Sabbatical

It is time for me to take a break, as hard as that is. My training and psyche are saying “Suck it up buttercup. You are a better man than that.” Sixty-one years of having my self-worth tied to my performance are saying “Suck it up buttercup. You are a better man than that“. I feel like I am letting my ministry and my good readers down by taking a break, but I have to take a break, so I am. It is also hard to admit that I am NOTSuperman“, because for many years, I heeded the “call to duty” regardless of when that call came in.

I am physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. My “battery” is drained down to little more than “click-click” when I hit the switch, and if I don’t take a break and recover, the “lights” may not even come on. Yes, I know that I am using “automotive-jargon“, but it is something most people can relate to, and something that is fresh in my mind, because the battery in my truck DIED just a few days ago.

This was NOT an easy decision to make, but after reading “A Theology Of Vacationing“, by Pastor Mark Johnstone, I came to realize that Jesus not only taught it, He commanded it. He did NOT take a poll to see how many of His disciples “wanted” to take a break, He said “We ARE going to take a break” (Mark 6:31, my paraphrase). Jesus was the perfect God-man, so He understood and experienced physical, mental and emotional fatigue. In another scene in the Gospels, we find Jesus “passed-out” in the back of the boat as His disciples were struggling to row across the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-25). He was dog-tired, so when He had a chance to sleep, He did. If Jesus knew when to take a break, shouldn’t we take a break too?

Pastor John Piper posted a couple of podcasts back in May, 2014 about “A Theology of Vacations“, where he covered this topic from multiple-angles. He tied this theology in with God’s Sabbath ordinance which included rest for both man and beast. Resting one day a week was NOT an “optional-activity“. He also mentions that Jesus took these breaks, so why shouldn’t we do likewise. Both Pastor John’s and Pastor Mark’s articles are well-worth reading. How many of us actually truly rest and “recreate” one day a week. I have saved them to my computer for future-reference, for when I am tempted to play “Superman” again, and need to be reminded that I am just a frail human.

I posted “Time-Out” August 24, 2015, using these same passages, but have I been wise-enough to heed my own advise? What is good for the rest of you may not apply to me (or so I thought). Why not? Reread the first paragraph…

Why now? I needed to be hit between the eyes by this Biblical doctrine again, from a fresh-perspective, for it to finally sink-in. The more I researched this topic, the more convinced I became. The last time I took a real VACATION was in 2012. Time for another vacation.

So, my friends, I am going to take a sabbatical til the middle of September, to rest, recharge, and get my mental-faculties and emotional fatigue relieved and be ready for a busy Fall season. See you in September.

Blessings,
Steve

Christian Naturist Festival 2016 Lake Como Resort

We had another great weekend! Many kudos to Pam and her crew for putting together a delightful and inspiring weekend. While it was called a “Festival“, “Retreat” might be a better way to describe it. In spite of all the evil in the world, it was a time for us to “retreat“, to put aside the cares and concerns of what was going on outside, and concentrate on what the Lord was in our midst to teach us and encourage us with.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20)

We were certainly more than “two or three“, more like 20 to 25, and there was a lot of Christian unity and love in our gathering. Our featured speaker was Matthew Neal, author of The Biblical Naturist, and he came well-prepared. The theme for the weekend was “The Image Matters“.

Friday evening…
We gathered Friday evening for fellowship, ice-cream and to worship and adore our awesome God. Matthew introduced us to the need for Christian Naturists to impact the textile Christian Theology and Culture.

He asked five questions:
* What does the church say about porn?
* What does the church say about sexual-objectification?
* What does the church say about homosexuality?
* What does the church say about transgenderism?
* What does the church say about marriage?

The sad fact is that the church has lost its biblical understanding of mankind being created in God’s image, and replaced that with the Gnostic heresy that the body is “evil“. Thus, a “pornographic“, “hypersexualized” view of the body has arisen from that false doctrine. Is it any wonder that the church has lost its prophetic-voice in our culture, that porn consumption is rampant among church members and leaders, because if there is no “real” reason behind “Thou shalt not…“, why not; “If it feels good, do it“? If there is no “reason” for the rules, why not chuck them in the garbage?

The bottom line is that the church’s answers fall far-short of the truth of the Bible.

Saturday…
Our morning began with a catered breakfast provided by CNA (Christian Naturists of America). After a time for fellowship, we sang a couple of praise songs to get our hearts and minds ready to concentrate on God and His Word.

The topic for the morning session was: The Importance of the Imago Dei as a foundational Theological Concept and the culturally-relevent implications for reclaiming a Biblical understanding in the doctrine of the Church.

1) We have a hole in our Theology:
*We give lip-service to this doctrine
*Imago Dei – in the image of God
*We acknowledge “likeness” – moral, volitional, emotional, intellectual and relational.

2) We have neglected “image
*Image means “looks alike
*Our neglect has caused a big hole in our understanding of Imago Dei.

3) We have actively rejected “likeness
*God has no body??? God is “spirit“???
*We use anthropormorphisms to “explain” God’s appearances
*Imago Dei does NOT restrict God

4) God presents Himself:
*Walking in the Garden: 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. ( Genesis 3:8)

*Talking to Aaron and Miriam: With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (Numbers 12:8)

*Moses: 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” 21 Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-32)

5) God reveals Himself in human form
*General, special and personal revelation
*If we deny the Imago Dei, we miss what our bodies mean.
*Our Theology is defective

6) We need a Biblical Theology of the Body
*What does the body tell us about God?
*What does the Imago Dei mean to the purpose of our bodies, mankind?

7) The Church does have a Theology of the Body, but it is wrong.

Is the body an aid, or is it an impediment to righteousness?

* Temple of the Holy Spirit: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

* Glorify God with your body: 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:20)

* Present your bodies as living sacrifices: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Rom. 12:1)

* Present yourselves to God: But present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. ( Rom: 6:13b)

8) What is the purpose of sex in marriage?
*Procreation
*Strengthening the marriage bond
*Recreation

9) What are we expected to think when we see the exposed human form?
*Disgust?
*Give glory to God?

10) “Modesty doctrine”
*The church has it all wrong.
*Biblical “modesty” refers to carriage and demeanor, not clothing

11) What is the source of the current Theology of the Body?
*Satan loves to twist and pervert the truth
*This Theology of the Body has failed the church
*It has been a failure for many generations

We are called to expose this lie!

12) We must recover the glory of God
*As revealed in our bodies
*We must proclaim this truth

13) Theology of the Body
*Our visible bodies reveal how God has proclaimed Himself

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. (Psalm 96:6)

Strength and beauty are not mutually-exclusive, which is why God has revealed Himself in the strength of a man and the beauty of a woman. There is also a certain beauty in the strength of a man, because the physique of the masculine body has its own functional-beauty. While nobody will deny that women are the most beautiful of all of God’s creatures, they aren’t left out of displaying strength either. Men who tackle the job of being “Mr. Mom” marvel at how seemingly effortlessly women do what they struggle with. Why? Because God has gifted them with strength also.

Have you ever known any women who were both beautiful and strong? I have.

After the morning session, we had a time of prayer before lunch.

Lunch was provided by Garden of Eden Church, and while we ate, Cameron Bennett presented the Vision, Purpose and Mission of CNA. After his presentation, all of the pastors and ministry leaders who were present gathered around him to commission him to a new ministry at Rock Haven. He was commissioned by the laying on of hands and prayers, and then the pastors and ministry leaders offered him the right hand of fellowship.

The afternoon session focused on how we can impact others in our Christian Communities (without using the N-words), and how we can live the truth in a way that challenges other’s preconceptions.

How to influence the Church
1) Recognize that it is a Theological issue.
* Without a Biblical understanding of the Imago Dei, the Church can’t get its Theology straight.

2) Be alert for the many ways that the lie is expressed.
* “Modesty” rules – seeking to “protect” men from lust by laying the blame for men’s lust on women, and shaming them into “mitigating” men’s lust by dressing “modestly“.

* Double-standards – Men can dress almost any way they want, but women have to dress “modestly”.

* Jesus specifically refuted this false “modesty-dogma” in Mark 7:14-21, by teaching that lust and sexual sin come from the heart, not from what a person sees with their eyes.

3) We must remember that NO-ONE can convince ANYONE. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, so all we can do is present the Biblical “evidence“.

4) We must be ready to speak.

5) We must trust God with the results AND the consequences. There may be consequences for believing and proclaiming the truth.

Sunday…
A few hardy souls gathered early to walk come of the nature trails at Lake Como.

Morning worship…
We opened the service with several praise and worship hymns.

Pastor Dan shared some thoughts on 1 Cor. 1:26-31:
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

We were NOT wise, we were NOT mighty, we were NOT noble, and we were, in fact, FOOLISH, however God sees us as being “in Christ“, who is everything that we are not. We didn’t contribute ANYTHINGgood” to our salvation, God did it ALL, so our only boasting must be in the Lord.

The topic for the message was: The Body and Redemption
1) To be human is to have a body.

2) We will have a body for all eternity: 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

3) Jesus was fully-human: 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Col. 2:9)

Why did Jesus need a human body to redeem us?

* Incarnation: 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

* Anticipation: 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:22-28)

* Substitution: 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7 “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:4-7)

* Propitiation: 24 And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24), 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2), 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19, 20)

* Intercession: 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)

* Resurrection: 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

* Ascension: 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

* This is what Jesus did: 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who, 6 being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Communion:
While the Bread was being passed around, one of the ministry leaders served the Cup to each person. After everything was distributed, we all partook together.

We sang two more hymns before we were dismissed with prayer by Pastor Dan.

The worship service concluded another rewarding Christian Naturists Festival, and there is already talk about having another Festival next year.

Final thoughts…
Besides being able to spend two full days au naturel, it was a great weekend. The fellowship was wonderful, and being able to worship our God naturally was an awesome experience. That is the epitome of coming to God “Just as I am”.

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

In Christ,
Steve

Out Of The Shadows

Do you live a double-life? Are you one way in public, but entirely-different behind closed doors? Do you put on an act when you walk out of the door of your home? Do you believe that you have to act a certain way to “fit-in“, to be “liked“, to be “accepted“? Do you cuss like a sailor all week long because that is how “everyone else” talks where you work, but talk politely and piously around your family, and particularly at church? Does anyone actually KNOW you?

Whether we know it or not, a LOT of people lead a double-life. This is NOT referring to being some kind of covert spy or agent, rather, it is about how ordinary people present themselves when someone is watching. During the work-week, they go along with whatever the “social-norm” is, but on Sunday, they appear to be an entirely-different person. Are you one of them?

Out of the shadows…

While this topic has broad applicability, there is one particular group of people, to which I belong, and that is naturists/nudists. Most of us are masters of living a double-life. Even the thought of the “wrong” person finding out about our lifestyle scares the bejabbers out of us. Coming “out of the shadows” is nerve-wracking at best, and down-right scary at worst. Very few will ever become completely “open” about our lifestyle.

There was a series of articles entitled “Sharing Your Naturism“, co-sponsored by The Naturist Society(TNS) and the American Association for Nude Recreation(AANR), which ran for several months in the AANR Bulletin. The articles were intended as a means of helping naturists/nudists become more comfortable with their lifestyle choice and helping us to be more able and better equipped to share our lifestyle with others. Part of that process includes becoming more open about our lifestyle, or coming “out of the shadows“.

Potential repercussions…

The repercussions from the wrong person or persons finding out about someone being a naturist may be life-changing. As a result, naturists with high-profile jobs or in Christian ministry often resort to writing under pen-names and having multiple profiles on the various social-networking sites. One Christian brother was an assistant pastor of a church until the senior pastor found out about his naturist views and lifestyle. He was relieved of his position – FIRED for being a naturist and told to leave the church. The Lord has since blessed him with both new employment and ministry opportunities.

Other friends have been run out of churches, some multiple times, for being a naturist. Unfortunately “the traditions of the elders” trumps the Word of God in those churches, and they aren’t even interested in finding out what the Bible says. Others have been ostracized by family and friends.

My journey “out of the shadows”…

I was challenged in January 2013 in an email exchange with a Christian brother to come out of the shadows and own my naturist lifestyle. Because of my conservative, Christian upbringing, I had to do a LOT of studying to find out what Scripture says, or doesn’t say, about nudity. I was also interested in God’s dealings with His covenant people in the Old Testament to gain a historical perspective. The same Christian brother who challenged me to come out of the shadows also pointed me to the writings of several Christian naturist authors and bloggers. I didn’t want to be “caught with my pants down” when I started coming out and started getting questions, particularly from fellow Christians. This blog has grown out of, and is still growing out of my studies.

I also wanted and needed to find out how strongly both historical and modern cultural prejudices have and are affecting church theology and dogma. I live in a 21st century Western culture whose attitudes towards nudity and nakedness have been heavily-influenced by 16th and 17th century Victorian and Puritanical prudishness. It is almost impossible to escape these influences, particularly in the Church, because they have been enshrined in the “modesty-doctrine” of the Church.

Before I told a soul, I wanted to be fully-convinced that God, as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, is not only NOT anti-nudity, but that He looks with favor on those who are willing to shed their clothing disguises. What I found shocked the pants off of me, literally; prophets who prophesied naked (Saul, Isaiah, Micah), a king who danced naked before the Lord in the middle of Jerusalem (David), a high priest (Aaron) who was stripped naked in front of all of the children of Israel when he was consecrated and anointed, and the list goes on and on.

That was even before I started reading the ceremonial law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, with all the ceremonial washings and cleansings which were required for tabernacle/temple worship. Life for the children of Israel, particularly while they were wandering in the wilderness, bore very little resemblance to anything that I can relate to today, except for maybe an extended camping trip. We don’t “get it“, but in order to understand the Old Testament, I had to start learning and understanding their culture and what life was like when this part of the Bible was written.

Imagine NOT having private restroom facilities and having to use the public latrine. Imagine NOT having private bathing facilities and having to use the community bath-house. Imagine only having ONE set of clothes, or maybe only one garment, and NOT having a washer and dryer, so that when that garment was dirty, a person had to take it to the public washing facility to wash, and then hang out naked while it hung on the line to dry. Oh, because they only had one garment or set of clothes, do we really believe that they wore it to work in, since it not only had to be washed by hand, but if they damaged it, they would be left with nothing? These were God’s chosen people, and they were on that “extended camping trip” at His command. Was God really concerned about their nudity? He didn’t give them any reason to have body-shame. Public nudity wasn’t shameful. It just meant that they were going about their normal daily business of life. We are the ones who have made nudity shameful.

Out of the shadows…

Once I became comfortable with the fact that I am not doing anything “wrong” or “sinful” by desiring to partake in social nudity, I started coming “out of the shadows“. I didn’t start “advertising” that I am a nudist, although in early 2013, I did put a small AANR decal on the back window of my vehicle. The first person I told was my mother. We were talking about the resort that I frequent, Cypress Cove, and I told her that it is a nudist resort. It certainly took her by surprise, because she probably thought that she had raised me better than that. She did, but the “better than that” was the traditional “modesty-theology” which has no basis in Scripture. She has more or less accepted that I am a nudist and she hasn’t mentioned it since.

Early this last spring, I came “out of the shadows” to the senior pastor of my church. I had given him the link to this blog, and I didn’t want him to get an unpleasant “surprise” when he came here the first time. He is a serious student of the Bible, but to a certain extent, he has also been taught “the traditions of the elders“. Finding out that I am a nudist broke some new experiential and theological ground for him, but he had no Biblical basis for condemning either me or my lifestyle. He simply ask me to not “advertise” that I am a nudist.

Since then, the AANR decal has been replaced with a “God created nudists/Sinners created clothes” decal. The only church friend who has commented on it had to agree that what it says is true. I am sure that quite a few others have seen it, but no one has asked me about it. I am not “advertising” that I am nudist, but I am not hiding it either.

Consequences…

Have their been consequences for me deciding to come “out of the shadows” as a nudist? Absolutely, and most of them have been wonderful. I no longer have to live a “double-life“. I am no longer afraid of who might find out that I am a nudist. My research and study has given me the material for many of the articles in this blog.

I don’t know whether anyone else in my church has “figured it out” and is shunning me as a result, but that is between them and God. I wasn’t part of an “in-crowd” before, so I haven’t been pushed out of anything that I know of. I still have a good relationship with both pastors, so that hasn’t been affected. Not everyone in my church is equally-friendly.

Final thoughts…

I wish that I hadn’t been taught and believed that our bodies are “shameful and must be kept covered” for all those years, because I can clearly recognize the negative effects those lies have caused me. I have no regrets about becoming a nudist, except that I wish I had known what I know now many years ago. I also have no regrets for coming “out of the shadows” as a nudist, because I believe that being a nudist and NOT hiding what God created in His own image gives Him glory. The next thing on my list is to participate in a nude worship service.

I am naked and unashamed in Christ!

Steve

Reformed…and Reforming…

While I am in one sense “Reformed“, in that I believe and subscribe to the doctrines of grace, the great creeds, and reformed theology, I am in a real sense reforming…being re-formed. As I read and study God’s Word, the Bible, I have an urgent desire to know God better, and to understand His Word more completely. I do not want to remain stagnant…stationary.

We sometimes think that if we just read enough books by Christian authors, we will come to know God better and His word more completely. Unfortunately the opposite is usually true. Rather than going to the SOURCE…God’s Word, we are influenced by what someone THINKS God’s Word means. We may even be influenced by some of their heresies or cultural interpretations…

“Re”-“Form “…

Re: The prefix “re” simply means to “do-again“. We “reuse“…”recycle“…”remodel“…”repaint“, and the list goes on. In every case, we are “doing-again” something that has already been done.

Form: A “form” is a mold in which something is made.

Reform: To “reform” is to make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.

Those who are in the Reformed “tradition” are often proud that they “have it right“…maybe too proud. If they are not willing to “reform” by bringing their theology more closely in line with the SOURCE… the Bible, they are letting “tradition” govern their theology, not God’s Word.

Working our way to the source…

Imagine wanting to know what pure water looks and tastes like…

  • The first source is a stagnant pond… How pure is it?
  • Next, we come to a mighty river, that just passed a sewage-treatment plant… How pure is it?
  • Next, we go upstream past that industrial district… How pure is it?
  • Maybe we get tired of the river, because there isn’t much clean, pure water there. Granted…the closer we get to the headwaters, the cleaner it gets…but…it still has feeders…
  • Next, we go to a stream that is fed by melting snow. It seems to be pretty clean, and even tastes good, but it has already passed several places where wildlife have drunk from it. How pure is it?
  • The closer we get to the snow-pack…the source, the cleaner and purer that water becomes. How pure is it really? How clean was that snow?
  • But what if that stream is fed by a spring…water bubbling up from the ground? The closer we get to THAT source, the truly-purer it becomes, and when we get to the spring, we are at the SOURCE!

Thus should be our study of God’s word…going to the SOURCE. As we are looking for the Water of Life, we must go to the source of living-water – God, as revealed in His Word. Secondary sources may get us close, but they are not the true SOURCE.

Example…

I have been attending a connect group from our church. Each Wednesday morning, we meet to read the Scripture and discuss the sermon from the previous Sunday’s worship service. It is a conservative (reformed) Presbyterian church, so by and large, they have their theology pretty straight. Unfortunately some Gnostic heresy has crept into the church and its theology. I was raised in that kind of environment, so I have a pretty good feel for what most people believe…and what I have believed also.

A few weeks ago, the topic of God’s image in us came up. Everyone could readily come up with the spiritual parts of God’s image in us, but when I mentioned that our bodies are ALSO created in God’s image, the leader recoiled in horror. Even though, given enough time to do so, I could have shown from the Bible that what I said was true, I let it go at that, since it was really a side-topic in discussion, (1 John 1:1-4). or is it?

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

The leader’s response confirmed what I already suspected, that they had been influenced by the Gnostic heresy. They have been…even in a “Reformed” church culture.

The core Gnostic theology is “spirit/knowledge=GOOD, body/material world = BAD“.

One of the big drivers this book by the Apostle John was to refute that Gnostic heresy, which said that Jesus Christ didn’t REALLY become flesh…become human, that He only APPEARED to be human. John starts by presenting the physical-evidence for the full-humanity of Jesus Christ. He has HEARD Him…he has SEEN Him…he has OBSERVED Him…he has TOUCHED Him, and it doesn’t get any more real than that.

While nobody who calls themselves “Reformed” would even subscribe to THAT heresy, they have still been influenced by it in more subtle ways.

Some of my “reformings”

I want to explain briefly some of the ways in which my theology has, and is being “reformed” by my study of the Bible.

Baptism…I was taught that the Presbyterian (Old Testament) way is by sprinkling. Pastors, including my dad, have pointed to certain passages in the Old Testament where certain ceremonial-cleansings have been done by sprinkling. They have claimed that the Baptists simply pulled a few words from where Jesus was baptized and formed their whole theology around them. I believed that for many years…

The problem is that there is far more Jewish and early-church history that supports immersion, including historical drawings, and very little that supports sprinkling. Oops

Early Christian converts were immersed…NUDE.

Circumcision…Anyone with even a little bit of knowledge of the Old Testament knows that the sign of circumcision was given by God to Abraham, as a visible symbol of inclusion in God’s covenant people. “Why circumcision?“, we may ask. How could it be a “visible” sign, because it was in such a “private” place? What was the “big-deal” after all? What IS circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical-removal of the foreskin from a boy’s or man’s penis, permanently exposing the head of it. It is permanent, and thus a permanent sign. In our society, the penis is considered to be a “private-part“, but that wasn’t the case in Jewish society. We have indoor, private, restroom facilities. They didn’t, because there were no “one-bathroom” tents. Every time a boy or man had to relieve himself, he had to go to the public latrine area, because God had given specific regulations about where those “facilities” had to be. When a boy or man had to bathe himself, he had to go to the communal bath-facilities. Sorry, but no private showers back then. As if to reinforce the “public-ness” of a boy’s or man’s circumcision, God had also given specific regulation about WHEN those bathes were required. BTW, the ladies weren’t exempt from those bathing requirements. (Leviticus 15)

The “King of the Jews”…
That was what the sign that was place above Jesus on the cross said, however if Jesus had not been a Jew, and had not been circumcised, it would have been immediately obvious. As prophesy had foretold, and as was the Roman custom, Jesus was crucified NAKED, not with that cute little “loin-cloth” artists frequently paint on Him. His penis…His circumcision, was exposed in all its naked glory. That is how He could be proclaimed as “The King of the Jews“.

Yes, it WAS a big-deal, and yes, it WAS a visible sign.

Image of God…

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)

It is a bit difficult to create something in one’s own image, if there is nothing to base that image on. For someone to recoil at the mention of our bodies being created in God’s image shows just how insidious that Gnostic heresy is, and how deeply it has penetrated our churches.

The late Pope John Paul ll, while he was still an arch-bishop, developed a “Theology of the Body“, which was truly a landmark work in our understanding of God’s image in mankind. Great Bible-scholarship is not limited to certain denominations or schools of thought.

Nakedness in the Bible…

Since I have dealt with this in several other previous posts, I am not going to say much here. Nakedness is NEVER shameful in the Bible, and when there is shame attached, that shame is related to a sinful action or adverse situation. Nakedness or nudity was very common in the Old Testament, and was something nobody even gave a second-thought to. If our Savior was be crucified naked, with no shame of His own, why do our churches and our society make such a big deal of simple-nudity?

Reformed…and Reforming…

I am no longer content with “Thus saith tradition“. I want to know “Thus saith the Lord“. I pray that is your earnest desire as well. On that baptism…if I ever get the opportunity to be baptized in the same way as our Lord Jesus Christ was…naked, and all the way under, it will be my privilege to follow Him in baptism.

God bless!