Faith That Sees through the Culture

Online Book Study

Overview

God’s Word is filled with paradoxes. It’s tempting to see these paradoxes as either-or statements—one must be true and the other must be false. End of story. Case closed.

But the paradoxes in the Word of God are different. They are both-and statements, at once seeming contradictory but both being wholly and completely true. As Christians, we live in this tension, embracing that two sides of the same coin can be true at the same time.

Learn from Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa in this six-session CPH FaithCourse. Each session allows time to discuss the questions from the downloadable Learner Guide so each listener acknowledges and ponders the question to bring clarity to these paradoxes. Through this study, we can discover new vistas for faith to see more clearly and live out our faith more effectively in our culture.

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • identify the difference between the culture that they live in and the “good” in God’s creation;
  • understand the two-pronged attack of the world and the devil in their own lives; and
  • describe what God must do to us (in respect to our sinful nature and rebellion) for us to live.

Session Description

Sometimes when Christians struggle, we wonder whether something is wrong with us. We may ask, “Is this normal? Am I truly Christian?” The truth is that all Christians are confronted with hardship. What counts, however, is what the Lord says about these things. In light of God’s Word, Christians struggle with what comes at them from the outside, as well as what they experience from the inside. Our mortal enemies are the world, Satan, and the sin within us. 2 Corinthians 5:7 teaches, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith—created by the Holy Spirit through the Word of Christ—leads us to see what threatens us as we “see through the culture,” the world, and the deception of sin.

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • understand the marvelous benefits received by virtue of being put into the Lord Jesus Christ, beginning with atonement;
  • describe what it looks like to be a disciple or simply what a disciple is always engaged in doing (e.g., Luke 10:41–42); and
  • identify the two basic activities of a priest: one toward God regarding our neighbor and the other toward our neighbor regarding God.

Session Description

A powerful way of countering that which is against us (chapters 1 and 2) is to return to the Word of God and cling to what God says of us. How does God identify us in and through His Son, Jesus Christ? What is the significance of the new creation as the children of God? In chapter 3, we learn of the import of seeing Christians as ones who belong to Christ and who are in Christ. Chapter 4 brings out the additional facet of our status in Christ as disciples empowered by the Word to live for God. Chapter 5 focuses on our new mission and ministry in life as priests. Step back, see that you are all three as a baptized child of God, and rejoice!

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • understand the difference between the theology of glory versus the theology of the cross, or simply how God can work good through what only seems bad;
  • explain the different ways God may answer prayer; and
  • describe three things every Christian should know about the inner conflict, as these explain why the conflict is not a standoff.

Session Description

In these two chapters, we come to the first two major lenses—or paradoxes—being studied in this book. The first lens is represented by the question “What is real?” The second lens is known through the inquiry “Who am I?” The answers are two-sided, like two sides of the same coin. What is real is both visible and invisible. What we are is people both in painful conflict and possessing new and overflowing lives in the Spirit. To know both is to have a whole new ability to understand that which stands against us and how God has equipped us to face it as we experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to work good through all things.

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • understand the difference between universal grace and universalism;
  • explain how something can be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time; and
  • counter the argument that people should keep their personal faith out of the public square.

Session Description

The next questions encountered are “To whom am I speaking?” and “Where are we?” The first duality helps explain why the Christian faith is so unique, and the second enters what is probably the most controversial subject matter Christians face in culture today. First, the Christian faith is unique because it is both inclusive (universal) and exclusive at the same time. Christ died to cover the sins of all people, and He is also the only Savior. We live out this faith in two kingdoms: a political realm and a churchly one. God is in control of both, and as Christians, we are citizens of both as our faith is expressed in church and state properly understood.

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • explain why Christians know that Christ is Lord and in control of all things in spite of the chaos we see in the world;
  • understand why the kingdom of God is not far-off in the future, but is now, even as it is still to come; and
  • describe the problems that come through legalism (the two “d” words) and libertinism (one more “d” word).

Session Description

Chapter 10 deals with time and the question “When are we?” Chapter 11 focuses on the last duality and gives answer to the question “What do I say?” To walk by faith and not by sight includes the priority of the present, as Psalm 118:24 states, “This is the day the Lord has made.” At the same time, we also prepare for the future coming of Christ by receiving His constant coming through Holy Communion. As we live in today, we share Law and Gospel with others. To do so, we must understand the purpose of each. Law is neither for legalism nor libertinism, but rather to show us sin so that we would know the Gospel, which frees us from sin, and then live for Christ.

Session Objectives

At the end of this session, learners will be able to

  • understand how Christian, disciple, and priest counter world, Satan, and sin;
  • explain how the exclusivity of the Christian faith makes the love and mercy of God toward all people inclusive and universal; and
  • describe how Christians can stay connected to the source of their faith—the Holy Spirit working through the Word of Christ—in private, small-group, and corporate contexts.

Session Description

As our journey has been through dualities, the both-ands of Holy Scripture, we are not surprised that Christians can know despair (2 Corinthians 1:8) and be spared from it (4:8) at the same time. From the foundational chapters 1–5, we learned that the world is countered by being Christians; Satan is countered by the Word in our lives; and our own sin is countered by our priestly mission. From this place, we launch into the culture to walk by faith so that we know what is real, who we are, to whom we speak, where we are, when we are, and what to say. In all these, we see through both lenses and thereby walk by faith and not by sight.

espinosa

Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa is a graduate of Concordia University Irvine (BA) and Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (MDiv). He received an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University (2001) and a PhD in theology from the University of Birmingham (England) in 2009. He is the senior pastor at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Irvine, California, where he preaches and teaches the Word of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. His most cherished service is being husband to his wife Traci, a father, and a grandfather.

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“We belong to Christ! But the question is, ‘How do we maintain the balance between in and not of?’ We do so – only by the grace of God – as the LORD leads us to walk by faith and not by sight.”

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Faith That Sees Through the Culture

Course Details


6 author-led videos

Downloadable learner’s guide

Offline video access Group Leaders Only