Sharing the Gospel – part 2

Most churches share the gospel, but its anemic at best. Or at least that is the way it seems.

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So Yesterday I ranted a little about how some churches present the gospel. In essence, I fear that the main issues is being lost in the shuffle towards relevancy and hipness.

Today I want to just wrap up with another thought about how churches present the gospel to people today.

The Urgent Situation

What do I mean here? What I mean is this: if the goal of gospel sharing is the good life, and if the obstacle from getting your good life is your sin, and if Jesus came to get that obstacle out of the way, then a person only as to be motivated enough to want it. Right? Sounds like a late night infomercial really.

Just make this decision to trust Christ (which is not what they say). Just pray this prayer with us. But this does not capture the urgency with which sinners need to hear the gospel.

The truth is, sinners are in extreme danger. You see if I were to speak with you,  I would gently and tenderly beg you to listen to me.

Your are a sinner, and that sin has offended a Holy God. This Holy God will by no means let the guilty go unpunished, but instead he will out of holy anger, punish the law breakers for all eternity in hell. It is a real place and it exists. And I plead with you, do not continue to ignore God and continue to run from him, because in his great grace he has provided a solution. He sent his own Son in the likeness of mankind. Jesus Christ came into the world to live a perfect life. And at the right time, He was betrayed, spat upon, and nailed to a cross. He took upon himself the punishment that God was ready to dish out to us. Jesus took our place on the cross; he took our sin, so that we could take his righteousness. And the only escape from God’s wrath,  is to take the righteousness of Jesus by faith, and submit yourself to the loving king who died for you.

OBJECTION

Some will object and say, “But God wants a relationship with us, right?” Yes, he absolutely wants a relationship with you, but one where you are servant and he is king. Your greatest happiness will be found in magnifying his name through loving service to the king. The Gospel does not invite you to your self-fulfillment dreams, it invites you to serve the agenda of Christ.

Conclusion

I’m not trying to be contentious. But I am trying to help myself and those around me to be faithful to the preaching of the gospel. Unfortunately, we have sold out the gospel in the name of relevance. We are not evil men who long to do this, but we are simply mistaken about the heart of man. If we really understood the nature of man, all of our relevancy issues we fight over, would be resolved.

So let me plead with you, if you are in the position to share the gospel, never forget the gospel’s greatness news is that Christ has died for sins according to the Scriptures. He has risen from the dead, and he comes to give new life to anyone he desires to.

 

What does it mean for Christians to love the world around them?

What does it mean for Christians to love the world around them?

This is a hotly debated topic.

But here is what drives me and I think it should drives Christians:

Ephesians 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

How a Christian loves cannot be determined by popular vote, cultural norms, nor worldly demands. A Christian should love in only one way: imitating God.

What the world expects

Most people would say this: God’s love looks like someone who would rather die for someone else than to condemn them.

Because as you know Jesus did not come to condemn, he came to save.

So when I say: abortion is a sin, immediately someone has something to say.

  • “You can’t be judgmental!”

Or

  • “Who are you to call something a sin?”

Or

  • Some other phases meaning, that if I  call someone’s action a sin, then I am actually doing something wrong.

How should Christian’s love?

Let me just bullet point it:

  • To say that Jesus did not come to condemn people but to save, misses the entire point. Why? Because what need was there to save us? Right! We were condemned already. Before Jesus came to die for us, all humanity was already declared to be condemned, so when was that declaration made and by WHOM was it made? It was declared in the Garden by God. So to say, “Jesus didn’t come to condemn,” is not the same thing as saying, “Don’t say condemning things because Jesus didn’t and we are just struggling and need help.”

 

  • Next, to call out someone’s judgmental comment (which I don’t think it is judgmental but we will hit that next) is in itself judgmental and therefore you are contradicting your own standard.

 

  • Third, the idea that we should not judge is so very misinformed. Matthew 7:1 needs to be read in its full context and stop being such a lousy Bible reader. And while we are at it: be clear with your word: judgmental. Do you mean: stop distinguishing between things that are good and bad? Or do you mean stop labeling behavior what the Bible labels it? Or do you mean stop pronouncing someone’s eternal destination? What exactly do you mean?

 

  • Fourth, The kind of love that God has called us to show involves a few things:
    • Providing Necessities – Helping to provide the necessities of life. (contraceptives, iphones, health insurance do not count as life necessities) (Matthew 25:35-36). We have, in the west, accustomed ourselves to believe that the right to a doctor or to medical care really is a necessity in life. But I do not believe that it is.
    • Pointing out sin – 1 Corinthians 5 makes it clear that part of what love looks like in the local church is confronting sin not ignoring it. Now clearly this is love in the church. What about to outsiders and those of a different religious tradition or without any religion (not that I believe this is possible)? See the next point.
    • Calling for repentance – How did Jesus deal with lost people? I mean how did Jesus deal with those who were not at all in agreement with him? How did Jesus deal with those who were not seeking him nor did they like him? Oh right, that was the Pharisees! He called them white washed tombs, hypocrites, brood of vipers and so on. You see, what you thought I was going to say is that, “Jesus treated the sinners with kindness.” Why is it that everyone thinks that the prostitutes, the fishermen, the Marys and Marthas of Jesus’ day were the sinners? I find that the rebellious world out there today, has far more in common with Pharisees than with the social outcasts of Jesus’ day. The social outcasts were clamoring to follow Jesus. The Pharisees and today the lost world was not.
    • Showing kindness to the humble – The often-quoted story of the woman caught in adultery is used to talk about how we should treat people. But two things about this story: one the woman did not come to her own defense, but stayed silent. I take that to mean she was demeaned, felt humiliated, dejected, embarrassed. She was certainly being cowed. So maybe there was and maybe there wasn’t true humility, but there was at least a situational contrition enough that Jesus didn’t add to her shame. Secondly, Jesus did not at all believe she was innocent. He knew she was guilty. He called her out on her guilt by saying: go and sin no more.

 

Christians I know it is tempting to follow the world’s mantra of “love never criticizes or calls out sin” but really, that is just not true. That is the world’s way of loving, it is not God’s. If we give this ground over, we have nothing left to say to the world. Because the gospel is for sinners, if we cannot call out sin, we cannot offer the gospel.

 

Can the blessed be saved?

The problem is that God is good to these people through what I would call common grace.

So just as a follow up to yesterday’s post. I want to consider the idea of Can the blessed be saved?

Who are the blessed?

I hear people talk about being blessed. When they say that, usually there is some sort of measurable, tangible gift of life, they believe God has given to them, and they use it as a foundation for their hope of eternal life.

If we asked these people if they were to die today where would they spend eternity, their answer would be in heaven with God. “Why do you think that,” we might ask?

“Because he is with me and takes care of me. He has blessed me.”

So those who are blessed are those who see that, there is a God. This God gives good gifts. And because this God gives good gifts, those who receive them are “ok before this Holy God.”

How are they Blessed?

Usually the blessings are tangible like:

  • Financial strength
  • Wellness and health
  • Good relationships with others
  • Successful business ventures
  • and so on.

What’s wrong with this?

The problem is that God is good to these people through what I would call common grace.

Normal People, just skip this: **(Now a note to all you ultra theology nerds. I know that the various takes on common grace can have some variations, and some people hate the concept and all that. I use the term common grace, to simply mean that there are tangible blessings in the lives of lost people that God has placed in their lives, simply because he is good. I am not trying to say anything else.)

As I was saying…

The problem is that God is good to these people through what I would call common grace. And common grace does not:

  • call the sinner to repentance
  • offer hope of eternal life
  • declare the sinner righteous
  • or anything the like.

However, there are so many blessings in common grace that the lost person fails to come to grips with. By God’s common grace:

  • We can breath
  • We can eat
  • Our molecules are held together

None of these more, basic blessings, can at all be construed that God is “ok” with us. So why would your survival of a financial crisis mean God is “ok” with you?

Now I do believe these blessing ought to call a person to repentance, because God is being good to them. But that is a different topic.

So what?

So you should examine yourself. If you were to stand before God, and he were to ask you:

Why Should I let you into my heaven?

What would you answer? If deep down you feel like his saving you in the car wreck proves you are “ok” in God’s eyes, then you are sadly mistake.

You must personally turn from your sin, turn from your self effort to make yourself better, and trust in Jesus Christ. Then you will be “ok” in God’s sight.

 

 

God’s Good Plans

Don’t you love to know that God has great plans for you?

Do you want God to be for you?

What I mean is this: Don’t you love to know that God has great plans for you?

I supposed many people do because we love to quote Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Recently I heard a sermon on this passage that basically said:

God always have great plans for us, and his plans are for our welfare and good. He wants us to live in hope.

But is this verse about what most people are being lead to believe? Is this verse about the unassailable, infallible plans for good things in your life?

I think it is not for two reasons.

Who was Jeremiah Talking to?

If you simply turn to the first verse of chapter 29 you read this:

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Jeremiah was talking to the exiles in Babylon. Now why were God’s people in exile? Because as a people they had sinned against God by worshiping and serving idols instead of the one true God. As punishment or consequences, they were to go into exile for 70 years.

So what sort of good plans can those facing their deserved consequences expect?

That their punishment will not totally destroy them nor obliterate their people. So for this reason I don’t think we can use this verse at new years for good plans for us as Christians especially if we are not talking about living in our consequences.

What did Jeremiah tell them to do?

In chapter 29 verses 5-10 hear Jeremiah’s letter from God to the exiles:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

Their false prophets were telling them don’t settle down in this place, because God is going to deliver us from this place that is not our home. God says, “Wrong.”

God expects his people to settle down and seek the welfare of their captors. Because only as they seek the welfare of their captors, will they experience welfare.

And they have to be there for 70 years and then God will restore them. For he knows his plans.

So that means that the plans that God has for his people are plans that center on restoring disobedience people, who have lived through their consequences and been obedient to God in the midst of consequences.

Conclusion

So how can we use this verse rightly? Let me suggest a couple of things:

  1. It shows us the character of God. He is holy and will punish sin, but he is compassionate and will not totally destroy his people.
  2. It shows us that God’s actions of punishment or discipline on us have a restorative purpose.
  3. It shows that God in his providence was pursuing the establishment of the Messiah and was unwilling to let his people’s sin cut off his divine plan of redemption for mankind.
  4. It shows God’s compassion on those who humble accept their consequences and live obediently before God.
  5. Finally, it shows how even in facing consequences, God’s people can be a blessing to those around them.

So next time a pastor preaches from this verse without referring to the whole chapter, just get up and leave. That kind of pulpit crime needs to be stopped.

 

The Photo about was from: This Artist and I have tried to follow the rules of the license.

Get Good and Angry

Christians who are provoked by someone else’s sin against them, are to get angry without sin, and then they should not let the sun go down on the cause of that anger.

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Christians ought not ever get angry, right? Isn’t it ugly and totally not like Jesus to be angry?

I’ll preach through this whole passage on Sunday (Ephesians 4:25-32), but I wanted to make a couple of short reflections about this passage above that I think answer this question, maybe unexpectedly.

  • First, there are a series of about 11 commands from verse 25-32
  • Second, these commands are aimed at the church as a church lived out among each other.
  • Third, we are commanded to be angry in verse 26.
  • Fourth, we are commanded to be angry and not sin in verse 26.
  • Fifth, we are not to let the sun go down on our “Anger” verse 26.
    • Just a quick note, this word more likely means: provocations. Those things that are provoking.
  • Summary: Christians who are provoked by someone else’s sin against them, are to get angry without sin, and then they should not let the sun go down on the cause of that anger.
  • Conclusion: Christians are to practice church discipline. When someone sins, we are to be angry at that sin, and that sin which causes us to be angry must be dealt with. Why? So that the devil does not get a foothold. Where? In the fellowship.

In other words, this passage is calling on Christians to be good and angry with sin, to solve sin issues quickly, so that the fellowship is not disrupted.

So the answer is: Yes Christians should get angry, but they should never sin in that anger. Let’s not confuse Bitterness, Malice, Wrath, Slander, and Clamor for this angry with sin command though.

Scripture as Fuel for change

So the more I have the Word in my life, the more tender the Spirit has to heat up the crucible of change in my heart.

I finished writing my sermon this morning, and I am struck by this thought:

We often do what we do because we think the way we think.

Ephesians 4:22-24 is clear. To Put on involves the renewing of the spirit of your mind. Without the renewing of the mind, there is no putting on the new man. These things run together.

I take renewing of the mind to be something God the Spirit does in us through the Word he has inspired.

So the more I have the Word in my life, the more tender the Spirit has to heat up the crucible of change in my heart.

If I am to change, if I am to be rid of some sin, if I am to repent of my sins, if I am to struggle against it, instead of yielding to it, then I must have the Word of God in my life through prayerfully reading, listening, hearing, memorizing, devouring, even osmosis if I can.

So get the Bible into your life and maybe these links might be of help.