Friday, April 22, 2011

Get to the Heart

Lord forgive me for the times I consider theological debate to be evangelism. Forgive me for calling surface level conversations evangelism. Forgive me for being so easily diverted away from the heart when I carry the very the sword which pierces it. Forgive me for my fear of going deep with people, begging with them, opening my heart to them, and even offending them. May I be like Christ in this area, who persisted with the woman at the well in spite of her many attempted diversions.

John 4:1-30

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Save Sinners?

God, in His merciful provision, gives us windows in His word. Windows that we are privileged to look through and catch a glimpse of His inscrutable ways. One such window is Ephesians 2:6-8. Why did God choose to extend His mercy and love in saving sinners? ... "So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." God has reconciled sinners to Himself through the blood of Christ to show the world the depth of His profound grace, and the breadth of His awesome kindness! May we never attempt to steal for ourselves what is rightfully His.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"What can I write equal to the theme of sovereign grace?"

"What can I write equal to the theme of sovereign grace? It is a miracle, a perfect miracle, that God should so love man as to die for him, and to choose him before the foundation of the world." -C.H Spurgeon.

That God chose you "before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4a) is baffling.  That God chose you before the foundation of the world to "be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4b) is even more so baffling. Not only did He in His infinite sovereignty, choose His people; He granted them- who were desperately wicked and totally depraved (Rom 3:9-18)- total reconciliation with Holy God. That is unfathomable!

And can it be?That I should gain an interest in the Saviors blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? What! Did you catch all that? God DIED for you? God DIED for you who pursued Him to death? This is the basis of your salvation- that your God would save you who crucified Him. Amazing love! Unfathomable grace!

What an unparalleled theme is this: God saving sinners and bringing ultimate glory to Himself through each one. This is our passion. This is our message. This is our emphasis. This is our life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

There is Only One Personality Test

If you open up google and type in “personality test” you may be presented with about 9,150,000 search results. That’s right, 9 million. Many of these sites contain tests which a person can take to determine what personality he or she has.

The danger with these tests is that they may cause you to pigeonhole yourself. While the results may reflect some revealing truths about you, they should not define who you are. Determinatively labeling yourself with a certain personality type could lead to justifying poor behavior/character qualities- whether it be neglecting good aspects of your weaker side, or catering to bad aspects of your stronger side. Rationalizing any sinful behavior as  due to "personality type" is simply another avenue of blame-shifting. A personality is just a combination of characteristics and qualities which form an individuals characterIn the Bible, Christ is the perfect standard to which all men should be compared. Until we are all like Christ we should be striving to reform our personality. It's true that everyone is unique (and these tests can help in identifying some of your individuality), but shouldn’t all Christians be striving to change their personality until it looks like Christ’s? 

Therefore, the Bible presents us with one personality test: Christlikeness. If you’re a believer, it doesn’t matter what your "personality" is, it needs to be adjusted to line up with Christ’s.

If you take a personality test and it comes back and tells you that you are a “lion” this may be helpful for you to know. However, this should not mean that you go on living your life with the label “lion” justifying an insensitive, dominative behavior, while neglecting “lamb-like” qualities. When you cause yourself to believe that the label “lion” defines who you are, you may live your life constrained to that sphere- when in fact the Bible calls you to much more. 

Christ couldn’t be described as just one of say 4 types of personalities. He was the best of all 4. Therefore as followers of Christ, striving to grow in Christlikeness, we should not be content until we are the best of all 4.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Biblical Fellowship

The term Biblical fellowship has more depth than it often gets credit for. I have been reminded that it is so much bigger than I realize. Biblical fellowship is more than just eating and talking together, and it is also more than encouraging and challenging one another. Biblical fellowship is sharing life together.

First and foremost believers share life together in the literal sense of being "dead to sin and alive to God" (Rom 6:11). Fellowship with one another starts with a relationship/fellowship with the Lord. God has saved believers and called them from death to life in Him, and they have that in common with one another. Upon salvation, born-again Christians are adopted into the same family; so through their relationship with God they have a relationship with one another (I John 1:3, 7).

But its more than a relationship, Christians share life together as partnership too. They are a family in terms of their relationship, and a body in terms of their partnership. As a body, Christians are linked together with other parts, all of which are working as one unit to accomplish one goal. Partnering together is the only way for each part to perform its function. The body consists of many members working together, and depending on one another (I Cor 12:20-21).

Those are sort of prerequisites. As Christians objectively share life together as a family and as a body, they are then allowed and expected to act like it! Because they have this bond with one another, believers are called to fellowship in both words and actions.

Through words, Christians are able to speak truths into one another's lives. They can "encourage one another as we see the Day drawing near" (Heb 10:25).  If you read Hebrews 3:13, you will notice that believers need other believers in their lives or else they will be hardened by sin. Its not only helping one another stay out of sin, its encouraging and sharpening one another in pursing holiness.

But how would Christians ever be able to speak words to one another if they never had any actions? If they never spent any time together, believers would never know what to "speak." It is through actions- friendships, pot-lucks, phone calls, emails, small groups, (and whatever else is typically labeled "fellowship")- that there is any foundation to spur one another on in the Lord (Heb 10:24). There would be no sharing of life together if words were not backed by actions. Every Christian is called to give himself to a life of fellowship; each individual has a responsibility in this.

I am confident that when Luke says that they "continually devoted themselves" to fellowship (Acts 2:42), he says it for a reason. It really is one of those things that takes devotion. It takes effort and purpose, or else (at least for me) it doesn't happen. Which of those 4 aspects is the hardest for you?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How NOT to Share the Gospel: Part 2

In my previous post on how NOT to share the gospel, I made the brief point of forcing myself to get past the often easy way out of the rationale: "I will just share the gospel through the way I live." I call this the easy way out because it is usually an excuse to not step out of one's comfort zone and speak about the Lord. It is much easier to convince yourself that you are doing your part in making disciples by just living your life, than it is to have a serious and sometimes offensive conversation with people.

However, this does not mean that sharing the gospel through lifestyle is invalid. After calling Christians salt and light to the world, Christ says "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). A characteristic of Christians is light. Christ calls Christians to a lifestyle of manifesting this light for all the world to see. This is a lifestyle of sharing Christ, who is the Light of the world. Notice that the motive in showing Light/Christ through good works is so that people will see and glorify your Father, not any sort of self-exalting focus.

 John calls out the hypocrite whose walk doesn't match his talk. He says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:5-6). It is not enough to simply say you have fellowship with Christ. Someone who is cleansed by the blood of Jesus conducts himself in the Light. This person walks in communion with Christ and shares Him by the way he lives.

 Likewise, Peter also says "keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (I Peter 2:12). Unbelievers love to watch Christians to see whether they are genuine or not. In my experience, the biggest complaint against the church is hypocritical Christians. It comes as no surprise that they would slander you because of your imperfect relationship with Christ. But Peter says to constantly keep an excellent behavior so that as they watch and observe you, they will see Christ and come to know Him.

Make sure that your lifestyle matches your message. If you are sharing the gospel through words, make sure that those words are backed by an authentic heart and life. In this sense all Christians should be "sharing the gospel through the way they live."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How NOT to Share the Gospel

I recently shared the gospel with an unsaved co-worker. I decided it was time for me to get past the easy way out mentality of: "I will just share the gospel by the way I live" (translation: "I don't need to say anything about my faith, I will just hope that this person mysteriously picks up on it in the midst of my not-so-perfect lifestyle"). So in my quest to boldly speak truth in my friends life, I unintentionally spoke heresy. 

We were talking about abortion. I was explaining why I am pro-life, he was explaining why he is pro-choice. 
He said something along the lines of "even if you make it illegal, people will still find a way to do what is bad." 
I said "True. People are inherently 'bad' and will naturally do 'bad' things... thats why everyone needs a Savior!"
Discussion ensued.
"So....what your saying is that non-Christians are all 'bad?'"
"Yep" "Thats what the Bible says"
"So....would you say that you are 'good?'"
"Yep" "This is what the Bible means when is talks about being 'born again.' I am a new creation..."
But before I can finish explaining what I mean by that, he says "You just told me that you are good and I am bad!" (He is pretty mad at this point because he is very moral and definitely considers himself a really "good" person). Just then (no joke) a fully loaded Jehovah's Witness vehicle drives by and my friend waves them down and points to me and walks off. After finishing my morning break with the 4+ Jehovahs Witnesses I go back to work and think through what I just communicated. I basically told my friend that I am good, and am able to make good choices (like pro-life), but that he was bad and could not help but make bad choices. (The good/bad terminology confused morals and natures). 

On my lunch break I started telling Bethany that I was "sharing the gospel" with my friend at work. But then I realize that I had not shared the gospel at all! The "good news" is not that my friend is a sinner (thats part of it)... the good news is that there is a Savior! And he can be saved if if he places his faith in Him! While it is necessary that a person know he or she is in a position of needing salvation, that is only the first part of the message. I went back to work and finished the message to my dear friend. I was also able to clear up the miscommunication of setting myself on a moral pedestal because of my "new nature." I explained that I am still a sinner, and I still make mistakes and poor choices all the time. I am not perfect and I still fall short of the glory of God. But I have hope because "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8), and God sees that perfect Sacrifice in my stead through my faith in Him. As one of my favorite hymns puts it:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we: Spotless lamb of God was He:
Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Lesson learned. When verbally sharing the gospel with an unbeliever, don't make them feel like you are superior. You are just as utterly dependent on God's grace as they are. You have done nothing "good" to earn your atonement of sin and relationship with Christ. You are helpless except that when God looks at you as one of His Redeemed, He sees Christ instead of you. Hallelujah! What a Savior!