Monday, August 13, 2012

Did He Die for This?

In my last blog post I mentioned the delight of time away on a retreat for some rest and restoration. The place in which I took the retreat is actually the home for a community of people whom I got to meet whilst on the trip. I shared meals with some precious old men and women who were in the latter years of a life committed to serving the Lord in various capacities. Before I share some reflective concerns from being within this community for a time I want to reiterate what precious individuals these people were - their kindness and openness to me was richly warming. But there were two things that concerned me, upon reflection, with their ideology and general ethos.

Firstly, there was a total embracing of inter-faith relations that seemed in its outworking to form a Christian faith that had lost its fundamental identity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with relating to people of other faiths - in fact in postmodern Europe there is almost not the possibility of a working life without it. The idea of 'being missional' in its very essence demands that it is people of all race, religion etc. with whom we are to form authentic relationship. This inter-faith relation that received such significance in this community appeared something else all together. The upshot of it all, as it appeared to me at least, was a conclusion that Christ's sole purpose was to bring peace, any element of vicarious sacrifice in order to turn away the righteous wrath of God seemed necessarily absent or at the very least inconsequential. This concerns me. The bible does not merely intimate but portrays overtly that we are enemies of God at a 'DNA' level. The peace we need is - yes with each other - but primarily and essentially with the God of heaven. If your faith is one that denies that God the Father of Jesus Christ, his eternally begotten, co-divine, exact radiant image, is God then the peace that ultimately must be sought is with Him; and that is ONLY through FAITH in the gospel of Jesus Christ and submission to His lordship.

My second concern, which may simply be symptomatic of the first, but not necessarily so, was that the result of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit was niceness. The conversation that surrounded me at meal times and at other moments smacked of those who perhaps had settled for an understanding that "Jesus died to make us nice;" not radical, not zealous, certainly not 'non-pc' or offensive, but "nice." May I place it on record now that Christ did not endure all that he endured to make us nice - we can make ourselves nice! Christ died to transform our very nature and to make us loving but loving and nice are not synonymous, be absolutely certain you understand that. I am exceedingly offensive to a secular-humanist who believes he is God and the centre of the universe when I tell Him he is not and that He desperately needs to encounter the real God and become nothing in order to become something. Just concerns really but things that simply do not match up to biblically-rooted gospel truth.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Retreat yourself!

Had the great delight of a time away on retreat last week simply to rest, read the Scriptures and to pray about all the things on the heart. It is something I recommend to anyone, if possible, once a year. It's a case of prioritizing it, perhaps asking another (wife does it one time,and husband takes the next, or family friends) to look after the children, scheduling it, and booking it in, nothing too spiritual about that just a matter of seeing its importance and choosing to do it. Of course, if you've not got children and/or if you're single this is something easier for you to work into an annual routine. The time was certainly rewarding even if merely for the fruit of 'stopping' for a moment and sensing your body's response to just catch up on rest. The wonder of the time for me was knowing that all of the time set aside for that 48 hours was to rest, pray, and read. What I mean is that it was fantastic to know that I wasn't not doing something else, or skipping on another responsibility in order to 'seize' some time with God, that was precisely what ALL that time was for. Many of the spiritual disciplines that marked notable men and women of God of the past can be embraced on a retreat in a way that becomes seemingly impossible in the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century hectic lifestyle. Solitude, silence, fasting, biblical meditation and other 'disciplines' are more than achievable for a short space of time. If there is the slightest chance of you embarking on an opportunity as that which I've described I would certainly say retreat yourself. Simon