October 16, 2017

Reconsider Jesus – The Forgiveness of Sins

MichaelSpencerThe following is an small excerpt from Michael Spencer’s upcoming book: Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark.  Michael Spencer’s thoughts on Mark Chapter 2 are edited by Scott Lencke. If you would like to be contacted when Michael Spencer’s book is available for purchase, drop us a note at michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com.

The Forgiveness of Sins

Mark 2:3-5

3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” – NIV

…Throughout the gospels, Jesus is impressed with anybody who’s desperate enough to get to him. A woman who comes out and touches the hem of his garment; a synagogue ruler who says, “Jesus, my daughter is dead.” Jesus recognizes the faith of the desperate. Faith is often born of desperation. Often we get to the place where we realize I have no other answer but God. And we shouldn’t despise that. We shouldn’t say, “Well you should have figured it out sooner.” Over and over again, people get to the place of desperation. This paralyzed man said, “I don’t care how, but get me to Jesus.” And his friends respond, “We’ll take you there.”

It is interesting that Jesus sees “their” faith. It is not only the paralyzed man’s faith, but the faith of the men that is commended. Evangelical Christianity is hyper-individualized and resists the idea of a “community of faith.” Covenant theology is more comfortable with the idea that faith is a corporate matter from first to last, even as we are personally accountable and must personally believe. I think it is biblically impossible to speak of faith outside of a community of faith that believes before we do, nurtures us as we learn to believe, supports us as we believe and believes when we stumble in belief. God’s covenant with his “people” is a community covenant that does not downplay individual faith, but places God’s covenant with the community at the center of his dealings with human beings. All this underlines why it is vitally important for every Christian to be part of a believing community and not just a “lone ranger.”…

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How do these thoughts of Michael Spencer’s resonate with you?  Has desperation ever driven you to Jesus?  Do your experiences of faith have a focus on the individual or on the community?  What do you do about community when you are in the “Post-Evangelical Wilderness?”

Comments

  1. Desperation drove me to the edge of despair and then by chance I found internetmonk and began to hear the gospel a new. Heck maybe for the first time. I will take desperation if it leads me to Jesus. Plus, I think I agrre with John Zahl when he says God is found at the end of your rope.

    • I disagree with Zahl (which doesn’t happen often). God is sometimes found at the end of your rope. But I’ve spent large quantities of consecutive time there with no God in sight. Desperation is not the road to spirituality. You needn’t get in over your head just to experience the divine. Sometimes God needs this to get our attention. But at times we get lost in the dry valley and can’t find the springs he’s supposed to give. It isn’t because we’re not desperate enough.

      • I agree. Desperation has never driven me to Jesus. I chose Jesus long ago and tried to follow closely. Desperate times feel more like abandonment by Him and often serve to drive me away from Jesus due to my anger. Yet I realize that what He is trying to do is get me to trust Him even when I don’t see the evidence of His presence that I desire.

  2. Has desperation ever driven me to Jesus? I don’t think so, though I confess in the past I may have thought of it that way. In truth, I believe that I already had faith in Jesus, but it is always mingled with a bit of faith in myself. Desperation is the point where that faith in myself is completely wrecked on the shores of reality. Then I see clearly my faith in Christ is all I have left, but honestly, it was all I had to begin with. These moments of clarity don’t necessarily increase my faith: I think they help me to see the faith I’ve had all along which is carrying me.

    My experiences of faith have had both focuses (individual and community) across my journey. A turning point in my thinking was listening to the debate between MacArthur and Sproul on infant baptism. Sproul (who CLEARLY carried the day) pointed out that the baptism of entire households illustrated, if not the potential that infants were included, at least a sense of corporate solidarity. That thought has impacted me deeply. My parents baptized me as a Roman Catholic shortly before their conversion to Calvary Chapel. Looking back, it seems as if Christ was always with me, for as I grew and heard His words, it seemed that I automatically believed them, and I’m a very skeptical fellow. One reason I am a proponent of the ancient worship traditions in the church is because it shows solidarity with the spiritual family of our past, and in doing so, it emphasizes the communal nature of faith. I feel like CCM trend driven praise fests cater to the hyper-individualization of American culture. I believe this is why it can be so difficult to foster authentic community within non-traditional churches. Traditions are what bring people together.

    If you are in the post-Evangelical wilderness, just go to mass. The sense of community with Christ and complete strangers I experience there is deeper than all the shiver-in-the-spine moments I had growing up in the Charismatic community combined. It’s the subtle beauty of a whisper, not the awesomeness of an earthquake or storm, but it is water for a parched land. Between your local Catholic or Episcopalian church, one is bound to welcome you.

    • Mass does seem to have that effect, whether one is a member of that given Church or not!

      Maybe I have been blessed, but every time I have been at the end of my rope (the “I’d kill myself if it wasn’t a SIN, dammitol!) I have had some small sign from another human or from nature that has been just enough to tell me “I have not abandoned you, My Child….”

      I also find that I pray more and better when things are dicey……it is easy for me to get self-satisfied when all are in good health and the wolf is not at the door. I am working on praying as well in the Blessing Times.

    • Robert F says:

      Miguel,
      I find you a very idiosyncratic Lutheran: fiercely confessional and a strong apologist for the Lutheran confessions, but referring seekers to their nearest Catholic or Episcopal parish. But then again, you are an iMonk, which may account for your idiosyncrasy.

      • Lol, guilty as charged. The thing is, the sacrament is the sacrament. Our churches believe that other churches do in fact have them. But we also practice closed communion, so I couldn’t just say “visit your local LCMS church,” because I don’t think encouraging seekers to disregard that policy sends them down the right path. I also wouldn’t send them to an ELCA church because too many of them I see are just too Evangelical for a post-Evangelical to be at home in. I’ve seen very few Catholic Priests stick to their guns on closed communion, and even fewer Anglicans worship apart from the Book of Common Prayer. So for those needing divine comfort in a period of spiritual homelessness, these churches will give you the means of grace in a manner which bespeaks the significance of what you are receiving.

        • Robert F says:

          I hope you know that what I commented was not meant as a criticism of you; I knew that you must have thoughtful and consistent reasoning behind your comments, and I was right, you do.

    • Miguel,

      You have touched on something I have been thinking about. Being edified by the Body and Blood requires the ability to be contemplative. Most moderns lack that and that is why liturgy in general bores the heck out of the average person. I know iMonks are very big on liturgy and personally I am edified greatly by it BUT it does little for most people (even most Christians) I have talked to.

      I believe this is something we need to remedy in the Church and but it can’t be fixed by just doing away with the current service structure found in evangelicalism. The mysterious and spiritual ministry that takes place during liturgy requires a cultivated soul. There must be a path to it. At present that path usually involves starting out by going to one type of church and then moving on to another type of church. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a church somewhere that could minister to people who were at different points on that path and effectively lead them to the next?

      • Robert F says:

        The inability to tolerate silence, which is a precondition of contemplation, is a great weakness of modern and post-modern people; many clergy are afraid to make a firm request for silence before a service or to allow even a few seconds of silence during one, because they know how their congregations feel about the idea.

        Silence seems to be scary for many contemporary people. Perhaps they believe that time spent in silence is wasted time, and they don’t feel as if they have time to waste; perhaps they resent being driven up against the poverty of their own inner resources, which they find frightening.

        I struggle with being silent myself, but I wish I could get people to shut up for just a few minutes every Sunday.

        • This is so true. Back when I was pastoring I used to put a message on the overhead projector (remember those things?) that requested silence in the Sanctuary before every service for those who wanted to engage in pre-service meditation and prayer. When people would wander in and start talking I would kindly request that they take their conversation out of the Sanctuary and into the Fellowship Hall. There were just too many people who could not grasp what I was trying to do. Week after week they would wander into the sanctuary and start a conversation and then act surprised when I approached them. I finally got so frustrated that I considered braiding a rope into a whip. Instead I decided to move pre-service meditation and prayer into a small side room so that the majority of the congregation could wander around and blather freely 🙂

          • Robert F says:

            I admire your pastoral persistence in establishing a time and place of quiet for meditation and prayer; it’s too bad it couldn’t be in the sanctuary, which theologically would be the most appropriate place for it. But the bias against silence is so great in our cultural that any victory against it is worth commendation.

      • The mysterious and spiritual ministry that takes place during liturgy requires a cultivated soul.

        The problem is a church full of “ministers” who sold out their responsibility for the cultivation of souls in order to increase the bottom line for shareholders. This needs to be called out and repented of. And then we need to begin the hard work of recovering what was lost. I’ve been doing precisely that in my congregation, and let me tell you, it is hard work. People who listen to K-Love just cannot understand why you’d want to do anything besides play all their favorite songs from the radio in church. I am discovering this requires a strong mixture of patience, compromise, and strategic, intentional catechesis. All over the country Evangelical churches are rediscovering the liturgy (even including New Life, Co Springs), they just need leaders who see the value of generational continuity and Christo-centricity in worship and are willing to pursue this even if it isn’t a big sell. I believe those who do will pass the baton to the next 2-3 generations, and those who do not will loose all their children to the next version of cool, which may or may not include something resembling church.

        • Agreed. But you used the word “compromise” and I don’t think that describes what you are doing. It isn’t about a right way and a wrong way as much as a natural progression of growth. You aren’t compromising in that you are condescending to offering something inferior. Rather, you are giving them what they need where they are and then leading them on to the next step.

          You are also right about Evangelical churches rediscovering the liturgy. I attend an E-Free church with a Pastor who completed his PhD in Theology at Cambridge University. He was heavily influence by the Anglican Church while over there and this influence is one of the things I like best about our church.

  3. Since you yourself won’t plug the Lutherans, I will, and of course, the Orthodox. To be honest, I wouldn’t go farther afield than that at this juncture. Throw in the Copts and I believe you have a good handle on the Catholica as St Vincent of Lerins would have recognized it.

    Like Stitch said to the Councilwoman:

    “This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good. Yes, still good.”

    • I just assumed that the Orthodox practiced closed communion better than the Catholics. Come to think of it though, I did commune at an Orthodox church during my search. I agree that these four traditions represent a kind of generous catholicity, but for those just seeking a place of peaceful prayer, Lutherans tend to be too peppy and Americanized, and Orthodox the opposite, still predominantly influenced by the culture/language of their roots. I know the liturgy well and had a very hard time following when I visited an Orthodox parish that did very little in English.

      • I’m OK about the closed communion, but that’s not my call. Some non-Chalcs commune regularly in our parish, some by permission, others by oversight. My catholicity is somewhere between Communion of the Font (too loose) and Communion of the Table (too tight).

        The Romans don’t appear to make a big deal out of anything as long as you get along with their organizational unity. They don’t make a big deal out of the filioque and we do.

  4. My faith was absolutely borne out of desperation. Unfortunately, at a point when I had handed my life over to Christ, my faith was hijacked by an authoritarian Christian group (the International Churches of Christ) that distorted my view of community and filled my mind with mistrust in Christian community, mistrust in the Church.

    I left that group more than two years ago. I have never abandoned my faith in Christ but have been looking for another church because, despite my experiences, the Bible I read shows me a faith lived together with other believers.

    Unfortunately, I have just left a “mega-church” because, far from being authoritarian, it was impersonal and too big. I’m checking out the local Mennonite church out of an attraction for the Anabaptist tradition, hoping to find a part of Christ’s body in which I can fit in. I’m still desperate, yet this desperation contains hope because it continues to direct my eyes to Christ and his body, the Church.

    Yet pilgrimage continues to be hard. The difficulty is that people seem to gather in response to a call that is clear and simple and people like me who are attracted to this blog thirst for a faith that is focused on Christ alone, not the “systematic” faith that discourages the mystery and questions that mark people at their most nobly human.

    “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

  5. Here’s a little collection of quotes on the subject that I posted a while back, if anyone’s interested…

    http://homiliesprayersbread.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/the-ties-that-bind-final-thoughts-on-community/

    And here’s one of my favorites from a guy who goes by “Chaplain Mike”…

    “If you join our pilgrimage, you will find a group of people who are just like you. We have hopes. We long that the world will be put to rights. We suffer. We get discouraged, and angry, and aren’t always nice. We get sick, lose our jobs, divorce, have rebellious children, aren’t always honest, and don’t always keep our promises. We also long for love, try to be kind, have dreams for our children, and hope we can pay this month’s bills and put aside a little for the future.

    We do believe that God is our Father, that Jesus died and rose again for us, and that the Holy Spirit has called us into a community of people called the church. We’ve been baptized to signify that our only hope is in death and resurrection with Jesus. We gather at his table to meet with him, hear his words, and receive food for our journey. We trust that God will put his world to rights one day and we long to be part of that.”

    If we view our faith in the context of covenant and community, rather than as an individual relationship, it entirely changes the face of Christianity. Loving your neighbor takes on a new depth, rather than being just a hollow statement that we barely acknowledge with our actions. We must love the people sitting next to us in the pew, because they might end up sitting on the same cloud as me in glory! Halleluyer!

    • Christiane says:

      “God has left sin in the world in order that there may be forgiveness:
      not only the secret forgiveness by which He Himself cleanses our souls, but the manifest forgiveness by which
      we have mercy on one another and so give expression to the fact that He is living, by His mercy, in our own hearts.”

      Thomas Merton
      ‘No Man Is an Island’

  6. Michele says:

    In my younger years, I was involved with a denomination which embraced the individualistic style of Christianity. “Me and Jesus” so to speak, and all about our own choices. As I matured though, I came to realize the emptiness of that and how impossible it is to actually live out a Christian life in isolation. “Independent Christianity” is an oxymoron. The entire point is love which is impossible to live out on your own. We make ourselves vulnerable and dependent upon others. There is risk involved in that. I’ve also been impressed of late with the scripture that reads “you did not choose me, but I chose you.” It flies in the face of our independent thinking that we are the ones who choose or reject God. On the other hand, when I subject myself to others and try to make meaningful connections with those in the church, I often find myself deeply disappointed in how crafty people can be and how skilled they are at dishing out hurtful behaviors. It causes me to want to withdraw from church altogether and I find myself in a state of despair when I think my relationship with Christ depends on my relationships with others. Kierkegaard empahsised personal free will and choice and I’ve been reading some of his reflections lately, and beginning to return to ideas of “me and Jesus”. It’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth, and the tension is relentless. Is it about my independent free will and choice, or my ability to successfully love and connect to others? I suspect it is somehow about both. Theology itself has a way of driving me to despair at times.

    • Personally, my “free-will” choices haven’ wrought much good…but the opposite.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Amen. However I’m not even sure what “free will” means, except that it can bring disaster over and over again.

        • Robert F says:

          Funny, I don’t know what “free will” means in the abstract either, but I nevertheless have no choice but to make a vast multitude of choices without knowing what “free will” means. And I’ve found, even though my positive choices have indeed often brought disaster, my negative choice to avoid choosing has brought even more disaster.

          Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

          Redeemed if you do, redeemed if you don’t.

          • Michele says:

            I’m inclined to agree free will usually brings disaster, but it seems to me God has given us an inescapable capacity for choice in hopes that ultimately, we will freely choose Him. It appears to me this is an important aspect of real relationship and real love. However, I do ultimately see incredible mystery here.

          • In hopes that ultimately, we will freely choose Him? Oh, He must be on pins and needles.

            A sinful man can no more “choose” a Holy God than he can raise himself from the dead.
            I think you’re on the right track, but I’d go as far as to say free will always brings disaster, and “thy will be done” brings peace on earth as in heaven. The former is the work of our hands, the later is a free gift.

          • Michele says:

            “He must be on pins and needles”

            Oh yes I’m well aware God has no need for us. I’m not completely without brains. But He is a God of love, which is an activity that requires relationship. Relationships require an exhange of love, even though one love is inferior to the other. I’m under the impression that God pursues relationship with us rather than playing games with a bunch of puppets because he is a God of love. I have to admit I find the notion of “choosing” God to be incredibly inconceivable and mysterious. I believe that our choosing Him is a result of grace and His choosing us first. We love him because he first loved us. That doesn’t mean we have made no choice whatsoever. I have a very hard time with some of my evangelical friends who insist that our knowing God is all up to our own choice. I don’t agree with them. I do love the scripture that reads “You did not choose me, but I chose you”, which stops them in their tracks. However, if there is no need for movement on our part in the direction toward choosing to follow Jesus, then He would not call us to do so in the first place.

  7. I would agree about the community of faith, but my community of faith looks like a Venn Diagram of various people and groups and relationships:
    Specific people within the 501(c)3 church organization I currently attend on Sundays.
    People at the church organization where I used to attend.
    Relatives.
    A couple of guys at my job.
    Old friends.
    Some neighbors.
    People on websites and social media who do not know me, but who encourage me by their words and observations.
    People in parachurch organizations who focus specific areas of life.

  8. Robert F says:

    Yes, in this text, Christ commends the faith of a group; in other places he commends the faith of an individual. Sometimes he mentions faith neither in relation to a group of people or an individual, for instance at the raising of Lazarus, when he speaks of his own faith in the Father always hearing him as evidence for others that they may have faith in him.

    There is no propositional formula that captures it all. Communities of faith are impossible without persons of faith, and persons of faith are impossible without communities of faith. That contemporary evangelicalism has overemphasized the individual’s experience in certain ways is undoubtedly true; at the same time it has restrained and held the individual within certain unrealistic expectations, expecting conformity and suppressing questions.

    My wife felt compelled to leave the evangelical world precisely because of her experience since childhood that the questions she had would neither be honored nor respected, and as a result her faith could not fully become her own. It was only when she later was received into the Episcopal church that she felt she was empowered and given the room to explore her questions and doubts without her faith being questioned or maligned; as a result, she was finally able to own her faith and grow in confidence about her faith as an individual person in a way that she was never able to in the evangelical world.

    My own experience in the mainline churches has been that the visceral sense of community is often lacking, partly because there is less of a bunker mentality of “us against the world” than in the evangelical churches (though I can’t be sure because I’ve never lived in the evangelical world); but there is also a sober, realistic and a more nuanced sense of community that involves not just the people in the pews next to yours but the faithful down through the generations that we call the communion of saints, a great cloud of witnesses among whom there is room for each one both as individual person and in community.

  9. Rick Ro. says:

    +1 to pretty much all the comments posted here thus far. I loved reading everyone’s input on this topic. (I was almost about to just go down the line and put “+1” by them all, but thought that would be a little spam-ish.)

    In my own faith journey, I sought Jesus not out of desperation but just because I heard his voice calling me. I wasn’t one of those “at the end of my rope, lying in a gutter” converts…just a guy who realized I was at a crossroad in life and could either begin walking the path of moral living or the path of hedonism. I looked at the path of moral living and said, “Why travel that path if I don’t believe in God and the Son of Man who says to walk it? What is it about that path that makes me believe that is the RIGHT path to take?” And I heard Jesus say, “Take that path and follow me on it.” I can’t say I haven’t had moments of hedonism even as a Christian, but mine was an odd born-again experience not born out of desperation.

    In my 27 years as a Christian, I can look back and see the times when my faith-walk was more individualistic and times when it was more community-focused. I think the commands to love God and love others require a mix of both. We can love God individually and love Him corporately, and both are good. We can love and serve others individually and love them corporately, and both are good. I tend to believe TOO MUCH of one or the other has the potential to become unhealthy. If I’m leaning only on my OWN understanding, there’s a danger of drifting away from truth and toward self-centered spirituality. That can become unhealthy. If I’m leaning only on COMMUNITY faith, there’s a danger of relying on other’s spirituality to get me by and I miss out on a deeper personal relationship with God (and even others). That can become unhealthy, too.

  10. Rick Ro. says:

    If I may, I’ll share an interesting testimony from a couple at my church that relates to the Mark text, the woman touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, and that comment, “Jesus is impressed with anybody who’s desperate enough to get to him.”

    The husband grew up Christian and had lengthy times away from God. His wife had absolutely no church background, never been in a church, didn’t believe. A couple years back, the husband had some experiences that made him desperate enough to seek God again. He began coming to our church. His wife soon noticed a difference in him and began joining him. Break, break and fast forward a year: this woman is now a believer and recently got baptized.

    Here’s comes the interesting part. This woman has a sister who lives across the country. The sister also had absolutely no church experience and had no belief in God or Jesus. This sister begins hearing about God and Jesus and begins wondering what it means. After a couple of months, she decides to drive to a church parking lot one Sunday, with no intention of going inside the church, but just to “catch a glimpse of what it might mean.” That was the extent of her faith…just “drive to a church parking lot and sit there.”

    A woman walking into the church noticed this woman sitting in her car, went and knocked on the window, had a brief discussion with her and invited her inside. So she ends up going inside, and….Break, break and fast forward three months: this sister is getting baptized this weekend! All because she an iota of faith to just “drive to a church parking lot and sit there.”

    (By the way, when the first woman told me what her sister was planning to do and to pray for her, all I could think was, “God is going to reward that faith.”)

  11. Mike –

    Thanks for your faithful oversight to this project!

    • Thank you for your editing of Chapter 2 Scott. There was so much to chose from, but I thought that this little section might inspire some interesting discussion. Like Rick Ro. above, I think the comments have been excellent!

  12. Ironic that you write on this today.

    Just hours ago I was at breakfast with a priest and remarking about ‘Lone Ranger Christianity’ that is highly individualized, and on how the OT model seems to be that God is interested in a people and in this Christian era is building a body. Paul talks about it extensively.

    In my own life I have had incredible healing in many aspects and they came in Christian community. None of those communities has been perfect. But God has used them to begin to wean me from my narcissism.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I agree with you, ken. I recently read an intersting take on Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”) that commented about the gross mis-use of that scripture, usually being applied to individuals when actually it was intended for a nation. It speaks a bit to your narcissism comment. Instead of us viewing it as “God has great plans for me!” well…maybe he has great plans for my Christian community, but for me individually? Maybe not so much. What I mean is that I know God loves me (sent His only son to die for me, for heaven’s sake), but the whole “God exists for me to prosper here on Earth”…umm, maybe not.

  13. Christiane says:

    I expect we are much more attuned to grace and to the Presence of God when we have been humbled. So, perhaps there is something VERY concrete in the promise ‘God giveth grace to the humble’

    ‘humility’ is highly valued as a Christian virtue in Eastern Christianity and in Catholicism,
    but I am confused about how it is seen among the more extreme fundamentalism in Western Christianity . . . it occurs that ‘humility’ may not be at all seen by fundamentalists in the same way as in the Eastern tradition (?)

    • Robert F says:

      I acknowledge that humility is a great virtue; but it’s a virtue that dissolves if we observe it in ourselves. I don’t see how anyone could know they possess the virtue of humility, even if others tell them that they have observed it in them, because to think one has it indicates that one does not. It seems to be a virtue that can only be observed in others, not ourselves, and so although it may and should be highly valued it can not be sought after, since to think one had attained humility would be to turn humility into an achievement and achievements generate pride not humility.

      One may, however, be humbled, and know that one has been humbled; it’s a chastening rather than pride generating experience because, at least when it’s happened to me, I know that it came from outside myself rather than within. And it’s definitely not something you can, or even would want to, seek.

  14. Being born on the mild end of the autistic spectrum, I’ve always struggled with community in general. All aspects of life have always been very individualistic for me, including my faith. I know community is important but I rarely feel the need for it. It is something I force myself to do because intellectually I acknowledge the positive impact it has on me. Yet I like the following statement and it is something I will meditate on:

    “I think it is biblically impossible to speak of faith outside of a community of faith that believes before we do, nurtures us as we learn to believe, supports us as we believe and believes when we stumble in belief.”

    That is good stuff. But I still have an open question. What about those of us who are highly introverted? It isn’t that we don’t love people deeply, it is just that it is very emotionally draining to be around them. This is often criticized in the church as at least a character flaw and often as sin (unfriendly, unkind, inhospitable, forsaking the gathering of believers, etc.).

    • Robert F says:

      In addition to your question, very often even the best communities don’t believe as we do, nurture us as we learn to believe, support us as we believe and believe when we stumble.

      Sometimes even the best communities are a stumbling block. Sometimes we must learn to sharpen our faith against the hard edge of community.

      Sometimes even in the midst of community we are called into an inner exile.

      I think of Simone Weil.

    • Michele says:

      Maybe the church needs to be reminded of the picture Jesus himself painted when he withdrew into the desert for 40 days, fasting. When in our modern culture are such times of seeking God alone allowed or even thought about? There can be a balance, or variations. Jesus seemed to demonstrate an ability to walk on both sides of the extremes, as we also see that He was found ministering among the multitudes. In today’s culture the side most often found wanting is the argument for time spent alone I think. We’re all so busy, never quiet, never still. Love finds different ways of expression and maybe those who find themselves on the introverted side could offer the quiet presence of a listening friend. That could offer a unique expression of brotherly love.

  15. If forgiveness of sins isn’t enough…then we are all in deep doo – doo.

  16. Let God be GOD says:

    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.
    “Law” originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule.hence LED OF THE SPIRIT Strongs of unbelief – g St apeitheia From ??????? (G545) as used in Hbr 4:11of unbelief apistiaFrom G571 From ??????? (G571) “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”(1 John 42Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them. 6We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God hears not us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.) [b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] FAITH, we also believe and therefore speak,( 1Co 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.)
    14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.( 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. Rom 1:4 4And declared to be the Son of God with power, ACCORDING TO the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: ) 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. John15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me. John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. Ephesians 6:17. “…the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.”1 cor 6:20 20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. phl 2 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Eph 2 1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesha and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Hebrews 3:7–19 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tried me by testing me, and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘they always go astray in their heart; and they did not know my ways’; 11 as I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” 12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving-(disobedient) heart (out of the heart the man speaks and flow the issues of life.), in falling away from the living God romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Holman Christian Standard Bible. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; Gal 5:18 But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 15 while it is said, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me.” 16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief-(disobedience).It’s actually right. This rely brings out the danger of religion and being carnally led carnal means meat (your fleshly mind apart from a heart led response to the Spirit of the Lord (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes Heres the deal salvation is the gift of God Himself as a temple of the Holy Spirit what has desperation have anything have to do with me yielding to the Holy Spirit.In America quite often doctorine is presented as godliness is gain. Those who know God and His Word Know there are absoloute truths in the Word concerning this. But We also have this and need to be weary of Gods timing eccl 3 His will remember demas and His direction (those who do not receive the love of truth Word and Spirit of Truth). 1 TIM 6 These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to personal GAIN.6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will BE CONTENT with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.And then there is the err of balaam James Robinson teaches out that balaam mistake was love for just money is wrong . He gets into text and languastic usage. He tears it up many American churches would Hate him. He points out it was their desire for gain apart from Gods Will Plan Purpose and Direction. Man James Robinson teaches out that balaam mistake was love for just money is wrong . He gets into text and languastic usage. He tears it up many American churches would Hate him. He points out it was their desire for gain apart from Gods Will Plan Purpose and Direction. As a summary now I really understand, many times drunk and heresey is treating the bible like a menu or refusing to be well balanced in doctorine and why God said Godliness with contentment is gain and we ought to depart from those who preach godliness is always just plain gain. Why it is written say not we shall go there say if the Lord wills we should go. How the Spirit is to wield the Sword is a much better translation than taking up the Sword it’s actually now a scary imbalance of dominion covenant right and authority apart from the direction of God no wonder it is written Lord Lord have we not done many mighty Works in your name many snared by walking according to their own heart Carnal mind or even the Enemy

  17. Mike –

    You ask: Has desperation ever driven you to Jesus?

    If I think of my initial salvation-conversion, there is a sense of desperation. I was the really bad teenager, in my last year of high school, that got a glimpse of my sin. I was desperate to be forgiven.

    However, even in my 16 and a half year journey in Christ, I can say that desperation has strengthened my faith, building a much more solid foundation. So, I like what Michael Spencer had to say in this little excerpt: Faith is often born of desperation. Yes, it is and has been for me (though I am sure my desperation has not reached the level of others, or where it might reach later in life). I’ve walked through some pretty challenging things the past 12 months – it’s left me hurt, angry, depressed, and all sorts of other emotions at times. But I know that this is all falling under the oversight of our good Father, shaking the things that do not need to last in my life so that the unshakable kingdom might remain (Heb 12:26-29). It still hurts and I desire refreshing, vindication, etc. But it is all here to make me more desperate for Him and Him alone.

    In regards to community, I have begun to really appreciate the aspect of togetherness. It’s been a strong aspect of the Christians with whom I’ve walked for years now. But I still think we can over-emphasise the individual, all to the lack of the communal. It doesn’t mean everything is said and done in the Sunday morning gathering. It means that we walk closely with people and honestly open up our thoughts, joys, pains, hurts, and everything else in between. I could not function if it were not for true community bonded together by the Spirit of Christ.

  18. Ultimately, the goal of finding community is this life is illusory. A church, a team of colleagues, or a tribe of hippies can only give us a hint, but can’t fulfill.

    “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” — Hebrews 13:14

  19. One of the things in my small Lutheran church that often gets to me and makes me realize that the Faith is to be lived in community is the wide variety of people we have. Everyone from the oldsters to the infirm to young families to single folks. And darn near every type of vocation you can think of.

    I’m always puzzled by folks who want church participants to be just like them — artists or upwardly aspiriing yuppies or whatever. To me, that’s real poverty. I think it was Bonhoeffer who said that the other people in your church should be seen as God’s gifts.