The Mark of the Christian by Francis Schaeffer

Required Reading for Every Single Follower of Christ

shaeffer

Go to your library. Right now, this very moment. Scan the titles and covers. Do you find the book shown at the right? Look carefully as, at 59 pages, this slim volume could easily be hidden by larger, more ponderous volumes attempting to convey similar messages. Did you find a book by the same author entitled The Church at the End of the 20th Century? If the answer is no, you must obtain a copy of The Mark of the Christian as quickly as possible. Don’t tarry, for each moment the Body continues headlong into history without absorbing this message we move further away from one of the Lord’s most important messages,

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

Love is to be our mark. Love within the Body is to be a light that illuminates the world showing that there is a different way, a better way. Each and every action that the world sees, both within and without of the Body, is to marked by this Love. Shaeffer turns our eyes toward the evangelistic purpose of this bond of love in John 17:20-21,

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

And if our actions toward other Christians fall short of this ideal of love? Shaeffer indicates that we should interpret this as a dire warning; the world has every right to judge US as not being true Christians. We cannot expect the world to believe in the truth of the Lord Jesus if they do not see the mark, the distinctive imprint of oneness within the Body. Read this book. Monthly if necessary until your mark is so indelible that the world will not mistake it for anything else.

Reformed Jesus, Merely a Prop?

A key verse often cited as evidence of the Calvinist interpretation of the concept of election and predestination is the berakah in Ephesians 1:3-6. It reads like this:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Given the supralapsarian metrics of this passage, as we align it with the the petals of the TULIP some questions arise. The notion of some being chosen (elected) before the creation of the world while others are simultaneously selected for reprobation via God’s sovereign decision forms the very center of Calvin’s theological framework. It is important to note that the order of the selection chooses from among humans who have yet to be stung by the poison of sin, since the Fall has yet to be authored by the Father. In other words, they are yet to become totally or even partially depraved when their unconditional election occurs.They are already Saints, consecrated and set apart according to Sproul (Ephesians, 24.) When the Lord is cruelly and viciously sacrificed on the tree, it is an already foregone conclusion that the expiation (atonement) will apply only to those selected pre-creation. It logically follows then that the eternal status of these blessed few does not require their assent, nor can it be denied except by the Sovereign who decided it.

Calvinist W.J. Seaton (The Five Points of Calvinism) comments on the limited application of the sacrifice of Christ.

Christ died positively and effectually to save a certain number of hell-deserving sinners on whom the Father had already set His free electing love.

Note again that these “hell-deserving sinners” were created by God for the express purpose of being such. Why then is the sacrifice of Jesus necessary? If the Elect are holy and blameless from and for all of eternity then, it stands to reason, the Fall was orchestrated simply to provide the means to condemn those not selected for sanctification. It becomes merely a symbolic act in the predestined history of the World, necessary to further the story for which the conclusion is already known. If the Elect are claimed holy and blameless, why does God allow them to be stained by sin (Rom 5:14)? Because sin is in the world (at His permission and only eternally affecting those who are elected to perdition), God demands propitiation. His Holiness requires that atonement comes only from an equally holy sacrifice. Thus, the Christ must be the sacrifice. But the righteousness that He imputes, (cf Rom 5:17) is it needed by those already considered from eternity past to be holy and blameless? Does this doctrine not belittle the cross?

Why then was the Cross necessary? To show His love to those he has already given His eternal promise to? To demonstrate His sovereignty or power to all the rest whom He has left powerless to affect their eternal condemnation in Hell? In light of the order of elements above, Jesus become just a prop in the play, not really necessary but used to further the plot. Or, as Robert Reymond suggests, God does not see the men He creates as men but as sinners because His decretal system is not sequential but, simultaneous. However this process is enumerated, does it not hold true that God creates humankind knowing that they are a) going to sin because he created them that way with the ability (will) to walk counter to His commands and b) that some of them are created specifically for the purpose of being destroyed?

There are so many questions…does Calvin offer any answers?

Jesus Mean and Wild by Mark Galli

God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.

There’s a phrase almost guaranteed NOT to make an appearance at the next revival or evangelism event in your church. When introducing Jesus to others, we more often than not default to the meek and mild savior who rolls his eyes at our follies, who is our buddy when we want Him near and who conveniently walks the other way in situations where He is really not welcome. The attractive Jesus of the blue eyes and curly blond hair and piercing stare is the one who adorns our church walls and literature.

image But what of the Jesus who makes a whip of cords to clear the temple, who expresses his anger and frustration at the blindness of his disciples, and who will leave us alone at just the wrong moment? What do we do with this Jesus, author Mark Galli asks in his superb book  Jesus Mean and Wild. I’ve been wanting to read this book for about a year now and after finally sitting down for a couple of days to do so, I was not disappointed. Galli leads us to look at Jesus in a way different from how we usually encounter him, as the militant whose love for us sometimes takes the form of tough love. As he walks us through different passages in the Gospel of Mark, we run into a Jesus whose idea of comforting our wounds is to salt them – painful in the short term but healing in the long run.

The Jesus that we are reminded of in the pages of Galli’s book is a portrait that the modern Church often reads quickly past. This is the Jesus that loves us enough to speak harshly to us in order to encourage our repentance. He is the savior that is willing to heal but rebukes the receiver of the miracle as He pushes him away. The Rabbi we encounter is disrespectful of authority other than those truly devoted to the Father. In a reminder that is needed by the churches today that strive for relevance above all else, Jesus appears to us (Mark 8:31-33) as the ultimate measure of irrelevance. In a chapter that points out that following Jesus faithfully is far and beyond more important than being culturally relevant [that is also excerpted in Christianity Today July 2006], Galli offers a cutting warning to Church and pastors of vision.

Coming to the final chapters of the book makes you want to return to page one and soak in this portrait of Jesus all over again, slowly savoring the words and illustrations that help us to see a more well rounded Jesus than we are often tempted to preach or talk about. With just a few pages remaining, Galli gives us the starkest reminder of the way of the Savior when he says “Just when we need him most, God forsakes us.” We certainly do not want to admit this about our Lord, but he leaves us alone just at those moments that we most desperately think that we need Him. Why? So that we can share in the grief that Jesus knew at that bleak moment on the cross when he cried out to the silent heavens and know the indescribable joy of reuniting with God when He chooses to break the silence. We are shaken but stronger, mute in His glory but far more merciful than we could ever imagine.