take to reach some end goal which we believe is the desire of God; let me say it is often NOT an easy thing when we have many heads being put together. Avoid labeling people as new or old wineskins; it does NOT help. Unity is important in carrying the things of God, if some people cannot be convinced to see eye-to-eye in the approach to take, at times, it is better to let those people to opt out. At times, the approach is important, especially if there was clear indication by the Lord, but in many situations there is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak, and two or three of the approaches could be adopted without impacting the outcome too negatively. Then, there is of course, the question of submission; leaders are NOT appointed without God having full knowledge of them; and God expects submission to authority. If one wants to leave the group so that he does NOT need to submit to subscribe to the group’s approach, he ought to seek the Lord concerning it. It is never easy to please everybody, and as a leader, at times, he does NOT have the liberty to please everybody; and sometimes, he himself has to accept it that he will disappoint someone or some people in the group. As a leader, you have to take note that someone has been hurt; and in time to come, if possible, try to bring healing. Also, we should also recognize that much of what we do is over the longer haul, and so, sometimes, it is alright to let people try their approaches rather than to be a “kill-joy”; remember, the key is to do, to start doing. When people tried, and they are proved wrong, they can learn something, and perhaps, then he will be willing to be open to other people’s ideas, or that you can subsequently gain a good supporter. Although I said unity is important, it is also NOT that, it is impossible to still have unity, in diversity; it is possible.

Actually, I tend NOT to want to harp on “the same old, same old”, but rather to look at each suggestion as whether or NOT it will work for the situation. For example, a leader of a big group should NOT laugh at “passing out tracks” as outdated ineffective approach to reach the unsaved. It, and in its modernized forms, can still be an effective approach in some circumstances. For preaching in a church service, it is never easy to pitch the level, for a large congregation is of mixed levels – compromise is inevitable.

May when your goal is right, the Lord grants the creativity and discernment and wisdom for the approaches for you to reach your goal. Amen.