Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Free In Christ: Gospel And Doctrine

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[I am aware that I got some of the chapters mixed around but I think I’m on track now.]

In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free in Christ” we get to a discussion on the difference between Gospel and doctrine. Also, he discusses the difference between preaching and teaching.

Cecil shows that preaching the Gospel (in Scripture) is always used to talk to unbelievers. It is evangelism. Teaching doctrine is always for believers. The two are different subjects and have different audiences.

I will not go into all the the verses or quotes from the book here but would encourage you to read it for the fuller discussion.

So, how has the confusion between preaching/teaching and gospel/doctrine influenced how we think today?

Written by freeinchrist

May 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

CENI and Assumptions

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This is a great post from a couple of months ago and I thought I would like to it in case any of you missed it.  This really makes the church of Christ hermeneutic of CENI very difficult to accept.

Assumptions

Written by freeinchrist

May 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

From The Archives: The New Dictionary Of The Institutional Church

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[This is from December 26, 2009.  This post talks about how the institutional church has changed the meanings of some Bible words to validate their existence.  They did this by mistranslating the Scriptures so they could explain them how they wanted]

I often think that there must be some dictionary somewhere that the institutional church uses to make Bible words mean what they want them to mean. The institutional church often calls something the Bible doesn’t even dream of a name of something that was quite different in the Bible.

Here are some examples:

Church — In the Bible, the Church is the people of God; in the IC the church is a building or an organization.

Giving — In the Bible, the Church gave to the poor and to traveling evangelists; in the IC, they co-opt verses about giving to get you to give to make a donation to their organization.

Elder/Bishop/Pastor — In the Bible, the Spirit gave this gift to people who were the mature shepherds of God’s people; in the IC, this is a job that is to be filled by the best teacher in the church or by the best business managers.

Deacon — In the Bible, this word just meant “servant” and was a gift that the Holy Spirit gave; in the IC, this is a position like a department manager in a company (i.e. deacon of education, deacon of benevolence).

Worship — In the Bible, worship happens “in Spirit and in truth” in the hearts of Christians in their daily lives; in the IC, worship happens on Sunday morning at set times and really is just another name for singing.

Meeting — In the Bible, Christians met to encourage one another; in the IC, Christians meet to perform rituals.

Communion — In the Bible, communion was actually communion and taken as a full meal of Christians enjoying the unity of the Body and the new life they have found in Christ in His resurrection; in the IC, communion is a little cracker and grape juice that remembers Jesus as though He were still dead.

Bible — The Bible says that its purpose is to point to Jesus; in the IC, the Bible is Jesus.

Just a few of the many words that the IC has redefined to boost their own organizations.

Written by freeinchrist

May 9, 2010 at 8:00 am

From The Archives: Trading The Word For The Words

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[This is from December 20,2009.  This is a great reminder that we should follow the Spirit and not the Bible]

I’ve really been thinking recently about how we have really traded the Lord Jesus Christ (The Word of God) for the Scriptures (the words of God) and that many don’t even see any difference. Here are some ways I think that we have done this.

First, we obey the Scriptures before looking to the Spirit of Christ in our hearts for the answer. You see, the answer is always love for God and neighbor and the answer never defies this. Whatever is best for others is always best for us in the long run. When we truly love people we never do them any wrong and always try to do right by them. This is what God wants from us as well. The main way that we show our love to Christ is by loving His people.

Instead of doing this, we try to obey what the Scriptures say regardless of how it affects others. We prohibit God-gifted women from teaching us because of what the “law” states instead of looking at the reasons that the prohibition was once necessary and the reasons that it no longer is. We put the Scriptures higher than the love that they are trying to promote.

The Scriptures were never supposed to be a rulebook. Their purpose of Scripture is to tell us the facts about Jesus Christ and His Church so that we can live in the realities that they reveal to us. The Scriptures point to Jesus, they are not an end to themselves. We can follow the Bible perfectly and still not get it because the Bible was not meant to be followed. God revealed Himself to us so that we would be able to know what we needed to know to be in relationship with Him.

Second, we read the Bible instead of pursuing a relationship with Christ. We tend to think that they are the same thing. I’ve heard many people say that prayer is when they talk and the Scriptures is how God talks. This couldn’t be more wrong but I have even thought it myself. When I’ve wanted to know something from God I have often went to the Scriptures instead of just asking Him to teach me in His own way. Although the Scriptures might reveal something that could help me (I’m also not suggesting that anyone stop reading the Bible, I read it every day), Christ’s way is to write on the human heart. His way is Spiritual while reading the Bible and trying to obey it is carnal.

Lastly, we truly believe that we have a relationship with Christ because we obey the Scriptures. This is also very wrong. Paul talked about (in 1 Corinthians 13 of course) that if we could speak in tongues of angels and had all knowledge but didn’t have love it was nothing. Do we really believe that? I don’t think that many do. We still think that having all knowledge (orthodoxy) or the right practice (pattern) is the way to relationship with Christ.

This isn’t true. The way to relationship with Christ is Spiritual and no ritual or doctrine is going to get you there. The truth is that Christ has already provided the bridge between you and Him. The old school word for it is “reconciliation” but it just basically means that anything that separated us from Christ is no more. We can have the relationship with Him already when we stop trying to manipulate Him through knowledge and pattern. His Spirit is already in our hearts and when we follow it (and not the revelatory book that showed you this reality) we find that Christ was really there the whole time and we just couldn’t see Him past all the religious garbage.

Written by freeinchrist

May 7, 2010 at 8:00 am

From The Archives: The Scriptures and Creation

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[This post is from November 22, 2009.  This is where I explain part of my view on Genesis 1 and this really hasn’t changed.  I think my explanation is far better than the traditional view.]

I was taught that the entire universe was created in six 24 hour days about 6,000-10,000 years ago. While this may be true, the Scriptures do not say this. We must go through the first chapter in Genesis in detail to arrive at what the Scriptures are trying to show us.

“in the beginning” – I was always taught that this referred to the beginning of time but the Scriptures do not say this. It is assumed. It is more likely that this indicates the beginning of the story because time is nowhere indicated as starting at this point. Also, time only exists if the earth exists or light exists to measure it. It is earthly and human. Time is indicated by a measurement of the movement of the earth in it’s orbit and how it turns on its axis or on the speed of light (outside of the earth). Something must exist before it can be measured. This is to say that the beginning must refer to the beginning of the story and we will see that there may have been pre-existing material.

“created” – This does not mean “made from nothing” it just means made or formed. Their could have been pre-existing material or it could have been from nothing. We don’t know.

“heavens and the earth” – This does not mean “the universe and the planet Earth” it means “the sky and the land”. The ancient people did not know that the earth was a planet. They believed in what is called the geocentric model of the universe. They believed that the Earth was flat and all of the stars and other heavenly objects were connected to the sky (the heavens). They did not know that our planet was just one of many. The word translated “earth” in Genesis most often means “dirt” or “land” and cannot refer to a planet in a solar system (because they didn’t know this existed).

At this point, all the Scriptures have told us is that “in the beginning of the story God made the sky and the land”. Let’s go on.

“the earth was” – The earth cannot be described if it didn’t exist as in the traditional view. The meaning here is “the land was” meaning that the land did exist before the 1st day in the creation sequence.

“formless and void” – This can be tricky because many read “formless” and say “it couldn’t exist because it had no form” but we must use logic and conclude that nothing can be described that truly has no form (unless it is spiritual which seems unlikely here). We must realize that formless indicates that the land was in such disarray as to not have any usable form. No places for humans to dwell. If you imagine a molten area that no human could ever live in, you probably have the right picture. The Scriptures tell us also that the place was empty. This could either indicate that it was once full or that it never was. The Scriptures do not say.

“over the waters” – This also indicates that their was water here before the 1st day in the creation sequence. This is contrary to the traditional position.

The next part of Scripture is called “the creation hymn” because it is in an ancient form of Hebrew poetry. The part before this is not in poetry. This is why it is italicized in most modern Bibles. The fact that this is poetry tells us something about it: that it shouldn’t be read as straight history. It is also a very specific type of poetry. It is called a 7-day creation myth. These were common in the ancient world and many different cultures had them. The Jews would have been familiar with these coming out of the Egyptian culture. The point here isn’t that God created the world for people in 6 days but that He created it. The 7 days are not to be taken literally but act as a literary device like verses in a song. The days just separate literary points. The original audience of this book would not have thought that these were literal days.

“let there be light” – We shouldn’t think that God is creating light at this point but we should read it as “let there be light on the land”. There must have been light before the reconfiguration of the Earth because other celestial objects give it off. It is likely that the planet Earth has some light at this point but that it is simply too dark to support human life. Here, God directs that light to the Earth in order to provide the right balance between day and night.

“evening and morning” – It is the ancient Jewish way to count the evening as before the morning in a day. When the sun went down, they considered the day over and the next one to have begun. All Jewish festivals also start at sundown (not like our current way of thinking that considers morning to be the start of the day)

“sky” – We shouldn’t think that God made the sky in verse 1 and here. That doesn’t make sense. It is more accurate to say that He separated the water above (the atmosphere) from the water below (the oceans). The planet Earth had a sky above the land before this but it did not have the right mixture to support human life. God is making the sky exactly right and the water exactly right but we know that they both existed before in verses 1 and 2.

“let dry ground appear” – The word “appear” is very important. God is not making the ground, He is making it appear. This means that He was saying where there should be water and where their should be land. Verse 2 says the land was “formless” so God is giving it the correct form. The land would come up from the water where God wanted it (showing that it already existed).

“lights in the sky” – To the ancient people, the lights (sun, moon, and stars) were connected to the sky. We know today that this is not true. Their view is called the geocentric view and ours the heliocentric view. It is still true (and this is the only thing the text actually says) that God created all of these things for us to use for the measurement of time. Only in the traditional view would anyone be confused about light being made in Day 1 and the lights being made here. There was already light in Day 1 but it wasn’t on the Earth as it should have been. There we already lights in the sky at this point but were not set for the way we would measure time until this point.

“the seventh day” – The days do not have to be literal in order for God to make the seventh day (the Sabbath) a holy day for His people. God chose to teach them the story of creation this way so it makes sense that He would also remind them of the creation in the same way. The Sabbath laws have much to do with honoring the creation. By having the seventh day, the seventh year, and having a Jubilee year the year after the 49th year as Sabbaths, they are honoring the creation (people and everything else) by letting it rest. The seven days do not have to be literal for this to be the way that God wanted to teach the people.

Written by freeinchrist

May 5, 2010 at 8:00 am

From The Archives: Should We Say “Amen” To Close A Prayer?

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[This post is from April 16, 2009.  It may seem insignificant that we would close a prayer with the word “amen”, but maybe not]

I have been off of the practice of saying the “Amen” at the end of my prayers for some time now and I think it helps me enormously.  “Amen” originally meant “YES!” or “I Agree” but today, for many of us, it has come to mean “goodbye”.  It has become a way for us to end conversations with God.

I realized that I didn’t want to end my conversation or my fellowship with God.  I have mentioned previously that I see prayer more as fellowship with God than talking to God and this is part of it.  When I say “Amen” I immediatly lose the awareness of His prescence.  It’s almost like God has left because my spirit doesn’t feel Him anymore.  I don’t want this to happen, so I don’t say “Amen” to close a prayer.

I will admit that I still say “Amen” on the rare occasion that I offer a public prayer.  If I didn’t, people wouldn’t know when the prayer was over.  This is futher proof, though, that in today’s world “Amen” means “goodbye”.  We are saying “goodbye” to God and that the prayer is over.  This is not what “Amen” is supposed to mean.

I don’t know if the traditon of saying “Amen” will ever change in regards to public prayers (I honestly can’t think of a better way of ending one) but I hope that we will allow our personal prayers to be a continual reminder of God’s prescence in our lives.

Written by freeinchrist

May 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

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From The Archives: Sabbath, My Favorite Commandment

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[This post is from June 14,2009 and it is about how we need to incorporate rest into our daily lives.  This is one of my favorite posts.]

To start (and if you’ve read this blog at all you will know this), I don’t believe that we have to keep the Law of Moses as Christians today but there is one law that I have found myself in the habit of keeping:  Sabbath.

The only thing that I was taught growing up about Sabbath was that we didn’t keep it anymore but there is really so much more.  We really need to be teaching Christians about Sabbath, we need it.  In the crazy, run-around world that is American culture, we need to take a break and I have found myself doing this about once a week (usually Thursday though since I work on Saturday…i didn’t even write this post on my Sabbath).

We shouldn’t be forcing people to do it or guilting them into it (which is really two sides of the same coin) but we really should be encouraging it.  I know some people see Sunday as a kind of Christian Sabbath but it doesn’t really work as one (and its incorrect theology).  God didn’t design the Sabbath as a day of “worship” but as a day of rest.  I don’t do anything on this day besides things that I actually want to do.  I don’t do any shopping and I don’t go to the post-office. I don’t visit relatives or keep any meetings.  I don’t pay bills or do any housework.  I let the world stay as it is for one day and really this is the Spiritual lesson of Sabbath:  God can run the world just fine on His own.

Although I believe that God wants me to love Him and others as much as I possibly can (and that He has a plan/mission for my life), Sabbath reminds me that it isn’t my job to save the world.  I can’t fix everything.  I can’t control others (I have enough trouble controlling myself). I must let some things be.  I can take a deep breath and realize that the world is in God’s hands.  I should stop worrying and start trusting.  God’s plan will work out.  God’s way will win.

But my first rule of Sabbath: NO CHURCH!!!!  Trust me, its work.  God didn’t put “church” into the Sabbath; the Jews did. They decided that they should go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath but God never said so.  Going to church is such a laborous task for me that I couldn’t even try to convince myself (or God) that it wasn’t work.  Even in the best churches, mutual edification, bearing one another’s burdens, participating in the mission of God, are all hard work.  Actually, the best churches are the ones that do this hard work.

I just wanted to encourage you today to take a break and rest.  It is one of God’s gifts to us.  We should use it.

One of God’s greatest gifts has basically been ignored by a bunch of legalists so that they don’t look like they are keeping a law.  Silly, isn’t it.

Written by freeinchrist

April 29, 2010 at 8:00 am