Monthly Archives: October 2015

Rendering You Neither Useless nor Unfruitful in the Knowledge of God – MAKE DISCIPLES!!

Rendering You Neither Useless nor Unfruitful in the Knowledge of God”

As of June 2015, I (Pastor Michael Miano) have begun leading a discipleship program that I have developed through years of learning from other discipleship programs. We are calling this “Immersed Discipleship”.

The name says it all. I am endeavoring to disciple others the way I myself was discipled- by being immersed into the knowledge of God. Keeping in mind the concept of ‘milk & meat’, I seek to bring together those who want to be discipled and show them with the ‘things of God’ -whether it be deep doctrinal stuff, life application, or challenging ourselves in regards to outreach and evangelism- the goal is to help those coming into the faith to be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8)”.

There is really no limit or boundary in regards to what we discuss at ‘Immersed Discipleship’. For example, last week in one of our classes, some of our discussion was based around the historical controversy of the Donatists. Here is an interesting article on those details for your studying pleasure:

http://gregsvoboda.com/2013/01/the-donatist-controversy-the-most-important-heresy-youve-never-heard-of/

Surely, as persecution of Christians continues, we can find some relevancy for ourselves in that historic conversation.

All of those details noted, a point that I made at our recent class was that 2,000 years after Christ first instructed His Apostles to preach the Gospel, we find ourselves sitting in a local church class room endeavoring to be His disciples. I regularly have the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and see people become interested in what Jesus offers.

*Keep on the ‘lookout’ for an upcoming video I will release, “The Fulfilled Gospel in 6 Minutes” on YouTube in days to come.

After we heed the Gospel (namely the truth of Matthew 7:24-29), we then should be seeking to “walk worthy of 2 Peter 1:8.

For the remainder of this blog, I want to share with you a couple of ways I believe discipleship should be worked out in your life. God willing, I will provide you with a basic knowledge of how you can apply 2 Peter 1 to your life.

Missiologist and Theologian, David Bosch noted “For the disciple of Jesus, the stage of discipleship is not the first step toward a promising career. It is itself the fulfillment of his or her destiny”.

As a disciple your priority should be to gather with other saints to exhort and encourage each other to be accountable in personal discipleship, as well be the ‘healing of the nations’ as a community. At the Blue Point Bible Church (which I pastor) we have the following ‘mission statement’:

The purpose of this church shall be to make disciples, that is to produce mature believers, by carrying out God’s objectives for His Church in the world, evangelizing the lost and edifying the people of God”.

I call this the COLLECTIVE part of your discipleship.

The “collective church community” should further serve to build you up as a member of the Body, essentially the ‘purpose’ and ‘unity’ of the faith as preached by the Apostle Paul brings us in this direction. If 2 Peter chapter 1 is not an exhortation enough (which we will be dealing with as we conclude this blog), then let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 12:1-0. Go ahead and read the text.

Reading through 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, not only do you get a glimpse of the Apostle Paul’s concerns, you also see that God’s strength is shown in our weaknesses. The goal of gathering “collectively” is for us to not only see, but come to realize it is not about us- it’s about Him. The “collective church community” should seek to exhort and encourage the believer through the knowledge of God, bringing about a “strength” that only comes from God, and could never be exemplified through man. Again remember, it’s all about His glory! That should be your INDIVIDUAL focus.

The work of the “collective church community” and the “individual” is to seek out, understand, and live in proper doctrine. Reading through the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy shows this very clearly. Go ahead and read through 1 Timothy chapters 2-4. Bad doctrine, or a messed up understanding of the things of God is compared to “dirty water” in Scripture. Who wants to drink “dirty water”? Worst yet, how does one feel after drinking “dirty water”?

In matters of discipleship we have noted that not only are ‘eschatological doctrines’ among many other areas in need of “study to show ourselves approved”, sadly even the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (or what we might refer to as the ‘practical applications’ of our faith are distorted as well. Some have referred to this as “The Crisis of the Sermon on the Mount”. A great article on that topic can be found here:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1995/july17/5t8038.html

As we contemplate the ‘true knowledge of God’, what should become clear beyond anything else is that without Christ, we will never “walk worthy” of the things of God. God offering covenant to us without Jesus is essentially “bad news”. We cannot and will not walk worthy- thus demonstrating the need for Jesus Christ. In these regards I enjoy this quote by Leo Tolstoy:

The test of observance of Christ’s teachings is our consciousness of our failure to attain to an ideal perfection. To the degree which we draw near, this perfection cannot be seen, all we see is the extent of our deviation”.

If you can come to that conclusion each and every time you study the doctrines of God, your DOCTRINAL understanding is in a healthy place.

That brings us to the final point, some may argue the most important- How to apply these things to my life? I have come to refer to this type of questioning as “diligent discipleship”.

I am fond of reading and learning from others, even to the extent that I recently accused myself of “following man”. However, praise-fully, I was rebuked by the Word. As the Apostle Paul himself admonishes the saints to be followers of him in 1 Corinthians 4:16 as well as in 11:1. Timothy was told in the letters to him to be mindful of who he received the faith from, and live like them.

Surely that brings together- collective, individual, doctrinal, and application discipleship. It must be done in community, it must be done diligently, and ultimately for the glory of God.

In our Wednesday Bible Study (just another way we walk worthy of our purpose at B.P.B.C.), we have been reviewing a series done by a man named Ray Vander Laan, and he details much of what I detailed in this blog- yet he refers to our lives in discipleship as “a well watered garden”. Author Vera Nazarian has noted, “The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte. “. I pray this blog has further exhorted you to become a ‘mater of the garden’ as it pertains to your discipleship.

In keeping with that line of thinking, here is a list of things to do in the Garden. Let’s start calling it our “Gardening List” (cf. 2 Peter 1)

  1. applying all diligence” – do this with a concentrated and constant effort
  2. in your faith supply moral excellence” – remembering that “faith” cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:1), the excellent morals we live by can be seen (read Philippians 2:1-11)
  3. add knowledge” – awareness, facts, information, and skill about the “things of God”
  4. add self-control” – ability to control one’s emotions, behavior, and desires in the face of external demands
  5. add perseverance” – be steadfast in what your doing despite possible trying circumstances
  6. add godliness” – Desire to bring glory to God
  7. add brotherly kindness” – do good to others, especially those of the household of faith
  8. love- love God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength as well as love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you: for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:8-11)”.

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you (2 Peter 1:12)”.

In His Service,

Pastor Michael Miano

Blue Point Bible Church

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Man of Dust – Genesis & Ancient Near Eastern Origins

Recently, I have been in discussion with someone regarding the “dust” and “death” found in the beginning of Genesis, specifically Adam (man) being made of the “dust” of the ground and thus returning to it. What is this saying?

Before I start, please allow me to assert that I believe in a honest handling of God’s Word, and the need to “study to show ourselves approved RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORLD OF TRUTH” (2 Timothy 2:15). That being noted, I do not want to impose an understanding that is not there, and I want to find the most “literal” understanding of the text possible, what is known as ‘sensus literalis’.

The words of Mr. R.C. Sproul, a well known Bible teacher, fit rightly here:

There is much confusion regarding the “literal” sense of Scripture…To interpret the Bible “literally” in the classic sense requires that we learn to recognize in Scripture different genres of literature. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, and didactic passages are to be interpreted according to the grammar of the didactic. Historical narrative must not be treated as parable, nor parable as strict historical narrative. Much of Bible prophecy is cast in an apocalyptic genre that employs graphic imaginative language and often mixes elements of common historical narrative with the figurative language.” (1)

This is where we must do the proper legwork. Sure, we can just pick up Genesis as 21st century Westerners and demand that the Scriptures make the points we want them to make about the things we want them to detail, as many do. Or….we can be honest and humble in our reading and studying and realize the ancient world is vastly different than ours. The concerns of those times are different than ours, and therefore the details of writing are as well.

Coming to an agreement concerning what type of genre the book of Genesis comes to us as is an rather intriguing study. The book ‘Beyond Creation Science’ by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn, first opened my eyes to taking a step back and really looking at the culture from which Genesis comes and the details it notes- finding Genesis to be more prophetic and apocalyptic than I had initially thought. Then reading through Dr. John Walton’s lectures on Youtube surely opened my eyes to understanding the concept of Genesis as a ‘temple text’ and it’s details in that environment rather than what I initially thought they meant.

Again….we must decide…do we really want the truth out of the text, essentially what it “literally” says, or are we content with just making things up and keeping our own view? That is exactly what has spurned by studies, and led me to the views I hold today.

Author Robert Gundry exhorts us in this regard:

…we must presume that the text as it stands had a meaning for the author and his first readers. We want to discover that meaning. The path to discovery lies along the line of historical- grammatical interpretation, which assumes that the language of the Biblical text, including its symbolic language, grows out of and speaks to the historical situation of the writer and his readers. To take a non-referential view of language, may open up possibilities of contemporary interest and deconstruction play, but it blocks the path of historical understanding.”

So…in my honest study, I have begun to look at the world of the Ancient Near East. Most within ‘critical scholarship’ have now begun to point those who want to understand the Book of Genesis in this direction. Granted I have made these remarks before, have written about understanding the Bible “literally”, (2) and defended these positions in debates- yet herein I want to show the proper understanding of the creation of man and the story that tells- from the Ancient Near East to the overly Hellenistic Western world.

The ANE audience hardly was concerned nor would have attempted to explain in graphic detail how God had made man, save for understanding the function of man in the world. Genesis serves as a ‘polemic’, or argument against the cultures of the Ancient Near East, as blog writer T.E. Hanna notes,

Rather than adopting the mythologies of the surrounding Ancient Near East, the Hebrew cosmologies were written as a criticism of them. As theological education for an emerging Israelite nation, the purpose of these narratives was to emphasize the nature of the God of Israel in contrast to the surrounding polytheism, while also conveying His superiority over competing religions.”

Now that we have made ourselves somewhat aware of the context of the Book of Genesis, let’s begin to take a look.

Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1:24-31.

Here we read that God made all the animals and then goes about to create man – In His Image, and to have dominion over all of that which God created.

As one becomes familiar with the Ancient Near East, we would see that this Genesis story runs contrary to the contemporary understanding of that culture. As Wheaton proffessor, Dr. John Walton has noted, “In Mesopotamia the cosmos functions for the gods and in relation to them. People are an afterthought, seen as just another part of the cosmos that helps the gods to function. In Israel the cosmos functions for people and in relation to them. God does not need the cosmos, but it is his temple. It functions for people.” (3)

I have a writing on this called ‘The Ancestral Story of the ‘Image of God'(4) which can be found on the internet, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of Mrs. Rebekkah Devine (or Giffone as I note in my article). When I came to understand how in Genesis man was set up as the ‘image of God’ in contrast to the way the ANE viewed man, I was amazed. Man is created to display the glory of God, not the idols, nor the “created things” that man turns into idols.

Now let’s take a look at Genesis 2:4-9.

Studying out the details of “heaven and earth” in Scripture is a praiseworthy study. Verse 4 here gives us a beginning of understanding the way this phraseology was used by the ancient Hebrews, and essentially was was being ‘made’ by God in this account. Surely you don’t believe that what God is saying here is that the ‘heaven and earth’ has a genealogy, do you? Oddly some have made some strange interpretations, yet if you study out the term in its context and usage- you find this term simply applies to God’s people.

What we are reading in Genesis chapters 1-3 is the “creation story” of the one True God and how He formed His “heaven and earth”.

In Genesis 2:7 we have, God ‘forming’ man (adam) out of the ground. The text reads: ‘v’yyitzer YHWH ‘Elohim ‘et ha’adam ‘aphar min ha’adamah’ – or in the English – “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

There are some who simply would rather avoid dealing with the historicity of the writing and would assert that this is talking about God materialistically forming man out of ‘dust’, just as they would say that this text is talking about the material creation of Heaven and Earth. If you are ok with imposing a foreign interpretation on the text, that would have hardly been understood by the ancients, then there is nothing I can show you. However, after searching for the definition of the term ‘dust’ (which in Hebrew is ‘aphar’ meaning ground, earth, ashes, or powder), then reading all the passages in Scripture that apply that term, I did not find much clarity as to what is saying. Therefore I turned to historical context for clarity.

It is interesting to further note that in Ancient Near Eastern literature not only is man debased, but the creation of man is usually of the clay of the ground and the blood or spit of the gods- both good and evil. In the Biblical text, man is created of the earth and then God breath’s life into him- giving man a dignity above all other created things. Surely a radical thought in the Ancient Near East that most modern people miss the point of.

A writing that further helped provide clarity pertaining to Genesis :4-7 was an internet writing by Don Stoner. You can access that writing by visiting this link: http://www.dstoner.net/Genesis_Context/Context.html

So in Genesis chapter 2, man is created by God forming him of the dust of the ground, earthy, and is animated as a ‘living soul’ once God breathes into him.

In Genesis 3:14 as well as 3:19, we read that the serpent will go on his belly and eat “dust’ all the days of his life, and Adam after the fall is told he shall return to the dust.

First of all this is where you should begin to notice that this book is a foreign text and not intended to be taken literal. If you hold to a literal walking/ talking serpent that is cursed by God to travel on the ground, then you need to consult the local psychologist.

After noting that simply point, we can begin to search out what the text means in its proper context.

‘Dust’ as used through Scripture and historical context also carries the thought of humility and desperation. When Adam and Eve sin and suffer “the death” due to sin, they are ashamed and hide themselves from God- no longer freely roaming in the blessedness of God’s garden as He provided to them. This will later be the story of fleshly Israel as well- they violate the command God gives them and thus suffer shame.

Adam and Eve are now “dead”, as God told them the day they eat of the tree they shall surely die. God provides them with a covering and removes them from the Garden where they enjoyed God’s presence and possible “immortality” through the Tree of Life. From dust they were created, to dust they shall return.

It is when we study out the “resurrection of the dead” that these things get hopeful. The “resurrection of the dead” will undue the damage of the garden.

Adam and Eve had a beautiful & free relationship with God- based on the “covenant” of one law- don’t eat of that tree- be His image- they failed and died in that covenant relationship- thus returning to dust.

Israel inherited that story, and was provided a covering. They do the same as Adam (Hosea 6:7) and get worse and worse- suffering the fate of returning to the dust and face future judgment (Daniel chapter 12). One writer noted that the “futility” spoken about in Romans 8 is detailing the same “futility” to which creation was subjected in Genesis 3 – it has to do with the idea that it would not do that for which it was designed or intended.

All of this is to note that Genesis chapters 1-3 are not talking about the material creation of the cosmos nor of man, but rather are covenant claims. Genesis is the creation of God’s people- heaven and earth- and how that Old Covenant people were subjected to futility- being of the dust and earthy.

One poet noted, “The sons of Adam are formed from dust; if not humble as the dust, they fall short of being men.

In conclusion, let us praise God for the ‘Second Adam’ as revealed through the New Testament. We, in Christ, do not bear that “dusty” semblance and “death is defeated”! After all as 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus noted, ““The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

This is the goal of our faith- to note that which happened “in the beginning”, the death that comes because of sin, and then rest and proclaim praise in regards Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness. To provide to who would attest to the power of this as the “Christian faith” I will use quotes from 7th century Church bishop Maximus who said, “Christianity is an entirely new way of being human”, and 20th century century German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who remarked, “Christianity is not about religion- it’s about humanity, and making it as God intended it to be.”

Below I will provide a short list of Works Cited. As well as a list of Scriptures that mention “dust” for further study, and of course a host of links that further inform on the context of the Ancient Near East.

Works Cited

  1. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus
  2. https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/how-do-we-literally-understand-the-scriptures/
  3. Dr. John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve
  4. http://www.academia.edu/9695120/A_Must_Read-_The_Ancestral_Story_of_the_Image_of_God_

Scriptures Pertaining to Dust:

Genesis 2:7; 3:19 – dust; Genesis 3:14; Genesis 13:16; 28:13; 1 Chron 1:9; Genesis 18:27; Genesis 26:15 – translated as earth; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 13:7 ; Num 19:17; 2 Kings 23:4 – ashes ; Job 4:19; Job 7:21; Job 10:9; Job 14:8 – ground; Job 17:16; Job 21:26; Job 30:19; Psalm 22:15, 29; Psalm 44:25; Psalm 113:17; Lev 14:42, 45 – mortar;2 kings 23:6, 15- powder; Job 42:6; Ecc 3:20; 12:7; psalm 103:14; Neh 4:2, 10 – rubbish; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentation 2:10; Nahum 3:18

Websites about the Ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis:

http://www.theologymatters.com/Novdec97.PDF

http://www.newfoundationspubl.org/dust.htm

http://questions.veritas.org/science-faith/origins/what-genre-is-genesis-1-2/

http://tehanna.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/OfDustAndKings_HebrewCosmology.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~jsp/docs/2013_14/Bern_Essay_winner_Bloom,%20D.pdf

https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/interpreting-adam-an-interview-with-john-walton

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825439272/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0825439272&linkCode=as2&tag=michsheiscom-20&linkId=LVYPNGNYCGRJSJSD

http://davidjohnstone.net/blog/2009/12/notes-lost-world-genesis-one-john-walton

http://oyc.yale.edu/transcript/945/rlst-145

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