Not “Accept” but Follow Christ

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* Guest blog, Susie Walther, http://www.thewellbiblestudy.org

Did you know that the religion of Jesus begins with the word follow (as in follow Christ) and ends with the word go (as in go into all the world and make disciples)?

Did you know that Jesus never told anyone to “accept Me,” but instead said in no uncertain terms to “follow Me?” Did you know, then, that the opposite of rejecting Jesus is not accepting Him, but rather choosing not to follow Him?

Until we begin to export en masse to the Church and the world the same kind of gospel Jesus lived, died and rose again to give us, bucket loads of people will continue to flounder in sin and compromise and/or remain spiritually sterile believing a version of “Christianity” that has no power to transform them or bear eternal fruit. But that will mean we’ve got to stop making this stuff up as we go along and just start believing what the Christ of the Bible told us, whether it fits our denominational SOP for doctrine or not.

And while I still have the mike, I’d like to say one more thing about this business of “acceptance.” Do you know that the ones who need to be accepted are us? We are rotten, miserable, self-centered creatures who intrinsically don’t know a thing about holiness or righteousness and we are the ones who need to be accepted by the Father, and He has ordained that the only means for His acceptance of us is through the blood sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. For crying out loud, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Why does He need to be accepted by us? We need to be accepted by Him!

So, we can make “decisions” and “professions of faith” and we can be baptized and confirmed all day long, but the Bible still says that to be accepted by God we must receive Christ which means we must repent of our sin. To repent means to surrender all rights and control of our lives. To surrender means to follow after Jesus. To follow means to obey Him, and to obey is to love God and others enough to go and make disciples!

This is Christ’s version of Christianity, ladies, and it’s the one that’ll revolutionize your life, this city, and the world.

Trying to squeeze Jesus into your busy life?

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Guest blog – by Susie Walther, www.thewellbiblestudy.org, a women’s bible study and training ministry in Tampa, FLSusie Walther

Quiet Time, Prayer, Scripture Memory, Accountability, Bible study, Obedience, Application, Inviting Women, Sharing Your Testimony, Sharing the Gospel, Going for Coffee – these are a regular part of the language and dialogue you’re exposed to at The Well.

However, you need to know we’re not encouraging you to try and “add” these spiritual disciplines to an already busy and/or mostly secular life.

No, no, my dear, what we’re encouraging is the surrender of your busy and/or mostly secular life for the spiritual lifestyle of the Kingdom of God.

Why? Because Jesus doesn’t want to be added to where you can fit Him into your life. Jesus wants to be your life because He is your life! Jesus has the right to define your life, rule your life, and control your life because He’s the Lord of Life and He bought you for a price.

You belong to Him, and not vice versa.

Jesus wants to expose you to Himself, so you can have the kind of relationship He has with the Father.

Jesus wants to impress His life upon your character, upon your day and upon your Friday and Saturday nights.

Jesus is soooooo not interested in you picking up a few religious habits or mostly just blocking off time to attend church or The Well. He wants you 24/7, not the things of God and the Kingdom you’ve determined you can add or fit into your schedule.

The Well is a place to begin learning how to live your life oriented toward the Kingdom of God (not to be confused with a life oriented toward church, because they’re not the same thing).

Adding some spiritual things here and there, and dropping others that don’t fit so well isn’t Kingdom living.

Surrendering and following at all costs is Kingdom living.

He descended into hell – What?!

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I was ambushed at lunch yesterday.

“What is up with the “He descended into hell” part of the Apostle’s Creed? What does that mean, and how come some churches say it and others don’t? Why don’t you write a blog on that?”

Well, alright then, it being Easter weekend and all… Here’s a round of what I call Coffee Cup Theology.

This is the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.

The “descended into hell” part is controversial, and has been debated for about 1,000 years. Remember that the Apostle’s Creed is a confession of faith (in this case it was a baptismal statement) that was developed around 350 AD and made an official around 750 AD. It is not a piece of scripture but a statement designed to clarify what the church believes.

So here’s my one cup of coffee commentary:

A literal translation of “descended into hell” is “went into the grave”. All the creed is saying is that Jesus was really dead. He was not an illusion. He was nailed to a post. He died. He had a real body, a corpse, that was placed in a tomb. He was not merely unconscious, the death of Jesus was not just a swoon or a coma, but death in every sense of the word. In the South we would say he was “deader than a door nail”… like really, truly dead. The reason that phrase was a part of the creed was to combat other heresies – unacceptable beliefs that Jesus wasn’t really dead.

Got that? So when you come to the “descended into hell” bit just say to yourself “He went down into the grave”. And you’ll know He was really, truly dead for your sins.

Who’s got time for a second cup of coffee?

Let me start by saying this – There is no place in scripture where it clearly says what Jesus was doing on Saturday of Easter weekend. He was dead, in the grave remember? He died on Friday and was resurrected on Sunday, the third day. So nothing is really said in scripture about what happened in between. You’ll have to ask Him when you get to heaven. Add it to your list of Unanswered Questions.

Today, as best I can figure out, the Catholic church has dropped the “descended into hell” line as have the Methodists. The Episcopalians/Anglicans have kept it and teach it in the catechism. I don’t know about the Presbyterians, and if you’re Baptist it’s possible you have no idea what I am talking about. LOL. (Tell me what you know, girlfriends!!)

However, there is a church tradition that on this occasion he took the souls of those who had died trusting in the promises made under the Old Covenant before Christ — Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, and many others — and brought them out of the realm of the dead who are waiting for resurrection and judgment and into heavenly glory. In the Episcopalian catechism (get out your Book of Common Prayer) the question is asked, “What do we mean when we say He descended to the dead?” The Answer: “We mean that he went to the departed and offered them also the benefits of redemption.”

This tradition is based on an interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18-20

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

I have no idea what verse 19 really means. (Luckily it has no real impact on my life today!!)

I do know that it opens up many questions regarding what you believe about what happens between when you die and the resurrection at the Judgment Day. I can’t do three more cups of coffee today. I have Easter eggs to boil and color with my kids today. No eschatology – maybe another time.

Except one last interesting thought – this week as you read and hear the dialogue between Jesus and the thief on the cross remember that the spoken word has no punctuation. In Luke 23:43 did Jesus say,

“Truly I say to you – today you will be with me in paradise.” or
“Truly I say to you today – you will be with me in paradise.”

I had to throw that out there, just for fun!

It doesn’t really matter. What we know for sure is that we all gonna die one day and then there will be a resurrection and a judgment. You can be scared about that, or you can be excited about that… it all depends on what you do with Jesus and his teachings.

Jesus really did die on the cross and bore the full wrath of God that we deserved for being full of sin and our self-righteous, independent-living ways. The promise of Romans 10:9 is the same for all of us, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He’s coming—O glorious day!”

Sing it this Easter weekend, and every day of your life! He is risen, hallelujah!

More reading for the curious:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/nov15.html
http://www.crivoice.org/dead.html