[forthright] The Need To Redirect the Discussion/Modesty

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2006 14:35:06 -0600
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

The Need To Redirect the Discussion by Barry Newton
Modesty by Stan Mitchell

COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

The Need To Redirect The Discussion
by Barry Newton

Years ago, my wife selected a mobile to hang in
our newborn's bedroom above the crib. I remember
attaching that mobile to a ceiling which I
presumed would be stared at for hours by our

Funny thing about mobiles. If you grab it by any
part other than the center supporting string, such
as by one of the suspended objects, the mobile
will contort into another shape. What were
intended to be supporting horizontal beams in the
framework might now collapse into limp hanging
sticks. The visual relationship of the parts to
the whole can become jumbled and confused. Knowing
the right question to ask can avoid creating a
tangled mess. With a mobile the initial
appropriate question is, "where is the center

Biblical teaching can suffer the same type of
distortion if we try to suspend a concept of
Scripture by a key word or idea without first
allowing Scripture to reveal the framework about
how the parts are related to the whole. To avoid a
less-than-clear understanding on salvation, the
right question is essential. Two Pauline phrases
have the potential to hang the theological mobile
regarding salvation from its proper God-centered
starting point, thus rescuing it from both an
anthropological center and common distortions of
Pauline teaching.

Paul wrote, "God knows those who are his" and "but
now that you have come to know God, or rather are
known by God."/1 These phrases reorient the
discussion away from starting with a myopic
fixation upon the claims which people might make
and toward the true crux of the matter: Does God
claim we are his? How does God determine who
belongs to him? Can we know the principle(s) by
which God recognizes those who are his saved

When the Bible is scoured keeping these questions
in view, a biblical framework clearly and cleanly
arises out of the text upon which topics like
salvation by faith and baptism for the remission
of sins hang harmoniously in proper relationship
with one another. Not only is starting with the
right questions necessary for getting past what
appears to be an age old impasse of two camps
armed with their own self-affirming verses, it
also opens the path toward enriching our
understanding regarding what the biblical text was
intended to communicate.

Asking the proper questions can derail proof-
texting, that is, ripping ideas and phrases out of
context in order to prove a point. Asking the
right questions at the start of a discussion can
lead to hearing God's voice, not merely an echo of
our own imposed upon Scripture. Asking the
appropriate questions can lead to a theologically
healthy understanding.

Just stop and listen to how people discuss
salvation. It quickly becomes clear that a need
for a biblically healthy reorientation exists. A
theocentric soteriological framework has been
largely ignored.

1/ 2 Timothy 2:19; Galatians 4:9

This is part one of a series on salvation in

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COLUMN: Reality Check

by Stan Mitchell

The Lord described one church this way: "You say,
'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need
a thing.' But you do not realize that you are
wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked'"
(Revelation 3:17).

Now any time a Christian says of his spiritual
status that he does "not need a thing," alarm
bells should go off. There is no such thing as a
Christian who doesn't need God's guidance, care,
mercy, or love! If a Christian tells you he
doesn't need help, don't believe him. And if you
happen to be the speaker, don't believe yourself!
When it comes to the lies we tell ourselves, we
are all far too willing dupes!

One of Winston Churchill's main political
opponents was former prime minister Clement
Attlee. Once, following a heated debate in
parliament, a newspaperman asked Churchill for an
evaluation of Attlee. Churchill said this: "He is
a modest man with much to be modest about."

Churches do not prosper because of great
preachers, talent-laden members, or magnificent
programs. They prosper according to their
faithfulness to God, and because of God's

Christians have much to be modest about.

A Christian who doesn't need God is about as
common as a rapper who sings wholesome songs, or a
well-adjusted member of the Michael Jackson

The term "self-sufficient Christian" is an
oxymoron. We need each other. We need the word of
God. We need forgiveness. We need strength. We
need God. We need not only to be modest, but to
truly understand how much we have to be modest

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of
you: do not think of yourself more highly than you
ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
judgement, in accordance to the measure of faith
God has given you" (Romans 12:3). a

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