Dr. John Coe will be teaching a four week class on Spiritual Formation for the 2012 Winter Session of RHBI (Tuesday Evenings, 1/31 – 2/21, 6:30pm – 8:20pm). The class will cover topics including:
- Resisting the Temptation of Moral Formation: Moving From Moral to Spiritual Formation
- Why We Sin When We Know So Much: Healing the Hidden Heart by the Spirit
- Drawing Near to God When God Seems Far Away: Practicing the Presence of God Despite Feelings
- Going on with God in Dark Nights: Maturing the Saints by Spiritual Hunger and Love
- How to Put on Christ: Doing Spiritual Disciplines from the Heart in the Spirit
We have a common experience of what some have called the “Sanctification Gap.” This is the disparity between what we know our lives should look like according to scripture and the frustrating realities of how we actually end up living out our lives. As believers, we embrace that we are justified by faith; but, we have a sneaking suspicion that we are sanctified by works. As a result we try harder and harder to overcome our failures and we become increasingly discouraged until many of us reach a stalemate with our struggles.
But why do we suppose that we are sanctified by our own efforts? Where does the grace of God fit in? How does my relationship with God nourish my soul, meeting the deepest needs of my heart that I would otherwise try to fulfill in fallen ways? These are important questions. Dallas Willard said it well when he observed that grace is opposed to earning, it’s not opposed to effort… but effort in our own strength leads only to failure and frustration. This class will help you develop a deeper understanding of what it means to live in a sanctifying relationship that brings us through our struggles by the loving grace of our Father.
Childcare is available, please make reservations by calling the church. The tuition for this class is $45,* but scholarships are readily available for those who are unable to pay the full tuition. Register early as we may be limited on seating for this class.
* Note: classes taught by visiting professors are normally $45 whereas regular RHBI classes are normally $35.
Some people have a sneaky way of recommending books to read.
Pastor Steve Bunyard (Pastor of Outreach at RHCC) simply carries around a copy of a book that he wants you to read. The book catches your eye and you ask him, “Hey, Steve, what book are you reading?” Then it is too late. He has the hook in your mouth and you know that you will be going to http://www.christianbook.com and you are going to order that book so you can start reading ASAP.
That is how I discovered and devoured Radical: taking back your faith from the American dream by David Platt. I highly recommend this book as a good read to review your thoughts on being a Christian in America. Platt warns you to examine how your faith guides your life or how your culture invades and possibly overwhelms your faith. I took this book to heart and am praying through changes in my life.
Here is my summary of Radical: taking back your faith from the American dream by David Platt:
“God has designed our lives for a collision course with the world.” (p. 83) No matter in which walk of life we find ourselves, God wants us “to spend all of our lives for the sake of all of God’s glory in all of the world.” (p. 83)
Platt questions the validity of “pray a prayer after me” Christianity. He sees the Bible clearly teaching the follower of Jesus to give up everything that they have and take up his cross and follow Jesus against the tide of family and the world. He challenges each believer to focus on discipleship and becoming a reproducing disciple-maker.
Platt drives to the core when he challenges every American believer to review their personal view and feelings about death. If we view death as a reward as we are instantly escorted into the presence of Jesus and leave the cares and struggles of our earthly life behind, then we are good to go in our discipleship. Our faith needs an adjustment if we are found clinging to family, possessions, positions, friends, comforts, safety, security, and our very lives.
We have nothing to fear as we rest in His sovereign control over every minute of our day. (p. 173)
We can remain secure because we know that he loves us and cares about every detail of our life. (p. 174)
Our greatest security is found in the faithful provision of our all-knowing God who is also able and willing to meet our needs in every way. (p. 174)
We have to work to believe with Paul that “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Death can be a reward only if dying really is gain. Your life is free to be radical only when you see death as reward. The key is realizing that this world is not your home. (p. 175-179)
We are radically His when we only know security in Him and we find satisfaction only in His presence.
“When we consider the promises of Christ, risking everything we are and everything we have for His sake is no longer a matter of sacrifice. It’s just common sense. Following Christ is not sacrificial as much as it is smart. Jim Elliot once said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’” (p. 181)
Platt spends the final chapter of the book challenging the reader to put their new found radical faith into practice via a radical experiment. He gives the reader 5 challenges to undertake in the next year. This is a very practical step for each reader to take.
I was recently given a copy of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a quick read teaching on the familiar parable contained in Luke 15. Keller helps the reader to set aside the common views about this parable and truly understand what Jesus was saying to us when he taught with this story. Both brothers in the story are in spiritual dead ends and the father represents God who wishes to give his lavish love and provision to both his boys; all they need to do is accept it.
Here is my summary of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller:
We are saved individually by the application of the cosmic payment of our sin debt through Christ’s loving sacrifice of Himself on the cross.
However, if we view our relationship with God as simply transaction recipients with a cosmic judge, then we can dwell in our pre-Christ fear and neediness. We can remain either a younger brother slave, seeking fulfillment and meaning and joy in everything except God, or an older brother slave to self-reliance and wooden “adherence” to God’s law.
The answer is for every believer to embrace the beauty of Jesus’ self-less, loving sacrifice for us and dwell on God’s goodness and favor. Our fear and neediness are eliminated as we dwell on His beauty and love for us.
The faith way forward is to abandon myself to his grace and “taste and see” that the Lord is good. His love must become more real to you than the love of anyone else. You must see, with the eyes of your heart, His dazzling majesty, goodness and purposeful love for you. At that point, there is no room in your heart for worry or anxiety, you trust in the kind Lord of the Universe to simply be Himself and take care of you.
Our understanding of the sheer, costly grace of God in our salvation drives out the selfishness of the younger brother and also the self-righteousness of the older brother. This gospel wakes us up to the plight of those around us and we seek out ways to provide safety, food, clothes and comfort to those caught in crushing social systems while at the same time seeking to share the gospel.
We must continually and personally appropriate the gospel, “making it more and more central to everything we see, think and feel. This is how we grow spiritually in wisdom, love, joy, and peace…The basic operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey.” (p. 128) However, our heart seeks to return to self-righteous mode. We have a fleshly instinct to look to other things besides God. Therefore, we must take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and hearts so that God can continue the permanent change of our hearts. We must feast on the gospel, “digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.” (p. 130)
“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.” (p. 133)
The qualities of the God’s provision in Christ well understood, often revisited, and deeply reflected upon will change us from the inside out. “That is why Martin Luther wrote, ‘The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine…Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.’” (p. 134)
We live out our faith within a community of believers in which we find our place. Each of us must be deeply involved in the church with strong relationships of love and accountability. “Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness.” (p. 143)
Keller teaches us that in the parable of the lost son, both sons are lost and find themselves in spiritual dead ends; the younger in the dead end of sensuality and reckless waste and the older in the dead end of self-reliance and “self-righteousness”. God is the prodigal father, the one who lavishes his abundant love and provision on both his sons. We enter into full relationship with God when we live our lives through Him; through His love; through His lavish salvation and provision for all our needs far above anything we can think or ask.
Dr. Rae is Chair of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot Theological Seminary at Biola University.
Dr. Rae’s primary interests are medical ethics and business ethics, dealing with the application of Christian ethics to medicine and the marketplace. He has authored 10 books in ethics including The Ethics of Commercial Surrogate Motherhood; Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics; Brave New Families: Biblical Ethics and Reproductive Technologies; Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics; and Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics. His work has appeared in The Linacre Quarterly, Religion and Liberty, Journal of Markets and Morality, Southern California Journal of Law and Women’s Studies, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, and Ethics and Medicine. He is a consultant for ethics for four Southern California hospitals. He is a fellow of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and a fellow of the Wilberforce Forum.
You can learn more about Dr. Rae by visiting his website.
This class will be held Tuesday evenings for four weeks starting September 27, 2011. The two hour class will start at 7pm instead of the regular 6:30pm. As a result childcare will not be available. As this is a class offered in partnership with the Talbot Institute for Biblical Studies (TIBS), tuition will be $45. Scholarships will require advanced approval from RHBI. An instruction manual for the class will be provided by Talbot Theological Seminary, and refreshments will be available as well.
Dr. Scott Rae joins the up coming lineup of guest speakers Greg Koukl and Dr. Dallas Willard. Check back in the upcoming weeks for announcements about our other great fall session classes. RHBI works hard to provide you with access to meaningful biblically grounded classes taught by highly qualified instructors. Did you know that most of our instructors have advanced degrees in some area of theological studies? Did you know that RHBI has hosted guest speakers like Dr. J.P. Moreland and Dr. Craig Hazen in the past? If you haven’t tried out an RHBI class, Dr. Rae’s might be a good way for you to sample RHBI for four weeks instead of the normal eight weeks.
You are a theologian, a bible interpreter, and a philosopher. I’m certain about this because I know that you have thoughts about God, about what the bible says, and about the world around you. Even an atheist has thoughts about God, namely, that He doesn’t exist. It’s not a question of if you will be doing theology, biblical interpretation or philosophy. It’s a question of whether or not you’ll be any good at it.
In Jesus’ day, the public had wrong thoughts about him. They thought he was John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet from the past. Jesus asked his disciples a profoundly simple question, “but who do you say that I am.” Peter answered, “The Christ of God” (Luke. 9:18 – 20). The crowd got it wrong; Peter got it right in mind and heart. That made all the difference in the world. Things have not changed. People think Jesus is a prophet, a guru, one of many ways to God, a wise man, a political revolutionary, a fairy tale, etc. But the question remains, who do you say that he is? Truth matters to Jesus; it should matter to you as well.
Getting good at thinking about God shouldn’t be thought of as a callous academic discipline. Sure, it requires some thinking and some effort; but it’s more than that. Getting good at thinking about theology and the bible can be an act of worship. Think about what we believe: God humbled himself, took on the form of a servant, lived a perfect life, was executed and rose from the dead so that we can have life (Philippians 2:1-11)! That’s amazing! Why wouldn’t you want to learn as much as you can about what God has to say through his written word?
Learning about God, however, isn’t just about truth and getting smarter. It’s about learning to love God and one another. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he answered without hesitation, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40). Learning about God is about developing your mind as an act of loving Him. It should also be something that transforms your heart and your soul, which naturally translates to you loving your neighbor as yourself.
The Rolling Hills Bible Institute (RHBI) is an opportunity for you to learn to worship and love God with your mind. It’s an opportunity for you to develop thoughts that are true about God. It’s an opportunity to learn to love God and one another more deeply. I hope you’ll take some time to prayerfully consider taking a class this year.
I look forward to hearing how God works though you as you engage your mind for his glory!