Signposts of Faith for When the Doubts Come

Do you have faith?  Do you ever have doubts?  How do you combine the two?  How does that work?  Does faith depend on evidence or does it go beyond the evidence?

Tough questions…especially when going through times where the evidence for faith is on thin side.  I think the Bible does offer some insight into these questions and one of the ways that it deals with this is by pointing to “Signposts” in the past…places where God showed up in clear way and made a difference that only He can.

John writes his Gospel with the need for evidence (or “signposts” if you will) assumed as part of what is needed in order to believe.  In fact, he comes up with seven lines of evidence

  1. Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11

  1. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54

  2. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18

  3. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14

  4. Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24

  5. Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7

  6. Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

This idea that “signposts” are sometimes needed to get you through the tough times is by no means a foreign idea to the Bible…one of the most common commands in the Old Testament is “Remember…”  Probably because we seem to be wired to forget the past in the midst of the turmoil of the present or the fear of the future.

But it is in the present where we most need to remember…regardless of the circumstances of the moment…that God has acted in the past and He will continue to do so.  In John 11, Mary and Martha firmly trust in Jesus and know in their hearts that He can make a difference if he comes in time.  What they don’t believe, is that Jesus could make a difference even if he comes too late (by their reckoning).  Their thinking is parallel in our lives…we believe that God can make a difference in our own lives….if we get that job that we want….that house over there….that promotion…or perhaps miraculously healed from our illness, but like Mary and Martha…we have a hard time seeing that God might have something better planned and it is those moments where God isn’t doing what we want that we need to remember His faithfulness in the past and trust Him in the present.

We also need to be encouraged by how Jesus treats those he encounters with doubts.  He doesn’t lecture Martha or Mary and when his own cousin sends messengers about his doubts (Matthew 11) Jesus responds with love and more signposts.

In the next post we’ll ask the question, “What’s it like when we think things are going great or horrible and God thinks the exact opposite?”  Sometimes we think a signpost is pointing one way, but really it is going another and it is only when we see what God is really doing that we realize that.

 

The Seven Deadly Sins

We have been going through the “Deadly Sins” at NFC.  They are deadly…not because they are the worst sins that could be committed.  They most certainly aren’t…although murder and adultery would be hard to commit without first committing anger and lust.  But they are deadly because they are rooted to some of our most basic and legitimate needs.  

  • Envy:  Feeling bitter when others have it better

  • Vainglory:  Image is everything

  • Sloth:  Resistance to the demands of love

  • Greed:  I want it all

  • Anger:  Holy emotion or hellish passion?

  • Gluttony:  Feeding your face and starving your heart

  • Lust:  Smoke, Fire, and Ashes

 

It would be hard not to find two or three of those in ourselves…and if we are more honest and understood ourselves better and these sins better…I would hazard a hunch that we all would find traces of each of these in us.  Not that we are necessarily defined by them…but that we commit them from time to time.

Not that it is fun, but there is value in holding up a mirror to your soul and asking yourself just how much are you defined by one of these.  For instance:

  • Envy

    • Do you feel offended at the talents, successes or good fortune of others.

    • Do you engage in backbiting or slander?

  • Vainglory:  Image is everything

    • Are you seeking to be admired for the wrong things?

    • Are you seeking to be admired in the wrong way or excessively?

  • Sloth:  Resistance to the demands of love

    • Do you resist the effort of doing day after day whatever it takes to keep the bonds of love strong?  Whether or not you feel like it?

  • Greed:  I want it all

    • Are you tempted to think that more of something will give you the satisfaction you crave?

    • Do you constantly upgrade?

  • Anger:  Holy emotion or hellish passion?

    • How often do you get angry?

    • Are you angry about the right things in the right way?

    • Do you deal with your anger before the day ends or do you let it smolder?

  • Gluttony:  Feeding your face and starving your heart

    • How dominated are you by the desire for the pleasure that food or drink brings you?

    • Are you the master or slave to a particular food or drink?

    • Are you trying to feed a spiritual, social, or emotional hunger with physical food?

  • Lust:  Smoke, Fire, and Ashes
    • Are you looking with the purpose of lusting?

 

And in all of these…the deeper question always concerns who you are, not what you did do or can do.  But, what would you do if you could?

For a great resource on this topic check out:  http://www.amazon.com/Glittering-Vices-Seven-Deadly-Remedies/dp/1587432323

Arthur C. Clark, Science Fiction, Aliens, and Logos

I remember reading Arthur C. Clark back in my high school days, “Rendezvous with Rama.” and “Childhood’s End” and of course where most people first heard about him, “2001:  A Space Odyssey.”

This afternoon, I was browsing my news feed in Google Currents and saw an old interview with Arthur C. Clark.  Some of the interview was interesting, just from a personal perspective…getting to know a little bit more about how someone I have read thinks.  But it was the end of the interview that caught my attention.  Here is what he said:

Contact with extraterrestrials would be the turning point in history, to discover that we’re no longer alone.  I can’t imagine anything more important.

I agree.  The difference between he and I (at least at the time of the interview) is that I believe we have already been contacted by an extraterrestrial intelligence and like him, I believe that he really has made a difference.

One of the dangers that Clark mentioned about meeting up with aliens, is that they would be so far ahead of us that we would become couch potatoes in response.  It would have been easy for God to have made us into couch potatoes…He could have handed us the Encyclopedia Britannica 3001 edition, back in 4000 BC.  He could have explained germ theory, nutrition, and how to kill cancer cells.  He also could have given us a systematic theology text.

Strangely, He didn’t take any of those options…perhaps precisely to avoid the danger that Clark foresaw.  Instead, we have a Bible…a book with at least 1500 years of editorial processing (not exactly an instant data dump)…and in truth, a work in which He is “only” co-author.

But, of course, beyond God’s word…we actually had God’s Word…the Logos…Jesus, himself, walked amongst us as one of us.  Because, of course, if he had come in all of his glory that would have been a bit too much intimidating.  And Jesus really didn’t want to do that…he wanted disciples…not couch potatoes.

Of course, that begs the question….does the church in America produce more disciples or couch potatoes. 

Musings on Matthew from the Ancients

Chrysostom, who lived in the fourth century, was a highly respected preacher in his day…here are some of his thoughts on Matthew 14 (which we will be looking at at NFC this Sunday).

The disciples are tossed on the waves again. They are in a storm, fully as bad as the previous one. Gently and by degrees he excites and urges the disciples on toward greater responsiveness, even to the point of bearing all things nobly. Whereas in the previous storm they had him with them in the ship, now they were alone by themselves. Even when he was asleep in the boat in the previous situation, he was ready to give them relief from danger. But then he was present to them.


Now he is leading them into a greater degree of challenge. Now he is not even present to them. He has departed. In midsea he permits a storm to arise. This was all for their training, that they might not look for some easy hope of preservation from any earthly source. He then allows them to be tossed by the storm all night! This had the purpose of awakening their stony hearts in a most complete way. This is how Jesus dealt with the nature of their fear, which the rough weather and the timing had produced. He cast them directly into a situation in which they would have a greater longing for him and a continual remembrance of him.

When was the last time you were “cast into a storm”?  What was your response?

Sometimes We Fall Down

Matthew 4:1-11 gives a summary of three temptations that Jesus faced.  The first one, turning stones to bread, is kind of an obvious one after having fasted for 40 days.  The interesting thing about this temptation is that it doesn’t come across as anything inherently sinful.  After all, there would come a time when Jesus would change water into wine “Welch’s Grape Juice” and multiply a few loaves and fish into enough food to feed thousands.

I have to admit, I’ve never personally been tempted to turn stone into bread…though I won’t comment on the results of the temptations to use my power or resources for personal satisfaction.

In truth, the account of the temptations that Jesus faced isn’t unique because of the kind of temptations that are recorded…its unique because of Jesus’ response to them.  He didn’t fall…he didn’t give in…not once!

We do.  We all do.  Not always, not every time.  But all of us, some of the time…fall.

So what is the point of Matthew 4:1-11?

For one thing…it lets us know that Jesus was human…he was tempted too.  For another, despite what it feels like, it also lets us know that we don’t have to give into temptation.  As tempting as it can be sometimes to just give in.

But what about when we do fall…what about when we give in?  What then?  For that, we need to go somewhere else…ultimately to the cross…something implied in the passage, but not mentioned explicitly.  But we can also go back to an Old Testament story.

To a king, who in the midst of a midlife crisis, did a terrible thing…he took another man’s wife and then he took the man’s life.  II Samuel 11-12 contain the story…a story of incredible sin, thoughtlessness, selfishness, abuse of power….and perhaps even more incredibly….of forgiveness.  Not a wishy-washy forgiveness with no judgment and no consequences…but an incredible forgiveness even with some horrible consequences.

So thank God…Jesus didn’t fall…but also thank God…even when we fall, we can get back up again…grabbing onto the cross as we do so. 

Sin is always a really, really bad idea…but the worst thing you can do isn’t falling into temptation, but rather not getting back up again 

 

Cape Town Commitment Part 10

This commitment really needs to be read in light of Christopher Wright’s magnificent tome “The Mission of God”…but one can get a glimpse of the comprehensiveness of God’s mission by the statement that ‘The salvation we proclaim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities.”  In summary…God’s mission is to right every wrong…and that is truly comprehensive.

 

10. We love the mission of God

We are committed to world mission, because it is central to our understanding of God, the Bible, the Church, human history and the ultimate future. The whole Bible reveals the mission of God to bring all things in heaven and earth into unity under Christ, reconciling them through the blood of his cross. In fulfilling his mission, God will transform the creation broken by sin and evil into the new creation in which there is no more sin or curse. God will fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all nations on the earth, through the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, the seed of Abraham. God will transform the fractured world of nations that are scattered under the judgment of God into the new humanity that will be redeemed by the blood of Christ from every tribe, nation, people and language, and will be gathered to worship our God and Savior. God will destroy the reign of death, corruption and violence when Christ returns to establish his eternal reign of life, justice and peace. Then God, Immanuel, will dwell with us, and the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever.[53]

A)    Our participation in God’s mission. God calls his people to share his mission. The Church from all nations stands in continuity through the Messiah Jesus with God’s people in the Old Testament. With them we have been called through Abraham and commissioned to be a blessing and a light to the nations. With them, we are to be shaped and taught through the law and the prophets to be a community of holiness, compassion and justice in a world of sin and suffering. We have been redeemed through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to what God has done in Christ. The Church exists to worship and glorify God for all eternity and to participate in the transforming mission of God within history. Our mission is wholly derived from God’s mission, addresses the whole of God’s creation, and is grounded at its centre in the redeeming victory of the cross. This is the people to whom we belong, whose faith we confess and whose mission we share.

B)    The integrity of our mission. The source of all our mission is what God has done in Christ for the redemption of the whole world, as revealed in the Bible. Our evangelistic task is to make that good news known to all nations. The context of all our mission is the world in which we live, the world of sin, suffering, injustice, and creational disorder, into which God sends us to love and serve for Christ’s sake. All our mission must therefore reflect the integration of evangelism and committed engagement in the world, both being ordered and driven by the whole biblical revelation of the gospel of God.
‘Evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God…The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his Church and responsible service in the world… We affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and humankind, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ…The salvation we proclaim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.’[54]
‘Integral mission is the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world, we betray the Word of God which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the Word of God, we have nothing to bring to the world.’[55]

We commit ourselves to the integral and dynamic exercise of all dimensions of mission to which God calls his Church.

  • God commands us to make known to all nations the truth of God’s revelation and the gospel of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, calling all people to repentance, faith, baptism and obedient discipleship.
  • God commands us to reflect his own character through compassionate care for the needy, and to demonstrate the values and the power of the kingdom of God in striving for justice and peace and in caring for God’s creation.

In response to God’s boundless love for us in Christ, and out of our overflowing love for him, we rededicate ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, fully to obey all that God commands, with self-denying humility, joy and courage. We renew this covenant with the Lord – the Lord we love because he first loved us.

CTC 9 We Love the People of God

“Love is a verb” and especially in this category is not always an easy one…on the one hand there is so much to love about the Church…and on the other hand, there is so much that irritates.  Perhaps that is why it was commanded…God only commands those things that He knows does not come naturally.  And it is in the doing of the “unnatural” that we truly show ourselves to be followers of Christ and not simply being like everyone else.  What else do you think “the love for the people of God” calls for?  I think I would add “self-sacrifice.”
 
9. We love the people of God

The people of God are those from all ages and all nations whom God in Christ has loved, chosen, called, saved and sanctified as a people for his own possession, to share in the glory of Christ as citizens of the new creation. As those, then, whom God has loved from eternity to eternity and throughout all our turbulent and rebellious history, we are commanded to love one another. For ‘since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,’ and thereby ‘be imitators of God…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.’ Love for one another in the family of God is not merely a desirable option but an inescapable command. Such love is the first evidence of obedience to the gospel, the necessary expression of our submission to Christ’s Lordship, and a potent engine of world mission. [49]

A)    Love calls for unity. Jesus’ command that his disciples should love one another is linked to his prayer that they should be one. Both the command and the prayer are missional  -  ‘that the world may know you are my disciples’, and that ‘the world may know that you [the Father] sent me’.[50] A most powerfully convincing mark of the truth of the gospel is when Christian believers are united in love across the barriers of the world’s inveterate divisions – barriers of race, color, gender, social class, economic privilege or political alignment. However, few things so destroy our testimony as when Christians mirror and amplify the very same divisions among themselves. We urgently seek a new global partnership within the body of Christ across all continents, rooted in profound mutual love, mutual submission, and dramatic economic sharing without paternalism or unhealthy dependency. And we seek this not only as a demonstration of our unity in the gospel, but also for the sake of the name of Christ and the mission of God in all the world.

B)    Love calls for honesty. Love speaks truth with grace. No one loved God’s people more than the prophets of Israel and Jesus himself. Yet no one confronted them more honestly with the truth of their failure, idolatry and rebellion against their covenant Lord. And in doing so, they called God’s people to repent, so that they could be forgiven and restored to the service of God’s mission. The same voice of prophetic love must be heard today, for the same reason. Our love for the Church of God aches with grief over the ugliness among us that so disfigures the face of our dear Lord Jesus Christ and hides his beauty from the world – the world that so desperately needs to be drawn to him.

C)    Love calls for solidarity. Loving one another includes especially caring for those who are persecuted and in prison for their faith and witness. If one part of the body suffers, all parts suffer with it. We are all, like John, ‘companions in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus’.[51] We commit ourselves to share in the suffering of members of the body of Christ throughout the world, through information, prayer, advocacy, and other means of support. We see such sharing, however, not merely as an exercise of pity, but longing also to learn what the suffering Church can teach and give to those parts of Christ’s body that are not suffering in the same way. We are warned that the Church that feels itself at ease in its wealth and self-sufficiency may, like Laodicea, be the Church that Jesus sees as the most blind to its own poverty, and from which he himself feels a stranger outside the door.[52]

Jesus calls all his disciples together to be one family among the nations, a reconciled fellowship in which all sinful barriers are broken down through his reconciling grace. This Church is a community of grace, obedience and love in the communion of the Holy Spirit, in which the glorious attributes of God and gracious characteristics of Christ are reflected and God’s multi-colored wisdom is displayed. As the most vivid present expression of the kingdom of God, the Church is the community of the reconciled who no longer live for themselves, but for the Savior who loved them and gave himself for them.

Cape Town Commitment 8

This really is an awesome summary of the Gospel!  Please read it carefully.

8. We love the gospel of God

As disciples of Jesus, we are gospel people. The core of our identity is our passion for the biblical good news of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ. We are united by our experience of the grace of God in the gospel and by our motivation to make that gospel of grace known to the ends of the earth by every possible means.

A)    We love the good news in a world of bad news. The gospel addresses the dire effects of human sin, failure and need. Human beings rebelled against God, rejected God’s authority and disobeyed God’s Word. In this sinful state, we are alienated from God, from one another and from the created order. Sin deserves God’s condemnation. Those who refuse to repent and ‘do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will be punished with eternal destruction and shut out from the presence of God.’  The effects of sin and the power of evil have corrupted every dimension of human personhood (spiritual, physical, intellectual and relational). They have permeated cultural, economic, social, political and religious life through all cultures and all generations of history. They have caused incalculable misery to the human race and damage to God’s creation. Against this bleak background, the biblical gospel is indeed very good news.

B)   We love the story the gospel tells. The gospel announces as good news the historical events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. As the son of David, the promised Messiah King, Jesus is the one through whom alone God established his kingdom and acted for the salvation of the world, enabling all nations on earth to be blessed, as he promised Abraham. Paul defines the gospel in stating that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.’ The gospel declares that, on the cross of Christ, God took upon himself, in the person of his Son and in our place, the judgment our sin deserves. In the same great saving act, completed, vindicated and declared through the resurrection, God won the decisive victory over Satan, death and all evil powers, liberated us from their power and fear, and ensured their eventual destruction. God accomplished the reconciliation of believers with himself and with one another across all boundaries and enmities. God also accomplished his purpose of the ultimate reconciliation of all creation, and in the bodily resurrection of Jesus has given us the first fruits of the new creation. ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’  How we love the gospel story!

C)   We love the assurance the gospel brings. Solely through trusting in Christ alone, we are united with Christ through the Holy Spirit and are counted righteous in Christ before God. Being justified by faith we have peace with God and no longer face condemnation. We receive the forgiveness of our sins. We are born again into a living hope by sharing Christ’s risen life. We are adopted as fellow heirs with Christ. We become citizens of God’s covenant people, members of God’s family and the place of God’s dwelling. So by trusting in Christ, we have full assurance of salvation and eternal life, for our salvation ultimately depends, not on ourselves, but on the work of Christ and the promise of God. ‘Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ How we love the gospel’s promise!

D)    We love the transformation the gospel produces. The gospel is God’s life-transforming power at work in the world. ‘It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.’ Faith alone is the means by which the blessings and assurance of the gospel are received. Saving faith however never remains alone, but necessarily shows itself in obedience. Christian obedience is ‘faith expressing itself through love.’  We are not saved by good works, but having been saved by grace alone we are ‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works.’ ‘Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ Paul saw the ethical transformation that the gospel produces as the work of God’s grace – grace which achieved our salvation at Christ’s first coming, and grace that teaches us to live ethically in the light of his second coming. For Paul, ‘obeying the gospel’ meant both trusting in grace, and then being taught by grace. Paul’s missional goal was to bring about ‘the obedience of faith’ among all nations. This strongly covenantal language recalls Abraham. Abraham believed God’s promise, which was credited to him as righteousness, and then obeyed God’s command in demonstration of his faith. ‘By faith Abraham…obeyed.’ Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are the first acts of obedience the gospel calls for; ongoing obedience to God’s commands is the way of life that gospel faith enables, through the sanctifying Holy Spirit. Obedience is thus the living proof of saving faith and the living fruit of it. Obedience is also the test of our love for Jesus. ‘Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.’   ‘We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.’  How we love the gospel’s power!

We Love God’s World

The Cape Town Commitment continues its focus on love.  In this case, loving God’s World…the one that He created, the one filled with people, nations, and cultures.  This is one area that shows how the Cape Town Commitment is distinctive from other doctrinal statements…very few, if any, consider this area a significant point…and yet, that is ironic when it is God’s own love for the world that caused Him to send His Son.

We love God’s world

We share God’s passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God’s providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

A)   We love the world of God’s creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.
The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is a thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.
Such love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfillment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people.

B)   We love the world of nations and cultures. ‘From one man, God made all nations of humanity, to live on the whole face of the earth.’ Ethnic diversity is the gift of God in creation and will be preserved in the new creation, when it will be liberated from our fallen divisions and rivalry. Our love for all peoples reflects God’s promise to bless all nations on earth and God’s mission to create for himself a people drawn from every tribe, language, nation and people. We must love all that God has chosen to bless, which includes all cultures. Historically, Christian mission, though flawed by destructive failures, has been instrumental in protecting and preserving indigenous cultures and their languages. Godly love, however, also includes critical discernment, for all cultures show not only positive evidence of the image of God in human lives, but also the negative fingerprints of Satan and sin. We long to see the gospel embodied and embedded in all cultures, redeeming them from within so that they may display the glory of God and the radiant fullness of Christ. We look forward to the wealth, glory and splendor of all cultures being brought into the city of God – redeemed and purged of all sin, enriching the new creation.
Such love for all peoples demands that we reject the evils of racism and ethnocentrism, and treat every ethnic and cultural group with dignity and respect, on the grounds of their value to God in creation and redemption.
Such love also demands that we seek to make the gospel known among every people and culture everywhere. No nation, Jew or Gentile, is exempt from the scope of the great commission. Evangelism is the outflow of hearts that are filled with the love of God for those who do not yet know him. We confess with shame that there are still very many peoples in the world who have never yet heard the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We renew the commitment that has inspired The Lausanne Movement from its beginning, to use every means possible to reach all peoples with the gospel.

C)   We love the world’s poor and suffering. The Bible tells us that the Lord is loving toward all he has made, upholds the cause of the oppressed, loves the foreigner, feeds the hungry, sustains the fatherless and widow. The Bible also shows that God wills to do these things through human beings committed to such action. God holds responsible especially those who are appointed to political or judicial leadership in society, but all God’s people are commanded – by the law and prophets, Psalms and Wisdom, Jesus and Paul, James and John – to reflect the love and justice of God in practical love and justice for the needy.
Such love for the poor demands that we not only love mercy and deeds of compassion, but also that we do justice through exposing and opposing all that oppresses and exploits the poor. ‘We must not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist.’ We confess with shame that on this matter we fail to share God’s passion, fail to embody God’s love, fail to reflect God’s character and fail to do God’s will. We give ourselves afresh to the promotion of justice, including solidarity and advocacy on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed. We recognize such struggle against evil as a dimension of spiritual warfare that can only be waged through the victory of the cross and resurrection, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and with constant prayer.

D)   We love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus called his disciples to obey this commandment as the second greatest in the law, but then he radically deepened the demand (from the same chapter), ‘love the foreigner as yourself’ into ‘love your enemies’.
Such love for our neighbors demands that we respond to all people out of the heart of the gospel, in obedience to Christ’s command and following Christ’s example. This love for our neighbors embraces people of other faiths, and extends to those who hate us, slander and persecute us, and even kill us. Jesus taught us to respond to lies with truth, to those doing evil with acts of kindness, mercy and forgiveness, to violence and murder against his disciples with self-sacrifice, in order to draw people to him and to break the chain of evil. We emphatically reject the way of violence in the spread of the gospel, and renounce the temptation to retaliate with revenge against those who do us wrong. Such disobedience is incompatible with the example and teaching of Christ and the New Testament.  At the same time, our loving duty towards our suffering neighbors requires us to seek justice on their behalf through proper appeal to legal and state authorities who function as God’s servants in punishing wrongdoers.

E)   The world we do not love. The world of God’s good creation has become the world of human and satanic rebellion against God. We are commanded not to love that world of sinful desire, greed, and human pride. We confess with sorrow that exactly those marks of worldliness so often disfigure our Christian presence and deny our gospel witness.

We commit ourselves afresh not to flirt with the fallen world and its transient passions, but to love the whole world as God loves it. So we love the world in holy longing for the redemption and renewal of all creation and all cultures in Christ, the ingathering of God’s people from all nations to the ends of the earth, and the ending of all destruction, poverty, and enmity.

Cape Town Confession on God’s Word

I love the confession’s focus here.  Especially the quote “We love the Bible as a bride loves her husband’s letters, not for the paper they are, but for the person who speaks through them.”  But also its focus on living Biblical truth…not just loving it.

6. We love God’s Word

We love God’s Word in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, echoing the joyful delight of the Psalmist in the Torah, ‘I love your commands more than gold… Oh how I love your law.’ We receive the whole Bible as the Word of God, inspired by God’s Spirit, spoken and written through human authors. We submit to it as supremely and uniquely authoritative, governing our belief and our behavior. We testify to the power of God’s Word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. We affirm that the Bible is the final written word of God, not surpassed by any further revelation, but we also rejoice that the Holy Spirit illumines the minds of God’s people so that the Bible continues to speak God’s truth in fresh ways to people in every culture.

A)    The Person the Bible reveals. We love the Bible as a bride loves her husband’s letters, not for the paper they are, but for the person who speaks through them. The Bible gives us God’s own revelation of his identity, character, purposes and actions. It is the primary witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. In reading it, we encounter him through his Spirit with great joy. Our love for the Bible is an expression of our love for God.

B)    The story the Bible tells. The Bible tells the universal story of creation, fall, redemption in history, and new creation. This overarching narrative provides our coherent biblical worldview and shapes our theology. At the center of this story are the climactic saving events of the cross and resurrection of Christ which constitute the heart of the gospel. It is this story (in the Old and New Testaments) that tells us who we are, what we are here for, and where we are going. This story of God’s mission defines our identity, drives our mission, and assures us the ending is in God’s hands. This story must shape the memory and hope of God’s people and govern the content of their evangelistic witness, as it is passed on from generation to generation. We must make the Bible known by all means possible, for its message is for all people on earth. We recommit ourselves, therefore, to the ongoing task of translating, disseminating and teaching the scriptures in every culture and language, including those that are predominantly oral or non-literary.

C)    The truth the Bible teaches. The whole Bible teaches us the whole counsel of God, the truth that God intends us to know. We submit to it as true and trustworthy in all it affirms, for it is the Word of the God who cannot lie and will not fail. It is clear and sufficient in revealing the way of salvation. It is the foundation for exploring and understanding all dimensions of God’s truth.
We live however, in a world full of lies and rejection of the truth. Many cultures display a dominant relativism that denies that any absolute truth exists or can be known. If we love the Bible, then we must rise to the defense of its truth claims. We must find fresh ways to articulate biblical authority in all cultures. We commit ourselves again to strive to defend the truth of God’s revelation as part of our labor of love for God’s Word.

D)    The life the Bible requires. ‘The Word is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.’ Jesus and James call us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. The Bible portrays a quality of life that should mark the believer and the community of believers. From Abraham, through Moses, the Psalmists, prophets and wisdom of Israel, and from Jesus and the apostles, we learn that such a biblical lifestyle includes justice, compassion, humility, integrity, truthfulness, sexual chastity, generosity, kindness, self-denial, hospitality, peacemaking, non-retaliation, doing good, forgiveness, joy, contentment and love  – all combined in lives of worship, praise and faithfulness to God.

We confess that we easily claim to love the Bible without loving the life it teaches – the life of costly practical obedience to God through Christ. Yet ‘nothing commends the gospel more eloquently than a transformed life, and nothing brings it into disrepute so much as personal inconsistency. We are charged to behave in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ and even to ‘adorn’ it, enhancing its beauty by holy lives.’  For the sake of the gospel of Christ, therefore, we recommit ourselves to prove our love for God’s Word by believing and obeying it. There is no biblical mission without biblical living.

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