jerusalem model

Is the Work Completed or Still in Progress?

When I was in high school I had a part time job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. The job wasn’t bad, but it was tiring, and by the time I got off, I would be sore all over, aching, and smelling like an odd mix of soap and oily food residue. Some nights were very busy, some nights were slow, but every night that I worked, I stood the entire time.

Anyone who does dishes or laundry knows this very important fact: the job is never done. No matter how efficient you are with washing dishes, as long as you allow people to eat at your house, dishes will continue to get dirty. You can be a ninja with the family laundry—washing clothes like there’s no tomorrow but as long as you allow people to wear clothes at your house, laundry will continue to pile up.

The Levitical priests in the Old Testament also understood this concept; they had a job which was never done. Their job was to show up at the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, every day, accept the offerings of the people, perform the sacrifices, burn the incense, and petition God on behalf of the nation. Their singular focus was to intercede between the nation of Israel and God. And their job was never done. People continued to sin. Atonement continued to be made.

Hebrews 10:11 gives us a picture of this continual work: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”

But look at the next verse, “But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

Did you catch that? He sat down.

This concept gets lost if you don’t understand that the priests never sat down. There were no chairs in the Tabernacle because the work was never done. It’s significant that when Jesus offers a sacrifice on our behalf, it is the final sacrifice. His sacrifice was enough to atone for every sin ever committed or ever to be committed.

So what does that mean for us? If the work is completed, then what do we do? Do we do anything? Can we do anything?

Yes and no.

No, we can’t do anything to add to the work Jesus did. Our sin is taken care of. The only part we play in salvation is to not reject the free gift of God.

But, yes, we are still expected to act on our faith. James tells us that “faith without works is useless” (James 2:20). He makes a case that works of righteousness flow out of our faith. Abraham and Rahab were considered righteous for their deeds. They didn’t do works to make themselves righteous. Their works that flowed out of their faith. James says your faith can’t be genuine if it doesn’t move you to help in practical ways when people are in need.

Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). What does that mean? Earn your own salvation? Not at all. The next verse clearly states that “it is God who works in you.” God does the work in our lives, indeed he has done the work. But we are still in the process of holy living. It means I surrender my struggle to God, but I’m still responsible to stay away from places where I know I will be tempted. It means God gives me the ability to resist temptation, but I still have to choose to resist it.

If we think of the Christian life as a checklist we will fall into one of two errors: either we will continue adding things to our to-do list, making sure we’re following enough rules to keep out of trouble, or we will think that because Jesus did the work, there’s nothing left to do except coast along through the rest of this life.

But the life of faith is not a checklist. It’s not a quota of good deeds or a passing of a certain entry point. The life of faith is a relationship with God. Like any relationship, it requires continual cultivation. Jesus has already done everything necessary for our salvation. But we are still living out life in a process of becoming more like Christ. We are still being shaped into his image, and we are still living out this faith in obedience.

So what is it? Work completed or work in progress? What is our responsibility in salvation? What do you think?

books

What Theology Is To Me

booksI have no children, and to tell you the truth, I am regularly grateful for that.  Although I was born with no biological clock, I do still ask myself often, what kind of mother would I be?

When it comes to faith, one thing I know for sure, I would want to be a mother that taught my children critical thinking and reason.  If they were to grow up and leave the faith, I would want them to have a good reason; not because of rebellion or boredom.  If someone were to leave the faith, I would hope it was for a good, solid and thorough educative thought.  And you may say, I shouldn’t accept someone’s choice to leave the faith; however, God gave us free will and I respect that (which is another lost art in The Church world, but that’s a different topic for another time).

Instead of critical thinking and reasoning in The Church, I often observe what I call, Spoon-Fed Pop Culture Theology.  This type of theology is taken at face value without any self-education of Scripture.  It’s the sort of belief people have when they think there were 3 wisemen because that’s what every nativity they have ever seen depicts.  It’s the type of theology that allows certain questions to be praised and others to be criticized.  For example, we commend a person who asks “Why did God rest on the 7th day when He created the Heavens and the Earth?” but when someone asks, “Is it possible for evolution to be real?” we chide them for their lack of faith.  This type of theology feeds off of whatever has always been taught, even if solid hermenutics would prove otherwise.

The Bible is black and white on all topics, and we should just accept it because that’s what child-like faith is, right?

Wrong.

Even children ask hard questions such as:  where do babies come from?  Why did God let grandma die and why are you so sad about it if she’s in Heaven?   Why do people hate one another?  Why is so-n-so naughty?   And how many times does a toddler ask “why?” in any given conversation and to the point we have run out of answers?  Hard and deep questions are not a sign of weak faith; it is the road to deeper faith.   Just like when children ask an adult their questions, it doesn’t lead them to ignorance but to knowledge and understanding of the world around them

There should be no questions left unentertained.  Perhaps there are questions to be left unanswerable, or questions left in the perplexing category or perhaps even in the box labeled, “confusing”.  But questions should never be left unentertained.

The problem is that we feel this need to know all the answers and have all of them right, as if we are school children again, trying to ace some sort of test.  But I’m sure we all know the difference between getting a perfect on a chemistry test and being able to actually follow through and complete the experiment perfectly are two completely different tasks.  And honestly, if I know everything about faith, then why do I need God?  Why am I reading my Bible?  Or what is my need for fellow Christians?  We weren’t meant to have all the answers, instead, we were meant to search, question and discover together.

I once heard a theologian say he believed God was honored when we discuss various views of Scripture, because it means we are taking Him pretty seriously!  I agree.  I often picture myself sitting down across the table from Jesus, sipping on a cup of joe, asking Him questions and listening to Him, especially when His answers don’t match up with mine.  I just wonder why we all fail (myself included) at doing this for each other?

Because frankly, I’m sick and tired of Spoon-Fed Pop Culture Theology.  I’m sick and tired of people coming up with magic answers that will solve world hunger in one verse quoted from the Psalms.  I’m sick and tired of people not being able to agree to disagree.  I’m sick and tired of stupid clichés like, “God helps those who help themselves” when it’s not even in The Bible and it goes directly against what Jesus taught in the Gospels.  I’m sick and tired of emotionalism, sensationalism and basing everything on tears of joy or pain.  I’m sick and tired of words like, ‘joy’, ‘faith’, ‘peace’ and ‘beauty’ being repeated over and over again as if the only thing I have to give to The Church is beauty and a great gossip session over a relaxing pedicure.   I’m sick and tired of faith being treated like it’s easy to learn and easy to practice when in reality it is hard for every one of us, and we are created to struggle with our faith together, as a family.

So here’s to the study of God–theology!  Here’s to all the conundrums and the wrestling with Scripture!  Here’s to the struggle of reorganizing, reevaluating, and rediscovering our faith!  Here’s to finding and learning new revelations and mysteries of God!

Will you join me on this exploration?  I hope so.  I need you and you need me.  Let’s do this together!

Who knows what we might discover?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priscilla-Aquila

Theology is for Everyone

Quick, think of a famous theologian. What names popped in your head? Augustine? Aquinas? Martin Luther? C. S. Lewis? Chances are, if I asked you to name the top 5 theologians throughout history you would list 5 men. But theology isn’t limited to men. Theology is for everyone and Project Priscilla is our attempt to reclaim theology for women.

Priscilla was a theologian in the first century church. She, along with her husband Aquila, were hosts and co-workers of Paul (Acts 18). They also mentored Apollos and corrected his theology, and hosted a church in their home. Priscilla was an active part of the ministry of the early church. She was regarded as a co-worker by Paul and her name is usually listed before her husband’s.

Priscilla was not afraid to use the gifts God had given her for the edification or building up of the church.

We are a community encouraging all Christians to share their insights, musings, conundrums, and thoughts about God, the Bible, and living out the faith.