Πέμπτη, 5 Νοεμβρίου 2009

Ποιός είναι ο Ιησούς


Ας σκεφτούμε λίγο λοιπόν, χρησιμοποιώντας τη λογική μας, σχετικά με τον Χριστιανισμό.

Πριν 2.000 χρόνια, ένας άνθρωπος στην Παλαιστίνη ισχυρίστηκε πως ήταν ο Θεός, πως ήταν ο Μεσσίας, πως ήταν ο Υιός του θεού από τον Ουρανό, πως θα φέρει την Βασιλεία των Ουρανών στη γη. Οι άνθρωποι που άκουγαν το μήνυμά του, τον είδαν να κάνει εκπληκτικά θαύματα. Δεν ισχυριζόταν απλώς πως ήταν ο Θεός, αλλά έπεισε και τους ανθρώπους, ακόμα και τους Ιουδαίους, ακόμα και αυτούς που τον ζούσαν καθημερινά, πως είναι πράγματι ο Θεός. Αφού πέθανε, πολλές εκατοντάδες ανθρώπων ανέφεραν πως τον είδαν αναστημένο. Πάρα πολλοί άνθρωποι μάλιστα μέσα στη ιστορία υπέφεραν μαρτυρικό θάνατο γι Αυτόν.

Δεν ήταν βασιλιάς, ούτε κάποιος ευγενής, δεν ήταν πλούσιος, δεν είχε στρατό, δεν έγραψε κανένα κείμενο και πέθανε πάνω σε ένα ξύλινο σταυρό, με ένα θάνατο που προοριζόταν για τους χειρότερους εγκληματίες. Η ιστορία και η διδασκαλία του καταγράφηκαν με ιστορική πιστότητα στην Καινή Διαθήκη.

Είναι ο μόνος άνθρωπος στην ιστορία που οι άνθρωποι τον δόξασαν σαν Θεό και ο ίδιος το αποδέχτηκε. Ισχυρίστηκε πως είναι ο Θεός και οι άνθρωποι τον πίστεψαν. Δεν ρωτούσαν ποιος είσαι εσύ, αλλά τι είσαι εσύ. Και τον πίστεψαν γιατί ποτέ δεν είδαν τέτοια συμπόνοια, τέτοια σοφία, τέτοια ακεραιότητα, τέτοια δύναμη. Κανείς, ούτε ο Βούδας ούτε κανένας άλλος δε δέχτηκε ποτέ να λατρευτεί σαν θεός. Μόνο ο Ιησούς, και οι άνθρωποι τον πίστεψαν και τον ακολούθησαν.

Πάνω από 2 δισεκατομμύρια άνθρωποι τον ακολουθούν σήμερα σε όλο τον κόσμο. Σε μερικές περιοχές του κόσμου μάλιστα (Κίνα, Αφρική κ.α.) η αύξηση του Χριστιανισμού είναι εκρηκτική. Ίσως γιατί ο Ιησούς ταυτίστηκε με τους φτωχούς, τους αδύναμους και τους απόκληρους... Η δυτική κοινωνία στην οποία ζούμε έχει αποκτήσει άλλους θεούς (το χρήμα, η κοινωνική καταξίωση, το σεξ, η εξωτερική ομορφιά, η ιδεολογία, οτιδήποτε έχει αξία στη ζωή μας μπορεί να μετατραπεί σε θεό μας, και μάλιστα θυσιάζουμε σ' αυτούς τους θεούς, για παράδειγμα όταν η καριέρα μας είναι ο θεός μας μπορεί να θυσιάζουμε τα παιδιά μας, την οικογένειά μας σ' αυτό το θεό μας... )

Ο εκπληκτικός, λοιπόν, ισχυρισμός του πως είναι ο Θεός, καθώς και το μέγεθος της επιρροής του στην ανθρώπινη ιστορία, σημαίνουν πως δεν θα πρέπει κάποιος απλώς να αμφιβάλλει πως ο Ιησούς είναι ο Θεός, αλλά θα πρέπει να είναι απολύτως σίγουρος πως ο Ιησούς δεν είναι ο Θεός. Γιατί αν κάνει κανείς λάθος σχετικά με τον Ιησού και με το αν είναι στην πραγματικότητα αυτός που ισχυρίζεται πως είναι, τότε η ζωή του οδηγείται στην καταστροφή.

Αν ο Ιησούς είναι αυτός που λέει πως είναι, τότε δεν μπορείς να τον δεις "αντικειμενικά". Δεν μπορείς να κρατήσεις αποστάσεις. Πρέπει να πάρεις θέση. Ο Ιησούς λέει, εγώ είμαι η Αλήθεια. Ο Ιησούς λέει πως αν θέλεις να τον ακολουθήσεις πρέπει να του παραδώσεις τα πάντα. Η αγάπη σου γι Αυτόν θα πρέπει να είναι τόσο μεγάλη που οποιαδήποτε άλλη αγάπη, είτε πρόκειται για γονείς, είτε πρόκειται για σύζυγο, είτε πρόκειται για παιδιά, για οτιδήποτε, θα πρέπει να είναι σαν ένα τίποτα μπροστά στην αγάπη σου γι Αυτόν.

Ποιός είναι αυτός που λέει όλα αυτά τα εξωφρενικά πράγματα; Ποιός είναι αυτός που έχει τέτοια ποιότητα στο κήρυγμά του; Ποιός είναι αυτός που το κήρυγμά του είναι τόσο διαχρονικό και τόσο "διαπολιτισμικό"; Ποιός είναι αυτός που γνωρίζει τόσο καλά την καρδιά του ανθρώπου; Ποιός είναι αυτός που σε κάθε του φράση η καρδιά μου σκιρτάει; Πως είναι δυνατόν να με γνωρίζει τόσο καλά;

Αν ο Θεός δεν είναι σαν τον Ιησού, τότε αυτός ο Θεός δεν είναι αυτός που ο κόσμος μας χρειάζεται.

Μπορεί κανείς να πιστέψει πως πάνω από 2 δισεκατομμύρια άνθρωποι σήμερα, και πόσοι ακόμα στο παρελθόν, ακολουθούν ένα ψέμα; Είναι λογικό;

Πιστεύω πως ο κόσμος στον οποίο ζούμε, φαίνεται πολύ πιο λογικός και ερμηνεύεται πολύ ευκολότερα αν κανείς δεχτεί την ύπαρξη ενός παντοδύναμου και δίκαιου θεού. Είναι πράγματι δύσκολο να πιστέψει κανείς στην πραγματικότητα της ύπαρξης του Θεού, αλλά είναι ακόμα δυσκολότερο, νομίζω, να δεχτεί κανείς το αντίθετο.

Είτε θα τον μισεί κανείς και θα του επιτίθεται, είτε θα τον φοβάται και θα τον αποφεύγει, είτε θα τον λατρεύει. Δεν υπάρχει άλλος τρόπος να αντιμετωπίσει κανείς την εκπληκτική παρουσία του Ιησού. Άν όμως είναι αυτός που είναι, τότε αυτά είναι καλά νέα. Γιατί αυτό που λέει, είναι πως η ηθική και οι καλές πράξεις δεν είναι ο δρόμος. Κοίταξε σε εμένα, εγώ είμαι ο Θεός και έρχομαι σε σένα, δεν θα είσαι ποτέ αρκετά καλός, δε θα είσαι ποτέ αρκετά ηθικός, γι αυτό εγώ ο Θεός έρχομαι σε εσένα. Έρχομαι να ζήσω τη ζωή που θα έπρεπε να ζήσεις. Έρχομαι να πεθάνω στη θέση σου για να έχεις μέσω της αγάπης μου και της χάρης μου την αιώνια ζωή μαζί μου.

Εύχομαι ο Θεός να σας δώσει σοφία και σύνεση και την επιθυμία στην καρδιά να τον γνωρίσετε προσωπικά....

Τρίτη, 20 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Δεκαπέντε αμβλώσεις σε 16 χρόνια

Ιρένε Βίλαρ. Το βιβλίο της «Αδύνατη μητρότητα» έχει ταράξει την Αμερική

ΔΗΜΟΣΙΕΥΘΗΚΕ: Δευτέρα 19 Οκτωβρίου 2009


Η γυναίκα που έχει κάνει 15 αμβλώσεις μέσα σε 16 χρόνια έχει ένα γλυκό χαμόγελο,
αλλά κι έναν μεγάλο φόβο: «Ότι κάποιος φανατικός μπορεί να μου κάνει κακό.
Όχι, δεν φοβάμαι για μένα, αλλά για τις δύο μου κόρες».

Η 3χρονη Λορέτα και η 5χρονη Λολίτα μια μέρα θα μάθουν. «Βγαίνω από έναν εφιάλτη», λέει η 40χρονη Ιρένε Βίλαρ, μια λογοτεχνική ατζέντισα από το Ντένβερ, η οποία, αφού αντιμετώπισε 51 αρνήσεις, κατάφερε να εκδώσει τελικά το βιβλίο της με τίτλο «Αδύνατη μητρότητα» (Ιmpossible Μotherhood, εκδ. Οther Ρress). Ένα βιβλίο που ταράζει την Αμερική.

Η ιστορία μοιάζει απίστευτη, αλλά είναι αληθινή. Ο εκδότης κατέφυγε στις υπηρεσίες ενός δικηγόρου για να την επαληθεύσει και διαπίστωσε ότι όλα είναι ακριβή. Γιατί όμως η Ιρένε έκανε όλες αυτές τις αμβλώσεις; «Αγαπούσα έναν άνδρα πιο μεγάλο από μένα, έναν καθηγητή λογοτεχνίας. Με είχε προειδοποιήσει ότι θα μπορούσαμε να είμαστε μαζί μόνο αν αρνιόμουν να κάνω παιδιά. Όπως έλεγε, τα παιδιά δεν συμβιβάζονται με την ελευθερία». Το κακό ήταν ότι ο άνδρας αυτός δεν χρησιμοποιούσε προφυλακτικό. Κι έτσι η γυναίκα έμενε συνεχώς έγκυος. Κι έκανε συνεχώς αμβλώσεις. «Ξέρετε πώς λειτουργεί ένα ναρκωτικό;». Οι «Λος Αντζελες Τάιμς» συνομίλησαν μαζί της υπό τον όρο να μην αποκαλύψουν πού μένει. Κάτι τέτοιο θα ήταν πολύ επικίνδυνο. Η ιστορία πάντως έφτασε και στο κανάλι ΑΒC. Το βιβλίο είναι όμορφο και οδυνηρό, είπε ο συγγραφέας Τζούνοτ Ντίας. Οδυνηρό, επειδή μόλις την περασμένη εβδομάδα έγινε γνωστό ότι 70.000 γυναίκες πεθαίνουν κάθε χρόνο σε όλο τον κόσμο από αμβλώσεις σε ακατάλληλες συνθήκες. Χάρη στη χρήση προφυλακτικών ο αριθμός των αμβλώσεων έχει μειωθεί (από 45,5 εκατομμύρια το 1995 σε 41,6 εκατομμύρια το 2003), αλλά οι νομικοί περιορισμοί δεν τις σταματούν, απλώς τις κάνουν πιο επικίνδυνες.

Η Ιρένε, που έχει κάνει ήδη δύο απόπειρες αυτοκτονίας, γνωρίζει ότι το βιβλίο της είναι σκανδαλώδες όχι μόνο για τους αντιπάλους των αμβλώσεων, αλλά και για τους pro-choice. «Είμαστε λοιπόν κι εμείς υπεύθυνες;» αναρωτιέται η φεμινίστρια Ρόμπιν Μπόργκαν, που έγραψε την εισαγωγή του βιβλίου. «Οι γυναίκες εκείνες διακινδύνευσαν τη ζωή τους για να μου δώσουν αυτή την ελευθερία, κι εγώ την καταχράστηκα», απαντά η Ιρένε. «Χάρις σ΄ αυτή την ελευθερία, όμως, είμαι σήμερα ζωντανή».

Η Ιρένε κατάγεται από το Πουέρτο Ρίκο και μεγάλωσε στη σκιά της εθνικίστριας γιαγιάς της Λολίτα Λεμπρόν, που επιτέθηκε με όπλο στο Καπιτώλιο το 1954 τραυματίζοντας πέντε βουλευτές. Έμεινε 25 χρόνια στη φυλακή, ώσπου ο πρόεδρος Κάρτερ της απένειμε χάρη. Σήμερα είναι 89 ετών, και πολύ άρρωστη. Η μητέρα της Ιρένε αυτοκτόνησε μπροστά στα μάτια της οκτάχρονης κόρης της, πηδώντας από ένα αυτοκίνητο εν κινήσει. Δύο από τους αδελφούς της είναι ηρωινομανείς.

http://www.tanea.gr/default.asp?pid=2&artid=4541771&ct=2

Πέμπτη, 15 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

February 14, 2007

By John Piper

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’sdeceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.


© Desiring God

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Δευτέρα, 12 Οκτωβρίου 2009

What Does It Mean to Know God?

What is Christianity?

Some say it is a philosophy, others that it is
an ethical stance, while still others claim it
is really an experience. None of these
really gets at the heart of the matter, however.
Each of those things is something a Christian
has, but not one of them serves as a definition of
what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a
transaction between a person and God. A person
who becomes a Christian moves from knowing
about God distantly to knowing Him directly
and intimately.

"Now this is eternal life; that
they may know you, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." —John 17:3.

Christianity is knowing God.

Why Do I Need to Know God?
Our desire for personal knowledge of God is
strong, but we usually fail to recognize the
desire for what it is. When we first fall in love,
when we first marry, when we finally break into
our chosen field, when we at last get that
weekend house—these breakthroughs arouse in
us an anticipation of something which, as it
turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover
that our desire for that precious something is a
longing that no lover or career or achievement,
even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy.
The satisfaction fades away even as we close
our fingers around our goal. Nothing ever
delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us
avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness
or denial, but, at best, there is only a postponement.
"Nothing tastes," said Marie Antoinette.
There are several ways people respond to this:


1) To blame the things themselves—to find fault
with everyone and everything around them.
Some people believe that a better spouse, a better
career, a better boss or salary would finally yield
the elusive joy. Many of the world's most
successful people are like this: bored, discontented,
running from new thing to new thing,
often changing counselors, mates, partners,
settings.

2) To blame themselves—to try harder to live up
to self-imposed standards. Many people feel they
have made poor choices or failed to measure up
to challenges and to achieve the things that
would give them joy and satisfaction. Such
people are wracked with self-doubts and tend to
burn themselves out. They think, "If only I could
reach my goals, then this emptiness would be
gone." But it is not so.


The Christian says, "Creatures are not born
with desires unless satisfaction for those
desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well,
there is such a thing as food. A duckling
wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as
water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is
such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire
which no experience in this world can
satisfy, the most probable explanation is that
I was made for another world. If none of my
earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not
mean that the universe is a fraud. Probably
earthly pleasures were never meant to
satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest
the real thing.
—C. S. Lewis

3) To blame the universe itself—to give up
seeking fulfillment at all. These are the people
who says, "Yes, when young you are idealistic,
but at my age I have stopped howling after the
moon." They become cynical and decide to
repress that part of themselves that once wanted
fulfillment and joy. But they become hard, and
they can feel themselves losing their humanity,
compassion and joy.

4) To blame and recognize their separation from
God—to establish a personal relationship with
Him.



How Can I Know God?
In order to form a personal relationship with
God, we must know three things:

1) Who We Are

We are God's creation. God created us and built
us for a relationship with Him. We belong to
Him and owe Him gratitude for every breath,
every moment, everything. Since humans were
built to live for Him (to worship), we will always
try to worship something. If not God, we will
choose some other object of ultimate devotion to
give life meaning.

We are sinners. We have all chosen (and reaffirm
daily) to reject God and to make our own joy and
happiness our highest priority. We do not want
to worship God and surrender our self-mastery,
yet we are built to worship; so we cling to idols,
centering our lives on things which promise to
give us meaning: success, relationships, influence,
love, comfort, etc.

We are in spiritual bondage. To live for anything
else but God leads to breakdown and decay.
When a fish leaves the water, that which he was
built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshipping
other things besides God leads to a loss of
meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot
deliver satisfaction, because they were never
meant to be "gods." They were never meant to
replace God. Worshipping other things besides
God also leads to self-image problems. We end
up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement
in these things. We must have them or all
is lost, so they drive us to work too hard or fill
us with terror if they are jeopardized.

------------------------------------------------------
Pray after this fashion:
"I see I am more flawed
and sinful than I ever dared believe, but that
I am even more loved and accepted than I
ever dared hope."
------------------------------------------------------

2) Who God Is

God is love and justice. His active concern is for
our joy and well-being. Most people love those
who love them, yet God loves and seeks the
good even of people who are His enemies. But
because God is good and loving, He cannot
tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger
but indifference.

"The more you love your son, the
more you hate in him, the liar, the drunkard, the
traitor." (E.H. Gifford)

To imagine God's situation,
picture a judge who is also a father, who
sits at the trial of his very guilty son. A judge
knows that he cannot let his son go, for without
justice no society can survive. How much less
can a loving God merely ignore or suspend
justice for us who are loved, yet guilty of
rebellion against His loving authority?

Jesus Christ is God. Jesus is God Himself come
to earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God
with all His heart, soul and mind, fulfilling all
human obligation to God. He lived the life you
owed—a perfect record. Then, instead of
receiving His deserved reward (eternal life),
Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins,
taking the punishment and death you owed.

When we believe in Him:

1) Our sins are paid for by His death, and

2) His perfect life record is transferred to
our account.
So God accepts and regards us as if we
had done all Christ has done.

3) What You Must Do

You must repent. There first must be an
admission that you have been living as your
own master, worshipping the wrong things,
violating God's loving laws. "Repentance"
means you ask forgiveness and turn from that
stance with a willingness to live for and
center on Him.

You must believe. Faith is transferring your
trust from your own efforts to the efforts of
Christ. You were relying on other things to
make you acceptable, but now you consciously
begin relying on what Jesus did for
your acceptance with God. All you need is
nothing. If you think, "God owes me something
for all my efforts," you are still on the
outside.

Pray after this fashion: "I see that I am more
flawed and sinful than I ever dared believe,
but that I am even more loved and accepted
than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life
of living for myself. I have nothing in my
record to merit Your approval, but I now rest
in what Jesus did and ask to be accepted into
God's family for His sake." When you make
this transaction, two things happen at once:
1) your accounts are cleared, your sins are
wiped out permanently, you are adopted
legally into God's family, and 2) the Holy
Spirit enters your heart and begins to change
you into the character of Jesus.

You must follow through. Tell a Christian
friend about your commitment. Get yourself
training in the basic Christian disciplines of
prayer, worship, Bible study and fellowship with
other Christians.

Consider reading:
Go for It, by John Guest, or The Fight, by John
White. Both are good books for developing a new
Christian life.


If you were created by God, then you owe Him
your life, whether you feel like it or not.


Why Should I Seek to Know God?
On the one hand, you may feel very much that
you "need" God. Even though you may recognize
that you have needs only God can meet, you must
not try to use Him to achieve your own ends. It is
not possible to bargain with God. ("I'll do this if
You will do that.") That is not Christianity at all,
but a form of magic or paganism in which you
appease the cranky deity to get a favor. Are you
getting into Christianity to serve God or to get
God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives,
and they result in two different religions.
You must come to God because 1) you owe it to
Him to give Him your life (because He is your
Creator), and 2) you are deeply grateful to Him for
sacrificing His Son (because He is your Redeemer).

On the other hand, you may feel no need at all or
interest in knowing God. This does not mean you
should stay uncommitted. If you were created by
God, then you owe Him your life, whether you
feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek Him
and ask Him to soften your heart and enlighten
yours eyes. If you say, "I have no faith," that is no
excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts.
No one can doubt everything at once—you must
believe in something to doubt something else. For
example, do you believe you are competent to
run your own life? Where is the evidence for
that? Why doubt everything but your doubts
about God and your faith in yourself? Is that
fair? You owe it to God to seek Him. Do so.

What If I Am Not Ready to Proceed?
Make a list of issues that you perceive to be
barriers to your crossing the line into faith.
Here is a possible set of headings:

Content issues: Do you understand the basics
of the Christian message—sin, Jesus as God,
sacrifice, faith?

Coherence issues: Are there intellectual
problems you have with Christianity? Objections
to the Christian faith which you cannot
resolve in your mind?

Cost issues: Do you perceive a move into full
Christian faith will cost you something dear?
What fears do you have about commitment?

Consider reading:
Hope Has It's Reasons, by Rebecca Pippert
(Harper and Row)
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan)
Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP).



—Adapted from Timothy Keller, 1991

Κυριακή, 11 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Ο Άσωτος Πατέρας (η παραβολή του άσωτου υιού ή η παραβολή του σπλαχνικού πατέρα)

Εδώ μπορείτε να διαβάσετε (στα αγγλικά) τις πρώτες 16 σελίδες
του βιβλίου "The Prodigal God" του Tim Keller,
όπου μας παρουσιάζεται η παραβολή του σπλαχνικού (άσωτου) Πατέρα με
έναν πολύ εμπνευσμένο, "φρέσκο" τρόπο.




prod-i-gal / adjective
1. recklessly extravagant
2. having spent everything

the
Parable
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
(Based on the New International Version, with some verses
translated by the author.)
1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were
all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the
Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats
with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this
parable. . . .
11 Jesus continued, “There was a man who
had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his
father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’
So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got
together all he had, set off for a far country
and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
14 After he had spent everything, there
was a severe famine in that whole country, and
he began to be in need. 15 So he went and
hired himself out to a citizen of that country,
who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods
that the pigs were eating, but no one gave
him anything. 17 When he came to his senses,
he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men
have food to spare, and here I am starving
to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my
father and say to him: Father, I have sinned
against heaven and against you. 19 I am no
longer worthy to be called your son; make me
like one of your hired men.’
20 “So he got up and went to his father. But
while he was still a long way off, his father saw
him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him
and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father,
I have sinned against heaven and against
you. I am no longer worthy to be called your
son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick!
Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a
ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have
a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine
was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is
found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.
When he came near the house, he heard music
and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants
and asked him what was going on.
27 “ ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and
your father has killed the fattened calf because
he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The elder brother became angry and refused
to go in. So his father went out and
pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father,
‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving
for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet
you never gave me even a young goat so I
could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when
this son of yours who has squandered your
property with prostitutes comes home, you
kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always
with me, and everything I have is yours. 32
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because
this brother of yours was dead and is alive
again; he was lost and is found.’ ”


Chapter One

The People Around Jesus

“All gathering around to hear him.”


Two Kinds of People

MOST readings of this parable have concentrated
on the flight and return of the younger
brother—the “Prodigal Son.” That misses the real
message of the story, however, because there are two
brothers, each of whom represents a different way to
be alienated from God, and a different way to seek
acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.
It is crucial to notice the historical setting that
the author provides for Jesus’s teaching. In the first
two verses of the chapter, Luke recounts that there
were two groups of people who had come to listen
to Jesus. First there were the “tax collectors and sin-
ners.” These men and women correspond to the
younger brother. They observed neither the moral
laws of the Bible nor the rules for ceremonial purity
followed by religious Jews. They engaged in “wild living.”
Like the younger brother, they “left home” by
leaving the traditional morality of their families and of
respectable society. The second group of listeners was
the “Pharisees and the teachers of the law,” who were
represented by the elder brother. They held to the
traditional morality of their upbringing. They studied
and obeyed the Scripture. They worshipped faithfully
and prayed constantly.
With great economy Luke shows how different
each group’s response was to Jesus. The progressive
tense of the Greek verb translated “were gathering”
conveys that the attraction of younger brothers to
Jesus was an ongoing pattern in his ministry. They
continually flocked to him. This phenomenon puzzled
and angered the moral and the religious. Luke summarizes
their complaint: “This man welcomes sinners
and [even] eats with them.” To sit down and eat with
someone in the ancient Near East was a token of acceptance.
“How dare Jesus reach out to sinners like
that?” they were saying. “These people never come
to our services! Why would they be drawn to Jesus’s
teaching? He couldn’t be declaring the truth to them,
as we do. He must be just telling them what they want
to hear!”
So to whom is Jesus’s teaching in this parable
directed? It is to the second group, the scribes and
Pharisees. It is in response to their attitude that Jesus
begins to tell the parable. The parable of the two
sons takes an extended look at the soul of the elder
brother, and climaxes with a powerful plea for him to
change his heart.
Throughout the centuries, when this text is taught
in church or religious education programs, the almost
exclusive focus has been on how the father freely receives
his penitent younger son. The first time I heard
the parable, I imagined Jesus’s original listeners’ eyes
welling with tears as they heard how God will always
love and welcome them, no matter what they’ve done.
We sentimentalize this parable if we do that. The targets
of this story are not “wayward sinners” but religious
people who do everything the Bible requires.
Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders
as with moral insiders. He wants to show them
their blindness, narrowness, and self-righteousness,
and how these things are destroying both their own
souls and the lives of the people around them. It is
a mistake, then, to think that Jesus tells this story
primarily to assure younger brothers of his unconditional
love.
No, the original listeners were not melted into
tears by this story but rather they were thunderstruck,
offended, and infuriated. Jesus’s purpose is
not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories.
Through this parable Jesus challenges what nearly
everyone has ever thought about God, sin, and salvation.
His story reveals the destructive self-centeredness
of the younger brother, but it also condemns the elder
brother’s moralistic life in the strongest terms. Jesus is
saying that both the irreligious and the religious are
spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that
every thought the human race has had about how to
connect to God has been wrong.


Why People Like Jesus but Not the Church

Both older brothers and younger brothers are with us
today, in the same society and often in the very same
family.
Frequently the oldest sibling in a family is the
parent-pleaser, the responsible one who obeys the
parental standards. The younger sibling tends to be
the rebel, a free spirit who prefers the company and
admiration of peers. The first child grows up, takes
a conventional job, and settles down near Mom and
Dad, while the younger sibling goes off to live in
the hip-shabby neighborhoods of New York and Los
Angeles.
These natural, temperamental differences have
been accentuated in more recent times. In the early
nineteenth century industrialization gave rise to a
new middle class—the bourgeois—which sought legitimacy
through an ethic of hard work and moral
rectitude. In response to perceived bourgeois hypocrisy
and rigidity, communities of bohemians
arose, from Henri Murger’s 1840s Paris to the
Bloomsbury Group of London, the Beats of Greenwich
Village, and the indie-rock scenes of today.
Bohemians stress freedom from convention and
personal autonomy.
To some degree the so-called culture wars are
playing out these same conflicting temperaments and
impulses in modern society. More and more people
today consider themselves non-religious or even antireligious.
They believe moral issues are highly complex
and are suspicious of any individuals or institutions
that claim moral authority over the lives of others.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the rise of this secular
spirit there has also been considerable growth in conservative,
orthodox religious movements. Alarmed by
what they perceive as an onslaught of moral relativism,
many have organized to “take back the culture,”
and take as dim a view of “younger brothers” as the
Pharisees did.
So whose side is Jesus on? In The Lord of the Rings,
when the hobbits ask the ancient Treebeard whose
side he is on, he answers: “I am not altogether on
anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my
side. . . . [But] there are some things, of course, whose
side I’m altogether not on.”3 Jesus’s own answer to
this question, through the parable, is similar. He is
on the side of neither the irreligious nor the religious,
but he singles out religious moralism as a particularly
deadly spiritual condition.
It is hard for us to realize this today, but when
Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a
religion. It was the non-religion. Imagine the neighbors
of early Christians asking them about their faith.
“Where’s your temple?” they’d ask. The Christians
would reply that they didn’t have a temple. “But how
could that be? Where do your priests labor?” The
Christians would have replied that they didn’t have
priests. “But . . . but,” the neighbors would have
sputtered, “where are the sacrifices made to please
your gods?” The Christians would have responded
that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself
was the temple to end all temples, the priest to
end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.4
No one had ever heard anything like this. So the
Romans called them “atheists,” because what the
Christians were saying about spiritual reality was
unique and could not be classified with the other religions
of the world. This parable explains why they
were absolutely right to call them atheists.
The irony of this should not be lost on us, standing
as we do in the midst of the modern culture wars.
To most people in our society, Christianity is religion
and moralism. The only alternative to it (besides some
other world religion) is pluralistic secularism. But from
the beginning it was not so. Christianity was recognized
as a tertium quid, something else entirely.
The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously
observant people were offended by Jesus, but those
estranged from religious and moral observance were
intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout
the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In
every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a
sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and
a racial outcast (as in John 3–4) or a religious person
and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is
the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother
type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious
leaders “the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter
the kingdom before you” (Matthew 21:31).
Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious
while offending the Bible-believing, religious
people of his day. However, in the main, our churches
today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders
Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary
churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We
tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic
people. The licentious and liberated or the broken
and marginal avoid church. That can only mean
one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the
practice of our parishioners do not have the same
effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not
be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our
churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they
must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like