Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘what is spiritual warfare’

Misquoting Jesus, Part 3

PARATROOPERS

It was inaccurate and misguided when church leaders in the 15th Century quoted Psalm 104:5 to argue that the Earth does not revolve or orbit the sun.   Likewise, it is just as misinformed to insist that John 14:14 requires that every Christian conclude every prayer by invoking the name of Jesus as some kind of ritualistic incantation.  In Christ’s world as in our own, doing something in the name of another person involved acting according to his purposes, in his interests, according to his desires.  When you and I are heard in Heaven, it is due to the atonement of Christ and his resurrection; the intervention of his Holy Spirit in our lives; and the fact that his interests and priorities are reflected in our praying.  When those things happen, we are praying in the name of Jesus, whether or not we intone his name at the end.  (See Christ’s actual instructions for correct prayer in Matthew 6: 9 – 13.)

You and I are engaged in spiritual warfare, so it can be useful to think of yourself as a warrior.  But it’s even more important to select the right battlefield.  There were many brave, well armed American paratroopers who actually missed all the drama of D-Day because they were mistakenly dropped miles from the field of battle and found themselves slogging in darkness through cow pastures and pear orchards.  As believers, it is possible to become so militant in the face of a hostile, secular world that we become defensive about everything.  Every disagreement hints of armed conflict.  If we were truly as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, the way Jesus directed us to be, we would pick our battles more carefully.  We should be prepared to engage the forces of darkness, but let’s be sure we’re on Normandy Beach and not thrashing about aimlessly in some insignificant brier patch!

For example, it’s too bad that our secular culture learned to love homosexuals before we did.  Of course sodomy is a sin, but whatever happened to the old axiom about loving the sinner but hating the sin?  We spent 20 years regarding elections and letters to congressmen as spiritual warfare because we failed to understand that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) We should have trusted the Gospel more and the government less; the Bible more and the Constitution less.  Now young people look at us and wonder if we’re really on God’s side, or just the wrong side of history.

God gave us a Gospel that is powerful, sophisticated and complex.  He never, ever tried to reduce the Truth to a formula, a slogan or a t-shirt.  When you and I try, we generally wind up misquoting Jesus.  We should all pray more and talk less.  We should quote more Scripture and less political boiler plate.  We should remember that  Mohammed called for Jihad but Jesus calls for love; and that we are still followers of Jesus.  We must work hard to rightly divide the Word of God without prejudice…

And lift up the Cross!

Next week: Bill O’Reilly’s book , Killing Jesus.  Is it fact or fiction?  I’ll let you know what I think.

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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