Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Time bomb!

We're not a team. We're a time bomb!
This line was spoken by Dr. Bruce Banner, as earth's mightiest heroes were at the pinnacle of the inner-conflict engineered by Loki, the "god of mischief" in the Avengers movie. They allowed pride, personal preferences, and desires for personal gain create division; placing their mission in jeopardy. This conflict is not isolated to a superhero movie but is experienced by born-again Christians in our churches today.

The Apostle Peter described Satan as a roaring lion on the prowl looking for those to devour (1 Peter 5:8). While he cannot touch our salvation and identity in Jesus Christ, he actively works to destroy the work and mission of the church. Instead of focusing on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), we spend much time arguing about interpersonal issues or preferences such as music style, decor, schedules, and programs. Fueled by pride and/or a desire for personal gain, the overall negative impact on gospel proclamation and disciple-making is significant. As Christians, we must not forget that we have one enemy, and he is not sitting in the pew across from us!

We must move beyond our personal conflicts and focus on the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ to a lost world and making disciples, united as a team. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, often referred to as the "love chapter" was addressed to churches and not a bride and groom. Imagine the kingdom impact when we love one another in the church accordingly: 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Likewise, let us make every effort to obediently follow Ephesians 4:31-32 "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

I am convinced that great kingdom impacts will be made when we put our differences and preferences aside, working diligently as a team united under the cross of Jesus Christ. In the Avengers, the earth's future was at stake--in our battle, the stakes are much higher. The eternal destinies of millions weigh in the balance between heaven and hell. We cannot afford to lose sight of this truth!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Get Out There!

"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." John 20:21

 The Great Commission is recorded five times in the gospels and Acts, each time with a different emphasis. Matthew notes the authority of our Lord (28:18-20), Mark stresses the final judgment (16:15-16), Luke the fulfillment of prophesy (24:45-47), John links our commissioning with the prior coming of the Lord (20:21), and Acts sets forth the program for world evangelization (1:8). I will focus on John’s emphasis for the remainder of this post.

The Father sent Jesus into the world and became human like us. He was born, He grew, He suffered, and He eventually died. He did not make His proclamation from a distance. He stepped out of eternity and engaged sinful man face to face. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and second Person of the Trinity, left physical footprints upon this world! Prior to His ascension, Jesus turned this reality onto His followers-- commanding them to go out and engage the world face to face just like He did. As Christ-followers, have we fallen short in engaging the world around us to whom we are sent? 

We have been sent out by Jesus Christ (John 17:18), but many within evangelical Christianity are retreating from the world rather than invading it; ironic when we consider that the term evangelical communicates a commitment to the proclamation of the gospel. We have retreated to where it is nice or safe or nonthreatening. As far as anyone can tell from our actions, we are saying to the world that it can go to hell. I am convicted by Dr. David Platt’s comment in his book Radical, “…while some professing Christians have rejected universalism intellectually, practically they may end up leading universalistic lives. They claim Christ is necessary for salvation, yet they live their Christianity in silence, as if people around them will indeed be okay in the end without Christ.” (p. 142)

Something must change and it must start with our hearts. We must set aside personal preferences, agendas, distractions and fears to become consumed by our Lord, the gospel, and His Word so that we will go into our communities and make Him known. We must grow serious about engaging the world around us, following Jesus’ example as He engaged our world (Philippians 2:5-8). 

As we consider strategy, do we really need more special interest groups within our local churches, such as quilting bees, fishing and hunting gatherings, motorcycle clubs, or sports leagues? Why can’t we plug into the existing equivalents within our communities; building relationships and bringing a gospel presence to the world outside the walls of the church? Additionally, let’s find opportunities to become involved in local committees and boards. Let’s take part in book discussions held in local libraries and book stores. All of these are opportunities to go into the world as ambassadors for Jesus Christ (2Corinthians 5:18-20).

Dr. Howard Hendricks said that in the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering. How true! We have the Word of Truth and the only hope for a lost and perishing world. We must get more serious about following Jesus into the world. I know that changes are necessary in my life and ministry. How about yours?