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Posts Tagged ‘gospel of John’

http://cside.org/audio/20090823%20-%20The%20Story%20of%20the%20Revelation%20of%20God’s%20Glory%20-%20Part%2022.mp3

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Going through the gospel of John as a congregation at our new church continues to contradict our former church.  Weekly, my husband and I will have at least one (if not many) sideways knowing glances with one eyebrow up.  First there was the reference to what the entire book is written for.  “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God…”  John wasn’t written to have us interpret each and every detail with mystery.  No mystery, straight forward “you must be born again.”  Each week we hear the events as John records them, and how the people reacted to Jesus, and what Jesus said and did.  No new meanings applied, just the plain facts based on scripture.  We might move to a later part of John or to another gospel to show the importance of this or that scripture or the cultural significance of this or that  part of John…or we might move to the Old Testament when appropriate to bring up long standing traditions of men being broken or scripture being fulfilled, or to show why something was done this way in the days when Jesus walked the earth.   It’s refreshing to just read along with the pastor, and to not get “red flags” every so often causing a completely different reason for the sideways glances and eyebrows.  It’s nice to actually hear all about Jesus and not about the pastor’s kids and wife in a story to make whatever point.  It’ s nice not to hear canned stories and jokes that I can find immediately online in some other pastor’s sermons.  It”s nice to hear about the gospel  and not the plans of the church to build this or that.  No slick videos promoting the different ministries in the church or calls to give to the new building campaign, no calls to serve the emerging generation and to pass the baton.  No limited focus on families with babies or on youth.  So far, it appears the pastor and this new church are focused on Christ, Christian living as revealed in the gospels.  Quotes are almost always from the bible, and if they are from someone else they are always cited well.  I really cannot recall a quote from someone except John this past few months, but I’m not saying there hasnt’ been one…maybe quoting Piper or MacArthur?  I don’t have to go home and read up on strange authors or search out who the new speaker at our pulpit is (who came from out of town).  It’s just been our pastors at the pulpit.  There’s not a lot of  repetition of themes, no pounding us with the same terms and redefining them over and over again (like missional, transformation, etc).  There’s rarely a “new conference” or “retreat.”  Yes, they do have a men’s retreat coming up, but it’s not been overblown.  No promises that you’ll come back a completely new and improved husband and father.  It’s just a weekend away with speakers, the bible, and prayer.  And the sermons, they are longer.  Here’s church…pray, then song time with scripture reading.  Next sermon (again started with prayer and including scripture).  Prayer again then offering with instrumental music.  I think another song. Announcements.  Prayer…and that’s it.

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John 20:31.  It’s a basic verse and my children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12 know it.  They learned it at Awana.  The pastor of a church we’re visiting spent a long sermon on this verse today.  This church is going to spend many months on the book of John.  He actually said about a year, but later said months…but still, coming from a church that has themes last 4-8 weeks maximum, this is worth note.  Anyway, this verse is one that defines our struggle with our former church a bit for us.  With that verse, I am taken back to a Sunday when Steve Smith was talking about Lazarus, and began saying that we come to Christ’s call and have grave clothes on us.  These grave clothes have to be removed by community in order for us to heal.  This was a big “aha” Sunday for us.  It was the early stages of questions, and so began my search for the direction our former church was heading.  Lazarus is recorded in John, and my husband and I believe the Steven Smith (as a guest speaker) was presenting the account of Lazarus incorrectly.  The Bible was being mishandled, and psychology injected.  It really sounded like a message Oprah might give.  When we went to our former pastor, we brought this speaker up.  He said he not only supported what Steven Smith said, but he had personally sent letters out recommending his book about Lazarus and the grave clothes.  Lovely.  We tried to explain how we felt the Bible was being mishandled, and the pastor countered that each miracle had a purpose for us.  We were supposed to understand something we could apply to our lives.  We were to, for example, dig deeper into why Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding.  This did not satisfy us as a proper explanation.  We asked two friends, and one a pastor himself the other a college professor said that the verse which explains the purpose for the signs and miracles recorded in John is written in the book itself.  They both quoted “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Today, the pastor went through an overview of the purpose of John’s gospel using this verse as a starting point.  He explained clearly that the signs recorded were for showing Christ’s glory, his divinity, that he is the Messiah, and the Son of God.  The signs were an apologetic, a proof of God.  We are to believe and receive eternal life.  The second part of John was to show the suffereing of Christ.  Again, we are to believe.  No psychology.  The pastor even mentioned at the end of his sermon that nowadays people are preaching a lot of therapy, or as he put it, the Jesus they call people to believe in is not the real Jesus.  He listed several examples, one of which was the “theraputic Jesus.”  This is a generally quiet church, but I almost said, “Amen, brother!”  I heard that theraputic message big time at my former church.  It was an empty message.

A woman I don’t recall meeting is now a facebook friend, she’s still in my former church.  She has written much about emergent on her facebook, so another friend introduced us.  She has written a testimony she shared about small groups.  In her testimony, she mentions going to church alone and never feeling she was close to God.  She joined a small group, and presto, she was hungry for the Word.  Of course, this small group was actually studying Acts, studying the Bible.  She was also introduced to a study Bible with notes, so she was digging into commentary.  Now, she’s still at our former church and has no clue about me and why our family left.  I won’t tell her the obvious, but to me it’s obvious, the message she wasn’t getting at our former church caused her to feel far from God.  She joined a small group, and she found people she connected with.  She might actully be getting “fed” since it sounds like they are studying from the Bible.  She was praising her church in her note and testimony, but really, she is missing that the theraputic messages aren’t filling.  It’s the study of God’s word.  Also, she may be feeling good because she has friends, but she’s not being challenged about her sin.  I wonder if she’ll see it someday?

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