23 June 2011

I disagree with Jesus

by Dan Phillips

OUR DEAL: you do not owe it to me to read this post at all. BUT, do not read any of this post, unless you read all of it. Unwilling? No harm, no foul, no hard feelings, see you next time. Deal?


And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?"

Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

(Matthew 19:23-30)
Peter claimed to have left everything to follow Jesus, and is now in effect asking Jesus whether it will have been worth it. The Lord graciously answers by telling Peter that he will be richly rewarded, and that the apostles will share in the earthly rule over the restored nation of Israel.

But I think Jesus gave the wrong answer. I think Jesus should have said instead, "And do you regret it, Peter? Am I the Messiah, or am I not? Am I what I say I am, or am I not? If I am not, then by all means, go back to your fish-flinging 9-5 and make the best of it you can. But if I am, what better thing do you have to do than to follow me? What better thing would anyone have to do?"

That's what I think Jesus should have said.  He was too indulgent of Peter. Instead of pointing to His own worth, He spoke of rewards. I think Jesus gave the wrong answer.

So, what does that mean?

Simple! It means I'm wrong. It means I blew the math. It means I have to change the way I think. It means I have to work it through again, until I get the right answer, and see it the way Jesus sees it.

Now, what did I just do? I just took something that happened in my mind in a minute tick of time, and slowed it down, spread it out, gave it a narrative. I took something that happened between my ears at some point in the past, known (before now) only to God, and displayed the process for you.

Why? I did it in the hopes of demonstrating how a disciple thinks, something I've touched on before (perhaps most notably HERE). If we read the Bible with our brains on, we all run into teachings and thoughts that initially hit us wrong, that offend us, that scandalize something in our customary way of thinking. The issue is: what do we do then?

First time a newly-saved man reads about sexual morality and fidelity in marriage, he may balk. Then when he reads about loving his wife as Christ loves the church, he may twitch again. Likewise, when a Christian woman reads about wifely submission, and God's blanket prohibition regarding women teaching or leading men in church, she may bristle. Or individual verses, or books in the Bible. Or the Bible's teaching on manhood or womanhood per se. Or the universal exaltation of a massive and powerful God over a bound and small man may threaten his cherished notions of man's libertarian freedom and sovereignty. Or the Bible's message about the value of the unborn, about keeping vows (including wedding vows), about creation and geohistory, about its own inerrancy and absolute authority, about eternal conscious punishment of the lost in Hell, about the absolute exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ, in a Biblically-defined Gospel with actual edges — well, old Adam may rise up and demand to have a word as if he were primus inter pares with God.

This is where real-live, actual, gritty, street-level discipleship either happens, or begins to collapse. To a man, we Christians claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Teacher. That being the case, we necessarily claim to believe that we have been entrusted with the Teacher's Guide. This will have an impact on our thinking, when we come to these forks in the road.

There are fundamentally two ways of handling such experiences, and only two:
  1. We change; or
  2. We try to change the Word.
Over the years, we boys here at Pyro have (among many other things) Biblically evaluated the movements of those who opt for #2. There are 1000 ways to take that route. You see it in "evangelical" feminists,  "evangelical" evolutionists,  "evangelical" egalitarians,  "evangelical" homosexuals and the like. You see it, not merely in his conclusions, but in the way Rob Bell approaches the issue of Hell. These are the people who falsely envision the Christian life as a series of negotiations with God as with an equal, rather than an series of conquests of the Cross over the pagan outposts within us all.

There are 1000 ways to take Route #2, and all have the same end on one level or another.

Disciples take the former option. It involves take up our cross and denying ourselves; it involves putting on the Lord Jesus, and making no provision for the willful passions of the flesh; it involves putting to death the deeds of the body, and being led by the Spirit in conformity to God's Word. It identifies these resentful, rebellious rumblings within as hostile, as the enemy. It targets them for destruction. It sees the world as enemy, not friend, and expects opposition, mocking, rejection, for the very fact that we live out the discipleship we profess, in every area of our lives.

And that way — alone — ends up right.

Dan Phillips's signature

49 comments:

Robert said...

Great post, Dan. We will always need to be doing this until we are freed from sin and in the presence of our Lord. I liken this to what I believe are the two reactions that people have when they are confronted with their sin: 1) They are broken and repent, or 2) They justify their sin. I thank God for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in my life because I'd easily fall into each of the second categories with Him.

Frank Turk said...

DJP is a menace and he must be stopped.


word verification: "polysi"
(I'm not logged in yet)

DJP said...

Thanks, bro. Much rather that than a congenial cipher.

Daryl said...

And this is why I need to spend more time reading, and understanding, Scripture.

You post sounds like an exposition on "be transformed by the renewing of your mind".

And how can we renew our mind, without providing it with fresh, Biblical, information on which to chew?

satisfied2nd said...

Thanks, Dan. I think some of us are actually afraid to admit that we "disagree" with the Scripture at some points. What a great reminder that growing and learning is a process.

As an ancillary point, I can work with someone who's struggling in the process. But those who know better and choose #2 option (Bell, etc), shouldn't be given the same latitude. They are knowingly making casting their lot against the Scripture.

satisfied2nd said...

Thanks, Dan. I think some of us are actually afraid to admit that we "disagree" with the Scripture at some points. What a great reminder that growing and learning is a process.

As an ancillary point, I can work with someone who's struggling in the process. But those who know better and choose #2 option (Bell, etc), shouldn't be given the same latitude. They are knowingly making casting their lot against the Scripture.

DJP said...

Daryl, yes, exactly, thank you. Very apposite allusion. The transformation isn't a glowy evolution; it's a series of minor and major battles.

DJP said...

Yes, satisfied2nd, as long as the admission is a diagnosis of a disease and not a boast or policy announcement.

Jamie said...

Thank you Dan,

I think the issue comes down to the level of maturity of the believer, at best, or the question of being a believer, at worst. The mature or maturing believer will, as you have outlined, reprocess their results until their results are in harmony with the whole council of God’s word; they will not be content until they do so. The questionable believer or unbeliever on the other hand will find it much easier to distort God’s word as opposed to conforming to it.

DJP said...

True, Jamie. The problem is that this understanding needs to be in place from the outset. Too many think they've become Christians, without the fundamental shape of their relationship with Christ being clear.

For instance, if a man said his wedding vows, had his wedding night, and woke his wife up the next morning saying "Gotta go, I've got a hot date with Cyndi and I don't want to keep her waiting, rowf!! Love you!" — we wouldn't say he had a maturity issue, we'd say he fundamentally DID NOT GET what marriage was.

In "Christendom," we've developed a whole support-structure to make sure nobody feels bad about being just as wrongheaded about discipleship as the idiot in my example is about marriage.

Ed Dingess said...

Bravo!

Tom Chantry said...

See, the problem with a policy that requires us to read the post and all the comments is this: I was about to say the following about your original post:

That may be the finest illustration I have run across in months. Thank you.

Only, after reading the illustration of the guy on his second day of marriage, I'm not so sure any more.

DJP said...

Reading the comments wasn't a demand of my initial condition... but it's why you're such a stellar commenter.

Lynda O said...

Well said Dan! That really is what it comes down to, the basic difference between maturing and growing disciples, and those who profess to love the Lord but want Him to come down to their own terms rather than taking the time to know and truly understand Him.

As the saying goes, "God's people are not offended by God's word." Yes, they may be truly challenged and perplexed by it at times, but they adjust and come to love it. People who are instead offended by God's word need to look at their own hearts.

DJP said...

Lynda, I think we agree, but with your permission I'd like to mess with this a bit: "God's people are not offended by God's word."

If "offended" in that statement means that the elect are never shocked, alarmed, even scandalized by things in God's Word, I would not agree. In fact, I think that if I am not occasionally alarmed and (in the common sense of the word) offended by what I read, or by what I hear in faithful preaching, then I am not reading or listening well.

The issue (and the point of the post) is what I do when that happens.

Robert said...

Tagging along with what Dan said, I think that the church has lost the idea of what Jesus meant when He told Peter that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. People come up with images of Peter at the gates of heaven, but this isn't what He is speaking of...He is saying that the church should be clear about who is in and who is outside of the kingdom of God. Not necessarily in the sense of "Tom, you're in...Jane, you're out", but in the sense of what Dan is calling us to do here.

We are to take all thoughts captive to Jesus and let Him show us the truth through His Word. Many do exactly the opposite and that is how we wind up with theistic evolution, gay clergy, and women pastors. And, sadly, when biblical Christians try to call people in such errors into account, the ones using the Bible as the standard are villified. However, we can't allow the fear of man to keep us from pointing out the truth (in love). If we don't take on the errors, then we might as well be condoning/endorsing it.

Lynda O said...

Agree, Dan. It's a saying I've heard from a preacher, and yes, the issue is how we respond - challenged and shocked sometimes, but we grow and come to love God's word in increasing measure.

Bike Bubba said...

Amen. My family has been growing a LOT in the past six months as we confront places where our understanding is simply not God's.

And gotta go....gotta hot date with...well, my work, and then my wife. :^)

Johnny Dialectic said...

Great points. And I'll add one more. We've also got to be wary of "group think" being the instant, go-to mental response when Scripture speaks. "This verse simply can't mean that. My group has it's own fundamentals, and this would violate a tenet." To give a slight paraphrase:

It means I'm wrong. It means I blew the math. It means I have to change the way I think. It means I have to work it through again, until I get the right answer, and see it the way [my group] sees it.

Chris H said...

DJP,

I'm going to call you on this, DJP: you aren't given the option of disagreeing with Jesus, if you call yourself a Christian. A real disciple of His would realise he has to change the way he thinks; work it through again until he got the right answer, and then see it the way Jesus sees it.

We Christians claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Teacher. That being the case, we necessarily claim to believe that we have been entrusted with the Teacher's Guide. This will have an impact on our thinking, when we come to these forks in the road.

Now I'll go back and read the rest of the post... :P

DJP said...

< face palm >

Jamie said...

Dan,
I think your example is good but has its limits in that “The problem is that this understanding needs to be in place from the outset” is only true for the believer since the unbeliever has no mechanism i.e. the Holy Spirit, to have his understanding in place first. That is to say the unbeliever will never consider the possibility of being wrong, but will only attempt to understand the Scriptures, and interpret the same, in light of their unbelieving worldview.

While the married man was married whether he behaved so or not, the Christian will of necessity (and pre-ordination) be conformed to Christ’s image. This would indicate that the person who is at odds with a clear teaching of Scripture, as in your example, is in a maturing process or has reason to question their most fundamental belief “do they have saving faith.”

This is not to judge their salvation, but a tree is known by its fruit; and if there is no attempt to bring their / our thinking into submission to God’s clear teaching, there becomes serious reason to have doubts, both of ourselves and of others.

DJP said...

Jamie, if your point is that the natural man does not welcome the things of the Spirit, or that analogies have limits, I have no argument.

The point is that Christian teaching should be crystal-clear on the issue, and should not enable and encourage murkiness.

If conversion is not the result of a clash of worldviews, with God's worldview prevailing, it isn't conversion.

Say... I should write a book about that...

jamesbrett said...

dan, i'm with you on this. but at the same time it seems simplistic to me to say there are two choices: be changed or change the word.

it's not that i disagree; it's just that most of those whom i feel are changing the word would never admit this is indeed what they're doing. rather, they would simply explain they've come to a different interpretation than you or i. i do not know their intentions or their hearts.

but i know mine. and -- though i suspect we share the same positions on many biblical texts -- there are bound to be others on which we do not agree. and so, i will admit there are indeed two options (be changed or change the word) -- but first we must determine what the intent of the word is.

therein, it seems, lies the problem.

Mike Westfall said...

"...but with God all things are possible."

Cool proof text!
Now what can I apply it to.....?

Jamie said...

"If conversion is not the result of a clash of worldviews, with God's worldview prevailing, it isn't conversion."

Exactly!

Nuf said.

Can I get a pre-release copy?

Gordan said...

DJP, great post.

Would you agree that the willingness to consciously go with option #2 is a sign of unregeneracy?

mike said...

I think it is instructive that in John 6: 65-71 only 11 disciples were willing to "correct their math". Most of the professing believers took off because they wouldn't accept what Jesus was saying. We will definitely be going against the current when we take Jesus at His word.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Dan,

What? You just summarized your book HERE, in 20 paragraphs or less, and I ordered the whole thing? ;D

*sigh*

Honestly, though... right between the eyes, Dan, right between the eyes.

I think we don't realize how much we do this. And Daryl has all ready pointed out the treatment - saturating our minds with TRUTH.

Charlene said...

Thank you so much for this. Yes, this is indeed what happens in the process of discipleship.

Solameanie said...

Dan,

You really, really must stop stirring the pot like that and giving people heart attacks with your opening titles and paragraphs.

Nah! Not really. Kidding aside, I think you've hit the nail on the head in more ways than one in terms of dealing with Scripture on God's terms rather than sitting in judgment on it and trying to shoehorn God into our way of thinking and expectations.

Mike Riccardi said...

One of the best ever, Dan. Thanks for taking the time to take that split-second thought process and map it out for us. It's extremely helpful and instructive.

Steve Drake said...

Dan Phillips:
If we read the Bible with our brains on, we all run into teachings and thoughts that initially hit us wrong, that offend us, that scandalize something in our customary way of thinking. The issue is: what do we do then?

Indeed, what do we do then? I think Mark A. Noll, in 'The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind' got it quite wrong when he claims (paraphrasing) that evangelicals have not built a satisfactory intellectual edifice for answering the crucial claims of the skeptic. He questions the perspicuity of Scripture, as if we can't come to right conclusions by reading it ourselves to see what it says.

As DJP has said:
If conversion is not the result of a clash of worldviews, with God's worldview prevailing, it isn't conversion.

We have indeed been entrusted with the Teacher's Guide, and option #1 is the way of the true disciple.

Rachael Starke said...

Hammer-->nail-->--head.

Only being at Gramma's in Fresno, with Interweb access limited to my IPhone and two thumbs, prevents me from elaborating on how that one idea has been central to my sanctification over the past few years. Much of it has been through your writing.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I almost couldn't bring myself to read the whole post because of the title.

But after reading it, not only was I reminded as to why I keep returning to read every day, but also why I usually try to read (and sometimes) participate in the comment thread. Rebuking while at the same time very edifying.

(And while I typically offer 4 stars when ranking posts, this one certainly deserves the 5.)

donsands said...

Excellent pastor-teacher Dan.

"..discipleship either happens, or begins to collapse"

Since 1984-85 I have been encouraged by the Word, and convicted by the Word, and have grown in His grace understanding, and have times of collapsing.
But, oh how Christ has been so faithful to this saint, who sins.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!"

The Bible Christian said...

Dan... I've been reading Pyro for a long time, though I seldom comment... this was short, powerful and to the point.

We change or we change the Word.

I with you, will take the former option and put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Romans 12:1-2

Alex Guggenheim said...

Exhorting with the obvious is always commendable. Basic math is never nullified by greater math. May you keep exhorting with such basics.

doug said...

You brought to mind this excerpt from Piper's biographical sketch of Charles Simeon:

He said that his invariable rule was "to endeavor to give to every portion of the Word of God its full and proper force, without considering what scheme it favours, or whose system it is likely to advance" (Moule, 79). "My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding" (Moule, 77).

He makes an observation that is true enough to sting every person who has ever been tempted to adjust Scripture to fit a system.

Of this he [speaking of himself in the third person] is sure, that there is not a decided Calvinist or Arminian in the world who equally approves of the whole of Scripture . . . who, if he had been in the company of St. Paul whilst he was writing his Epistles, would not have recommended him to alter one or other of his expressions.
But the author would not wish one of them altered; he finds as much satisfaction in one class of passages as another; and employs the one, he believes, as freely as the other. Where the inspired Writers speak in unqualified terms, he thinks himself at liberty to do the same; judging that they needed no instruction from him how to propagate the truth. He is content to sit as a learner at the feet of the holy Apostles and has no ambition to teach them how they ought to have spoken. (Moule, 79)

Sir Aaron said...

Great post, Phil.

;)

DJP said...

There y'go.

Sir Aaron said...

LOL. I had to rib you a little bit.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Dan, thank you so much for posting this yesterday. This morning, as we were discussing James 2:18-26 your post came to mind as we discussed why faith without works is dead and what exactly those works are. By the end of the discussion, I realized that if I don't then live out what I say I have submitted to, then I STILL have the math wrong. I STILL haven't agreed with Jesus if what I've "agreed" with isn't doing something in my life. I realized how information driven my walk has been, and how little practice there has been, and how that flies in the face of John 14 where Jesus said if you have my word and don't obey it, you don't love me.

Your post yesterday was used for God's glory, and I just wanted to let you know.

patriciazell said...

Perhaps, part of taking up our cross is not leaning on our own understanding, but seeking God for His knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Sometimes, when we try to crucify our flesh without seeking God for the "whys" and the "how-tos," our efforts can backfire and things can get worse. Christ paid a tremendous price to give us personal access to our loving Father--let's take advantage of it.

Deb said...

Excellent post! I started off pretty skeptical about where you were heading, but amen by the end. Thanks!

DJP said...

Thanks for sticking with it, Deb. The title was a calculated risk, and I counted on my readers' goodwill.

Dorian said...

This reminds me of a time before I submitted to the Bible's testimony concerning God's sovereignty in salvation. I opened my Bible up to Ephesians 1 read a few verses and then saw the word "predestination." What did I do? Stopped abruptly, read not a word further, and retreated to Psalms (for some reason I thought I was safe there), and pretended I never saw it. Pretty scary in retrospect!

Sir Aaron said...

The title was a calculated risk only for those who don't read you regularly, Dan. I saw the title on my feed and knew from the beginning where you'd be going.

Tyrone said...

Thanks Dan!