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NTS Live a life worthy of the calling

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posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:03 PM
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“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians ch4 v1).

The message of the New Testament centres upon what Christ has achieved.
That is, he died on the Cross, was raised from the dead, and was established as Lord and future judge.
We are included in what Christ has done, because we belong to him, and we are therefore “washed, sanctified, and justified”.
In the absence of the old barrier of sin, we have entered into a new relationship with God.

In this new relationship, we have begun a new life, which ought to be a different kind of life.
But there is a paradox in the Christian life, best expressed in the words of John.
On the one hand, we are free from sin in the eyes of God; “If we walk in the light… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John ch1 v7)and “We know that any one born of God does not sin” (1 John ch5v18).
On the other hand, we are still engaged with sin in our daily lives; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John ch1v8)
So our task is to endeavour to bridge that gap, to bring our earthly lives up to speed with our status in the presence of God.

It is a matter of conducting our lives in accordance with God’s will; “We must make it our aim to please him; for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians ch5 vv9-10).
So Paul encourages his followers not to take it for granted that they have “attained” the resurrection from the dead; “I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians ch3 v14)

The point of continuity with ”salvation by faith” is that God is doing most of the work.
“We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call…” (1 Thessalonians ch1 v11)
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians ch1 v6).
So the task is really a joint enterprise; “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians ch2v13).

As might have been expected, this work is to be done “in Christ”.
“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians ch5v17). In other words, he receives a fresh start.
It is in Christ, in the first place, that he has ”died to sin”.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians ch2 v20).
“Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires” (Galatians ch5 v24).

The death of the old life requires the beginning of a new life.
“For he who has died is freed from sin… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin… Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God” (Romans ch6 vv7-13).
“Put to death what is earthly in you” (Colossians ch3 v5).
In this way, we will be fulfilling to injunction to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”(Romans ch12 v1).
That self-offering in obedience is the only kind of sacrifice that God really wanted from us.

The change of direction will not be achieved by personal endeavour alone.
“Our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Corinthians ch4 v16).
We are being changed into the likeness of Christ, for “this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians ch3 v18).
Thus we are to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians ch4 v16).
This transformation in Christ is the work of the Spirit of Christ.
For the old life is life “according to the flesh”; but we are no longer “in the flesh” if the Spirit of God, who is also called the Spirit of Christ, dwells within us.

But the transformation, at the same time, is a joint enterprise between God and man, and we need to be willing to work together with the Spirit.
“Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans ch8 vv5-9)
The sons of God are led by the Spirit, and by the Spirit we may put to death the deeds of the body (vv13-14).
We may have been liberated from “the old written code”, but that does not mean that we have been released into lawlessness. It means that we are following a different kind of guidance; we serve “in the new life of the Spirit” (Romans ch7 v6).

“If we live by the Sprit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians ch5 v25).
The best way to understand this injunction is to remember that the Hebrew language uses the same word for ”Spirit” and ”breath”. Then we can see the metaphor about the difference between the old life and the new life.
The old life began, according to Genesis, when Adam received “the breath of life”. Our life begins with breathing, and we spend the rest of our lives continuing to breathe. In other words, we “live by” this breath, and we also “walk by” this breath.
In the same way, our new life begins when we receive the Holy Spirit. We “live by the Spirit”.
But our first physical breath does not last the rest of our lives, and our relationship with the Holy Spirit, by analogy, should not end with that first experience.
We need to “walk by the Spirit” also, living by means of his power, and acting under his guidance.

Our ideal goal would be that the sanctity of our earthly lives would “catch up with” our achieved status of sanctity in the eyes of God. Then we would indeed be living a “life worthy of the calling”.
“Not that I have achieved this [righteousness] or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians ch3v12).
But there is no reason to expect this process to be made complete before the final transformation which we are expecting at the return of Christ and the redemption of our bodies” (Romans ch8 v23)

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessaloniansch5 vv23-4).

edit on 4-1-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:07 PM
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John Wesley’s sermon on “Christian Perfection” is the thirty-fifth out of the standard “Forty-four Sermons”.
He rightly explains that Christians are not perfect in the sense of being perfect in knowledge. Nor are they free from mistakes, infirmities, or temptations. “Perfection” is only another term for “holiness”.
So the question is when, and how, and in what sense, the believer achieves holiness.

I offered my own view on these questions on a previous occasion.
The New Testament presents a paradox on the subject of holiness.
On the one hand, we are already freed from sin, cleansed and sanctified.
On the other hand, there is an ongoing task of living up to that status, eradicating sin from our daily lives, living lives “worthy of our calling”.
I thought that conventional theology confused the subject a little by confining the term “sanctification” to the ongoing process.

Wesley deals with the paradox by leaning heavily on the side of “completed holiness”.
He quotes a succession of passages asserting the Christian’s liberation from sin.
However, I don’t think he pays enough attention to the way that these statements occur in the context of exhortation. In other words they are addressed to Christians who are still struggling to free themselves from sin in their daily lives.
He declares that “all real Christians, or believers in Christ, are made free from outward sin.”
He quotes John’s epistle in support of that claim; “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin” (ch3 v9). He notes the balancing statement in the first chapter; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (ch1v8). But he explains that as a reference to our state before coming to Christ.

I believe that Wesley got caught up in the confusion between the two New Testament senses of “sanctified”. He was taking the statements about “accomplished” sanctity, and applying them to the on-going process of sanctification, leading him to maintain that full sanctity or perfection in this earthly life was not only possible but also necessary, strictly speaking, to meet his definition of being a Christian.
In my view, that conclusion gives rise to unrealistic expectations.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:08 PM
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In Galatians, Paul illustrates the meaning of “walking in the Spirit” by outlining the practical differences between “the fruit of the Spirit” and “the works of the flesh” (ch5 vv16-23)
There’s a passage in James (ch3 vv13-18) which offers a parallel contrast, except that James does not use (and I think he deliberately avoids) the terminology which Paul has made familiar. Paul’s contrast is between “the Spirit” and “the flesh”, whereas the contrast in James is between “the Wisdom from above” and “the earthly wisdom”. Apart from that difference, the description of the different effects of the two kinds of wisdom is intriguingly similar to the passage in Galatians.

So the teaching in Paul is that the Christian life begins with faith, but does not end there.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians ch2 v10).
We learn the same thing from James. James does indeed give priority to faith, making that theme the beginning and the end of his letter. But it is not enough simply to say that we have faith.
Good works are to be desired as the evidence that the alleged faith is genuine. ”I will show you my faith by my works” (ch2 v18).
So the common judgement found in both Paul and James (and in the message of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament) is this;
God expects both faith and obedience from us, but faith comes first in order of time.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:09 PM
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The attitude of the Christian church to the laws of the Pentateuch is based on the teaching of Paul;
“But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit”- Romans ch7 v6
In other words, this law belongs to the past, and not to the present time.

Paul says that the purpose of the Law was to be our “schoolmaster” (AV), our “custodian” (RSV), “like a slave serving us” (Jerusalem Bible) until Christ came.- Galatians ch3 v24
These various translations are rendering the Greek word PAIDAGOGOS.
The PAIDAGOGOS was a family slave entrusted with the daily guardianship and education of a child.
He was a male version of Mary Poppins, except that he had a lower social status (even lower than the status of a real Victorian governess, who would normally be paid less than a good cook).
His disciplinary methods might be very harsh, because a slave might not otherwise find it easy to hold the attention of the free-born son of the household.
But the child was released from the slave’s charge, of course, once he came of age.

So Paul’s meaning is that the Law was a system of discipline which held God’s people in a kind of servitude.
It had a necessary but temporary function, preparing them for adulthood, but once they had reached adulthood they were released from its control.
The moment of adulthood is to be identified with the arrival of Faith, which replaces the Law, and their “adoption” in Christ (ch4 vv1-5).

I’ve used the “teacher” analogy myself, but in a different way.
In my version, God himself is the teacher (more in the style of a modern professional educator), and the Law is part of the teaching material which he’s using.
But this version of the analogy leads to the same conclusion, because the teaching material used in the modern classroom varies according to the age and circumstances of the pupils.
The books used in the infants’ class are not the books used in the university lecture hall.
I’ve heard a physics graduate complaining that he had to re-learn the laws of physics at every stage in his education.
In the same way, the guidance which God gives to his people might be expected to change according to the level of their spiritual growth as well as the condition of their society.
The pupils move on from the elementary material to the more advanced material.
That is, in Paul’s terms, they move on from the Law to Faith.

The Law which Paul is rejecting is the written code, published in the name of Moses.
Other parts of the New Testament show greater respect for the law, but on closer examination it’s not clear that the law they want to keep is the same law which Paul is rejecting.

Thus James, for example, tells his readers about the need to keep “the whole law”.
However, he seems to understand this law in terms of the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which sits in the background of everything he says.
He’s quoting the commandment which Jesus quoted, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.
He calls this “the royal law”, in most translations, though I’ve argued elsewhere that the Greek really means “the law which belongs to the Kingdom”.
He also uses the very suggestive phrase “the law of liberty”.
Paul says that we have been “made free” from the law, and I’m inclined to think that James has coined this semi-Pauline term to mean much the same thing. “The law of liberty” is not the written law (which is not liberty), but a substitute for the written law, to be found perhaps in the teaching of Jesus. (James ch2 vv8-12)

Jesus himself appears to take a firm stand when he declares that the law will never pass away.
At the same time, though, there are details in the written law which he’s unwilling to endorse.
He asserts that the permission to divorce was in conflict with God’s real will, and only allowed because of their “hardness of heart”.
He’s also very reluctant to enforce the death-penalty for adultery.
So perhaps he, too, is thinking in terms of “the spirit of the law”, as expressed in his own teaching, rather than “the letter of the law” which had been given by Moses.

There’s an obvious danger in the idea that the law has been made obsolete, which explains why religious teachers might be reluctant to take that route.
The problem is that people are only too ready to understand “freedom from law” as “freedom from all restraint”, and live accordingly.
That is not what Paul means at all.
In his teaching, our “service” has not been abolished but simply transferred; we are serving under “the new life of the Spirit”, which is a different kind of restraint.

I can explain the difference by use of analogy.
When I was a child, the school taught us how to cross the road safely.
I still remember watching the misadventures of “little Dolly Daydream” (in those days, a projected silent filmstrip, manually controlled with live teacher commentary).
We were expected to cross by following a set of rules;
“Look right,
Look left,
Look right again;
When all is clear, then cross”.
That could be called “the letter of the law”.
Obviously the important point here is the basic principle of not running out into traffic.
That could be called “the spirit of the law”.
Now that I’m grown up, I don’t follow those rules religiously (“freed from the law”), but I don’t take that as permission to rush out and get myself killed.
Instead, I live under “the spirit of the law”, by keeping my wits about me enough to make sure there aren’t any vehicles coming.
There is still restraint, but a different kind of restraint.

Paul seems to assume that the Christian will be receiving moral guidance direct from the Holy Spirit.
However, the later church has never been able to live up to that standard.
Individual Christians did not feel confident enough to rely on this direct contact, and the church leadership was reluctant to risk leaving them to their own devices.
So the church, in practice, has evolved the compromise theory that the “ritual law” has been abolished while the “moral law” content of the Law of Moses remains valid, especially in the Ten Commandments.
This works well enough as a practical rule of thumb, but it’s not really what Paul means.
He does agree that we should not be committing theft and murder and adultery.
But his point is that we now avoid these things because the Holy Spirit tells us to avoid them, and not because the Law of Moses tells us to avoid them.

We are discharged from the Law of Moses, in every detail, and living a new life serving in the Spirit.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:12 PM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

Friedrich Nietzsche had some interesting criticisms of Christianity.

He said Christianity was born in response to Roman oppression. It took hold in the minds of timid slaves who did not have the courage or strength to get hold of what they really wanted. The slaves could not admit to their own failings. So they clung to a philosophy that made virtue of cowardice. Everything the Christians wanted and wished they had in their lives for fulfillment was what was considered to be a sin. A position in the world, prestige, sex, intellectual mastery, personal wealth were too difficult or beyond their reach. The Christian slaves created a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted, too weak to fight for, while praising what they did not want, but did have in abundance, as being worth having. So in the Christian value system sexlessness turned into 'purity', weakness became "goodness," submission to authority became "obedience," and in Nietzsche's words, "not-being-able-take-revenge" turned into "forgiveness."

Nietzsche believed man's ultimate goal in life was become a Ubermensch. Ubermensch was Nietzsche vision of an ideal character, inspiring to others, physically and mentally powerful, self-overcoming, self-motivating, and relentless is the pursuit of greatness. An Ubermensch had a particular attitude in towards life especially when facing despair and when life became meaningless. The Ubermensch continues to rise up and fight for what is satisfying to the soul. Culture, art, community are what the Ubermensch brings. An Ubermensch is someone who has a life where nothing in the past or future is more important than the present. For the Ubermensch, pleasure and happiness exists deeply in the present. And is shared not only at the personal level, but for all humanity.

The problem with Christianity and why it is on the decline is because of fandom. People are fans of Christianity the same why someone roots for an NFL football team. Jesus Christ is essentially a false idol being idol worshiped. There is only one true all-power all-loving God. And that God is God.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:17 PM
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a reply to: dfnj2015
"You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir; Nietzsche is fundamentally unsound"-
Reginald Jeeves (addressing Bertram Wooster).



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:55 PM
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I don't understand. The only work I've done in Christ is turning down the offer.

Why would I do more?

How I live my life from here is a choice that is all my own.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 05:58 PM
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a reply to: Archivalist
This thread is about the theology of what happens when you don't turn down the offer. If you haven't any sense of "being called", then the question of living up to the calling isn't relevant.
The only way to answer your question is to refer you to the previous threads of the NTS series, taken as a whole.



edit on 4-1-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 06:26 PM
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originally posted by: Archivalist
I don't understand. The only work I've done in Christ is turning down the offer.

Why would I do more?

How I live my life from here is a choice that is all my own.
These guys are trying to start their own church. I guess they are dragging the waters here for gullible followers.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 06:30 PM
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a reply to: Woodcarver
"These guys"? Fortunately for the world at large, there is only one of me.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 06:31 PM
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Personally I can't wait until a time machine is made so we can settle the question once and for all.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 07:41 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: Woodcarver
"These guys"? Fortunately for the world at large, there is only one of me.

Nope, there’s a whole bunch of you. All of you get on here and do the same thing. Make up your own version of things and try to make everyone else believe it.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 08:04 PM
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Well, as you were.

The most interesting parts of this are understood by so few.



posted on Jan, 4 2019 @ 09:23 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: Woodcarver
"These guys"? Fortunately for the world at large, there is only one of me.



I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you again for a nice Friday reflection.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 07:37 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

I don't understand how you can say it is unrealistic to pursue the Christian ideal. I thought that was what you yourself is striving toward.

We have the examples of the saints to demonstrate what is possible. Although Catholic and various Protestants seem to have different concepts of saints, all recognize at least the writers of the Gospels. We don't worship them but hold them up to show the power of God's spirit and it's effects upon humanity.

If any one person ever lived according to Christian principle, I would say it would have to be Jesus himself. Even with his disagreement with legalism, he still lived without sin and broke no law. Christian principle is harmonious with the law. It fulfills the law. The law will be with us as long as we are in flesh bodies.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 08:53 AM
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a reply to: toms54
Pursuing the ideal is right and good, and exactly what Jesus and Paul tell us to do.
But I think Wesley's doctrine induces an unrealistic expectation of reaching the ideal in this life. Yes, Jesus was without sin, but Wesley tries to make that the standard for the rest of us. "If any man says that he has no sin, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him."

On the separate question of law; obviously our lives need to be governed by law of some kind. The question is, WHICH law?
The Law of Moses is not quite the same thing as God's law, which is summed up in the two chief commandments named by Jesus; that is, our relationship with God and our treatment of other people.
I have already quoted Paul's statement that "we are discharged from the law [of Moses]... we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (Romans ch7 v6).
Elsewhere in the same letter he distinguishes between "the law of works" and "the law of faith" (Romans ch3 v27). The law of Moses is the law of works. The law which Christians uphold and live by is the law of faith.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 10:09 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI

"Elsewhere in the same letter he distinguishes between "the law of works" and "the law of faith" (Romans ch3 v27). The law of Moses is the law of works. The law which Christians uphold and live by is the law of faith."

This seems to be the conflict.

"God's law, which is summed up in the two chief commandments named by Jesus; that is, our relationship with God and our treatment of other people."

This is the resolution. All the laws of Moses are summed up in the two chief commandments named by Jesus. These form the common basis of God's law and Moses's law. Jesus wants us to live by the spirit of the law. He is opposed to the legalistic interpretation which introduces corruption into it.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 11:00 AM
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a reply to: toms54

I think of it this way. We can always pursue perfection, but we will never achieve it.

I was an athlete for many years. Every athlete worth his or her salt is striving constantly for perfection even though they'll never get there. You can always get that tiny bit better. Not only that but in God's eyes, perfection is for the entire stretch of our life, not just from today onward. So any miststeps I made getting to now, are still counted against me. Were all those saints, saintly for ALL of their lifetimes? I don't think so.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 11:18 AM
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a reply to: ketsuko

The saints, at some point in their life, accomplished something which can inspire the rest of us. Perhaps they were not always perfect. Does this diminish their example?

An athlete does the same thing in their own way. Maybe they set a record. 20 years later, they might not be able to still do that but the record stands.

I don't cite the saints as some examples of works vs faith but just to illustrate that some have lived a Christian life at least for awhile, and that it is not impossible. God knows we are not perfect.



posted on Jan, 5 2019 @ 04:20 PM
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a reply to: toms54

Oh, I think we all can live a Christian life ... at least for a while, but sooner or later we also all mess it up, even if only just a bit.

My point is that God's standard is perfection, and none of us will ever clear that bar, not even the saints, no matter how worthy they were or inspiring.

The best any of us might hope to do is constantly work toward it, improving a bit day by day, and I think this is what the saints did, what all of the truly Christian have managed to do.



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