Diagnosing and Treating Carnal Christians

First take a glance at the multifaceted corruptive flesh-system on its own. You have unbelievers who are more noble-minded when it comes to the Gospel (like the Bereans) then you’d have others who are outright enemies of righteousness (Saducees). You have some that are very zealous for God but not according to knowledge (like many of the Pharisaic Jews) and some that are zealously sinful but by ignorance (like Paul). Then you have others who say they can see but are blind (the group in John 9) and yet others who take a wait and see approach (like Gamaliel). All of these are rightfully merely human souls. They are acting of their own wide range of wisdom, according to God’s common grace, but all are naturally fallen and thus utterly lost in their foolishness.

Neither is more fallen than the other. Neither is more mature in their falleness than the other. Sure, some of their sins are more numerable and heinous than the other—so that some who are saved will say that there was much forgiven—but none of them, by their mere activity, pop into the Church as Christians by Self-Action.

Second, note how good the assembly at Corinth looked:

  • They were all baptized (1 Cor 1)
  • They regularly got together for Church: they didn’t forsake the assembling of themselves. (1 Cor 11)
  • They regularly got together for small groups (1 Cor 8)
  • They rejoiced in their Christian liberty (1 Cor 6)
  • They continued their love-feasts in the face of division: fellowship was key.
  • They had many teachers which they listened to. (1 Cor 1-4)
  • They had all the spiritual gifts—and used them. (1 Cor 1)
  • They eagerly waited for the revelation of the Lord (1 Cor 1)
  • They were enriched with all speech and knowledge—they knew their Bibles and how to preach. (1 Cor 1)
  • They prayed together. (1 Cor 11)
  • They were eager about collecting money (1 Cor 16)
  • They were gracious to the sinner (1 Cor 5)
  • They thought of themselves as spiritual (1 Cor 1; 12)

A church today with these marks would probably be seen as a grounded, Biblical church. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that a Biblical Church is a Carnal Church. What I am saying is that here is a very good church which took this apostle to realize that they were actually not mature but rather carnal. No silly tiered Christianity here (where you have Good Christians then Naughty Worldly Christians On the Edge of Christianiy). It’d take longer to establish than this article but a carnal Christian is NOT merely a Christian that does things the world does (like tattoos, drinking, or smoking): it goes deeper and wider than that.

Third, underscore Paul’s corrective methodology:

  • Paul was capable of using persuasive words (Acts 19:8); but he couldn’t do it with the Corinthians. He had to speak in a way that the power of the message (the Gospel) worked in their lives (1 Cor 2).
  • Paul often spoke about difficult things (2 Pet 3:16); with them he had to feed them with baby food (1 Cor 3) but always regarding the ramifications of the Gospel.
  • Paul pointed out that due to the divisions, it would be better if they just stayed home (1 Cor 11) since what they were supposed to be doing was celebrating the Gospel.
  • Paul pointed out that their small groups should stop meeting in places where their brothers and sisters would stumble (1 Cor 8; 10) which was an affront to the Gospel.
  • Paul had to point out that their liberty was being abused and that real liberty is curbed (1 Cor 9): just like in the Gospel.
  • Paul had to point out that their teachers were mere tools of God’s hands (1 Cor 4) for spreading and growing the Gospel.
  • Paul pointed out that their rich speech and knowledge had to be focused the right way (1 Cor 14) by realizing the centrality of the Gospel
  • Paul pointed out that their praying together needed restrictions (1 Cor 11) evidenced in the original creation which the Gospel was restoring.
  • Paul had to tell them that their graciousness was allowing sin in their midst (1 Cor 5) which was contrary to the Gospel
  • Paul had to point out that, in light of the Gospel, their spirituality was actually carnality (1 Cor 2)
  • Paul had to end the entire letter by restating the things of “first importance” (1 Cor 15) namely, the Gospel.

That’s the diagnosis, a case-study and now the concluding thoughts with treatment.

In the church we’ll have a wide range of people—just like in the World. A Cloud, as it were, of witnesses. We’ll have new believers who are babes in Christ and we’ll have mature believers. We’ll have believers who are growing in maturity and we’ll note that all believers have bouts with carnality (Rom 7). It isn’t a position they are in, (as if they are then suddenly Carnal Christians) it is a struggle that they face and, by God’s grace, conquer. I’d illustrate it like a checkerboard.

In this wide range of believers we’ll have some who might look very mature (they read their Bible, they quote verses, they quote the right teachers, they pray in public, they verbally amen a song) but are actually childish, they are carnal. They have a childish (and by that I don’t mean a good thing) approach to things which refuses to mature. They draw childish divisive lines; they make big deals of things they shouldn’t and make no fuss about things they should; their pride is magnified in their efforts at being spiritual: it goes on.

The solution for these carnal Christians isn’t to overlay on them the multifaceted areas of heavier teaching that they need to comprehend. Showing them the various different models of ecclesiology or pointing out the different systems of eschatology isn’t going to do jack squat for these people except, maybe, add to the spirit of divisiveness. You need to go back to the Gospel in consistent expositional teaching: centralize Christ, emphasize the cross’s ignominy and victory, and always reflect the resurrection on their situation.

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Must Churches Have Small Groups (A Small Groups Ministry for Growth, Discipleship and Fellowship)?

I keep finding churches that have small group ministries (called SGMs going forward). This isn’t unusual. Plenty of churches have been into this idea of small groups for a while now—more so in the mega-churches. Thousands of people going through the door winds up creating an atmosphere of anonymity; SGMs winds up being a pragmatic approach for creating community.

But I’ve seen SGMs in churches with as little as seventy-five people.

By SGMs I don’t mean Sunday School where people think that Kids need to have a targeted message. I don’t even mean a ministry like a few of the people in the assembly working in a Homeless Shelter. I mean the small groups where the local church has small groups (sometimes in this article called SGs) that meet regularly in a home for something other than a Bible study but it might include a Bible study. Perhaps working through some book (say on marriage) together. Perhaps praying together or learning to pray together (Luke 11:1). The goal, they say, is essentially a fellowship group that gets to know each other and function together while leaning on one another: a pathway to fellowship and discipleship.

What I’ve also seen is that this is then promoted as the Biblical model for discipleship and fellowship. If this is the Biblical model for fellowship, discipleship and outreach then it’s not really a optional.

I need to examine this position since I’ve never considered it.

First, I’ll restate what layperson Small Group Ministry Proponents (called SGMPs going forward) seem to repeatedly use in their presentation; then I’ll examine the grounds for those positions; then, if possible, I’ll come to a conclusion.

I make no promises that this will actually conclude in this post. It may be the case that some SGMP will come along with another argument that I may have to examine. Or someone might recommend a book on the issue and I’ll have to deal with a scholarly argument. Who knows.

Also, this post will be extremely long. Breaking it into smaller posts might help traffic or general readability, but the point here isn’t really to aid either but for me to examine a position. That being said, I will break up the post into pages so that you, person who is reading over my shoulder, don’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the post on one page.

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Early Church On Jesus’ Deity

Right up front, some of these guys are making a good point. To read the text through the lens of later theological developments winds up ignoring what the text is actually saying. So in some sense, they are (at least on the surface level) trying to be faithful to the reading of the text as it stands.

But some of them go further:  the text, they conclude, doesn’t contain any of those things that later theologians noticed. Some are quick to add some note about the importance of tradition but they do so to point out what they see as a deficiency in relying on Scripture as ones ultimate guide.

In so doing they suggest, without being explicit, that these doctrines originated in a vacuum filled only by necessity. A teaching arose, a response had to be formulated, a doctrine was created. But, it wasn’t Christ’s Deity ex nihilo and I think history proves that. The teaching arose and was recognized as aberrant exactly because there was something substantial already in place.

If you recall, the council of Nicaea was in 325 AD. But jumping solely to Nicaea leaves one ignoring years choc-full of declaring Christ as the Divine God.

So here’s a sampling of early church writings I’ve found that underscored the understanding that Christ is God.

Hippolytus, Treaties on Christ and Antichrist 230 AD

Now, as our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also God, was prophesied of under the figure of a lion, on account of His royalty and glory, in the same way have the Scriptures also aforetime spoken of Antichrist as a lion, on account of his tyranny and violence.

Hippolytus, Fragments from Commentaries on Scripture

By the Ancient of days he means none other than the Lord and God and Ruler of all, and even of Christ Himself, who maketh the days old, and yet becometh not old Himself by times and days.

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor Book I 195 A.D.

But our Instructor is the holy God Jesus, the Word, who is the guide of all humanity. The loving God Himself is our Instructor. Somewhere in song the Holy Spirit says with regard to Him, “He provided sufficiently for the people in the wilderness. He led him about in the thirst of summer heat in a dry land, and instructed him, and kept him as the apple of His eye, as an eagle protects her nest, and shows her fond solicitude for her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, and bears them on her back. The Lord alone led them, and there was no strange god with them.” Clearly, I trow, has the Scripture exhibited the Instructor in the account it gives of His guidance.

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor Book III

For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 180 A.D.

For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality.

Again, that it should not be a mere man who should save us, nor [one] without flesh—for the angels are without flesh—[the same prophet] announced, saying: “Neither an eider,(1) nor angel, but the Lord Himself will save them because He loves them, and will spare them He will Himself set them free.” (2) And that He should Himself become very man, visible, when He should be the Word giving salvation, Isaiah again sap: “Behold, city of Zion: thine eyes shall see our salvation.” (3) And that it was not a mere man who died for us, Isaiah says: “And the holy Lord remembered His dead Israel, who had slept in the land of sepulture; and He came down to preach His salvation to them, that He might save them.”

Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord.

Melito, On the Nature of Christ, 160 A.D.

For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 150 A.D.

And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying; but since I am aware that this is denied by all of your nation, I do not address myself to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages which are still admitted by you.

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said.

Ignatius’ Epistle to the Philadelphians (105-115 A.D)

If any one says there is one God, and also confesses Christ Jesus, but thinks the Lord to be a mere man, and not the only-begotten God, and Wisdom, and the Word of God, and deems Him to consist merely of a soul and body, such an one is a serpent, that preaches deceit and error for the destruction of men. And such a man is poor in understanding, even as by name he is an Ebionite.

Obviously I didn’t include every ante-Nicene Father but that is rather an issue with space than lack of finding. After all, Tertullian, a pre-Nicaea writer who I didn’t quote, first coined “Trinity”!

But the point here was not only to show that the deity of Christ wasn’t a novel idea, but that it goes right back to a disciple of a living apostle: John. So either these ideas suddenly started to percolate after his death or it was exactly what the apostle had been teaching.

For that, we’ll have to examine John’s teaching.

 

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Increase Not Decrease: Joy In God-Given Vocation

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” (John 3:29-30)

John, at this point of his life, noted that his joy was fulfilled in being where God wanted him to be doing what God wanted him to do. The focus of his words is not on being the bride of the groom, but being the friend of the groom. He was the greatest of the prophets; his joy was full at that endeavor because it was his God-given position and he was operating in it.

And his joy was fullfilled in hearing the groom enjoying the party with the bride. I’m sure The Baptist knew about the bride metaphor in Scripture (God and Israel Hos 2:19–20) but he didn’t know how Paul (who is Paul anyway?) would later use it (Christ and the Church Eph 5:32). He was the best man.

What of us?

Christ says that the least in his kingdom would be greater than John the Baptist. Every single Kingdom Dweller had the distinct opportunity of pointing to Christ—just like the Old Testament prophets—but with clarity: something they didn’t have. We’re not Best Men. We’re Bride. We’re family. We have an explicitly clear message.

The Christ, the Incarnate Yahweh God, is the Man Jesus Christ: Jesus is both Lord and King. Jesus, born of Mary, died in Jerusalem according to the plan of God and by the sinful hands of men: both Gentile and Jew. Jesus, the same Jesus that died, rose on the third day, vindicated by God and with power. Jesus was seen by the five hundred. Jesus was taken up into heaven. The way Jesus was taken up is the way Jesus will return. We are awaiting for Jesus.

No prophet could be as explicit as us. Not one. Because where we’re living is the age that has dawned: not the age of John which has diminished.

Imagine what this age entails. If John was calling for repentance in preparation for what was coming, how much more dire are the words for us who live on this side of the cross. We’ve seen the cost of sin: The God Man pinned to a tree. We’ve seen the cost. We’ve seen the payment. We’ve seen the victory.

John and his age did have to diminish so that Christ and his era would increase. Unceasingly increase. And it is in this God-given vocation, this work that is granted by God himself by finding us where we are in time, do we find our greatest joy and fulfillment.

Yes we will struggle. Yes we will groan in ourselves. Yes we will speak words that are ignored.

But that is exactly what Christ went through and we’re following in his footsteps—something the prophets didn’t even explicitly know (Luke 9:23 cf. John 15:18-25).

We ourselves do not diminish. Our goal isn’t the mini-highs that we get from the small victories in our lives. Our goal isn’t merely the applause at finding victory over sin for a season.

In a conversation in John 10, Christ points out that he has come giving life (yes) but to also give life more abundantly (John 10:10). Our Joy is tied up in our mission of pointing to Christ as a community whose distinctions are emphasized as they function as a whole forever: even after sin and death and the need to give out tracts has been squashed.

No, our goal is not to become Nothing as part of Something Else. Our humanity isn’t subsumed into some ephemeral non-personal force.  There was so much wrong with what the holy man was saying but this idea of destroying our humanity to be swallowed up, no matter what we believed or professed was more the attributes of a monster than of a good, personal, God.

Our position is God-given; we’re to function as God has granted us ability to function which is pointing to the living Jesus Christ in our lives, in our actions, in our words with wisdom and our own distinct sensibilities for now and forever; and it’s in Jesus Christ and His work where we’ll find our greatest joy and satisfaction.

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God With Us

Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States stipulates the rules for the Executive branch. How long the person would serve. How they would be elected. What was the grounds for electing him. What is the process for removing him. What are the qualifications to function in that role.

In that clause, the Constitution states that the President—indeed, also the Vice President—must be thirty five years old but then it has these two other qualifications: they must have been a natural born citizen and have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.

The clause is not historically uncommon. Nations throughout history have always wanted a leader who belonged to the country. It’s understandable. When a foreign nation comes in, attacking another country and sits on the throne, the new country is merely real estate with revenue funneling back into the mother country. The ruler doesn’t represent the people of the conquered country at all. Be it Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Mother Russia, England, or the United States the leader represents the needs of his own people.

It was the people’s fear of having a foreign national with us. He’s not really of us—but he’s over us.

So the Constitution drafters insert that clause ensuring that some foreign national doesn’t come along, somehow orchestrate events to become leader of the United States, and then spends the bulk of his time supporting the desires of his real country.

Which brings us to the problem of Hebrews 2.

God Amongst or With Us
The author has established that The Son is the perfect representative of God, acknowledged as such by God, and functions in His Position as God. He does what God does (for example, creating and upholding the world by his word of power) because he has that right, God stands behind Him, and He is, in fact, God. If the Son speaks, God speaks; if the Son works, he completes that work; the very angels of God bow down to him in worship as He sits down at the position of power of the Majesty on High.

This Son is with God, on behalf of God, and Is God.

And yet, that comes with some dire ramifications for us poor humans. Warns the writer “we must pay much closer attention to what we heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” It’s one thing to deny an angel-mediated Law, quite another to deny the very message spoken by the incarnate God, the Lord and subsequently confirmed by those he has placed in power and attested to with miracles and signs by the Holy Spirit.

God is altogether involved in this message and we humans invariably fall short.

But doesn’t this in effect become bad news? This isn’t only some foreign national that’s in control; it’s one with complete power, absolute authority, and the bright white holiness that could incinerate a sinner like paper in a fireplace.

God With Them
Let’s go back to our first parents who found themselves in this sort of relationship of being with God (Gen 1:26-27; (Gen 2: 16-17)

Recently created, blinking in the new light of day, they walked around Dad’s house here on Earth with some familial prerogatives and one dire command: these other things you do, that’s just living—but if you do this one thing, ignore that I have commanded you not to eat of this tree, take it upon yourself to act on your own initiative and your own understanding you will die.

And what does man in this relationship do? He sits on the side, setting aside his authority, watching his wife take the fruit, eat and accepts the thing when offered (as if under her authority) and the immediate response was expulsion and death in later years. Indeed, death in the very home as son rises up against son and proves the catastrophe of man looking no higher for a master than his own wants.

But here, we find that the author to the Hebrews thinking coincides with our own. We’re at the very beginning of creation and seeing the position of man and the position of God. Man is told to reign, to control, to manage, to cultivate but man falls short and God punishes him. As he stands before the Lord, his sin exposed, he hears the mandate that creation will revolt beneath him. He was a cultivator of a garden before, now he’s a tackling thorns and thistles. He was living life to the fullest before now, he’s sweating into the very food he’s taken all this time to make.

David, recalling the wonder of this creation looks back and thinks about the wonder of God’s creation and how he’s established man over this creation, a little lower than God (or the angels as the LXX says), and yet man is crowned with glory and majesty.

Well, not that much glory and majesty because of that Fall. There they fell, deceived by the first murderer, His Satanic Majesty and rendered the world under His power—the prince of power of Darkness. So you arrive at the book of Daniel and hear tell of demonic powers, like the Prince of Persia, holding say over regions (Daniel 9), or you have Paul much later saying that we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against powers, against principalities in heavenly places (Eph 6).

Immanuel
But hear the words of Isaiah as he prophesies of a son being born to a young virgin. This son will show up and his name will be Wonderful, Counselor, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Government shall rest upon his shoulders. What’s his name? Oh, Immanuel: God with us.

God With Us, being born amongst us and receiving titles that belong to God alone.

Time passes and a birth is announced: the child that will be born will be called Immanuel (Matt 1:24).  And as the baby is lain in a manger, shepherds watching their flocks receive news that they will find the Savior, Christ the Lord, wrapped in clothes lying in a manger and the angels can’t help it as they cry out in exultation “Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill towards men!” (Luke 2:7). This one grows up (Luke 2:40) and we see him growing tired (John 4:6) and thirsty (John 4:7) and weeping (Luke 19:41-44) and sweating in Gethsemene (Luke 2:41-46). God With Us, doing all these things, and yet being ministered by angels when hungry (Matt 4:11), providing food for thousands without breaking a sweat (John 6) and demanding that a fig tree withers (Matthew 21:18-22), being asked permission to enter pigs by demons (Matthew 8:30) and telling the very waters and wind “Be quiet—stop throwing a fit!” (Mark 4:39)

This is God, surely, but he’s Man. not merely a foreign national walking in our midst—like Superman, among us but not one of us—he is really a Man and God and he acts with the full prerogatives as an obedient master over creation: just as Adam was supposed to.

So when we read Psalm 8, we find that it not only speaks about the first Adam for those few moments where creation actually listened to him before he fell but it hearkens to the second and greater Adam who stands as master over creation.

But not everything is under Christ’s feet just yet, just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. We see Jesus, the man, for a little while made lower than the angels but then we see him crowned with glory and honor but not merely on account of being placed over creation but because he suffered, tasting death for everyone.

Man stands beneath God the Father, and the Son humbled Himself and stands beneath the Father as a real representative for God but an equally real representative for Man. And just as he cried out on the cross “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtini” from Psalm 22 he stands with Humans before God and says “these are my brethren”. Recall the words of Jesus to Mary “Go to my” not disciples but rather “brothers and say to them: I’m going to My Father and your Father, my God and your God”

Earth-shattering. Ground-swelling. Immanuel. God With Us not merely as God in our Midst but God Stands  With Us As A Man. He trusted God, and he stands with his family showing them to God.

And in so doing he reverses the power grab of the devil and his minions. Man is placed back in charge and the demons are robbed of power since death is robbed of power. And those that are plagued by the power of the devil are able to find real, honest to goodness mercy because he is actually one of us, born of our country, not a foreign national, and has our interests in mind.

Help has never been offered to angels. It has never been theirs to reach. But it was offered to Christ, the seed of Abraham. And Paul, looking at the seed of Abraham of Promise says that we are, on account of Christ, Abraham’s seed.

He’s God’s perfect representative. He speaks, God speaks. He is God with God standing behind him. And yet, he is fully man: one of us crowned with glory because he suffered and died.

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Teaching Children The Gospel and Moral Responsibility

I have several posts about teaching children doctrine (here about the image of God and here about the meaning of the mistreatment of God’s image and here some messages). Each example is used to give the fundamental Biblical and theological point without all the extra stuff that you or I might believe–by that I mean interpretative conclusions that have very little bearing on the fundamental truth of the Doctrine.

Anyway, I wanted to post about something that came up in Summer Camp last year which doesn’t only apply to Summer Camp.

First some context: this is a camp that has children from eight to fifteen (?) as campers and Junior Counselors In Training (JCITS) starting at around seventeen (sixteen?). So it’s a pretty broad range of kids–all boys. In an effort at hitting all the kids with some straight up Biblical teaching, the directors have decided to have several teaching sessions that are comprised of the entire group. So you’ll have a teaching session in the morning, one in the evening, and some days another in the afternoon focused on how to study or something like that.

BUT. Even with this context, this is not the first time I’ve witnessed the following problem.

The Problem:
After reading the context, at least some of the problems might be obvious to the reader but I want to make it clear what each individual teacher is concerned about: that the older saved Christian boys live moral lives and that those who aren’t believers are saved. So each teacher is concerned enough to make sure the Gospel is in each lesson coupled with a call for moral living. It’s a proper concern.

The first problem, the one I think most would pick up on, is that understanding range is too broad. You can’t possibly warn the fifteen year olds with their moral activity without exposing the young with unnecessary information; and it is exceedingly difficult to speak to the young in such a way that the teens will tune in, sift the points, and apply to themselves.

The second problem is that most of the teachers were not ready. There were maybe two (and not even the main speaker) who had a history of dealing with a broad age range.

The third problem is the teachers’ understanding of what the Gospel is accomplishing. People usually have a habit of divide these two teaching targets (pre-Gospel and post-Gospel) because they rightly know that there is a difference but incorrectly assume the difference is one between Salvation and Sanctification that must be dealt with differently. These teachers generally did the same.

Let me give you an example to make it clear. At one of the sessions, one of the preachers was speaking about the necessity of believing Christ and what He did and confessing Him as savior and being at peac with God. Further down the talk, the teacher quoted 1 Corinthians 15:33 about the necessity of having the right friends. Then he did something horrifying: he pointed out what happens if we have the wrong friends that we turn to God and are rejecting him and his ways we have no more peace.

Now mind you, in the speaker’s mind he had clearly delineated salvation (believing the Gospel) and sanctification (the daily walk) and he was no longer talking about salvation (you must believe to get peace) but requesting believers to keep trusting Christ in their daily behavior else the relationship is strained (lacking peace). My problem is not so much with the theology (though, yes, I have a problem with it) but with the connection of thought that makes this lesson necessary and thus throws the non-Christianized else into a tailspin.

One of my campers wondered if being friends with people who aren’t Christians would make you not go to heaven.  Mind you, my campers were nine and ten so the question likely passed in and out of their mind even though I quickly addressed it to the entire cabin.

The Solution:
On the practical level to the first problem, I think that the age groups need to be divided. Maybe eight to eleven year olds go in one building and the rest go into the other. This way you can really speak at their level and not be worried about missing part of the target audience

As to the second problem, effectively speaking to a mixed crowd is something that takes many long hours of dealing with that problem under guidance and shouldn’t be relegated to a week (or two if you’re lucky) in a camp where kids might come through once. For young kids, get an older experienced guy to teach them. For the teens, the younger guys are fine. The exception is if these younger teachers have been working, under guidance, with kids. I frankly don’t understand why it’s all the rage to get hip-young teachers for little kids when what little kids need (and want, though they don’t say it) is an older, confident, knowledgeable adult.

And the solution to the third problem is this: Preach the Gospel! Stop trying to preach about getting the right friends or the importance of bible study or the need to fight the world. Look, those things are important but you have one week so why waste an hour on them when the Gospel is infinitely more important.

But furthermore, the Gospel is the solution. Clever solutions about “Life after we’re saved” are wrongheaded.  The Gospel is not something that we must get beyond to figure out what we must do now in this time After The Gospel. The Gospel is not merely the door to salvation, it is the fundamental aspect of our theology. Christ, demanding moral living, tells his disciples to crucify their own lives daily or to take up their cross and follow him to Calvary. Paul, speaking about the necessity to stop sin in our members reminds believers that they have died in Christ and have risen again to walk in newness of life. This is based on a Christian-life long theology that Paul (and anyone who believes) has been crucified in Christ and yet lives: therefore it is Christ living in me. When noting the moral problems in a Church at Corinth, Paul doesn’t help them out by offering moral platitudes: it is a constant call to return to the Gospel. Get the leaven out of your house because we’re living in a perpetual feast of Unleavened Bread! Don’t eat meats offered to idols because we are partakes of the Body of Christ! Don’t divorce because we’ve been called and saved where we are! Don’t’ divide because we have trusted God’s Gospel of Stupidity which empties our wisdom.

Indeed, that bit where Paul speaks about friends is a sidebar after he said something stupid: if Christ hasn’t been resurrected (which is fundamental to the Gospel) then we might as well eat and drink because tomorrow we die. Then he quickly jumps in: don’t listen to that stupidity–and quotes a platitude in passing to slap some sense into these silly ADULTS.

Children can get the Gospel. They get it by the droves. What they also need to get is what the Gospel means to them. That although they are kids, they are children of a new family that looks like Christ.

Teens can get the Gospel too. That although they are teens, they can actually look at God and say DAD! That although they struggle from day to day, the ruler of this world has been robbed of his power. That Christ reigns, right now, seated in heavenly places and they are seated with him–and therefore they must look like the young Kings they are.

And so on. The Gospel should not be taken lightly and we must always go back to it. So, Camp staff, if you want to teach kids remember: target your speaking to the age group, keep it simple by not conflating your message, and there’s no such thing as Beyond The Gospel by dealing with moral do’s and do-not’s. We won’t get beyond The Gospel in eternity, so why do it now?

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