Thinking Out Loud

September 17, 2018

Irresistible — Andy Stanley’s New Take on New Testament Faith

By his own admission, publishing this book is a career-risking move.

Furthermore, the criticism that Andy Stanley has already endured over statements which are contained in Irresistible would cause some to lay low for several months until the storm passes.

But that’s not Andy Stanley. Instead, he takes nearly 300 pages to fully flesh out his reasons for saying that Christianity needs to “unhitch” itself from the Hebrew scriptures, or what we call The Old Testament. Yes, that. For some those were fightin’ words. For others, the implication was that those writings weren’t inspired or aren’t relevant to knowing the backdrop from which events kickstarted in Bethlehem 2,000-plus years ago. That’s called putting words in someone else’s mouth

…It’s hard to review a book when, for many weeks, you were tracking with the sermon series on which the book is based. There are usually few surprises. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (Zondervan) is based on a sermon series called Aftermath which the North Point pastor preached after Easter this year. The church website sums it up this way: “Jesus’ resurrection launched a series of events that introduced the world to his new covenant and new hope. But old ways don’t easily give way. Not then. Not now.” That could also well serve as a summary of the book.

The book is divided into four sections and like a good British mystery, each section is building toward the concluding chapters. I said, “few surprises,” above but unless I missed something in the teaching series, Andy pushes beyond the original conclusion and suggests something even more radical in the way we format our copies of the texts. (I’ve decided to avoid the spoiler.)

I was also struck by the humorous tone used to convey a rather serious subject. It creates a reading environment in which even a new believer — struck by the differences between the First and Second Testament and wondering aloud, “What’s up with that?” — can have a complete understanding of the world in which the news of the resurrection was first preached, and how the two parts connect.

In many respects, the book is personal. His motivation for writing begins with a 2007 trip to China in which he was asked a poignant question about the church in America. In the book (and elsewhere as well) Andy mentions a verse displayed in his office, Acts 15:19: “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (NLT) He’s committed to removing any barriers to faith which might be hampering someone who would otherwise want to be part of Christ’s family.

As he has stated many times, one of those barriers is the material found in the Old Testament (or if you prefer, First Covenant). The violence. The scientific questions. The seemingly arbitrary rules for conduct. The supernatural occurrences. Instead, he believes (as the book’s subtitle affirms) that we need to be focusing on “the new” and in so doing, focus on what the first generations of believers had in a world before church buildings, a world before printed copies of the scriptures, and a world where the resurrection was everything.

It was a faith to die for.


Release Date: September 18, 2018 | 9780310536970 USA | 9780310536987 UK, Aust/NZ, Canada


Thanks to Dave K. at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for a review copy.

 

 

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April 1, 2018

He is Risen: Reaching Out to Give a Resurrected Jesus a Hug

Filed under: Christianity, Jesus — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:08 am

“Stop hugging me.”

In essence, that’s what Jesus to Mary in John 20:17. The scene is the moment where, realizing she is not speaking to someone tasked with taking care of the landscaping in the area surrounding Joseph of Arimathea’s donated tomb, she realizes it is Jesus.

But why the admonition, “Don’t touch me”?

I’ve set the following as a quotation because these aren’t my ideas, though I have greatly paraphrased from the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.1

Was it partly because she’d been crying? It wasn’t because Jesus had assumed the clothes or borrowed the gardener’s work clothes, but because he was the likeliest person to be going about the garden at that early hour.

But then he says her name. First it’s the realization that this is someone who knows her, but then something else stirs; there’s a dawning that there’s something very familiar about this voice. And then there’s more, a fuller understanding of all the implications of what has taken place and is taking place in that moment. He’s alive!

She springs toward him. As the fear of this supernatural encounter turns to joy, wouldn’t you? But she’s met with these words: “Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father.”2  Wait, what?

Various reasons have been given:

  1. It was simply improper. Problem is, he didn’t stop the woman at the dinner table who kissed his feet, even though that was rather scandalous.
  2. She wished to confirm the physical reality of his appearance. Nope. Doesn’t work either, as Jesus later encouraged the disciples to verify his physicality by virtue of eating fish and allowing Thomas to place his hands in the nail holes left by the cross.
  3. It would disrupt the force which was allowing him to manifest in his glorified body. That is to say, glorification was a work in process at that point, and she needed to wait for the completion of that.

We can reject those possibilities because he gives the reason: “I have not yet ascended to the Father.”3

Those who love Him on earth must learn to live without the physical appearance, the actual seeing, touching, hearing, of the well-known Master. There must be no more kissing of His feet, but a reverence of a sterner, deeper sort; there must be no more sitting at table with Him, and filling the mind with His words, until they sit down with Him in the Father’s presence. Meanwhile His friends must walk by faith, not by sight they would need to learn the truer faithfulness that serves an absent Lord; they must acquire the independent and inherent love of righteousness which can freely grow only when relieved from the commanding pressure of a visible presence, encouraging us by sensible expressions of favor, guaranteeing us against defeat and danger. 

They would need to learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29, The Message)


1 Expositor’s Commentary at Bible Hub
2 The Voice
3 NASB


April 1st is Christianity 201’s 8th Birthday!
While Christ’s resurrection is the dominant theme in our thoughts today and we don’t want to distract from that, our sister blog, Christianity 201 concluded its eighth year yesterday, and now begins year nine of providing daily devotional content and Bible study discussion material. Our motto continues to be “Digging a little deeper.” My hope is that we’ve provided helpful resources for your devotional and Bible study reading and have introduced you to many new authors who are doing the same online. ~Paul

April 16, 2017

Passion Week Songs (8) – He is Risen / Happy Day

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:24 pm

We end our series of extra posts this week with two songs that celebrate the risen Christ. First, Paul Baloche and then Tim Hughes.

 

 

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