Tag Archives: Grace

The Great Commission Abridged

One of the core values of the Church and of Christianity as a whole is the Great Commission, Jesus’ command to the disciples just before He ascended into Heaven after the Resurrection: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) I think that much of our understanding of this passage boils down to something along the lines of “get people to join the church” or “get people to convert”. However, such an understanding is inadequate because it amounts to putting butts in the pews and nothing more. Other times we cut it down to the baptism part and even that we reduce down to formalities and bestowing certificates (never mind the schisms that have arisen surrounding the mode of baptism, i.e. immersion vs. anointing, discounting baptisms from different denominations, etc.). If we make the Great Commission strictly about winning converts we would do well to also consider Christ’s admonishment in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

There is much more to the Christ’s words than a mere numbers game. First we are told, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Before equating disciple-making to adding to the church membership list, let’s reflect a moment on what it means to be a disciple of Christ. In basic word-sense, to be a disciple is to be a learner or a pupil. As disciples of Christ, we are His students learning from Him. We strive to follow His lead and to imitate Him, hence the term “Christian” (Little Christ). As it relates to sharing Christ with others, Paul sums it up well when he writes to the church in Corinth, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) For we are all fellow disciples seeking to be more fully conformed to Christ. Just as we are invited to share in the loving relationship that overflows from the Triune God, we allow that love to overflow from us and we invite others to join in this transformational journey of growing in God’s love and grace. To make disciples of all the nations is more than just handing out certificates or trying to increase Sunday morning or Bible study attendance, it is about inviting others to travel with us as we all follow Christ.

Next, we move on to baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.   Baptism is an important part of our Christian walk. It is a vital milestone in our spiritual development because it is in baptism that we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,” (Romans 6:3-5) In baptism we are unified with Christ and, in Him, with each other. It is a public witness of our accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, but what’s more, it is a spiritual witness of our new identity in Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and accounted righteous through the shed blood of Christ. With this in mind, we see that baptism is not something that we get, but it is an ordinance that we receive in harmony with the transformation that has already begun to take place in our lives by the grace and working of God. Baptism goes hand in hand with being a disciple of Christ: as imitators of Christ we identify with His death and resurrection. As such, we ought not to treat baptism as if it were a stand-alone event. We ought rather to keep it in a holistic perspective, recognizing it as a flower of grace, an outgrowth of our being in Christ and He in us.

Finally we come to “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” We ought not to construe this as merely handing down and enforcing a set of rules. In John 14:15, Christ says “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Since our minds are conditioned to think in terms of “do this in order to achieve that,” it is often our first instinct to read Christ’s words as “If you love me, prove it by keeping my commands.” This, however, is to get the flow backwards. Our love for Christ is prompted by God’s love for us. (1 John 4:19) Our obedience arises as an expression of our love: it is a way that we go about loving God. Instead of issuing an ultimatum, Christ is helping us to respond to God’s love. (I don’t think it is an accident that in this passage He immediately proceeds to promise the coming of the One who helps us to abide in God, the Holy Spirit.) So when the topic of obeying Christ’s commandments comes up, it is not about exerting control or being controlled. It is about teaching and learning to love God as a way of life, to live our lives with God. To essentially give someone a set of rules and say “do this” is an immense disservice to the Gospel message. One might think of the giving of the Law in the Old Testament as God’s giving us a set of rules and saying “do this,” but even then God was with the people of Israel and was in relationship with them as they struggled to keep the Law and to remain in God by their own power. God is relational and teaching to obey Christ’s commands is an invitation to join in living our lives with God.

The Great Commission is much more than the missional boilerplate we often take it as. It is much deeper and something that we all take part in in various ways, beyond our typical picture of a missionary. It is Christ handing over to us, as His friends (John 15:15), His work of sharing God with others. As the commissioned, we invite and help others to be fellow pupils of Christ; with faith blooming into the flower of baptism which gives rise to the spiritual fruit of life lived with God. However, we mustn’t be too hard on ourselves or others for abridging the Great Commission. As we have seen (and speaking from my own, I believe, not uncommon experience), the Great Commission is a rather scary investment of time, effort, and, most poignantly, our heart. However, we can take peace and encouragement from Christ’s closing words, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Following Christ requires that we become vulnerable, so it is inevitable that we will get bumped and hurt. That is part of why it is so important that we, ourselves, remain anchored in and sustained by Christ. The other part is that what we ultimately share with others in fulfilling the Great Commission is our own relationship with God. Our abiding in Christ is the light that we share with others. As we walk with God together, our lights strengthen and rekindle each other, all fed by the Lord. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

Chibi Abridged

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WTH 3 – Divine Intervention

Last week’s topic was God’s holiness and why sin cannot exist with that holiness.  God deals with sin by disposing of it in hell.  Thus, we cannot take our sin to be with God.  The question we are left with is how we fit into the picture.  However, before we get to us, it is worth talking about angels.  The fallen angels were cast out of heaven when they rebelled against God and became sinful.  The ringleader of this detestable lot was none other than our adversary and accuser, Satan.  Now, when Satan and his ilk were cast out, it wasn’t merely being kicked to the curb.  Jesus states that He, “…saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)  Dante Alighieri, in his epic poem, The Inferno, paints a humorous picture of the result of this bolt-like descent.  He places Satan at the very bottom of hell, where, after having performed the mother of all face-plants, he is buried up to his waist in ice, heels to the heavens.

In 2 Peter 2:4, we are reminded that God, “did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment”.  We often think of hell as a kingdom ruled by Satan.  However, this is simply not the case.  The Bible never speaks of Satan holding any kind of power or authority in hell.  Satan is sometimes described has being the ruler of this world, but not hell.  He may perhaps be the most notorious inmate, but he is certainly not the warden.  In the words of a preacher I once heard, “He’s down there soaking up the heat like everyone else!”

Thus is the state of the fallen angels and ours would be no different.  We, too, are marred by sin and it is not something that we can separate ourselves from.  We are incapable of living sinless lives.  Because of the sin we’re attached to, we find ourselves staring down the maw of hell.  Simply put, God is set apart from all unclean things, including us.  This however, is not the end of the story; it is at this point that God intervenes:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

-Romans 5:6-8

In His death on the cross, Christ took upon Himself everything in us that is hellbound.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

Additionally, He received the wrath of God laid up for us on account of our sin.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our inequities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

-Isaiah 53:4-5

In doing this, our bounds to sin where severed and we are free to lay down our burden.

Christ’s work on the cross and continuing ministry as our great High Priest separates us from our sin so that we may be counted among the holy.  (This isn’t to say that we don’t still stumble into sin, hence His continuing ministry.)  Additionally, God makes His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and carry out the sanctification and conversion of our hearts.

God looks upon our state, our inability to stand before His holiness on our own, and is filled with compassion.  He gave His only begotten Son so that we may be reconciled to Him and stand before His holiness, not by our own strength, but by His.  It is God who casts into hell, but it is also God who saves from hell.  To get a more complete handle on the love that God has shown us in Christ, consider this:  “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18)  Christ did not die for Satan who is described with the powerful images of a dragon and a roaring lion, or for the other fallen angels described as stars.  Rather He died for us, who have frames that are weak like dust.  With this in view, we can truly say with the Psalmist:  “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?  For you made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4-5)

Practical Questions:

  1. What are some ways that we are led to think of Satan as a ruler and king over hell?
  2. What dimensions does the idea of defilement and uncleanness add to our view of sin?
  3. What does it say about God’s character that He takes action to bridge the gap we are unable to?

The Slippery Slope

The slippery slope is one of our most effective methods.  The key to its success lies in its incremental nature.  It allows you to gently ease the human deeper and deeper into sin (and therefore farther from the Enemy) without them really noticing what is happening.  You have two things going for you in this respect.  First, it is deeply embedded in human nature to avoid feeling guilty.  As a result, they have become very good at rationalizing their actions.  In some cases, they will go so far as to accept any suggestion, however ludicrous, that will alleviate their guilt.   This characteristic greatly aids the easing process.  Second, humans are pleasure-seekers and demand ever-increasing returns from their activities.  The payoff provided by this characteristic is that they already possess the incremental template of a slippery slope.

The technical aspects of the slippery slope are not hard to understand (at least for tempters with some degree of intelligence).  Consider the drug addict, one of our finer products, as a more concrete example.  When he takes the first dose of his preferred drug, the effects are overwhelming and manifest as a euphoria beyond anything he could have imagined.  This is because the receptors in his body are fresh and eager to take up the chemical he has taken.  As his body becomes accustomed to the drug, however, these receptors become less and less effective at the chemical uptake.  This process results in the same amount of the chemical being unable to bring about that euphoric first experience.  What is a pleasure-seeking creature to do?  More often than not, he takes more of the drug.  The greater quantity allows the lackluster receptors to pick up enough of the chemical to provide stimulation that amounts to a proper “high”.  However, his body will adapt to the new dosage and he will have to increase it again in order to attain the high he craves.  There you have the basic dynamic of the slippery slope as we use it:  diminishing returns on pleasure that lead to increased doses.  This tactic need not be limited strictly to chemical abuses; it will work just as well with anything that elicits a pleasure response from the wretch.  Things like food, sex, and power can also be used in a slippery slope equation.  You may even go so far as to use “spirituality”.

As with any tempting strategy, there is always room to refine it and tailor it to fit the particular inclinations of flesh creature you’re dealing with.  Even those wretched hybrids of spirit and dust have begun to figure it out.  It appears that there are certain genetic markers that predispose a person to particular vices such as alcoholism, homosexuality, and uncontrollable anger.  These markers are superb points of attack.  If the patient has no qualms about their predispositions, then a successful temptation is as simple as rolling a rock down a hill.  However, if they do have misgivings, you are presented with a slightly greater challenge, but a much more rewarding process.  Of course you will run into more resistance if the human really doesn’t want to engage in the particular sin you are angling for, but the mental anguish produced by failing to resist your advances is delicious on its own.  It makes them question whether they are really “good”.  Granted, this is a dangerous position due to the possibility that they will simply become more attached to the Enemy because they hold to a fallacy they refer to as “grace”.  That is exactly the sort of thing we want to avoid because it makes it especially difficult to entice them to leave His grasp.

What we want is a person who comes to grips with their own imperfection and falls into a state of despair.  The easiest way to bring this about is to carefully filter and manipulate what comes to their mind, specifically what enters their mind concerning the Enemy.  The only two things that should be allowed through are the image of the Enemy as wrathful and full of vengeance and the image of Him as so good and loving that there is no possible way that the human can associate with Him.  Of course we know that the first image is the more accurate, so you should have no trouble recognizing it and diffusing it throughout the patient’s mind.  The second image warrants greater explanation.  Why should we proliferate an image so similar to the one the propagandists of the Cloth spout from the pulpit every week?  The key, foolish fiend, is in the details.  When the flesh creatures think that there is no way that they can associate with the Enemy, they create a rather toxic byproduct which we refer to as “proud humility”.  Essentially, proud humility is the human idea that the bad they are capable of is far greater than the Enemy is able to deal with.  The Enemy makes the outrageous claim that he will forgive them for whatever they confess and repent of (we know that this is a lie and our proof will soon be published).  The consequence of this proud humility is that the humans enter into open rebellion against the Enemy by blatantly calling Him a liar.  If you are able to pull this maneuver off, you will find yourself in the delightful position of having the human “caged” so to speak because it will not be able to find any refuge from your attacks.  It will whittle out its days in agony and despair until sin runs its course and we are able to claim the soul for Our Father Below.

You may wonder why we have addressed proud humility in a segment concerning the slippery slope.  The reason is that such a slope is the best means to achieve the toxic state of mind we seek.  The slope may start off quaint and innocent enough, the occasional regret or bout of depression, but if left unchecked it will end with the despair that proud humility inevitably generates.  It does not generate despair because of any realistic reasons; rather it does so for the sole purpose of self-gratification.  It feels good to the vermin to play the role of victim because they think it will secure for them the good will of their fellow man or at least make them feel confident in their own self righteousness by playing the martyr.  Perhaps now you can see our general schema at work?  We give steadily decreasing pleasure in exchange for their eternal souls.

(c) Noah Wilson. All Rights Reserved.