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Just forgiven

August 3, 2006

You have seen the bumper stickers that say “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”

On one hand I understand the desire to say, we aren’t perfect…don’t throw the word hypocrite at us. But on the other hand there can lie an understanding that the gospel of Jesus is just about as Willard calls it “Sin Management”. Its largely the “just forgiven” part that shows this way of thinking. Is it really that we are JUST forgiven?

I learned a new term from John Mark Hicks, “dispensational hermeneutic”, that is that we in the American restoration movement churches have drawn a hard line (traditionally) between Acts chapter 1 and 2. We have drawn our understanding of what the church should be from Acts 2 and following. That way of interpretation leaves the Gospels and Jesus’ earthly life largely out of the picture.

Instead of seeking the life to the full that he says is available to all, we have reduced Christianity to being “just forgiven”.

There are many aspects of this life to the full. One that no one seems comfortable talking about is spiritual warfare. It seems that New Testament writers assume that condition to be true. I was reading this the other day and thought I would share it.

We’’ve exchanged that great hymn ““Onward, Christian Soldiers” for a subtle but telling substitute, a song that is currently being taught to thousands of children in Sunday school each week, which goes something like this (sung in a very happy, upbeat tune):

I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the cavalry,
shoot the artillery, I may never fly over the enemy
but I’’m in the Lord’’s army, yes sir!

There is no battle and there is no war and there is no Enemy and your life is not at stake and you are not desperately needed this very hour, but you’’re in the Lord’’s army. Yes, sir. Doing what? may I ask.

The reason I bring this up is that if you want the real deal, if you want the life and freedom that Jesus offers, then you are going to have to break free of this religious fog in particular. ““It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”” (Gal. 5:1). So here’’s a bottom-line test to expose the Religious Spirit: If it doesn’’t bring freedom and it doesn’’t bring life, it’’s not Christianity. If it doesn’’t restore the image of God and rejoice in the heart, it’’s not Christianity.

The ministry of Jesus is summarized by one of those who knew him best when Peter brings the gospel to the gentiles: ““God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and . . . he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him”” (Acts 10:38). The stream of Spiritual Warfare was essential to Jesus’’ life and ministry. It follows that it must be essential to ours if we would be his followers.

(Waking the Dead , 162-–63)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2006 8:26 pm

    I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I’ve certainly never thought, much less, taken the position that I’m “just” forgiven as a Christian. (Although I have, certainly, seen the bumper stickers.)

    And I’m acutely aware, more often than not, that there is a constant spiritual warfare going on in my mind, my heart, my body, as well as (I think we can all safely say) the world at large.

    Heaven help us. Heaven help us all and each one individually, to ever be mindful of that spiritual warfare that seeks to grab away the fullness we find in Christ Jesus as we strive to live diligently in Him.

    Thanks, Tommy, for the thoughts.

  2. August 4, 2006 10:23 pm

    I want the full life behind door #1!

  3. August 7, 2006 10:29 am

    Great post!! Now that David’s joined in the Army Reserves, that song about “I May Never March..” does seem a little lame. Recently, we sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic at church — all the verses — and WHOA! Compare that to “I May Never March in the Infantry.”

    Thanks for the post.–>

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