Let’s Get Our Theological Priorities Straight, by Luke Stamps

Get your priorities straight. This is true in the realm of Christian doctrine, just as it is anywhere else in life. Doctrinal prioritization has a strong pedigree. Jesus himself placed priority on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The apostle Paul placed priority on the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—the message he considered to be “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase.

A good, thought-provoking read.  Go here.

Advertisements

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?