Re-Evangelzation

Lately I’ve been thinking about the millions of believers, especially in America , who have been brought up in what I would consider “nominal” Christian churches.  Churches that have either abandoned sound doctrine in favor of more palatable liberalism, or those that use the Bible as a moral “storybook” instead of propositional truth.  

How do we “re-evangelize” these people who have grown up thinking they understand the Gospel, when actually they have been fed a watered-down, humanized, liberalized or out-right false gospel? Many have never read the Bible in the meaningful way, and many don’t have any concept of mission or doctrine.  We are not coming to these folks as Christ came to the scribes and Pharisees, who had studied the Law and then wielded it as a weapon over the weak and ignorant.  Yes, these are people who believe they have salvation figured out, but it isn’t based on knowledge, only on a false presupposition based on liberal or slanted biblical interpretation.  They responded to an alter call, prayed a prayer, “accepted” Jesus (two words never found together in scripture), they got wet, and now they live the rest of their lives trying to be “good enough” to earn their way into heaven, as if that was even possible.  These are people who don’t know about the Mosaic law, the redemptive history of Israel, and they have no concept of their own depravity and the sovereign grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is my story, and the story of countless others who grew up in the church.

We must approach these individuals from a posture of humility and gentleness, and we must treat the church gently as well.  She is the bride of Christ.

Evangelicals need to admit that we have failed to comment on the status of the American church in a way that brings the focus back to the character of God in the Person of Christ.  We need to repent of the fact that we have substituted a clear, Biblical presentation of the person and work of Jesus Christ for “good news” that is not the Gospel.  This “good news” had more to do with trendy programs, catering to human emotion, and packing our extravagant church buildings than it did with presenting the revelation of crucified Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King for all nations of people.

We need to take God at His Word and live our lives for His glory, and the completion of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), taking great risks with our families, health, money, careers, and lives.  The children of God need to be on mission in every back alley, every side street, every ghetto and rough neighborhood, on every corner, cul-de-sac, and gated community in every city and town on the face of the earth.  

We need to live lives showing that we are completely dependant on God, because most of us live like we aren’t.  The truth is, we need to hear and know the Gospel everyday to remind us to pick up our cross daily (Matt. 16:24-25), and reaffirm our hopeless state and desperate need for God in our lives.  The crucified life Paul talks about in Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:6, is a life spent trusting fully in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the Spirit of God in us to restore relationships, communities, and churches to clearly present the character of God, for His glory.  

Christmas and the Gospel

My favorite of the perennial network Christmas specials is Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.  It’s my favorite for a variety of reasons, but mainly because its the only one of these “specials” with an open proclamation of the coming of Christ.

If you recall, all the characters are gathered on stage for the rehearsal of the Christmas play.  Things are not going well.  Especially for the director, Charlie Brown, who is verbally accosted by his cast after providing the smallest and most pathetic Christmas tree any of the characters has ever seen.  This prompts Charlie Brown, more than a little frustrated at this point, to ask the pivotal question: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!?”  Little Linus Van Pelt then steps forward and recites Luke 2.8-14 verbatim from his King James Bible, telling all of us the real reason for the lights, trees, egg nog, and gifts.

But is this all that Christmas is about?

At a time of year when Neil Diamond is singing “Joy to the World” on mainstream cable television I know we are getting a heavy dose of the doctrine of incarnation, but what about the rest of the Gospel?  It is very easy for us to leave people at the manger, and never get to the cross.   The baby Christ isn’t particularly threatening.  We picture Him in the manger, cooing and peaceful.  The fact is, this is God in the flesh.  Heaven come to dwell among us.  Jesus left the perfect community with His Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1.1-18) to come to earth as a human baby in order to accomplish exactly what His Father had set forth:  Live a perfect sinless life, declare the coming of His Kingdom, and die a horrible death on a cross to satisfy the Father’s righteous requirement.

Paul gives us a picture of Christ’s humility in the incarnation, and then His humility at the cross in Philippians 2.5-8:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

My hope is that the Holy Spirit would allow us to understand Christ’s humility in the incarnation and the crucifixion, so that we would better communicate the truth of the whole Gospel to those who have never heard the Name of Christ, and among those nominal believers who have heard about Jesus, but not understood what it means in their lives.  Our passion should be for people to become disciples of Jesus, able to grasp what His whole life was about, so that they can then spread a passion for the glory of God.

Paul finishes his thought in Philippians 2.9-10:

“Therefore God has highly  exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Christmas season is one of those unique opportunities when the Name of Jesus is spoken openly in mainstream media and one of only two times all year that some people will set foot in a church.  In a culture that is becoming more and more secular, we cannot miss an opportunity to share the whole Gospel message with those who desperately need it.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to open hearts and minds to know Christ and understand the Gospel of His Kingdom.

Heirs

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we bay also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8.16-17 

We are dead.

Dead in our sins and trespasses in which we once walked, according to the flesh. Paul calls us “children of wrath”. (Eph. 2)

But at the right time, Christ made atonement for our sins once and for all on the cross, His and ours, and now we stand justified before the holy God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jesus sits forever at the right hand of the Father, continually offering His own blood to satisfy the requirement for this justification, this “right standing” before God.

Then God sent His Ghost: His Life – The Spirit.  It dwells within us and makes us finally, truly alive.  We are adopted as His children and are no longer children of wrath.

These are fundamental truths to our faith.  Doctrine.  The Gospel of God that is older than the Earth, and will outlast everything we see.

But there is another fundamental truth that Paul speaks about in Romans 8.  The truth that we are heirs with Christ in His suffering, as well as His glory.  This is something that we tend to glean over in the consumeristic “disneyland” of America.  We tend to forget that we are called to suffer for the cause of Christ.

But there are places in the world where they don’t forget.  Places they can’t forget the pain and suffering because it is part of their daily existence.  Places like China, where one million worship Christ in secret churches held in basements and living rooms.  Where believers are often arrested, beaten, and even executed for preaching the gospel of Christ.  Places like India, where Hindu extremists beat and murder Christians, and women keep their rebirth in Christ secret from their husbands, for fear of being beaten to death.  In Iran and Pakistan and Morocco and Saudi Arabia and Nepal..

Their belief in Jesus Christ goes hand-in-hand with their suffering.  The cross is their greatest reality.

Here is another reality:  It is in these places that the Gospel is advancing with the greatest success.
Why?  Because it is in the face of hatred and persecution, under the daily threat of death, the faithful are desperate for God, and find all their joy and satisfaction in Christ alone.  He is their wellspring of living water.

Pray that we in the American church would be this desperate.  Read the stories of these amazing individuals who pick up their cross and daily face the injustice of religious persecution.  Pray that they would be able to stand through this fiery trial, and so then to advance the Gospel in the face of death.

Pray that they understand that suffering is part of the Christian life, and that we would understand this as well.

Now: become aware, and get involved.

John 15.18-25
Acts 5.41
1 Peter 4.12-19

www.joshuaproject.org
www.persecution.com
www.desiringgod.org
www.brookhills.org

The Unseen is Eternal

Our world places so much emphasis on the material. Unless we can see it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, “it” doesn’t exist. People base their whole lives around their possessions, clothes, automobiles, and bank accounts. They draw their identities from their hobbies, careers, ministries, and travels. Things that are palpable. Things that one day will be burned to nothing.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4.18, “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” God is spirit, and we are called to worship Him in spirit. We cannot perceive this on our own. The Holy Spirit, the life of God dwelling in our flesh, must reveal this to us. He gives us the ability to behold that which is immaterial, and to savor that which is eternal. The Spirit allows us to value the invisible God in the person of Christ, and though the world sees us as fools, to invest the whole of our existence in this truth. He allows us to endure hardship, and pain and suffering of all varieties in order to display His glory and grace. (2 Cor. 4.1-18)

This has never made sense to the world. It will never make sense to the world. The world hated Christ for this truth, and it will hate us for it. The lives and deaths of the apostles attest to this. The Spirit came upon these men, most of whom were uneducated tradesmen, and revealed a secret and hidden wisdom that all the wise kings and philosophers could not grasp. Nor will the intellectuals and debaters of this age perceive it, unless illuminated by the Spirit of the living God.

The prophet Jeremiah says this,
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight”.” (Jer. 9.23-24)

Wisdom, might, riches. All things we can see. All things that will end.

Love, justice, righteousness. All eternally valuable concepts that are only truly made real when revealed by the Spirit of God in our lives.

India

Tomorrow I am driving a group from Quincy to Chicago to depart for Chennai, India. For many of them, it will be their first time in India. The first time to experience the beauty and culture, darkness and despair.

But they will find hope.

Hope that only comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Hope that comes as the Spirit moves through P.V. John and the pastors of Care India. The Quincy team will be working with the pastors teaching relational discipleship. They will be with the children putting on a VBS, and they will experience the movement of the Life of God in one of the poorest and spiritually dark places on earth.

Can’t wait to hear the stories.

30.

Well, I turned 30 last week, which has stirred up all kinds of thoughts and memories and general feelings of nosalgia.  Every decade it seems I reflect on the past ten years and take an inventory of what has happened: how I have changed, and what I failed miserably at, what went well?  I remember when I was ten, and thinking “wow, I’ve lived a decade” and thinking that was a long time.  Then I turned 20, and thought two decades was an even longer time.  Now, at 30, three full decades of living has made me realize something:

I have wasted so much time.

Time is our most precious commodity.  Each second that ticks away of our lives we can’t recover.  How much time have I spent watching worthless television, or reading crap on the internet.  Time on an airplane watching a movie I’ve seen 20 times instead of sharing with the person sitting next to me.  Time wishing I was somewhere else or someone else.

Letting opportunities pass me by because of my inability to see them.  I was blind.

Jesus, God incarnate, began his ministry at 30.  He was crucified at 33.

He didn’t waste a second.

He used all of his brief time here on earth to glorify the Father and do His work.  He was there at the beginning, melded together the fabric of what composes life, and holds time and space in his hand…and yet saw each moment as precious and an opportunity to worship.

Shouldn’t we do the same.  To know and worship Christ as savior is to live a life of significance.  If we would treat every mundane task and capture every chore and moment as an act of worship, I think we could begin to understand what Christ meant when He said in John 10:10, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Don’t

waste

your

life.

rescue has come

We are a world in need of rescue.

Creation was going along pretty good until two people (the first two, actually) messed it all up and thought they could be like God by eating the fruit from the one tree that He said they weren’t supposed to.  We live in the aftermath of that first disobedient act, that first sin, and now we all need to be saved from the sin in our lives.

“Why?” you might ask.  “Why do we need to be saved?”

Because we are born into it.  Sin.  We are born shrouded in the death that entered into creation long, long ago.  It surrounds us.  It has saturated into our culture.  It sullies what should be perfect, turns bad what should be good, and makes bitter that which should be sweet.  It causes us to lose focus and waste time, and makes us worship that which should never be worshipped.

We need rescue, and most of us don’t even notice.  But I have good news.

Rescue has come.  In fact, rescue has been here for two thousand years, and even now is working to redeem people all over the world.  I’m a fireman.  My job is to rescue people from danger in their lives, but any rescue I could make would be a temporary one.

One has come to rescue forever.  Jesus Christ came to bring rescue to a lost, lonely, dying world.  He is the last rescue you will ever need.

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