JohnSWilson3 Blog

Review of “Christ Minimized?” by Jon Zens
January 24, 2012, 2:19 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my review of Jon Zens new “booklet” titled “Christ Minimized? A Response to Rob Bell’s LOVE WINS.” This review comes from my conviction and I understand that there are a number of opinions on the subject. Many voices have shared their thoughts on the subject but really like Jon Zens and David Flowers articles on the subject.

When I read the title “Christ Minimized?” of Jon Zens response to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” I immediately was captured again by Jon’s desire to see Jesus Christ made supreme and central to the ekkelsia of God, His body. How Christ desires to be Lord, Leader, and Life among His people and not a set of teachings or practices, but real food, real water, real life. How Christ desires to live supremely and centrally in His ekklesia, His body!

In “Christ Minimized?” Jon Zens again very astutely brings out the centrality of Christ as he reflects on the thoughts from Rob’s controversial book. Jon looks at what Bell writes and searches the Christ of scripture to give a more balanced view that neither those who ascribe to “eternal torment” or “universalism” wants to reconcile. Jon’s approach is to see what scripture really says and lay it before the body and let the ekklesia see the reality of what was written to the ekklesias in the first century. Jon comes with a heart, like all believers past and present, that all would know our Lord, but realizing that while God so loved the world that He sent His Son, not everyone would believe in Him. What is the fate of those who do not trust in Jesus Christ? Can we accept “eternal torment” as perpetrated by the institutional church or does scripture say something different, such as “perish.” I am more inclined to believe what scripture says.

As Jon points out, much of one’s opinions can often be masked by the dangers of reading our current modern and traditional practices into the interpretation of the Bible. Jon has been uniquely gifted of the Lord to help the body search the scripture and allow His Spirit to interpret it for us. His previous books are key benchmarks in the plethora of false teachings that have become the tradition of the institutional church for centuries, traditions that have been accepted without question and kept His people silent and blind to the reality of Christ in them. His response to Rob Bell’s book is just one more to add to the body to see what Christ really says. In “A Church Building Every ½ Mile” Jon asks God’s people to question the institutional church’s traditions and the “tragic shifts” that describe how far it has fallen from its organic roots in Christ. In “What’s With Paul and Women?” Jon asks God’s people to relook the role of women the institutional church has perpetrated and what Paul really said in his letters to the ekklesia. Just recently in “The Pastor Has No Clothes!” Jon asks God’s people to question and even challenge the heresy of the clergy-laity divide, perhaps the one tradition that has so robbed Christ of His full expression in His body.

We can too often focus on only one side of what scripture says to the limitation or silence of the rest of scripture. Perhaps this is the reason we are called to search the scripture together so that Christ in us can give us better sight as to what He really wants us to know, to see a more balanced teaching in the body and the fuller expression of the life of Christ in His people. Rob’s book is one more voice in the powder keg of emotion in the religious debates of history regarding eternal torment or universalism, debates that sadly have divided the body and left a trail of tears. Jon comes in though and brings out the voice of balance, the voice of insight, the voice of reality that can only be Christ in him. But Jon is not alone in this discussion as he points out numerous witnesses of those past and present who have expressed their portion of Christ Jesus, speaking the ultimate value of His incarnation, life, resurrection, ascension, and now His life in His ekkelsia. Christ is bigger than Rob Bell or any of us can imagine. In the end Jon humbly assents that “no position is airtight, and there are always a few Scriptures that seem to challenge every view…” In my own study and learning to hear Christ in me, the words Jon Zens shares are my own as well. In fact it is surprising how what I read are the same conclusions I have also come to acknowledge. Only the Spirit can do that. May the Father give us spiritual sight to see more of His Son in His body.

If you would like to get Jon’s book go to:

“By faith…”
January 17, 2012, 11:51 am
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

As I read Chapter 11 of Hebrews time and again “by faith” is obviously the key word and makes this chapter one of the key chapters of the New Testament if not the entire Bible. I think though too often many take this as a chapter of just an historical account alone, i.e. in the “old days” God’s people lived by faith and so today we are to do the same. While I see that as well, what if God has something more to open up to us about this chapter? What if we saw it more in light of the previous chapter and the following chapter, what if we saw it in light of the letter itself and even the eternal purpose of God from before eternity? As I write that last sentence the obvious thought that came to mind is that this is how we should read and look at anything written in our Bible. I have been trying and learning to do this in these blogs, chronologically going through scripture to see Christ and learning to live by Him together with my brothers and sisters. I too can get myopic as I write about certain parts of the writings.

As we read any of the letters in the New Testament, just like the Pharisees before us, we can too often focus on the outward things. In the letter of Hebrews we can look at the outward things the author says in helping the ekklesia stay true to living by Christ. But this is looking at the cart before the horse. This is looking at it from a soul perspective, doing this versus doing that, which tends to cause me to do exactly the opposite of what the author was intending, actually moving me into a form of legalism instead of forward in Christ. The heart is pretty deceptive, even more so when we really are not living a shared life in Christ with brothers and sisters.

If you have been slandered, have been the one gossiped against, whose integrity has been maligned based on hearsay and not truth that does something inside you, in your spirit to your soul. Will I by faith love? Paul told the Galatian ekklesias, who were in danger of falling back into legalism, that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Paul told the Roman ekklesia that “everything that does not come from faith is sin,” it misses the mark of God’s eternal purpose, the increase of the expression of the Son in His body, full of love, grace, and truth.

I am realizing more and more now that love really is the expression of faith, not just words in the Bible. Loving others sacrificially, no matter the circumstance, is expressing faith. In our gatherings while we speak about the things of Christ, He is this and He is that, what about living by faith in love for one another? My guess is that the things about Christ, the things of Christ are the elementary things that the author mentioned in Chapter 6, whether it is from the Old or New Testament writings, or even the analogies of Him we see in the world around us. They teach us about Christ. The concern is that if this is all our gatherings become, our focus being only about Christ, then it is only about knowledge, which puffs up. But when we hear Him, who lives in us, and by faith love others in word or deed a new door opens, a new reality occurs, in learning to live by His life. At least this is something that is becoming more and more real to me today.

Perhaps this is a kind of cycle in organic church life, perhaps as we are learning to live a shared life, especially when we have a season of growth in new believers or receiving those from institutional church in our gatherings we help others put on their “training wheels,” to express Him, seeing Him as our everything in the scriptures and in the analogies, learning to participate together. Perhaps this is what those with an apostolic function did first, helping each member see their freedom in Christ to participate. These are the elementary steps of faith, learning to participate together in freedom and love for one another. Then the things of life happen and the “training wheels” are taken off, difficult circumstances occur, and we are called to live by faith in love for others. It becomes a part of our experience, obtaining a witness, which God commends. As I look at scripture this seems to be the theme of the life of Christ in the ekklesia. In this trying situation the author of Hebrews takes a positive position: “We are of faith!”

Then the author immediate says “now faith is the reality of things being hoped for, the proof of things not being seen.” (1) Notice the words used by the author. If you are in Christ, isn’t this what you have experienced as well? This is something that is other than this world, spiritual. Living by faith seems to bring one closer to the reality of our life in Christ. This new door, if you will, of seeing life from His perspective, actually moving beyond the things about Christ, brings us into living by His Spirit, which is reality. The author said at the beginning of his letter, Christ is the reality of God. To live by the Spirit is to live in reality, totally other than this world. This is what is commended in Chapter 11 of Hebrews. This is how we live together, by faith in love for one another by His life, seeing life from His perspective.

Each of these men and women that are mentioned in Chapter 11 lived by faith. If you read the specific accounts in the Old Testament you can see that this life of faith was mostly progressive, it was learned. These “older persons” learned to ride their bikes using the “training wheels” they were given and when the difficult things of life happened they decided to trust God and love. Each story gives us a glimpse of how they lived by faith and loved and interestingly enough each is a wonderful picture of the different types and shadows of Christ in the Old Testament. In each story the author doesn’t argue about the details of interpreting the stories, only how in certain events each lived by faith expressing itself through love. Each had an incredible vision of the purpose of God, of the love of God. Each had the spiritual sight that God was far more worthy of their devotion than the things of this world. To live by faith is the only thing that counts, it is the only thing that is “well pleasing” to God. And what is amazing is that while we have all of the promises of God now revealed in Christ, these Old Testament brothers and sisters only saw them from a distance but still lived by faith!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 657.

A Singular Focus – “A Dog’s Life.”
January 2, 2012, 10:22 am
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

I was restless tonight and couldn’t sleep, a lot of things on my mind. Had many things that really just pertained to this world on my mind. But after a couple hours I woke up again and an analogy came to mind. As I thought of the different aspects they all seemed to relate to Christ and His body, His ekklesia. The analogy is that of “a dog’s life.”

As a boy I can distinctly remember our family having two dogs. Each one was different, both in how they looked, personality, and characteristics. Our family loved them. They are asleep now, have been for many years. By analogy , each body of Christ, each ekklesia, while they have the same Lord will look different, personalities, characteristics, but they have one singular focus and that is their Lord. God does not cookie cutter churches. Just as He has many members who have a different measure of faith and gift of Christ, so too does He have different looking ekklesias throughout the cultures of the world, but each love their Lord Jesus Christ as they focus on Him.

For the past couple of years we have had two dogs. A miniature daschund, Kandi, and a bishon mix, Lovey. We love them a lot. Kandi is now staying with a friend of our daughter’s and until recently we were given Lovey. Both dogs were rescued. Lovey was found wandering around the back yard of our friends home and one day we had opportunity to watch her for them. My wife fell in love with Lovey and because our friends were about to have their first baby and already had a dog she asked if we could have her and they lovingly did. Lovey is very attached to everyone in the family. I am guessing that because she was rescued, she was found, and given a home she has gotten attached to us as well. Lovey is kind of like us both as an individual but more so like the body, the ekklesia. A wonderful analogy of our being loved and rescued by Christ Jesus our Lord, bringing us into His family, His home.

She, like most dogs, only eats a certain kind of food and drinks only water and of course she is dependent upon us giving her her food and water. She relies on us for her food and drink. This too, is an analogy of Christ Jesus who gives us our daily needs but not only that but is Himself our food and drink.

Lovey always follows me around. Kandi did the same when she was with us. I called Kandi my “shadow,” while I call Lovey my “ghost” because of being white. Often I will see her looking at me, wanting me to play with her. If she is in my lap she will turn her head back and her eyes will just look straight up at me. We almost think she is saying “play with me.” She has a singular focus on her master. Because she loves her master she only wants to please him, it is part of her instinct. The body of Christ’s spiritual instinct is that of a singular focus on Christ Jesus, she fixes her eyes on Jesus, on watching Him.

She loves to play with each of the family members, Stephanie and I, Eva, Stephen, and Teddy. Her only desire is to play with her master. And what a delight it is to play tag with her or play toss with her or run around chasing her! She wears us out sometimes. How we should see that God has given us all things for our enjoyment and His enjoyment. How He delights in us!

Lovey loves to run. She gets so excited when she gets to go for a walk and especially if daddy is going for a run. Yeah, I said daddy, lol. When she sees me get my shoes on, something she is constantly waiting for, she begins to run around, jumps up, and does this spiral motion in the air. It is quite the circus trick. She has had to learn though not to try and run with the leash on. She gets overly excited. The leash though is important because we live in a neighborhood with other dogs and also their are roads and we don’t want her run into the street and accidentally get into the road and get hit by a car. But she loves to run with her master when her master is running! And when we get home she is even more invigorated to play at the house! In the house and backyard she does not wear a leash, she knows how to live with her family, because she is home. As a follower of the Lord we are still in the world and there are things that we should only do as the master tells us to, because of its earthly consequences, but having done so we have experienced time and enjoyment with our Lord. These times enable us to grow further and to enable the rest of the body to grow.

Oftentimes, when going to check the mail which is at the end of a cul de sac I will let her go without a leash and she enjoys the walk or run there and back again. She knows that it is about following her master (at least for this short distance). She can really sprint! As I am walking back from the mail box, I will call for her and she will sprint, “high tailing it” back to the house. She instinctively knows my voice and listens for it, even as she explores the area around our home. We too have been given an instinct, a spiritual sense to hear our Lord and to follow what He says. This resembles the Shepherd and sheep analogy that Jesus used in John’s gospel. And whatever He may be saying it is about not just following Him, but coming to Him, spending time with Him, finding rest in His home.

Brothers and sisters, while this has an analogy for each of us, it is a most wonderful analogy of Christ, the head, and His body. May we be singularly focused on our Lord Jesus Christ, our treasure. In Christ, we are in His home, whether we realize it or not. Our natural instinct when living by His life is to focus on Him, to fix our eyes on Him. It really is about Him, not us. He knows what is best for us because He loves us.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.” Matthew 6:21-22.