Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 3

Part 3: Promoting God’s Glory in Ministry and Personal Life (Resolutions 2-4)

Even in these early stages of thinking on Edwards’ Resolutions, I find that I cannot speak for Edwards himself. His thoughts and writing come from a different era, cultureI cannot enter into the spirit of his mind. I might be able to read the output of his thoughts, and thereby, draw much from them of the man and for my own soul. But I cannot see his soul or spirit like I could his body. Only Edwards’ own spirit can know the essence of Edwards’ thought (2 Corinthians 2:11) – and of course, God who knew them before he had them. But I am grateful that he has given them and that God has retained them for us all in His providence, that we might be encouraged by them. I write all that to write this – I can only comment on what I hope to be in some accordance with the original meaning and purpose of his soul, and beyond that, I will write only with regards to my own reflections upon his words, attempting to add for you any biblical insight that I am inclined to see reflected in Edwards’ Resolutions. With that set forth, let us comment on resolutions 2, 3, and 4.

Resolution #2: Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the fore-mentioned things.

I take this to mean that he intended to be tireless in endeavoring in those things that most glorified God and pleased Him, which glorification obviously implies that advantage for his own soul and that of others. In terms of Gospel endeavor, it seems that he was of the mind to always be finding points of reference with men to advance it; and since contrivances and inventions are intended to make difficult tasks more simple (though not without mature thinking), it appears that he intended by such inventions to make plain the glory of God in Christ to men so as to win some. But this resolve is relative to personal life also. For how does one promote the glory of God and the profit of souls without an intimate striving after holiness and satisfaction in Him who is most satisfying? By endeavoring in these inventions and contrivances, I find an echo of Paul’s words in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ (apostolic shorthand for the Gospel), and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” By contrivances, we may also talk of keeping oneself out of situations in which our fleshly desires are sure to meet that attractive temptation out which wedding comes sin. By inventions, let us know ourselves and stay ahead of ourselves with the help of God’s Spirit that by purity and growth in restraint we might not give ourselves occasion to sin – this is most glorifying to God and most beneficial for us and our witness to that greatest need in others. But positively, it is a call (having put off sin) to be satisfied in God and to contrive of ways in which to do this: take a walk with God as Edwards often did in the woods for prayer; in the ways that we might think of spending time with our wives, let us think likewise towards God. With the pslamist let us pant for God and so endeavor to be satisfied in Him: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you (ah, there it is – he is earnest in his invention for seeking); my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you…so I have looked for you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory…(and you want to talk about contrivances and inventions?)…My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,” Psalm 63:1, 2, and 5.

Resolution #3: Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

Here we find encouragement to have our own biblical resolutions – personal accountability, that accountability with ourselves. By writing such resolutions that are the outpouring of our souls, we will in reading them be confronted with ourselves, and with that soulish resolve. Therefore, we will be reminded and held accountable, and if we have forsaken a resolve that was in accord with the Bible, then we will immediately repent of every shortcoming that He brings to mind. It is a thing worth noting that our initial repentance towards God results in an inward principle of repentance by which we continually repent towards God so long as we live. Sometimes it is comforting to know that Paul battled sin, or that Edwards battled sin, or that any modern spiritual hero battles with sin, so we are assured to have examples of them who overcame them in Christ in our own battles. How this is a humbling thing – our resolutions are often greater than our obedience! Let us then cling to Christ, and thank God for Him who was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin! Allow me to leave this resolution with a practical thought:

Have you ever awakened (as I often do) without the slightest inclination to pursue those things that most glorify God and are most to your spiritual advantage? Yes! But we should not be surprised or angry at God for this seeing He is the One who supplies even our daily rations of faith. For if we arise in complacency, it is because we have awakened in ourselves, and thus, it ought to be our humble plea to God for mercy and grace that day! It is an amazing meditation – our absolute dependency upon God!

Resolution #4: Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

When we think of soul, we think of mind or will, or the immaterial aspect of our person. When we think of body, we think of our substance or matter. The resolve then seems to be never to do any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, never to be any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice, and never to suffer any manner of thing in one’s thought life or practice that does not serve the glory of God. Positively, in thought and deed, principle and practice, affection and activity, will and work, our chief attendance is to the glory of God. What an example of right striving! Let every aspect of our person be fueled by and funneled towards the glory of God. Since, in Edwards thought, and in my own, God’s greatest passion is His own glory, this resolve is a resolve to will and work in accordance with God. So he sets his sights on God’s glory and aims to let nothing detour him from attaining his resolve. May God help us also to propose to our own souls and bodies a like proposal to join with God in glorifying Him.

Confession and Resolution. I have often put myself in situations that I know are not ideal for glorifying God or profiting another, much less my own soul, and this in outright defiance of God’s convicting Spirit. Resolved, to pursue personal and biblical creativity, sensitivity, and accountability in life and ministry chiefly aimed at maintaing my witness, advancing the Gospel, and agreeing with my Lord in promoting and attending to, with unceasing fervency, the Glory of God.

Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 2

Part 2: One Resolution, Three Links! (Resolution #1)

“1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.”

Commentary. It is a humility worthy of our imitation that he introduces his resolutions with a plea for God’s help. I offered that introduction to you in the last blog. Simply, Edwards is of the biblical mind that his success in keeping these resolutions is wholly dependent upon God’s gracious help, so far as these resolutions accord with God’s will.

This first resolution seems to bring about the matter of decision-making in his life and the basis of those decisions. It appears from the phrase, “that I will do whatsoever”, introduces the idea of selection – that in the course of our day we are confronted with multiple things that we may do, and that the objects of these decisions may be good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, moral vs. sinful, or perhaps, optimum good vs. lesser goods. But out of the many things that we may think, say, or do, what are the things that we actually will think, say, or do? And what is the basis of those decisions? (I believe the biblical passage that he is most accurately attempting to resolve is that of 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1.) But for his own answer, let us continue –

The basis of those decisions is, he answers, “whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit, and pleasure.” So we infer, not just to God’s glory or our own good, profit, and pleasure, but that which is most participative in those ideas. In other words, we will often be confronted with many things that are lawful for us and that glorify God, but may not be the most helpful to others, and therefore, may not be the most God glorifying. This requires our greatest consideration. It is enough in this commentary to state that Edwards’ resolution encourages us to base our daily “doings” upon what most glorifies God and what is most to our own good, profit, and pleasure – these two considerations appear to be the basis of decisiveness. And this will be his course during his life, for it appears that this will be his course in eternity, yet without hindrance. Thus, by the mention of “time”, he means never to excuse himself from the consideration of what most glorifies God and what most fulfills his own others-oriented pleasures.

But I would also interject from reading Edwards that the personal good, profit, and pleasure that he speaks of is not a good, profit, and pleasure that is confined to himself, for that would be self-centered, and unbiblical. From Scripture we may deduce that there is a kind of personal gain that is godly – that is, the gain that we seek in the gain of others. So long as our good, profit, and pleasure is most occupied with the good of others and seeks their good as an end servant to the ultimate end of glorifying God, then that personal good, profit, and pleasure is a righteous pursuit. In other words, I do not think that Edwards is here referring to a self-confined pursuit, but a personal pleasure in the good and profit of another to the glory of God. I believe that I am right to conclude this because of the next link in his resolution –

“Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.” From this I would draw that he sees his duty as that conformity to the Scriptures, the golden rule of Christ, and in connection to the aforementioned resolution – simply, that this aspect of his resolution is the overflow of the prior resolution. As he (we) does (do) what is most God-glorifying in every situation, with the pursuit of his own good, profit, and pleasure, the overflow will be the resolve to do whatever is to the “good and advantage of mankind in general.” This is much like that overflow that we find often in Paul, who makes his own subjective desires to be with Christ in glory the source of and servant to the objective needs of the Church, that by continuing with them he might work with them for their progression and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:21-26).

Now we must ask, what is that good and advantage which is “most” good and advantageous for mankind? The resolve towards this end in and of itself agrees with that sentiment of the Holy Spirit when through Paul He inspired, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Philippians 2:4. Directly following is the example of Christ’s humiliation, and thus, it figures that that greatest good and advantage for mankind is that which comes through faith in Christ, or by the testimony of the Gospel. That which is most good and advantageous is their salvation. Edwards resolved to make this an end in his life and ministry, and so should we.

As to the third link, it is the link of expectancy – that when one resolves to do what most glorifies God, and what is most profitable to himself, which is his own growth in Christ and the salvation and profit of others, that difficulties will follow. Simply, that to meet the prior resolutions will result in affliction and difficulties, but as he also resolves to do these things no matter the degree or amount of the difficulties which attend to it, so we may rightly infer and find remarkable encouragement from him in that he considers the two former resolves greater than the difficulties that will attend to them and so comes the third link! For when he resolves to do the first two links of the resolution in spite of the expected difficulties that will follow them, he concludes that to glorify God supremely and to be concentrated on one’s own pleasure (when that pleasure is another person’s pleasure in Jesus Christ) are two resolutions whose reward is greater than the difficulties that come with the pursuit of them and, therefore, he gives a greater weight to God’s glory and the advance of the Gospel than he does to affliction for the sake of them. This is truly encouraging – he resolves to glorify God and advance the Gospel (personally and publicly) despite the greatest of trials and tribulations.

My Own Confession and Resolution. First, that this commentary has been longer than the rest will be, but hey, it’s an awesome resolution worthy of our consideration and imitation in so far as it aligns with Scripture, which I hold that it does. I confess that I often think, do, and say many things in any given hour that do not hold up to such a resolution. I often do not even consider what most glorifies God in a given moment with given possibilities. And I often confine my pleasure to those things that do not in any way build up others.

I resolve, therefore, with God’s help, to pursue the servitude that I find in Christ with the intention of setting before all men the Gospel of Christ to the glory of God, that this might be the thing that most enthralls my affection. Moreover, that I might always, in every place, under any trial, seek and do that which most glorifies God, knowing that that will be my greatest good, profit, and pleasure both now and in eternity.


Confessions and Resolutions: Encouraged by Jonathan Edwards – Part 1

Part 1: A Brief Introduction (And My Hope For the One or Two of You That Read This Blog)

Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703. By August 17, 1723 the young man had penned his famous Resolutions at the ripe old age of 19. To read the seventy of them as if they were felt and written by a well-advanced theological scholar is delightful enough, but the knowledge of these things scribed by a 19 year old pastor in New York, shortly before he earned his Master’s degree in September of the same year at the age of 20, and that he, though not long on years, was of such an advanced mind and affection that we may only ascribe his theological and pastoral supremacy to the blessed grace of God, is more than delightful, it is challengingly encouraging.

My aim is to offer his Resolutions, first to my own consideration, and then to yours, with brief biblical commentary, and my own resolutions (though these may or may not be necessarily reflective of Edwards’ own resolutions in each blog). Along with these, I would like to add (pastorally) my own confessions also, that my resolutions might be a matter of repentance as well as a source of accountability. I want to encourage you to take the time to meditate through the resolutions of Edwards that you might have a foundation for your own and that they will be in accord with the doctrine of Christ. To help you get started, I want to provide for you an exerpt from George Claghorn’s introduction to Edwards’ Resolutions. I have also added a link to Edwards’ web page at the site that Yale has dedicated to him under “Educational Tools” down in the far right column. Please offer your thoughts also!

And just to wet your confessional whistle I will leave you with Edward’s own introduction to his Resolutions, his humble and Christ-centered confession of his personal need of God’s help in keeping such resolve:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

Amen.

The Presidency: An Imperfect Representation – Who Will You Vote For? (Thanking God For Jesus Christ!)

Will it be Obama? McCain? Clinton? So the presidential carousel goes! Several times in the past weeks I have been asked something like the following:

“If the race for the presidency came down between Obama and Clinton who would you vote for?”

Now this is a hypothetical situation, the assumption obviously being that whomever prevails between these two will reign supreme over McCain as well, thus the race between the two Democrats is the real ordeal. And though it is a hypothetical, it is worthy of a short, and slight, and light consideration. Who would you vote for as the representative head of America, and by default, your own?

Some quick thoughts of my own concerning this election, and then, as I prefer to do, a quick reference to the Church’s (and praise God, my own) sinless representative Head, Jesus Christ; and then I will turn the consideration of these things over to you. Obviously, this will be very minimalistic and reductionistic by nature, but –

Thoughts on the Presidential Election

1. I’m glad that it won’t come down to Obama and/or Clinton; but my gladness subsides quickly at the realization that it will come down to Obama or Clinton vs. McCain, for though I suppose that I would prefer him over the other two for various reasons that I am more ignorant of than anything else, I am quite disagreeable to him also. It is a burdensome thing to me that these three possible representatives are in fact the ‘cream that has risen to the top’ in the minds of the American people – but I suppose that it is to be expected and not a thing to be surprised about.

2. That this election is paradoxical – it is all about “change that matters”, but the change that most Americans seem to want would place (more than likely) Clinton or Obama as our representative – one of which stood “curiously” by while her husband committed sexual immorality and gross adultery while in the White House, biding her time to make her own run at the oval office, who even in the course of her own running has been proven a “liar” – though admitting such, she tip-toed around using the actual term “liar” to describe herself! Hmmm? The other has tapped danced around so many irrational and socially irritable statements and associations that one has to wonder – “who is Barack Obama and what does he stand for – really?” But, hey, just hold up your arms, two fingers waving in the air and say, “I’m about change that matters,” and apparently you can be the president of the United States even if the people have no idea what you mean seeing as you have no idea what you mean.

3. That regardless, the presidential election is an imperfect one, and thus, whoever is elected will be an imperfect representative, not only because he or she is a sinner like the rest of fallen humanity, but because 49.9% of Americans can vote against you and you can still become the representative of America. That means that 151,760,436.36 Americans can disapprove of you and you can still represent those very people. At least we are sensible enough never to title the President infallible, like the Roman Church declares the pope to be – how can one be infallible when almost half of the electoral committee says he ought to be the pope and therefore he is infallible (although he was not infallible seconds before he was chosen), and the other half says that he ought not to be pope and that he is not infallible – but if we elect him, then he is infallible! You cannot have a split decision on infallibility, for that is not infallible (this is another issue!) Suffice it to mention that whoever is elected President of the United States will not be a perfect representative of the people, though he stands in that representative position; I suppose he is best described as the representative of the slight majority?

4. All of this taken into consideration, I would advise much prayer, counsel, reflection on the sovereignty of God in these elections, and upon that which is most in keeping with His character, word, and will, though I’m sure that in keeping with our natural character we will disagree on these things also without being disagreeable.

Thoughts on God’s election

1. God was not confused. Though He is three Persons, He is One God, and He agrees with Himself supremely. When he created the first Adam to be mankind’s representative head, He elected perfectly without division. None of Him disagreed! In other words, Adam was the perfect representation of you and me. Practically, we would have acted no different than Adam when he transgressed God’s command, though we often think of ourselves that we would have obeyed instead. Nope! Think again – you were perfectly represented; you were in Adam’s loins, his seed. As he did, even in the midst of God’s perfect creation and the infinite benefits attributed to it, so we, had we actually been in the same atmosphere, would have sinned against God. Thus, we all fell in Adam by his sin, for it was ours in principle, and were separated from God because of the heinous transgression of our representative.

2. God had His redemptive plan in mind from eternity past. As Adam was our representative, and we fell in him, so God’s only Son, born of a virgin in the likeness of sinful flesh, being tempted as we are by infinitely more cunning and intense measures by Satan and the human flesh, yet He perfectly, sinlessly prevailed in His life and then died a penal, substitutionary death on the cross as a satisfaction of the righteous requirements of God’s holiness upon us and wrath against our sin, which satisfaction God approved by raising Him up from the dead in the glory of His power, that through repentance and faith in Him we are (individually and corporately) brought into His covenant, Jesus being our representative Head before both God and man. Just as in Adam, the first representative, we fell from God though we did not actually commit the crime (it was imputed to us from our representative), so in Christ, the Head of the Church, we are made righteous and reconciled to God through faith in Him, though we were not actually sinless or perfectly righteous (it is imputed to us by the grace of God through faith in Christ). Thank God for Christ, our Representative Head!

3. I am thankful and I rejoice that God has His elect – that the Church is dubbed “elect exiles.” By “elect” the reference is to our adoption into Christ, our perfect and sinless Head, Who honors God as God, Jesus who was God’s representative for our salvation. An amazing thing it is that God offers Himself to be our Representative before Himself (think about it!) By “exile” the reference is to the appropriation of our heavenly citizenship in the midst of our earthly citizenship. I am glad that by God’s electing love He has wrought in me a “change that matters for eternity in the midst of our temporal life.”

For the Sake of Comments

1. Concerning the imperfect representation of the American presidency, who will you vote for, why, and (if you will) provide some Christian counsel and insight for many of us (myself included) who need it?

2. Concerning God’s perfect representation of us, first, Adam, and for us, secondly, God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ through whom and for whom He has individually elected sinners from eternity past to know Him in the covenant of salvation; share your considerations and thoughts.

Are Covert Christian Converts…Converts?

As I scanned a recent U.S. News magazine I came across an article entitled “Covert Christian Converts.” It seemed fascinated by the lifestyle of a young man and his family in Iran who had converted to Christianity from Islam. Apparently, in Iran there have been discussions concerning the penalty of apostasy from the Islam religion. The inevitable punishment is death. Because of this, and other harsh persecutions that would daily present themselves to these converts, they live a dualistic lifestyle – a private life and a public life of equally dual devotions.

In private, this family, who apparently received Christ via Christian television programming in Iran, whereby they contacted the hotline and prayed with a counselor standing by, leads a life devoted to Christ, praying and humming hymns to Him, while enjoying Bible study.

In public, however, they are of the strictest devotion to Islam, attending to their rituals with as much tenacity as any other Muslim. The testimony of the article leads us to believe that this other life is lived in fear of death.

I’d like to give a few considerations and then ask for your biblical and thoughtful insights:

1. Living in America, one thing that becomes clear to me is that I have no experience or idea of suffering and persecution, much less the threat of my life for the sake of Christ. The closest I have come is in the reading of the Bible, Foxes Book of Martyrs, and three days with an underground church in Israel. Though America is growing intolerant with evangelical Christianity (which is to be expected), it is still a country that largely celebrates its multi-faceted diversity even in the things of religion, even in the way of biblical Christianity. Therefore, I admit beforehand, that I am not as sympathetic towards this family as perhaps I ought to be, or at least, I am not as associated with the reality of their circumstances. I also understand that they may not have met another Christian in the whole country, much less had any biblical discipleship, encouragement, or accountability. All of this taken into consideration (which is alot):

2. There is no such thing as covert Christianity. Our Lord declared that if we confess Him before men that He would confess us before the Father, but that if we denied Him before men that He would deny us before the Father. To Christ, and to the apostle Paul, to believe in Christ was to lose one’s life for the gain of eternal life, it was to deny oneself, and to take up our personal instrument of death every day for His sake and the advanement of the Gospel. In Paul’s mind, believing in Christ and suffering for His sake were inseparably linked as dual graces of God and by a life lived in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (which is the sure sign of true faith and of our ultimate salvation; cf. Philippians 1:27-30). Jesus literally lived the Gospel into operation, and He both suffered and died for it (through which death the Gospel offer was codified and made available to every sinner). Christ was constantly on mission; Christians are constantly on mission – and suffering is the expectation not the surprise. If you are a Christian, you are a Christian outloud! It is not a life of ease that we live for, but rather a life eternal!

3. We are either with Christ or against Christ. We either gather with Him or we scatter. Our Lord was black and white without a hint of gray. There is no dual citizenship for the Christian in terms of devotion. Although we belong to a heavenly citizenship and exist in an earthly realm (see Augustine’s 800+ pages in The City of God), the object of our devotion, love, priority, and allegiance is God and our purpose to glorify Him by loving sinners with the truth of His reign in Christ – in the midst of the world of unbelievers who are immersed in the culture, and largely, anti-God, and in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. We ought never to feel at home in the world! In attempting to come up with a comparable situation of an American convert to Christ who continues to live in religious compromise, the closest that I can come up with is an antinomian life, one who professes Christ as Savior but denies Him as Lord, who abuses the freedom of grace to the negation of obedience of God’s Word…but to me, I think the Word of God is clear that we ought not be to quick to receive such into the kingdom of God’s eternal glory in Christ! It seems to me that at the heart of this situation there is too great a care given to their own temporal life and lifestyle, and not enough care given to the name of Christ and the advancement of the Gospel in Iran by that testimony. The main reason for their conversion by the testimony of the young man was that Christianity offered them a more free religion. But have they mistaken the paradigm of Christian freedom: we are free from all to be servants of all (See Luther’s Christian Liberty)!

4. Within the same article, testimony was given of a man who having been converted to Christianity from Islam refused to deny his Lord and was imprisoned for it for ten years. Another Christian pastor in Iran managed to make enough of a stink about this man’s situation, that he was released. However, not long after, both, the convert and the pastor were found slain because of their testimony, the pastor being stabbed 26 times. Are we to make no distinction between these men and this family? I would say that there was something imputed to them by God that was principally different than in this recently converted family. The question is what? Was it a true faith? Or was it just a greater knowledge of the grace and the glory of the name of Christ? The answer is an eternal one. In other words:

5. What do we make of such conversions in countries where the threat of one’s life for the sake of Christ is a probability rather than a possibility, if with their lives they deny their Master so as not to suffer persecution for His name’s sake? I think that this question is an important one, for it concerns the theology of missionaries, as well as the depths with which a missionary needs to go in discipleship to secure a firm understanding that the converts are actually Christians, for what does it do for a missionary to secure a decision for Christ when the convert will not confess Him publicly at the expense of his life? Is not to die gain?

Moreover, it is a worthy meditation for the pastors of local churches in America who have members of that body serving in the Gospel in foreign countries and at home- what do we make of their reports concerning conversions? What do we consider missionary activity, or missionary endeavor? How should we pray for converts in such places? How do we communicate to our stewardship the authenticity of a God-work (cf. Philippians 1:6)?

But it also concerns the essential fortitude and disposition of believing in Christ, for as Christ taught, and as the apostles knew, and as the church father’s knew, and as many today are knowing, and as I pray that we will come to know, that to be raised from the dead through faith in Christ by the grace of God means not only to live for Christ, but to share in His sufferings becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead! Let us therefore become courageous in the face of persecution knowing that this is the cost and gain of faith in Christ and that the Gospel will progress through the grace of suffering for His name. We must remember that the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

What do you make of such situations? What conclusions do you come to? What biblical thoughtfulness might you add to these things? What themes, or practical insights? What might you subtract or revise? Thoughts welcomed!

Paul Washer Confronts American Christianity

A reality check for the American church culture. Shocking, dramatic, needed – sharing the truth in love – at a youth conference!

RADICAL or just REAL?

I have been a proponent of what I now would like to write against. It may seem as something small and inconsequential, but it is nevertheless an inaccuracy. The aim is honest, and I honestly portrayed such an aim, but it can serve to deceive. It is the idea of the “radical Christian.” I have used the phrase in preaching, and I see it alot now concerning things like “radical womanhood” and “radical manhood”, by which is meant a biblical portrayal of manhood and womanhood, and an aim at striving to model that as one pursues the likeness of our Lord.

But in the usage of such a phrase certain problems arise.

1. It is like the polarity of the philosophy of the “carnal Christian.” That is that there are those people who are Christians – there just carnal or more fleshly than others. Think what you want about Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 3 – there is no such thing as a “carnal Christian.” It becomes an excuse to those who taking the name of Christ continue to live like devils. Those who are not carnal are dubbed as being further advanced – they actually strive for holiness, but they are no more Christian than those that deny Christ by their fruit.

The phraseology of the “radical Christian”, though it is the polarity of the “carnal Christian”, has much of the same danger for people who actually are Christians, and a deceptive quality for those who have been deceived by someone telling them that if they have prayed a prayer, walked the aisle, been baptized, danced and shouted, etc. that they are saved. Although it is well-meaning, it inevitably – in the human mind – creates two kinds of Christians: radical Christians and regular Christians; and although it is meant to engage people and set a passionate goal for them to take aim at, it also has the potential to backlash in the minds of saints (sinners saved by grace) thereby bringing about complacency instead; for they look at Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, or Sarah, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Lydia, Phoebe, or contemporarily, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Owen, Spurgeon, Tozer, Jones, MacArthur, Piper, Mohler, Driscoll, or any missionary, pastor, evangelist, or really passionate lay member of their home church, as the exception rather than the rule. “These,” they may begin to think, “are just more radical than I am!” This reinvents the idea of the “super-spiritual.”

2. Before long, the “radical Christian” will become an excuse rather than the aim. For many, after they discover that they continue to struggle with sin after conversion (who knew?) will settle in and play it off by saying, “well, I’m just not a radical Christian – just a regular ‘ole Christian here!”

3. Those poor souls that have been deceived into thinking that they are a Christian when they are not, will be further deceived by the notion of the “radical Christian” – the one who does all of the evangelism, bears all the fruit, attends all the prayer meetings, disciples the whole congregation, talks about and lives out a passion for Jesus Christ incessantly and irritatingly – for then the testing of their faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) which stands to awaken such people from deception, to show them that they are not in fact saved if their lives have never been changed, if they have never borne any fruit, if they have never had one iota of affection for Jesus and His Gospel, will no longer have the same effect, because those who bear fruit are “radical Christians” and those who do not are just “regular Christians”, and if I’m not radically reflecting and pursuing Jesus its not because I was never saved, it is just because I’m not radical! Thus, we lose the basis of witnessing to those in the church who were never of the church.

Shall we attribute the advanced nature of some Christians to the grace of God? Most certainly! And what of the obedience of the Christian themselves? Yes, that is greatly involved too! But is not the distinction we see between “regular Christians” and “radical Christians” something a bit more involved, more serious? Could it be that the “regular Christians” face two important scenario’s – that they are either Christians in need of repentance and restoration or that they have never been Christians at all? I think this is the case! Could it also be that those who we might “dub” as “radical” are just really Christians? I think this is also true!

In other words, when we initially read of Paul’s accounts of Timothy and Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:19-30, we are met with a record of two men who serve in the Gospel, love Jesus Christ, love the apostle, and would readily and with great passion die for the sake of Christ. Are we to teach that these men were “radical Christians” and that we ought to endeavor by all means to heed their radical example – and in so doing make a clear distinction between them and the ones in our home pews? I do not think that Timothy and Epaphroditus would call themselves radical Christians, I do not think that we ought to call them that either, but rather, it should suffice us to say that they were real Christians!

Real Christians bear the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ; real Christians seek the interests of Jesus Christ and not their own self-confined interests; real Christians love Jesus Christ, pursue Jesus Christ, are passionate for Jesus Christ, are weary with holding in the Gospel of Christ; real Christians partner in the Gospel for its advancement to all nations; real Christians count real suffering for the sake of Christ as a grace of God, not a complaint to Him; real Christians strain towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus; real Christians are heavenly minded in contrast to the world; real Christians live for Christ and consider death to usher them to their greatest delight; real Christians fight from victory and not for victory; real Christians obey the word of God, exalt the name of Christ, take everything captive and subject it to Jesus Christ; real Christians pray for one another and for the suffering Church and for the lost; real Christians actually read their Bible and talk with others about Jesus; real Christians bear fruit, because real Christians actually know God in Christ and you cannot not be changed if this is true in the biblical sense of the term “salvation”!

No, beloved, these two men were not radicals, they were REAL! These men were sinners, humans, like you and me, who by God’s grace came to know Him in Christ, and by the power that exists in that salvation, they lost their life for the surpassing worth of this knowledge. Real Christians do this! The reality is that most of us who do not look a thing like these men, do not resemble them precisely because we have never been born of God, or if we have, we are in a great need for repentance and restoration Godwards! I guess that if I must use the term “radical” I would now use it in this way – that all REAL Christians are “radical” Christians, and if you are not a “radical” Christian, then in all probability you are not a REAL Christian!

At least test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith, examine yourselves, or do you not realize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless you fail to meet the test (2 Corinthians 13:5)! My follow up to Paul’s admonition would be – how can you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you – unless He’s not! You see, we need to spend less time honoring such men as radical Christians, and more time honoring them as real Christians – and before and in between and after that let us give glory and praise to God in Jesus’ name.

I suppose it best to end with a question, setting radical-ness aside, and simply asking:
ARE YOU REAL?