“Before God, Unmasked,” final lecture

This is the final lecture from my Romans class, “Before God, Unmasked,” taught at Biblijski institut Zagreb.

  1. Here, we discuss what Paul means by 12.1, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”  This verse is the opening statement of the long section, Romans 12 – 15, and serves as the theme for all that follows in the section.

2. Continues the discussion of Romans 12.1-2; what does Paul say about the role of the mind in daily Christian living?

3. The role of spiritual gifts in the building up of the church.

4. How spiritual gifts lead to growth.  This portion of the lecture uses material from Everett Huffard, professor of Leadership and Missions at Harding School of Theology, Memphis TN.

5. How should Christians living in modern democracies understand Paul’s admonition to submit to the government?

6. How have Christians interacted with government historically?  What principles should guide our approach?

7. Approaching moral “gray areas”.

8. In his churches, how did Paul approach the issue of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols? What can we learn from his approach?

“Before God, Unmasked”, Session 5

Below are the videos for the lectures from my Romans class this past Monday night, when I taught on Romans 8 and 9 – 11 for Biblijski institut Zagreb.  This is two hours of lecture, captured in nine videos.

The class is titled, “Before God, Unmasked.”  I chose this title because one central implication of Paul’s gospel, as I see it, is that God both knows us intimately (better than we know ourselves; he knows ALL the ugly stuff and hidden actions) and loves us completely.  Ergo, because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we can stand before him without a mask, without a veil.

As the Mighty TK says, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

  1. The Ground of Our Confidence in Christ. Salvation–biblically understood–is now & future, “a life of wholeness and health, regardless of physical circumstances, lived in the presence of God by the Spirit of God, now and forever.”

2. Eternal Security, the doctrinal issue.

3. Eternal Security, the pastoral issues.

4. Eternal Security.  Further exploration of the pastoral issues surrounding the doctrine of eternal security. I am drawing on the whiteboard here, depicting how I used to think I spent every day swinging back and forth between salvation and damnation. God loves us, holds onto us, in spite of all he knows about us.

5. Introduction to Romans 9 – 11.  What is the central idea of these chapters?  How do they fit into the letter’s argument?

6. Paul’s Inductive Argument As a Unified Whole.  Here, I describe the inductive nature of Paul’s argument in Romans 9 – 11. John Calvin’s failure to read these chapters inductively and holistically has led to a host of doctrinal problems. Here is my outline of the argument.

7. How Reading the Argument Inductively Changes the Conclusion.  Calvin’s specific error with regard to Romans 9 – 11 is that he drew a theological conclusion from 9.18 without realizing that (or appreciating how) 9.18 fits into a sustained argument that Paul does not complete until the end of chapter 11. He [Calvin] made this error because he failed to appreciate the inductive nature of Paul’s argument. Here, I show how the argument as a whole abrogates conclusions drawn from 9.18.

8. “All Israel will be saved.”  What does Paul mean by this puzzling statement in Romans 11.26?

9. Final questions and answers about Romans and other new Testament topics.

Narrative Discipleship: Romans Session 4, pt 2

This post includes the final hour of my lecture on Romans 8 from 11 June.

6. Awaiting Redemption: I describe the Jewish hope of the resurrection—bodily, cosmic—and how the New Testament writers hold the same hope. We are not waiting resurrection as disembodied spirits, nor are we waiting for God to discard the present creation and replace it with something better. We await REDEMPTION, both of our bodies and of the creation around us.

7. The Spirit at Prayer: how the Holy Spirit works in our prayer life.

8. God Works All Things Together for Our Good: here we talk about the great promise of Romans 8.28-30, that God has determined to use everything that happens in your life, everything that he does and allows, to accomplish his purpose for you: that you would reflect Jesus, appropriately bearing God’s image.

9. Foreknown: the relationship between foreknowledge and predestination, understood in biblical context, is the foundation for an Arminian reading of Paul.

10. Foreknown, pt 2: continues the discussion of the relationship between foreknowledge and predestination.

Narrative Discipleship: Romans Session 4, pt 1

Below are the videos to the first hour of lectures from this past Monday night, when I taught on Romans 8 for Biblijski institut Zagreb.  I will post the second hour shortly.

This lecture is part of a series on Romans.  The series is titled, “Before God without a Mask.”

I chose this title because one central implication of Paul’s gospel, as I see it, is that God both knows us intimately (better than we know ourselves; he knows ALL the ugly stuff and hidden actions) and loves us completely.  Ergo, because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we can stand before him without a mask, without a veil.

Here is a handout, “Paul’s Mind Scriptures,” that is important for the lecture.  It is a catena of passages where Paul talks about the place of the mind (worldview, mindset, values) in the Christian life.  It’s not an exhaustive list, but it hits the high points.

Part 1. Here, I deal with the textual variant in Romans 8.2; does Paul say that God has “set ME free from the law of sin and death”?  Or “set YOU free”?

Part 2. How does Romans 8.1 connect with what precedes it?  The basic outline of what Paul says here about God’s victory over sin in our lives.

Part 3. Here, I talk about “walking by the Spirit.”  What does it look like to “set your mind on things of the flesh”?  This part of the discussion continues in the next video, part 4.

Part 4. Most of the conversation here revolves around the texts on the handout (linked above), “Paul’s ‘Mind’ Passages.”  The Powerpoint for this part of the class is very static; you would do better to look at that handout.

Part 5. This part of the conversation focuses on the day-by-day work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life.


What’s Been Going On (And What’s Happening Now)

(Cross-posted with Circleslide)

I’ve spent the last three weeks in the USA, attending the Pepperdine Lectureship and visiting family, friends, and churches.  During that time, I have NOT been teaching, and have not posted any new material.

All that changes this week! Much new content on the way!

  • Starting this week, I am posting a new class here at Narrative Discipleship.  This is a tečaj  (a short course) I am teaching at Biblijski institut, a paragraph-by-paragraph study of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  I will post new lectures in Croatian and English every week, along with all the handouts etc.
  • In July, I will begin posting new weekly Bible class lessons from Kristova Crkva Kušlanova in Zagreb.  I think I will be teaching the letter of James.
  • In September, we will pick up the Narrative Discipleship series with part 4, the teaching of Jesus.

Narrative Discipleship: The Story of Ruth

This lesson, taught at Kristova Crkva Kušlanova on 22 April 2018, demonstrates the application of the principles and approach of narrative discipleship to a single book (or story) of the Bible.

Part 1: What is the story of Ruth? It is a wisdom story about how God works in unexpected places, through unexpected people, to redeem (make good things happen in the midst of difficulty.)

Part 2: Character-building: One of the principles of applying narrative discipleship to a story is to notice how the characters are built. Here, we get to know the characters in Ruth’s story by watching what they do, and how the text describes them.

Part 3: Redeemed.  As we get to the end of the story (but not the end of the lesson), we see how the organization of the plot, the sequence of events, adds “punch!” (emphasis, prominence) to one of the significant points that the storyteller wants us to understand.

Part 4: Wrapping it up: as the story ends, we talk about some of the things it teaches us about God and our faith.

Covenant, pt 2 (Genesis 15)

If anyone asked me what piece of doctrine can, properly understood, have the greatest positive impact on the life of the average Christian, I would answer: “Understanding that your relationship with God is not a contract, where you get what you deserve.  Your relationship with God is a covenant, where you belong to him and he belongs to you.”

The covenantal basis of your relationship with God is the foundation for understanding grace, faith, obedience, EVERYTHING.

And the background for understanding this doctrine is Genesis 15.  I am not overstating when I say that this is the most important chapter in the Old Testament for Christian theology, faith, and life.

I taught the following lesson at Kristova Crkva Kušlanova in Zagreb, Croatia, on 25 March 2018.  Slides and audio are in both English and Croatian.

Here are the handouts:

Pt 1: Review and background for understanding Genesis 15; in this section, I discuss the context of Genesis 15 in the Abraham story.

Pt 2: God renews and expands his covenant promise to Abraham.  What is the point of this odd story in Genesis 15, where Abraham cuts animals in half and sees fire hanging in the sky?

Pt 3: How does God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 play out in the rest of Abraham’s story?  The rest of the story shows Abraham’s faithfulness and failures.  Through it all, God demonstrates his faithfulness to Abraham, even when Abraham is faithless.  2 Timothy 2.13: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

Pt 4: How does the covenant of Genesis 15 apply to our lives?  It shows us the promise that provides the foundation of God’s faithfulness to us.  We are just like Abraham, and our relationship with God is based on HIS relationship to God.

Covenant, pt 1

Part 1 of the Narrative Discipleship lesson on Covenant (Savez): “God the Redeemer”.

I taught this at Kristova Crkva Kušlanova in Zagreb on 18 March 2018.

In our review of the second part of the story–Corruption, the effects of the fall–I pointed out how God acts as redeemer from the minute sin and destruction enter the picture. God is ALWAYS acting to save sinners, and to make good things happen in the midst of the wreckage we leave behind.

Part 2: “What is a covenant?” How did ancient Near-Eastern covenants work?

Part 3: “Abraham’s Covenant and Ours”.

Why should you care how ancient Near-Eastern covenants worked?  (How Abraham’s covenant with God helps us understand our covenant with God.)

Finishing “What’s the Problem” “Što nije u redu?”

Here are the materials for the Narrative Discipleship class I taught on 4 March 2018 at Kristova crkva Kušlanova in Zagreb, Croatia.  The materials are in Croatian and English.  There were no new handouts this week; we finished the material from last week.

1.Intro and review

2. Discussion of what Satan is like, and the nature of sin.

3. Discussion of the far-reaching consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, focusing on shame.

The discussion of shame’s legitimacy got a little side-tracked; we had several definitions of shame operating, and didn’t separate them out.  I will follow up in a future lesson, because I think there are a couple of additional things to say that will frame why I say that shame is illegitimate for Christians.

4. In the aftermath of Adam & Eve’s sin, the consequences and corruption spread, violence proliferates, things keep getting worse (Genesis 4, 5, 6), until “the inclination of their minds was only evil, all the time” (6.5) and God expresses regret at having ever created humanity (a standard ANE story).

But in the midst of the trouble, we see a new facet of God’s character, as he becomes his creation’s redeemer.