Discipline As Repentance and Belief

I don’t have a long thought for today, but I do have a thought that I think is worth sharing. It comes from a YouTube video that I have watched time and time again by Brad Johnson, professor of biblical languages at my alma mater, Asbury Theological Seminary. If you would like to watch the video, you can do so here.

While the idea of “repent and believe” has such a more pointed meaning in terms of the presentation of the gospel, it can apply to any direction in life we might want to turn in faith. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we must be willing, by faith through grace, to repent from our old ways and believe in God to move us in the direction of His Kingdom. Likewise, as Christians, when we have any goal in life, we must ask God for the grace to get us there, if we wish to get there in the right way.

Let’s say you want to take better care of the gift that is your body. You might have lived a life thus far that is unhealthy, and you wish for change. Now there are a myriad of ways that you can lose weight without repentance or belief.  There are pills that, while causing you to lose weight, really are not great for your health, and isn’t that they point of “getting into shape”? You can do a fad diet, again, more than likely starving your body for appearances instead of health. The list goes on.

But, you know what most people find out when they try the “easy” way. It does not stick. Why? …because the change was forced, and it did not come from within, from the head and heart. It did not change them as a whole person, and we cannot neglect that we are integrated beings. When we want to do something right, we have to want it with both our head and heart.

So, what is “repentance” and “belief”? As Professor Johnson points out, our English language can often times obscure the actual meaning behind the words. We often think of repentance as something we do volitionally (action), and belief as something we accent to cognitively (thought). However, the words actually are quite the opposite. Repentance is a total change of heart, which does change our actions, if we allow God’s grace to flow through belief, which is putting what God has put in our heart into action. Repentance is learning a new way, coming to the realization that our own way has been flawed and learning what God would have us do. Then it is setting our minds to live it out. That is where faith takes over, which is putting your trust in God as you act out of what you have learned.

Discipline, then, which is full of life change, can never be complete until we consider the whole person, head and heart. If you want to discipline yourself to be different, you must make the effort to learn what is different and make that learning process that comes through prayer, bible reading, conversation and the like, a part of how you think as a person, what we would often call our “belief system.” Likewise, if you ever want these newly formed “beliefs” about how to do “it” right, whatever that thing is, to impact your life, you have to have the faith to walk it out, to act on what God is teaching:

“…by works faith was made perfect?” –James 2:22

Then sings my soul???

What if the majority of American Christianity was heretical?  Should we address it?  Should we find every single opportunity to correct and refine and redefine our faith?  Or should we ignore it? 

Now perhaps that is too bold of a statement to make.  I may in fact be mistaken that the “majority” of American Christianity is heretical, but I am afraid that the numbers may be higher than we think…especially when we look at the more fundamental denominations in our faith.

So what is the heresy?  What is heresy?  Heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to Christian doctrine.  Almost of all of the major heresies in the church were determined in the first few hundred years of our existence as great ecumenical councils came together to wrestle with this new type of faith.  One such heresy that has been around from the times of the Gospels is Gnosticism. 

Gnosticism essentially said that people are actually souls trapped in these terrible bodies of flesh.  Our bodies are broken and sinful and diseases ridden and they exist in a world of filth, corruption and pollution.  The “real me” has nothing to do with my body…the “real me” is trapped inside this body longing to get out.  And to get out, all a person needs is the correct knowledge (or gnosis).  If we want to escape this terrible world and become ourselves without our broken bodies anymore, all we need is to see the light and know the right stuff. 

Have you ever heard a message like that in a church?  This world’s not our home…our bodies have nothing to offer…just pray this prayer; believe this way; have this knowledge…and know that one day you will be home (i.e. your soul will be in heaven…).  Have you ever really listened and thought about some of the old gospel songs we sing:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

     – from “This world is not my home” by Jim Reeves

Too many churches and pastors have unknowingly taken their theology lessons from Plato instead of our Gospels…especially the Gospel of John!  The word became flesh….flesh…body…This was written to combat the ideas of Gnosticism.  This was written to remind everyone of who we are as people.  This was written because if Gnosticism was allowed to run rampant what would happen?

Bodies don’t matter anymore…As Wendell Berry has said, “while the body goes about its business of destroying the earth, the soul is supposed to wait for Sunday…while the body exploits other bodies, the soul stands aloof, free from sin, crying… ‘I am not enjoying it.’”  Why should the body of Christ matter if we are just souls waiting on a transport?  Why should our bodies or creation matter if they’re just evil anyway?  What if it was this hatred for our bodies that paved the way to hate other bodies?  Why not then hate the bodies of slaves or women or animals or the earth?  Sound familiar?  Seen the news recently?

What if we were called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice not to appease and pave the way for our souls, but to offer all of ourselves to the transformative grace of God? 

When Discipline is Not An Option:

The Echo Life is about seeking wholeness through faith. As a blog especially written for Christians who are in the midst of daily struggle (and what Christian isn’t), we often focus on the process of sanctification, the process of working with God in the real removal of sin and brokenness in our lives. We take seriously the words of Paul to the church at Philippi when he states: Continue reading

Discipline Is All About The Small Things

samsonThoughts on Judges 13-16

 Discipline is about everyday battles. It is really about the small things. We do not avoid slipping up only by jumping over the big pitfalls. Moreover, while one success is a victory, it takes many grace-fueled successes each day to move forward in sanctification. For example, we do not avoid weight gain by avoiding one desert. It is a daily struggle of fighting many battles in which we have choices to make. We do not avoid being out of shape by avoiding one lazy afternoon. No, we fight against the desire to avoid work each day as we lace up our shoes to go to the gym or out for a run. Continue reading

But I’ve got to go!!!

Big_Daddy_film

Appetites grow by indulgence… The world did not turn into a sex crazed machine overnight any more than any one of us went to bed at 190lbs and woke up at 300lbs…The status quo of indulging the natural cannot continue in this direction.  Everything must change…and that starts with redefining our “instincts.”  The question is how…

This was how we ended our conversation from last week (if you missed it, HERE it is).  So where do we go from here?

First, we need to be honest and admit that we do not indulge every natural urge or instinctual thought.  For instance, have you ever suddenly been hit with the urge to use the restroom?  It is a very natural, necessary part of our life and bodily function.  And yet when the realization comes that it is time to indulge the natural part of our being, what do we do?  We wait until we can find an appropriate release point (preferably a bathroom).  Even when hit with the most intense of stomach pain or bladder stretching…we find a bathroom, albeit with a little more haste.

As odd as it feels to write, and I would imagine read, about our bathroom tendencies, this is an important first step in understanding our “natural desires.” 

Society tells us to indulge what it is natural because after all, it’s natural right?  Billions of dollars are spent marketing to our “natural urges” so that we are instinctually compelled to buy a product without fear of guilt or shame because it’s natural.  Why else would GoDaddy advertise with nudity?  What point is there in a Hardees commercial with a scantily clad woman eating a 1lbs burger if it is not to awaken the strongest of instincts in males:  sex and food?  Because there is money to be made off of people who are coerced into believing that are instincts cannot be trained!?!

A bigger lie can rarely be found.  Why?  Next time you need to use the restroom, I bet you choose to delay your natural urge in the name of social and hygienic principles.

Why then are we so afraid and unable to embrace Christian principles of chastity, moderation, and just plain health?  Because we’re fighting against the machine of marketing and money.  There are mountains of money to be had from our sex drives and appetites.  And yet we seem ok in spending it…that seems interesting considering the sociological connotations of paying for something that involves sex…

We’ve also been duped into thinking it’s impossible.  So why try?  And yet there are stories to be told about the beauty of what happens when God does the impossible.  And yet our story in the church is about watching God do the impossible through improbable people so that we might be made whole.  If this is our story, what if we actually believed that all things are possible with God?  What if we lived like it? 

What is the impossible thing in your life that you desperately need to overcome?

 

Why Work Now If God Will Do It Later?

progress-chart-mdIn my last post (last Wednesday), I argued that God wants us to work with Him in the dirty work of facing our sin and ridding ourselves from it. Like dead roots, sin has no life, but clings tightly to that which it penetrates. In this case, sin penetrates our being. God’s call to us is to deal with this deadness. In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us that we are to “put off, concerning your former conduct, your old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in spirit” (vv 22, 23). Continue reading

Miley…Robin…and the Big Mac

What can we learn from Miley, Robin and the Big Mac???

We’d be hard pressed to find any blog or talking head that has not talked about MTV’s VMAs from a week ago.  First off, I have no intentions of getting on a high horse about MTV or Miley or bemoaning how far society has fallen (please note the sarcasm in that last phrase…).  This is not one more blog jumping on the bandwagon.  I am much more appalled at too many pastors’ responses and enjoyment of casting verbal stones her way as if John 8 never happened.  Not to mention how heartbreaking it is that no one seems concerned about the backup dancers who have been dancing and over sexualized for decades.  Or the atrocity that no one seemed upset with the male on stage!?!  But I digress…. Continue reading

I have a dream, you have a dream, God has a dream

IMG_2029I have a dream. You have a dream. I presume that our wives, husbands, children, friends, and neighbors have dreams. Dr. King had a dream. This week we were reminded of Dr. King’s dream as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of his historical speech which he projected from the shadow of the towering Lincoln Memorial. I wonder, though, have you ever considered if God has a dream?

Continue reading

Giving Yourself The Grace to Work

Roots_of_big_old_treeIn my last two posts, I submitted an argument that this life matters, not in spite of the next, but because of it. I think in our own individual ways this idea has been the main theme for all three writers here at The Echo Life over the past several blog posts. We care about God’s Kingdom work here and now and for all of His Kingdom workers that are involved. Christian ministry has eternal impact, and that eternal impact begins now. Continue reading

Are we still talking about practice???

Why are we so set on just talking about practice???  Practicing healthy eating or activity or living…practicing heaven on earth…Why are we still talking about practice?

Allen Iverson thought the same thing in an interview a few years ago after missing a few practices.  Here’s a brief clip from that press conference.  Try to count the number of times he says “practice.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI Continue reading