Southeastern Idaho Christianity for our boys?

Craig Blomberg wrote in his Corinthians commentary (I am studying I Corinthians 3):

As one of my students once put it, much conservative Christianity reminded him of an exclusive country club trying to attract a broader clientele.  The club, therefore, advertised that membership for the first year would be absolutely free.  But after that, you paid through the nose!

This morning, my little third grade boy was telling me while on the way to school about one of his discussions with one of his buddies.  He said,

Daddy, my friend explained it to me this way.  If you are really, really good, you get to hang out with God the Father some day in the highest place.  If you are pretty good, you get to hang out with Jesus in a second place.  If you really don’t do anything good, you get to be with the Holy Spirit.  And if you are really bad, you are stuck with the devil.

Important Gospel heart issues, eh?

First of all, let me emphatically state that it is folly for our Southeastern Idaho religious culture to assign different chunks of heavenly real estate to the Trinity. 

Secondly, as John B. Polhill aptly puts it, “Rewards are difficult to square with a doctrine of salvation by grace and can easily become the back door for a theology of works.”  For those of you who are immersing yourselves in the Americanized Christianity of the day, get back to the gospel of grace.  The gospel set me free.

2 comments

  1. Somewhere along the line, pre-Reformation Western Christianity, at least to some extent, bought into the notion of earning one’s place in heaven by good works. This became synonymous with “salvation”, something forensic and exterior.

    The Reformation, quite rightly, reacted against that. However, in so doing, it failed to come to grips with the fact that “salvation” is, by definition, “healing”. I cannot simply sign off on the free grace of God and then go on my merry way, confident that my fire insurance policy is all paid up. Why? Well, for one, when I get to the pearly gates, I’m not going to want to go in. I haven’t been prepared for the experience.

    Salvation begins in the here and now. I must “die with Christ” and be “born again” in baptism. I must be sealed with the Holy Spirit in chrismation. I must regularly be fed with his body and blood. I must pursue the classical Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Why? To earn God’s favor? To make God love me and eventually take me to heaven? No. God loves me. God WANTS me in heaven infinitely more than I can imagine or than I can want to be in heaven. God wants me to be whole, God wants me to be healed, God wants to share the Divine Life with me in all its fulness! God loves me! God wants to be in communion with ME!

    However, in order for that to happen, I must be healed, saved, transformed. I must be wearing that “wedding garment”. I must receive and use the gifts that God has given in order that I might be transformed into the image of Christ. I must become what I am, as Augustine put it. This is not “works righteousness.” This is “the obedience of faith.” “I beat my body,” writes St. Paul, “so that, after preaching to other, I myself might not be rejected.”

    Suppose I jump off a tall ledge. I land and every bone is my body is broken. I have internal injuries. I have traumatic brain injuries. Yes, the first step is to get to the Emergency Room, but this requires the EMT’s to risk their lives in order to get to me. Once in the ER, the physician will diagnose all that is wrong with me. He will prescribe medication, cast my broken limbs and eventually, various forms of therapy. Now suppose I refuse to take the medication and refuse the therapies. Can I ever be adequately healed? No. Do I engage in these therapies in order to earn anything from the doctor? No. Are the doctor and the therapists doing everything they can to help me recover? Of course. Now, there is another factor at play here, and that is the body’s capacity to heal itself. In a sense, this represents grace, or the work of the Holy Spirit. Without it, all the therapy in the world will accomplish nothing, but with the therapy, I shall recover.

    All of us have fallen off that ledge and are lying helpless at the bottom. The Lord, like the Good Samaritan, comes along and puts his life on the line in order to rescue us. He brings us to the hospital, the Church and turns us over to the “therapists”. He pays for it all. He will return for us.

    This is one way of considering the matter. Jesus comes for us and voluntarily dies so that, in dying with Him, we might rise to newness of life. But the fulness of that new life is not yet a present reality in us, and we participate in two realities, that of Christ and that of the “world, the flesh, and the devil.” By the power of the former, we struggle with the latter, and will until our last breath. Christ does the heavy lifting by way of the Holy Spirit, but my small part is indispensible as well. Christ will not save me without my wanting to be saved and cooperating with his grace.

  2. Interesting conversation with your son, Pastor Todd-

    And yet, in that way of teaching/thinking, we were (supposedly) sent here to receive a “body” in order to live in heaven(s). Yet, there’s no explanation how the Holy Ghost can live in heaven w/o a mortal body. Sad where the little boy placed the Comforter in the story.

    Mark 10:18
    And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God

    How many people are mislead into thinking that only the “good ones” can go to heaven?

    The true Gospel of Christ is important to understand.

    Thanks for sharing that little story.

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