JETSONIAN THEOLOGY

In the early 1960’s, a space-age cartoon came out on Saturday mornings. Many of my generation can probably remember the theme song to “the Jetsons.” Each episode started with George Jetson taking his family out on his way to work. Each member of the family slid forward in the seat. Beginning with his boy, Elroy, and moving on to Jane, his wife, George somehow snapped his fingers over their heads, a shield encased their seat, and they rode safely to school or the shopping center respectively. Each jetted off in complete confidence and safety in a protective bubble to their world that day.

Many people often have this same idea about being a Christian. They feel that somehow becoming a follower of Christ causes God to place a protective bubble around you, and you can jet through life with no problems. You will never lose your job or a loved one. You will never be poor or sick. You will always have the victory, and nothing will be able to keep you down.

If you ever experience any of those kinds of problems, it means one of two things: 1) you have unconfessed sin in your life, or 2) you simply don’t have enough faith. Either way, the problem is yours. You only experience hardship because you have down something wrong.

This same erroneous thinking took place in Jesus’ day as well, while walking through the streets one day, Jesus’ disciples noticed a man blind from birth sitting by the road. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, “This happened so the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-2). The disciples had concluded that the man suffered from blindness due to his own or his parents’ sin. Jesus said that neither was the case.

When a Christian, especially a minister suffers from some tragedy, critics often want to point fingers and find blame. What did that person do? Is there some hidden sin? Is there a lack of faith? There must be for a person to experience such tragedy. We often think that God is just sitting up in the sky glaring down at us so he can zap us if we aren’t 100% perfect.

God does not place some spiritual bubble over us when we begin to follow Christ. In fact, in some ways, we become more vulnerable because the world often attacks Christians. Jesus basically said, “If they hated me, they will hate you as well” (Matthew 10:22; 24:9). Around the world, Christians today are being persecuted for following Christ. Christians suffer hardship and loss as well. Paul also told Timothy to “endure hardship” in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). In 2 Timothy 3:12 he wrote, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with a parable about two builders, one wise, the other foolish. The wise one chose to lay his foundation on a bedrock while the foolish builder laid his house’s foundation on the sand. A storm arose and descended upon both houses. The one built on the rock withstood the storm while the one built on sand collapsed. The storm was the same in both cases. The difference lay in the foundations of each house.

Jesus compared these two builders to ones who had heard his word. One put it into practice, the other one did not. The storm came on both of them. The one who put Jesus’ words into practice was not exempt from the storm. The difference was that one person’s reaction to the word. He chose to build his life upon the word.

When you become a follower of Christ, your life will not necessarily be any easier. It may bring trouble and persecution your way. If you build your life on Christ’s words, you will eliminate some problems from your life because you will make wiser choices, but he also said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ may not shield you from the storms of life, but he will go through them with you.

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WHAT’S IT WORTH?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a doctor’s office just waiting. We have already spent more than an hour in the waiting room flipping through outdated magazines looking at photos of people that we will never look like. A nurse calls us into the back where she weighs us and takes other vital signs. Then she leads us into another room with the butcher-paper covered table. There we wait some more while looking at different, older magazines than those in the waiting room.

We wait and wait, an hour past our appointed time. Our blood pressure begins to rise, not because we are ill, but because we are irritated. We begin to think, “My time is more valuable than this. Who does that doctor think he is?” Finally, he comes in, asks a few questions, runs through the ritual, then he writes a prescription and lets us out. He tells us to see the receptionist on the way out. We become irate because he charged an outrageous amount for the little time spent diagnosing us. Then we try to figure out how much that visit made the doctor for an hour of time. We calculate that the doctor is making an inordinate amount of money per hour. We leave the office cursing the health-care system, and we begin to wonder about a more equitable way to pay the doctor.

Derek Halpern uses the illustration of a locksmith to distinguish between paying for time and paying for value. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VhCUHNdijo at 1:50) A locksmith went around helping people open their stuck locks. At first, it took him two and a half hours to open the locks. He charged his clients $250, and they happily paid. As he improved his skills, he shortened the time to an hour, then to half an hour, and finally down to ten minutes. The clients began to get angry because he was charging the same amount of money for the same job. So, they began to gripe because that was making more than $1000 an hour.

The difference was that they were thinking about how much they were paying for his time rather than how much they were paying for his value. The same with the doctor. You do not pay for how much time the doctor actually spends with you. You are paying for the value due to his or her training and years of experience. Value not time.

Now think about your pastor. Should a pastor be paid for his or her services? Many think not, that he or she should just “live by faith,” whatever that means. The Bible says, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (First Corinthians 9:14). Jesus also said, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Pastors and ministers are to be paid. The question is how much? I often hear “jokingly,” “You only work two days a week, and only half days at that.”

When you pay a minister, what are you paying for? Time, or value? A recent article on http://www.theatlantic.com talked about the decline in the numbers of full time jobs for ministers. It has come to the point that some are facing difficult times trying to pay back their student loans. (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/higher-calling-lower-wages-the-collapse-of-the-middle-class-clergy/374786/) Many ministers have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, myself included. Often the spouse has to work as well. When a church calls a minister, they should ask themselves, “What are we willing to do to support our minister?”

So, the question remains, “What is it worth to have a full time, seminary-trained pastor? Are you going to treat him or her as an hourly employee, paying by the hour? Or are you going to pay by their worth? If we were to be honest with ourselves, many church budgets do not reflect that they truly value the minister. Some members spend more on fancy coffee on the way to church than they put in the plate at church on Sundays.

Ministers do not punch a time clock. Much of ministry takes place outside of “office hours,” and much of it takes place outside of the office itself. I have had church members over the years tell me, “We want to find you in your office!” Doing what, I wonder? How much time can be spent studying the Bible for sermon preparation?

When I began pastoring almost thirty years ago, personal computers were a rarity and cell phones only for the elite. Now a pastor is not tied to a desk waiting for the phone to ring when a member calls and needs to talk. Over the years I have served, however, the majority of the calls came from salespeople rather than members.

So what is it worth to you to have a full time, seminary-trained pastor? Is it valuable enough to your church to make sacrifices in other areas to compensate your minister adequately? Another way to look at it would be to ask yourself, would you work for this salary?

Ministers’ families have the same needs as yours. He or she may have student loans to pay off as well. Seminary is not cheap as it is not subsidized like public universities. Money does not just fall out of the sky and into ministers’ bank accounts any more than it does into yours. That is not what living by faith means.

What does your church budget say about how much you value your minister? Jesus said that the worker deserves his wages. That means value, not time.

Salvation Lost?

Another term people use to explain “falling from grace” is talk about losing one’s salvation. Like falling from grace, this idea means that persons can become believers in Christ by grace through faith, but through sinful, disobedient, or disbelieving actions, can somehow lose their salvation. Still no one has been able to tell me when that happens. This teaching again makes maintenance of one’s salvation dependent upon the person who receives it. It may come by grace, but it must be maintained by religious works and avoidance of certain behaviors, which the group decides are unacceptable.

The apostle Peter wrote that God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1: 3-5). What is that inheritance? Four places in the New Testament, Jesus talks about inheriting eternal life. (See Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; Luke 18:18).

Eternal life is the inheritance. Notice how Peter described it: incorruptible, undefiled, not fading away. These terms speak of the quality of this inheritance. It does not become corrupt with time, as metal corrodes. It does not become polluted or adulterated with impurities added to it. It does not diminish or lose value as earthly investments do. He also said that it was guarded in heaven, and that believers are kept by the power of God because of faith so that the salvation will be revealed in the last times. There is no one stronger than God who can guard our salvation.

In my upcoming book, Evangelism on the Go, I wrote about an experience I had in college. I related how, as I reflected on John 3:16, the word “everlasting” grabbed my attention. I focused on that word for a moment, then I realized something. Everlasting means that it does not end. If a person ever received everlasting or eternal life, and then lost it, it wasn’t everlasting. Jesus did not promise probationary life that is conditional as to how well we hold a certain standard. He promised eternal life, one that never ends. As Peter said, it does not spoil or diminish. God reserves it in heaven for us. God himself keeps us through faith. It is beyond our ability to lose.

John 5:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Again, Jesus used the word “everlasting.” When a person believes Jesus’ words, and believes in God who sent Jesus, he or she possesses eternal life. That’s the present tense. Not “will have,” but “has everlasting life.” That person also passes from death to life. That cannot mean physical life, because the person does not change physically, and all people die physically. It is speaking of spiritual life, which did not exist before the person believed. He or she was dead in trespasses and sins (See Ephesians 2:1-5).

The only way that a person could lose eternal life and pass back into spiritual death would be to receive a death sentence or condemnation. However, Jesus said that once a person believes in his word, that person will not “come into judgment.” Judgment on that person’s sin has already taken place. There is no further judgment, so, the person cannot lose eternal life and go back to death. Such life would not have been eternal.

Similarly, Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation. You have been acquitted. There is no double jeopardy in God’s court. Jesus paid for all your sin once and for all on the cross (See Romans 6:10, Colossians 2:13-15, 1 Peter 3:18; and Hebrews 7:27, 9:12; 10:10). Your debt has been paid in full.

How does a person become “in Christ Jesus”? In Ephesians 1:13, Paul wrote, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” You become “in Him” after hearing the gospel and believing in Him.

Believing the gospel requires repentance (Mark 1:15). Repentance is a change of mind and heart toward sin. Believers are to die to sin and live in it no longer. (Romans 6:2). Christ died for us so “that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) Does that mean that believers can say they believe and then act anyway they want? Paul’s response would be, “May it never be!” (Romans 6:2 NASB). We are to live in sin no longer.

When we repent, we acknowledge our sinfulness and turn away from it. We turn to Christ in faith believing He died for our sin and rose again. As an act of gratitude, we live the rest of our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Once salvation is found, it cannot be lost. So, let’s live like a grateful saved, person rather than a lost one.