Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘how can Christians be more influential’

His Bigness is Our Business

HIS BIGNESS 03

Yes, Jesus did say that a mustard seed of faith was all you need.  A little dab will do ya!  But don’t forget that he went on to explain that a tiny mustard seed grows into a vast, sprawling tree with welcoming branches where lots of little critters can find a home.  Faith starts small but it leads to big, wonderful things!

We Evangelicals  have this tendency to take this magnificent asset called faith and boil it down to something so basic; so gray, and so formulaic that nobody wants it!  None of us would argue with the fact God is vast, powerful and loving; and the Gospel has the power to transform every part of life.  But it strikes me that we always want to shrink it down to some kind of dry mathematical equation.  Genesis 1 is mysterious and glorious and thought provoking, but all we can see is an argument: are the days literal or metaphorical?  Let’s fight about that!

We behave as though spiritual living is nothing more than prayer, Bible Study, worship and witnessing.  No wonder our unbelieving friends and neighbors aren’t interested.  If you’ve never prayed, studied the Bible or shared your faith, that stuff sounds alien and unappealing!  Who wants that?  In fact, spiritual living is also about eating, celebrating, falling in love, walking on the seashore, boldly facing a career challenge, and even risking your life in a distant land.  We make our friends feel guilty if they enjoy something pleasant and haven’t prayed or mentioned Jesus in the last hour.  Some times we even make ourselves feel guilty!

As a pastor, I hope my preaching and my approach to ministry have never encouraged people to oversimplify the call of Christ or underestimate his mighty power.  But just in case, I have resolved to be more intentional in magnifying the greatness of God spreading his fame.  I want my friends and neighbors to know that God is big enough to love people who aren’t just like me.  In fact, he’s big enough to love someone like me, who is not nearly like him.  God loves me in my sins.  He loves me when I’m hiking in the mountains, even if I didn’t stop at the last scenic overlook to praise Him.  He loves me when I’m eating, even when I’m overeating.

God is big enough to do more than we can ask or imagine.  He never reduces the Gospel down to a simple formula- not ever.  But he does encourage us all to explore and find out how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God.  The road to life is narrow, but it leads to a big, awesome destination and a God whose power is so vast that he can transform a bloody cross into a symbol of new life. Let’s break out of the box! Big God.  Big Gospel.  Live Big.

And lift up the Cross!

Hearts & Minds

ANGRY DEBATE

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”  Matthew 10:16

Followers of Jesus Christ urgently need some new communication strategies!  Yes, I know that Paul emphasized preaching driven by the Holy Spirit rather than human eloquence. (1 Corinthians 1:17) Yes, I understand we don’t wage war as humans do;  our weapons are not worldly, but are powerful. (2 Corinthians 10:4)  Yet at some point, you have to  ask what Jesus actually meant when he compared us to sheep living among wolves, and warned us to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. (Hint: wolves don’t graze with sheep; they eat them!)

I think that has strong implications for the way you and I talk about social issues in a pagan nation where there is no longer a believing majority.  In the 1950’s, we simply had to  make a biblical case and many voters would go along with us.  We could weave our biblical principles into the fabric of law because the majority rules, and we enjoyed a clear majority.  Unfortunately, that’s no longer true.  And I’m sorry to say that we have relied on voting far too long, and have neglected our responsibility to be sharing the faith and making disciples.  Now we are sharing the faith with a very different kind of audience, aren’t we?

If American Christians were truly as smart as serpents, we would all stand united in one public message we share with our unsaved world.  And that message would be this: “Finding peace with God through Jesus Christ is an amazing thing!”  If we American Christians were all busy injecting that central idea into the cultural buzz, lost Americans would hear that message again and again.  And along the way, some would discover that gospel message has relevance to their broken families.  Others would find Christ can give them strength in a dying economy.  Still others would find power for breaking out of addictions and destructive relationships.  If people like you and me could stop arguing about doctrines and strategies, and just lay the Gospel out there time and again, our lost neighbors would be deluged with the core message: you need Jesus and he can rescue you.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s just watering down the gospel to avoid conflict.  And I would reply, you missed the whole point.  My point is that our public communication should be simple, direct and easily communicated by every man, woman and child who follows Jesus Christ.  We stop publicly ranting against various sins and addictions;  stop openly quarreling about denominational distinctives; and begin to gently reassert the gospel in public every day in every office and classroom, in every city.

Privately and in our churches, we must still continue to teach and preach all those other important ideas, but we should be teaching them to Christians who accept the authority of God’s Word- not mindless voters.  And if we were publicly winning more and more people to Christ with a simple gospel message, we would also be bringing more and more of our countrymen into private teaching sessions where we could explain what a Christian worldview truly looks like:

  • We could teach baptism, holiness, Bible reading, and worship essentials to all those new disciples.
  • We could talk about the ethic of maintaining your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and not being caught up in drug abuse.
  • We could teach the sanctity of life and the high priority of marriage between a man and a woman.

At the moment, we’re doing just the opposite.  We argue around the water cooler or over lunch about gay marriage, drug abuse, etc., etc.,  but talk about how to become a believer only when people finally arrive at our churches.  It’s a bad idea and we’re losing the war!  Secular people are not equipped to appreciate the case we make about sexuality or family because they have no core truths that guide them.  They don’t care what the Bible says because they don’t accept it’s authority.  Increasingly, Americans are led astray by their emotions simply because something “feels right.”  By contrast, if we led more people to Christ and then taught them the secondary principles of the Gospel, we wouldn’t need to keep changing laws.  We would win the battle by changing hearts and minds.

So think about this: how could my public discourse in the marketplace of life be more salty, more “serpentine,” more Christ-like?  Don’t shut up: just change the subject.  KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

And lift up the Cross!

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