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Note: I owe Pastor Matt Chandler in Dallas, Texas (who is currently recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor) in part for sparking the following idea taken from a message he shared this past summer (Preaching the Gospel to the De-Churched)

For those of us who have been awakened to the gospel narrative, it all makes more than good and perfect sense.  But consider how it must sound to someone who’s eyes haven’t been opened to the truth found only in the gospel… it’s what Paul was sort of getting at when he wrote “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Cor. 1:18, NLT).”   

Imagine for a moment that you don’t know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus and ask a friend to explain the gospel and he says “Well, it starts with a virgin named Mary.  She was visited by an angel and told she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and to name him Jesus.  He’s then born in a stable with barn animals and laid in a feeding trough (a “manger” you might call it) instead of a crib for what was a pretty humble inaugural welcome to earth for the infant prophesied to be the Messiah.  He’s raised in a wood shop, the son of a carpenter named Joseph (but not biologically his father because his mom was a virgin).  At about 30 years of age Jesus is baptized in a river by his crazy cousin John (who eats locusts and honey and lives in the wild), signaling the beginning of his life work which would culminate about three short years later. Read the rest of this entry »

broken breadUpdate: Don’t do much updating to my posts but I was just listening to Michael Spencer’s weekly podcast #162 (aka imonk) and something he said kind of summed up in a sense the following post I wrote earlier this afternoon.  He was speaking about meeting an educated young man this past week and discussing evolution and how refreshing the conversation was and then stated, “…not going to change the minds of people, don’t even want to try. Because the cost would be too high to my ability to share the gospel, and the gospel is what puts all of these things into perspective. You’ll never know why we can have a different attitude about science than fundamentalists have if you don’t understand that the gospel is what adds the value to everything we do or takes away the value from what is not valuable.”  Bingo bango, Spencer is right on.   

Much of what I encounter in the “Christian” blogosphere seems to suggest that we can almost argue, reason, or push people into the Kingdom with a barrage of the most impressive explanations and the right combination of the slickest words and terms in the English language.  It’s as if the particular kind of bloggers I have in mind assume that in our interacting and conversing with unbelievers—if our theological acumen and scientific knowledge is only weighty and persuasive enough—we will render the unbeliever/skeptic speechless and bring him to his intellectual knees (and subsequently, to the place of genuine faith).    

Well, I beg to differ.

Some are quick to point to Paul conversing with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Acts 17.  But even there “Paul’s evangelism again follows the pattern of ‘reasoning’ about Jesus and the resurrection (IVP New Testament Commentaries).”  When Peter writes “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”, I get the feeling that he isn’t saying anything close to “Be ready to list 15 irrefutable reasons you believe in intelligent design”, Read the rest of this entry »

For many of us sharing our faith doesn’t come easy. But I think it has much to with the fact that we put much too much pressure on ourselves.

Peter writes, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV).”

Tougher done than said.

Jonathan McIntosh of Rethink Mission makes some great points on just what it takes to share Christ right where you are without going and getting a PhD in evangelism. Listen to this 3 minute clip and be encouraged.

Vodpod videos no longer available.  

sharing ChristThe longer I walk with Christ, the more in tune I become with God’s heart for lost sinners like me.  He did come to seek and to save us after all.  A few years ago I ran across the following (written by Ed Stetzer) while doing some research for a piece I was writing at the time.  I think it is just about the best short article I have ever read about sharing Christ with those who don’t know his saving grace. 

I’d simply provide a link to The Resurgence where it was originally published but I visited the site this afternoon and it appears to be only available to the paying subscriber and since I am not a subscriber I’ll just provide the short article here (I did ask the Resurgence about their policy at one point and they stated that if I merely mentioned them I had their permission to reproduce anything off of their site—so I am taking them up on the offer). 

“Beginning a Conversation about Christ”

Finding a starting point for a Christ-sharing conversation is not easy. Maybe you’ve heard before:

  1. “So, do you consider yourself a good person? Yes, well I’ve got some bad news…”
  2. Nice to meet you, Stephen. Did you know that there was a guy in the Bible who was stoned to death for his beliefs about Jesus? What do you believe about Jesus?”
  3. “If you were to die tonight… Read the rest of this entry »

…Maybe we should have more courses on evangelism, pray for the lost more than we do, learn some new postmodern techniques or create another film that will point to Jesus.  It could be that we aren’t effectively using mass communications or planning enough.  Perhaps we aren’t good enough, committed enough, don’t know enough or can’t debate well enough.

I don’t think so.  In varying degrees, we’ve already done all that.

What we have done is take something quite simple and made it complicated, hard and almost impossible to do.

What’s the Gospel?  People are screwed up.  If they go to Jesus, he will fix them, forgive them, love them and never let them go.

What’s evangelism?  Somehow letting people know the Gospel.

That’s it?  Yeah, that’s it.  In its understanding and execution, it really doesn’t take a brain surgeon!

-Steve Brown

 

I think it’s a first degree offense to God to act as if our dedication and hard work is the reason anyone one comes to Christ.   My belief about this horrendous misconception has only deepened instead of lessened the last several years as I have spent a considerable amount of time scrutinizing my hunch and investigating the gospel message to see just how wrong I must be.  I’m not saying I’m right, I just think anyone would be hard pressed in proving me wrong.

I’ve read and heard at least a thousand testimonies over the years and one that never ceases to make me squirm is the infamous account that starts out “I’ve gotten every last one of my family members saved and all sorts of other people including everyone I’ve ever sat next to on an airplane…”.  

Listen, we might get the opportunity to plainly present the gospel message—but we are to take no credit whatsoever for an accomplishment so beyond and above us (which by the way, is an accomplishment consumed and consimated in the person and work of Christ himself).

32 ”And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”   (Jesus, John’s Gospel c12 v32, ESV)

I can’t give you an account that lists in detail how many people I have shared Jesus with, its better I leave the numbers to God.  Just as soul winning isn’t complicated, its not about another notch in our evangelism tool box. 

Our role always comes down to simply lifting Jesus up.

Jesus teaches us how to live in the present time. He identifies our present time as the end-time, the time that offers us countless opportunities to testify for Jesus and his Kingdom. The many disasters in our world, and all the tragedies that happen to people each day, can easily lead us to despair and convince us that we are the sad victims of circumstances. But Jesus looks at these events in a radically different way. He calls them opportunities to witness!

-Henri Nouwen

 

As with many kids, my childhood was largely about sports.    

One thing I learned by being involved with various sports was the importance of preparedness.  Batting practice.  Fielding practice.  Shooting practice.  Passing drills.  Running laps.  Stretching exercises.  Why?  So that we could be ready for the game.

Jesus spent time training his disciples.  In other words, he didn’t send them out into battle without a sword.  He knew that his disciples would face demonic influence in every shape and size as well as Godless thinking in every form—and that they would need to be prepared to deal with such obstacles if they were to be effective in their witness.

I don’t know about you, but I do know about me, and I have been terribly unprepared at times to share Jesus with others.  It doesn’t take training to spout off a bible verse or to tell others they should go to church.  Telling others to shape up doesn’t require spending time with Jesus—having him fine tune you requires more than a vague familiarity with him.  The only effective witness for Christ is the one who points others to Christ, and we don’t have the courage in and of ourselves to do that I have found.  We need to spend time in the shop sharpening our tools, and the shop for Jesus-followers is time in prayer and time in God’s Word. 

15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…   (1 Peter 3:15, ESV) 

Always being prepared.

You can’t expect to be effective whatsoever if you haven’t taken the time to get ready.

         

What is the chief end of man?… Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. 

-The Westminster Shorter Chatechism 

 

 
Say we were members of one branch or another of the U.S. Armed Forces.  For instance, you might serve with The Air Force and patrol the sky and I might serve with The Navy and protect our shoreline.  Each branch of our military has a clearly defined mission to carry out last I heard.
 

Many varied opinions would surface if one were to ask—What in the world has God left his followers in the world for when heaven beckons and awaits?  Some of us would find our tongues tied if we were asked to give a serious and credible answer to the question. 

As Jesus-followers, we have an agency sanctioned mission.
 
We aren’t here to save up a pile of dough and assemble a slick financial portfolio that would win the approval of the money experts on Fox News (1 Timothy 6:17-18). 
 
We aren’t here to compile a long list of bad things we don’t participate in (Galatians 3:10-11).   
 
We aren’t here to merely elect the next president of the United States (Psalm 46:10). 
 
We aren’t even here to look religiously active (Matthew 6:1-8). 
  
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV)
 
We are here to be ambassadors for Christ.

Someone has said that the world is run by people who just show up.  I think that’s exactly what Christians are called to do—just show up and be.  With all our sin, our doubts, our fears, our failures, our neediness, our laughter, our freedom, our forgiveness—we need to show up.  Evangelism is what happens when we are there and are real.  It creates all kinds of questions for which Christ is the answer.

All we have to do is take off our masks, show up and not duck.

…We are so obsessed with ‘doing it right,’ never bringing shame on the name of Christ, about learning a Gospel presentation and learning to do apologetics, that we are always preparing and never doing—or better yet, being.

-Steve Brown 

     

I think we get way too caught up with how we will be perceived by others when it comes to our witness rather than forgetting about and getting beyond ourselves enough to be sensitive to those all around us who don’t know Jesus.  Look, we aren’t little saviors.  We weren’t the ones born in a manger.  We can’t save a flee, let alone ourselves.  Our task is to point people to Jesus—not ourselves.     

Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.    -Colossians 4:2-4, The Message Bible

Here’s Paul in jail and he’s not talking about the doors of the jail opening up for him but he’s concerned about sharing Jesus.

Are we?

Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

-D.T. Niles

 

I suppose an organized campaign for evangelism is fine and dandy, so long as it isn’t just another way to prop ourselves up and feel better about our religious selves.  In my reading of the New Testament accounts (the life and ministry of Jesus in particular)—I find that reaching out to the lost, broken, and spiritually poor (as well as the physically poor of course) wasn’t an afterthought for Jesus. 

Evangelism shouldn’t be something tacked on to the life of a genuine bona fide follower of Christ, it should be ingrained in our way of living.  I’ve been on missions trips thousands of miles away from home in which our focus was to not only provide some type of relief or medical care, but ultimately to share the remedy people need most for their sick and starving souls.  That being the case, I have also shared Jesus many times over at a backyard barbecue.

Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.  Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”    Matthew 10:5-8, The Message Bible

Instead of planning how we are going to go about reaching the lost or debating our best and varied methodologies, I think that the transmission of the love of Christ and the plan of salvation should more or less be a way of life for a Christian.  We should be talking about Jesus when we are sitting down at a baseball game or in our stop by the corner store on our way home from work.

Evangelism really equates to sharing Jesus—its one who has been found telling another who is lost, where to find life.

Most of [us] think it’s very important that people think [we’re] mature, pure and spiritual.  I would suggest it’s far more important [we’re] not.  We’re so worried that our Christian witness will be hurt by our lack of obedience.  That’s not true.  Our witness will be hurt by a pretense of obedience.  I don’t think I ever met a person who found Christ because a Christian was pure and righteous.  More often it makes them think this thing is only for good people.    As I understand it, we are only beggars who have found bread, pointing other beggars to the place where we found it.  Disobedience hardly ever turns people from Christ.  Dishonesty does.  

-Steve Brown

         

We can’t liberate oursleves very well so what gives us the crazy notion that we can liberate another human being?          

Faith in ourselves, the church, a patron saint, a creed, our prayers, or even an angel of heaven isn’t the freedom God gives—but rather it is the bondage of religion.  Any other recipe for immediate rescue or road to heaven other than the One prescribed by God himself is destined to lead to death in every sense.   Am I saying to my Catholic friends that you cannot find salvation in the sacraments, being Confirmed, giving up pizza for Lent or frequenting the confessional booth?  Yes, I am.  Am I suggesting to my reformed friends that we don’t place our hope in being dedicated as an infant, memorizing the Holy Scriptures or even being water baptized?  Yes, I am.

These may be good, and even things our Lord Jesus commands—but to place our hope in our obedience is to negate our hope in the Cross.  We must not forget the thief on the Cross who had not a minute to do anything but repent and believe.  And Jesus wasn’t kidding around when he assured the scoundrel that he’d be in Paradise with him that very day. 

You may ask—How do you know religion is worthless in saving anyone, Ken?  I am aware that answering a question with a question is not proper or preferred in some circles but it’s appropriate to ask—Who has religion saved?  Who has it delivered from the claws of sin and the faster than fast coming Judgement in which those who are not found in Christ will be thrown into the everlasting lake of fire?

Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
      who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
   Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
      when they die, their projects die with them…

   God frees prisoners—
      he gives sight to the blind,
      he lifts up the fallen…                                                 (Psalm 146:3-4, v8, The Message Bible)

Jesus is our only liberator.

When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them ‘in their place.’  The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious.  It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it’s freedom.  The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived…

-From the Introduction to Galatians, The Message Bible (Eugene Peterson)  

    

Religion is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. 

If Jesus came to bring us freedom from anything he came to bring us freedom from religion—he came to deliver us from it’s death-grip.  It wasn’t restraint Jesus came to deliever us from so much but it was from the old code of rule-keeping and polishing up our own spiritual resumes if you will.   And nothing has changed—plenty of the same old thing goes on today.

Do you ever wonder why non-believers find us so difficult to get along and converse with?  Maybe one of the big glaring reasons is our fascination with passing out a thousand rules instead of simply sharing the glorious freedom offered within the gospel message?  Jesus didn’t suffer and die so that we would have the freedom to merely keep a couple of rules. 

 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.    (Galatians 5:1, The Message Bible)

I am convinced that religion is largely responsible for a good number of church people who are straight on their way to hell.  So much for the separation of church and state—I’m one person who would rather see religion get the you know what out of the church.

If you but love God you may do as you incline.

-Augustine

  

I’ve stumbled across a story from the life of President Abraham Lincoln a time or two now about an appointee within the president’s cabinet that would try to challenge and stimy the president every chance he got.  A friend of honest Abe’s finally came to him and asked why he didn’t have the pesky man replaced.  Lincoln, in turn—told his well-meaning friend a story about walking down a country road one day and coming upon a farmer who was busy plowing his field with a horse-drawn plough.  As Lincoln approached the farmer he noticed a jumbo sized horsefly on the back-side of the working horse and figured it couldn’t be helping the poor horse concentrate on the task at hand.  Lincoln—in an attempt to help the farmer out, went to simply brush off the little pest.  As Lincoln raised his hand to take a swat, the farmer protested—Don’t do that, friend.  That horsefly is the only thing keeping this old horse moving.    

The moral of the story for today’s lesson is simple: Religion is nothing more than a jumbo horsefly and there are those within certain circles of the church who’d like you to do anything—and I stress anything—other than contribute to freeing people from living under the irritating and deadly oppression that religion represents.  Those caught up in the facade of religion do not like any one who messes with their religion and they are not afraid to tell you so—to mess with religion is to mess with God.  Many church leaders feel the need to use religion to do the same exact thing the farmer was doing with the  horsefly—use religion and the endless rules that accompany it as a means of motivating others to live the Christian life.  

These preachers of bondage wouldn’t know freedom if it hit them upside the head.  In his letter to the Galatian believers—Paul had something entirely different to say than what the peddlers of religion in his day were preaching.

 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.    (Galatians 2:19-20, The Message Bible)

There is a better way. 

It’s called freedom—and it can be a rare commodity in some circles.

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

-Martin Luther 

 

There is no salvation by osmosis.

We can’t bank on our spouses relationship with Jesus—and the same applies to our mom or anyone else for that matter.  We may have the best pastor in our city—he can’t believe for us.  God makes no provision for riding right on into heaven on someone else’s coattails.  We must trust Christ for ourselves.  The only coattails that can bring each one of us into right-standing with God are those of Jesus Christ and him crucified.  It is the greatest miracle of all—a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ his only Son—is by far unsurpassable.

Nicodemus, the secret seeker I will call him (he did come at night to speak to Jesus after all)—came to Jesus to find out more about the spiritual teachings of Jesus.  Jesus didn’t waste any time with the prestigious and religious man.

 3 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’    (John 3:3-5, ESV)

Notice that Jesus didn’t inform him that one of his contemporaries could stand in proxy for him.

You must be born again.

The guy you sit next to at work can’t pass his relationship with God over to you like he might his sandwich he offers to share with you.  Sitting in a garage won’t make you a car.  Hanging out in the locker room of your favorite NFL football team won’t make you a professional football star. 

The prophet Ezekiel faced a people caught up with the notion that somehow they wouldn’t personally be held accountable for their own sin.  They were tossing around a saying quite regularly along the lines that suggested that sons somehow were not responsible for their own sins because of their fathers sins.  God wasn’t going to have any of it any longer—he instructed Ezekiel to warn the people—“As sure as I’m the living God, you’re not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. Every soul—man, woman, child—belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another’s (The Message Bible).”

We will each stand by our lonesome before the judgement seat of Christ and we won’t be given the opportunity to blame our fathers for our own dis-belief when it came to Jesus Christ.

No one else can have faith in Jesus for you—you must have a personal relationship with Jesus for yourself. 

Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.  

-Martin Luther

 

As we discussed yesterday—Jesus is the Savior, not the judge, for those who trust in him alone.  And yes—the news is most terrible for those who don’t. 

If you have ever been married you understand the need for exclusivity.  Most marriages that are more than simple arrangements won’t last if not.  The vast majority of husbands don’t want their wives having a pool boy and the same applies to wives—they won’t tolerate a mistress.  If you want your marriage to last—let alone enjoy a good one—there’s only room for one.  

I recently watched the film Fracture which featured Anthony Hopkins (a favorite of mine).   Hopkins plays a husband who catches his wife in an affair only to have her lie to his face about it—he then murders her in cold blood and ends up framing her lover who just so happens to be the detective who arrives on the crime scene.   You’ll have to watch the movie to find out how it turns out.

Some things don’t leave room for two.

The exclusivity presented in the Gospel and the subsequent Epistles of Paul and others goes directly against the grain of modern thought—that thought which runs rampant and says there are many paths to God.  There is no tolerance within the Scriptures—or biblical Christianity I’d say—for any such notions of plurality when it comes to salvation.  When it comes to Who we must get to heaven by trusting solely we can’t have Buddha and Jesus—or even Jesus and Mary for that matter. 

You don’t have to go any further than the most popular television personality on the planet to get a dose of what I am talking about.  Oprah shares her views openly:   

One of the biggest mistakes humans can make is to believe there is only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to what you call God.

He says I am the way–not one of several diverse paths.  

 11 ‘This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’   (Acts 4:11-12, ESV) 

The gate remains narrow—It’s Jesus plus no one.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.    -Jesus Christ  (John 12:46-48, ESV)  

Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world—it’s already condemned.

We can remain right where we always have been—in darkness—or we can come to Jesus.  It gets no plainer than that.  I remember coming to Jesus the first time.  And now it is a way of life.

I can’t count the times he came to me.

That Jesus didn’t come to point fingers at all of us sinners may not sound like news, but it is.  It’s news that needs repeating over and over and over again.  We can be sure that to present Jesus as the one who will forgive us no matter what—even if we fail to trust him—is not to present Jesus at all.  But presenting Jesus as the grand condemner as the soap-box preachers do—as some sort of hell-bent nut intent on sending as many people to hell as possible—isn’t the Jesus of the Bible either.  But the good news will never change no matter who attempts to re-write it—Jesus came to save sinners and to somehow make saints out of them—not to throw stones at them.  John 3:16 could easily be the most recited verse in the Bible—but the verse that follows is as good as any in the Holy Scriptures. 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.    (John 3:17, ESV)

He came to save those who would simply trust him enough to come to him.

Period. 

For those of us who wish to put Jesus into a box and somehow fit him into the small ideas we have about him—we need to think again.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

-Lyrics from hymn—Just as I Am (Charlotte Elliott) 

We never come to Jesus with our shirt pressed and our shoes shined.  We are more like an unkept and destitute beggar when we finally call out to Jesus.  Very few of us ever come before we have tasted the pleasures of sin for a season.  It takes looking—and unsuccessfully—for salvation in things, power, money, and people we look up to before we are resigned to surrender. 

And when we do—the relief is unspeakable.

 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…   (1 Timothy 1:15a, ESV) 

If you ever attended a Billy Graham Crusade or have seen one on television—you have no doubt heard the hymn—Just as I Am.  For every television tele-evangelist phony, Billy Graham has served as proof year after year that men of God do exist and that not every popular preacher has to sell snake oil, have goofy hair, make pitiful appeals for cash, have a corny smile, worhip a positive attitude, or have a Jesus-less message.     

The former slave trader John Newton and mentor to William Wiberforce came to Jesus just as he was.  Newton was a terrible sinner and a man with unclean hands—a life defined by abuse and filth (you don’t have to trust me—he tells on himself in his own writings).  After a miraculous conversion, Newton went on to write the most widely sung hymn of all-time—Amazing Grace.  Newton lived to be eighty-two years old and mantained an active ministry until he was laid up by failing health the last two years of his life. 

Newton—unshaken in his faith before his death—told his friends:

My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.   

If John Newton could come as he was—there’s no sin too great and no person too bad to simply come, and come just as we are.  

Jesus hasn’t turned anyone away yet and he’s not looking to start.

The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!  If Christ had done what you are doing, who would have ever been spared? 

 

-Martin Luther 

 

 

Jesus could have commanded the finest and fittest to enlist in his band of followers.  I mean here is a guy—and not just any guy mind you, he was God in the flesh—he stopped the waves in their tracks, shut the mouth of howling winds, walked on water, healed the most afflicted and delivered those tormented by the most evil of spirits.  And that’s not all.  He also raised the dead, turned water into wine, and fed five thousand hungry people with a couple crumbs that would feed a family of five.  

 

A casual glance at the members among those closest to Jesus from day one—and those closest to him today—is an eternal reminder that God isn’t the friend of the righteous.  And while many live lives of incredible sacrifice and service to God it’s always amazing to learn a little more about the real story behind those who follow Jesus best.  Why Jesus takes the biggest failures and makes the biggest wonders of them is a mystery I suppose.  He could seek out the first class and the pure breeds but he’s ever chasing down the low class and the half breeds.     

 

I’m not real fond of politically correct stands on everything from school choice to immigration to abortion to nativity scenes on court house lawns to what kind car a follower of Jesus is supposed to drive.  But when it comes to Jesus himself—I have no tolerance for a politically correct Jesus.  The only politically correct Jesus is the one constructed by his character assassins—they are alive and well.  While Jesus didn’t care what the high and mighty thought—his approach and his mission more importantly flew in the face of the modern day religious establishment.  When it came to whom Jesus hung out with and who Jesus didn’t hang out with, what was expected of him was a bitter disappointment for the majority.   

 

 15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’    (Mark 2:15-17, ESV)

 

A politically correct Jesus picks the right people as his closest confidants while the Jesus of history and Scripture selects the picked over.

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations 

-Lyrics by Hillsong Australia  

 

 

People don’t long for religion.  They don’t desire rules.   They don’t hunger for dogma.   And they don’t want to be told who to vote for in the Election this fall. 

 

Jesus isn’t merely the hope of America—he remains the hope of mankind.  You can have your preferences or even your convictions—although I’d argue we value much too much that which God doesn’t value and value much too little that which he does.  It’s all fine and good if I like green and you like blue.  Maybe you like loud music and I like it soft.  It’s no matter if you prefer sherbet over ice cream.  For all it matters you might like liver, spinach, sushi, and sardines.  

 

It doesn’t matter. 

 

People need a Savior and our culture isn’t about to deliver them one.  The world hasn’t delivered on it’s hollow sham promises to provide a quasi savior yet and it’s not about to. 

 

No other savior will do.  Do you believe that?  The Scriptures couldn’t be any  clearer.  When we will stop trying to convert people to our way of thinking or our way of doing things?  If there is room for James Dobson and Bono within the ranks of our members what makes us think this movement that never ceases—despite man’s best efforts to kill it—is about personalities?

 

It’s never been about my ideas, your ideas, or Barack Obama‘s ideas.   Truth be told—we have passed out plenty of opinions to date. 

 

 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

 

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.    (Jude 1:22-25, ESV) 

 

It’s all about Jesus—and it’s about time we start acting like it. 

a blog about radical discipleship, the gospel of grace, a theology of the cross, Christian spirituality, the mission of the church in this world and whatever else on the same wave length that may be running around the brain of a hopeful Protestant.

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