The Wednesday Writers: Cody Neal

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my fellow Society of Evangelical Arminians member, Cody Neal.

Boasting in Christ

The first quarter of 2018 is over. A few months removed from 2017, I reflect.

There are many expectations and hopes that we all have for ourselves and others. If you are anything like me, you probably understand the disappointment in yourself when you feel as though you have not turned out to be the person you wanted to be during the previous year – or that your expectations were not quite met. I admit, I have been disappointed in myself. Whether it be with trying to control my anger and impatience, controlling my tongue, fighting off lustful temptations, and just generally being a man of noble character – I have known disappointment this time around again. I wanted to be so Christlike that I would clearly look back on a year of much improvement, comparatively, to the years before. And maybe there was an improvement in some areas of my life, but, perhaps I have foolishly had the wrong perspective.

One thing is for certain, I am weak, you are weak – we are all weak. Yet a greater truth is that Jesus Christ is not weak. What He did on the cross reveals His strength and righteousness. How beautiful it is that His righteousness has been assigned to us (only by His strength).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.’

– 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 (NIV)

This shows us that all that humans can boast in, whether it be status, talents, wisdom, or characteristics, is utterly worthless in all that God has done. Our own capacities will fail us and even worse, our confidence in our own capacities will inevitably fail us. So what else do we have to bank on? We must bank on this fact: Christ is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption! Therefore, we must boast (or as in the Greek, glory) in our Christ!

Truth is never novel – it has always “been.” Truth can only be presented in fresh ways. Perhaps you have heard or read something similar to what I have presented so far. If so, then this serves as a reminder – we constantly need reminders. I find this evident in my own life because, after several years of being a Christian, I still find myself baffled at how foolishly I forget the truths of the scriptures. Let this serve us as a reminder for the upcoming year. If there is any hope for our expectations being met this year, let it begin in Christ. In the words of John Wesley:

We must be cut off from dependence upon ourselves, before we can truly depend upon Christ. We must cast away all confidence in our own righteousness, or we cannot have a true confidence in his. Till we are delivered from trusting in anything that we do, we cannot thoroughly trust in what he has done and suffered. First, we receive the sentence of death in ourselves: Then, we trust in Him that lived and died for us.

I believe Wesley hit the nail on the head. We must quit selfishly placing our confidence in ourselves, it only leads to selfish disappointment. Yes, we will mess up, but have we forgotten the truths of the scriptures? Christ has become our righteousness! It is by His righteousness that we have been saved. And to be saved is to be a child of God.

I’ll close with this. Jesus told His disciples they must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and likewise, that applies to us. (Matthew 18:1-5) Do you believe that you are a child of God? If so, then start living into that fact this year. When I was a young kid, I remember being a huge Spiderman fan. I was such a fan that I remember “playing Spiderman” out in the backyard and attaching multiple belts around my waist and to the top of a large dog kennel gate to act like I was swinging around like Spiderman does. That definitely was not as glorious as the films or comics portrayed, nevertheless, the inspiration was so strong that I tried any way I could to be like him. Likewise, I wonder what it would be like to have that kind of childlike inspiration from Jesus? Granted, Jesus is obviously far more important and real than the Spiderman character.

I’m still trying to figure out how to live into what Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-5. What I do know is that we are called to be utterly dependent on Christ. This year, let us remember the scriptures, remember what Christ has done, and remember who He has become for us. Let us boast (perhaps externally and internally,) “This is who my Christ is! This is what He does! So I want to be like Him!” And as the old saying goes, “The rest…will take care of itself.”

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Cody currently resides in Wilmore, KY with his wife, Mary (and their three crazy cats). He enjoys reading, guitars, baseball, and is passionate about the Wesleyan tradition. He currently holds bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is in the process of earning a Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary.

 

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Things I Will no Longer Argue About

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I overdid it last week with the bending and the lifting and the stretching and the insomnia. Didn’t mean to. Just happened. With the morning sun came shooting pain in my abdomen and a wicked headache. So I’m in the recliner today, wrapped up in a blanket, watching the minutes tick by. That lovely combination of exhaustion and restlessness that follows surgery settles in. I don’t know if I’m going to have a panic attack, take a nap or give in to the urge for junk food that been poking at me for days. All seem like good options.

Thankfully, I’m just slightly smarter than I have been in the past. A panic attack may come, but it won’t kill me. A nap this late in the day definitely guarantees a sleepless night and I can achieve that without an extra help. Junk food equals liver poison. So I’ve been listening to music that makes me happy. Drinking water. Praying. God reminds me that I’m tougher than I think I am, and 15 days from now I’ll be released fully back into “normal life.”

Maybe you need that reminder today, too. It won’t last forever. You got this.

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Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about.

I know better, but sometimes I take the bait. Briefly got into it with someone over the weekend. Same old argument about women’s roles in the Church. This time, Matthew 15:6-9 was flung at me:

…Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (NKJV)

Not only was this so far out of context as to be laughable, the point was very clear: If you’re an egalitarian, if you think that women can preach, then you are far from God.

Of course this slap in the face was done “humbly,” in an effort to set me straight.

And I thought, “That’s it. I’m done.”

No longer will I argue about this. Contrary to popular belief, egalitarians take the Bible extremely seriously. We have studied this issue. We are not idiots or “liberals” (I’m not always sure what someone means when they use that term). We love the Lord just as much as complementarians do. I’m not going to waste time defending or justifying or explaining to people who clearly just want to fight. I’m not going to try to reason with people who seriously wonder if a woman should be “allowed” to be in charge of the finances if she’s married.

I’ve also decided that I won’t argue about Calvinism. So done with that. I’m sure my decision was predestined.

Look, it’s possible to talk about these things in a spirit of love and family. It’s possible for us to say, “I disagree with you, but you’re my sister/brother” or “I think you’re completely wrong, but we’re both saved by Christ.” I’ve had interactions of this type and they’re always fun and edifying. I always learn something. I always feel respected. Unfortunately, in my experience, many complementarians and Calvinists (they often go hand in hand, but not always) have taken such a hard line in their positions as of late, especially online, that this type of exchange is next to impossible. I find that extremely sad.

I’m an egalitarian. I’m Wesleyan/Holiness. Beating me with your “women must know their place, and their place is __________” or your Reformed system of biblical interpretation isn’t going to make me change my mind. Look down on me all you want. Feel superior. Tell me I’m rebellious. Tell me I am willfully ignorant.

When all is fulfilled and restored, when Heaven and earth are as one, I hope we have houses next to each other.

I firmly believe that correct doctrine is vital. I also believe that there are times when we need to make like Elsa and let it go. There’s a dying world outside our front doors. It isn’t helped by us trying to squash each other into submission.

Go ahead. Stay up in your comfortable ivory towers and talk about how everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong, wronger, wrongest. I have work to do.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: reenablack