The Bridge Chicago is a way to offer the resources of Mission:USA to help people do good ministry.
My friend once asked me this question but I didn’t know how to answer it. If God know’s everything past, present, future, and everything we will do. How is it that we have free will?
It is a very interesting question. It’s actually more two separate questions that aren’t necessarily related. So let’s look at the time thing and the free will part individually.
Your friend was right that God knows our past, present, and future. It actually goes beyond that, He knows them all at once. God is outside of time. He is eternal, so God relates to and experiences time differently than we do. We are so constrained and defined by time that we can’t begin to wrap our head around how God experiences it.
As for the free will thing, that is one of the biggest theological questions ever. There are certain things we can pull out of scripture. God does have a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), though apparently it is possible to run from that plan, for at least a while (look at the life of Jonah). God can use all outcomes and circumstances to the good (Romans 8:28). Now as for if He makes things happen to script or weaves a tapestry from the choices we make, I don’t know.
That’s the short answer to your friend’s question. I don’t have a definitive answer, no one does. There are theories and proposals and ideas, but no solid answers. When talking to people about your faith, one of the toughest things can be to just say “I don’t know”. But since we are dealing with a God who is infinite where we are finite, it is just the tough truth. What that means is that we need to focus on what we do know: that God loves us, offers us free forgiveness, wants a relationship with us, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives. If we can embrace that, the rest takes a back seat. They are interesting to think about, theorize about; but they are not what is essential.
-Matt from The Bridge
What is the difference between Christ in you and we are in Christ?
Great question. I love when someone stops to take a second look at these little sayings that are all over the Christian world. In some circles stuff like this is referred to as “christianese”, and it can be like a language unto itself.
The concept of Christ being in you is that when you accept Jesus into your life, the Spirit comes to dwell in you. Paul says that we are “temples of the Holy Spirit”. So this new presence brings things that weren’t there before. You can access peace and strength and patience that wasn’t there before because there is now Christ in you.
Colossians 1:27 says “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We all have moments where we say something that someone needed to hear, and we have no idea where that came from, and that is an example of the Spirit in you. That also works in convicting us about things. There are behaviors or thoughts from our old lives that used to not cause a second thought, but now that we have the Spirit of God within us, we feel differently about them and they need to change.
The idea that we are “in Christ” is a different concept. When you accept Jesus as your savior, you are under His rule and protection. We become defined by the relationship we have with Jesus above all other definers. We are in Christ because of the choice to live a life that is subject to Him. So when you hear someone refer to a “brother/sister in Christ” what that means is that they are both joined by their relationship to Jesus.
That is what Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he says ”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” . That means anyone who has accepted the covenant of grace that came through the blood of Christ. We are now like sheep in His flock or sons and daughters in His family.
I don’t go to church as much as I should. However I read the bible on a daily basis and converse with God constantly. Does this mean I’m not as much a Christian as a fellow constant church goer? I think not. Just because one goes to church doesn’t mean they are more of a christian than I am. For all anyone knows they could be drunks, drug addicts, abusers, womanizers, anything. I wanted to see your input. Thanks.
You are correct that regular church attendance does not make someone more Christian than you. However, neither does being a drunk, drug addict, or womanizer makes someone less Christian than you. Being a Christian is about a relationship with God and the work He is doing in you, not checking behaviors of a list so that other people think you are acting straight. That reality seems to elude a lot of Christians and you seem to have gotten a handle on it, which is very good.
What may be happening here is that you have rejected a bad idea (going to church makes one a Christian) but have gone too far the other way with it (Church attendance has nothing to do with a relationship with God), which is dangerous too.
If you are put off by the idea of church being “we dress nicer than we normally would, act more put together than we are, clap politely during the worship, listen quietly to a sermon that has nothing to do with our actual lives, and then go home and be proud of how Christian we acted” that is a good thing. But it doesn’t mean you can disregard the whole idea of community with other believers, it means you shouldn’t go to a crappy church.
Community is absolutely critical to Christianity. As soon as Jesus began His ministry, He gathered disciples. The early church was born of those disciples keeping that kind community central to the faith. Acts 2:42 says “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” That is the model, and fellowship is an undeniable part of it.
Community is essential to the Christian life for two reasons: 1) you can’t do this alone and 2) neither can anyone else. Jesus said the greatest command is to love God and love people. In order to love people, you have to interact with them. The church serves this by being a home base for service (ie. being a place for a support group to meet, raising some money for missions, a bible study group going to a shelter) and also by being full of people who need love and help themselves.
You are absolutely on target that church is not a place full of people who are firing on all spiritual cylinders, but that is not the purpose of church. Church is a place to come and celebrating barely making it through the week and getting some love and encouragement to make it through the next one. It is a place for profoundly imperfect people to serve and love in ways they never could without the Spirit of God inside them. It is a place to belong and grow despite your imperfections.
-Matt from The Bridge
What does it mean to seek God’s face? How can I seek Him?
The phrase “seek God’s face” comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This is God appearing to Solomon after he had built the Temple. That context is important because the Temple would attract thousands of people who had questions exactly like your’s about what it means to seek and know God.
I think to seek God’s face means simply to try to pursue a relationship with Him. You want to know what He is about and how you fit into that.
I always get a little weirded out by those Christian books that are “5 steps to having joy” or “8 steps to a dynamic prayer life”. Everybody’s walk with the Lord is unique and the spirit moves in different ways in people’s lives. That said, I think when there is a clear list like this in scripture we do well to look at it. Nothing in scripture is an accident the order is relevant too. So let’s look at these things that lead to seeking God’s face.
Knowing what your relationship with God is: “my people, who are called by my name”, in order to seek God you have to know who He is and who you are in Him. People who have the misconception that God is an angry overly-critical father, or someone waiting for you to make a mistake so He can squash you, you will not be in a mindset to seek his face. The same is true if you think you are the most sinniest sinner ever and see yourself as beyond hope, etc. You have to have a correct understanding that God loves you and sent Jesus to earth to die just so that He could have a relationship with you. When you get your head around that, then you will want to seek Him.
Have the right attitude: “will humble themselves”. Not that we understand the proper relationship between us and God, we can draw the conclusion that God has the right to tell us what to do. He created us, redeemed us, and best of all, His plans for us are infinitely better than our plans for ourselves. If you going to seek God’s face earnestly, it is going to change things. We have to have the understanding that God knows better than us and be willing to humble our plans to His.
Talk to Him: “and pray”. God is omnipresent, which makes seeking Him easier than you might think, if you have the right idea what you are looking for. If seeking God’s face is about figuring out what His plan for you is, then the quickest way to get there is ask. Jesus implores his follower so ask, seek and knock.
Seeking God’s face is one of those biblical terms that is wonderfully poetic, but is still a practical instruction. When we break it down, it becomes less confusing and gives us some ways to pursue a clearer and deeper understanding of our walk with the Lord.
-Matt from The Bridge
I just read your response on how we should treat homosexuality just the same as any other sin; that it doesn’t define who someone is. I totally agree with your entire response, but I do have a question. How does one deal with a person who struggles with homosexuality, but does not recognize it as a struggle or sin? In other words, they call him or herself a Christian, but see nothing wrong with their lifestyle and no reason to change?
Thank you for the kind words about the post. If you haven’t read it, you can here. Let’s revisit that post for one key point. Homosexuality does not mean that your friend isn’t saved. Every Christian has sin that is ongoing in their life, that is living as fallen people in a fallen world.
Someone not being ready to change is something that we all run across at some point. It can happen with pretty much any behavior. The situation is always touchy, and issues of sexuality are even more so. It is easy to see how the other person would not take this well, since you are essentially telling them which choices to make for their life.
And it is frustrating from your end because you know you are right. This person is going down a path that is not good for them, and you can see it where they either can’t or refuse to. There is no doubt in my mind that you just want the best for your friend. That being said, my advice to you is to let it go for now.
Sometimes people have to experience the consequences of behavior before they want to change. Even with behaviors that are straight up destructive, like hard drugs, people often have to end up in prison or in an otherwise dire situation before they get motivated to change things. And as for it being a sin, convicting people of their sin is the territory of the Holy Spirit. That is not the job you or I any any human is up to.
The role of us as Christians and friends to love someone as best you can while they are in their situation. Treating someone nicely does not mean “condoning sin” or whatever labels churchy people use because they just can’t stand people not feeling guilty. Also, that sets you up to be the person they turn to when they are ready to make changes. Change someone initiates themselves is going to be more lasting, and much less messy than trying to convince someone that there is a problem where they don’t see one yet. Playing the long game is the best strategy.
-Matt from The Bridge
I struggle with God. Not in the sense that I don’t believe, because I truly do. I mean in the sense that I’ve strayed from God. In the past all I talked about was God and I was so fired up. I read the bible constantly and was always yearning for a closer relationship with God. In the past six months or so, maybe even a year I don’t have the relationship that I use to have with God. I still read the bible and I still pray despite my beliefs going a stray compared to before. What should I do?
What you are describing is not all that uncommon. We all go through seasons in our walk with the Lord. It sounds like you were having a bit of a “mountain top experience” and you were fired up, which is a good thing and you should be thankful for that. But keeping up that level of emotion daily is unsustainable most of the time. I think emotion is one of the key factors here.
The difference you are describing seems largely emotional. You still believe like you did when you were fired up, you are still read the scriptures and pray like you did when you were in that season, what has changed is your emotional state. This is actually good news, because emotions ebb and flow. That is just the nature of emotions. So you will have more seasons of being really fired up, that is not gone forever. Also your change in emotion is not indicative of a change between you and God, you are just as saved and holy spirit filled as you ever were.
There are things you can do to facilitate that excitement though. The quickest way to get there is to serve. Find some people who are having a tough time and be the hands and feet of the gospel to them. That could be at a soup kitchen, at a retirement home, or just at an underpopulated table in the lunch room. You said you were fired up and therefore wanted to talk about Jesus, but it works the other way too. If you start talking about the Lord, or just showing kindness to people on His behalf, you will start feeling it in your bones.
You relationship with Jesus is the best thing in your life, but it easy to lose sight of that in the daily grind. That happens to everyone, it doesn’t make you a bad Christian. One of the best ways to remind yourself of that fact is to share it. Joy is not complete until it is shared, and the gospel is the same way.
-Matt from The Bridge