It has been a little more than a year now that Lynn and I have accepted the call to serve here at Faith Community Church of God. We have been thrilled to make new friends and rekindle old relationships, but most of all we love the challenge of leading people into a closer relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
There is an old saying in ministry, that preachers are called, “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That means calling everyone to look with a critical eye at their walk with Jesus Christ and observe whether or not you are at a higher place and closer to Him today than you were 1 year, 5 years or 10 or more years ago. Because as disciples of Jesus Christ we are to grow in both the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our cue is to be taken precisely from Scripture, specifically Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus gives the Great Commission. When He says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations (people of different cultures and ethnicities), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
We are not supposed to wait for people to come to us, we are told that because Jesus has all power, we are to go make disciples, baptize them and teach them all things we have been commanded. It is not a request, it is a command!
We are not to clean people up before we bring them to church. We are not to have people drop their bad habits before they come to church. We are not supposed to get people to change their lifestyle before they come to church. We are not supposed to be hypocrites inviting another hypocrite to church. We are to look to the savior who paid our debt and imparted to us grace that we didn’t earn and the participation in a Kingdom we didn’t deserve.
If we cannot understand that, perhaps we need to look at the cross again. The church is not a place that we go, it is the people who have been redeemed. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, “but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Phil. 2:3)
We cannot do the work that only the Holy Spirit is qualified to do. The Holy Spirit will convict, convince and redeem the worst sinner and bring them to faith. We cannot do that. We can only obstruct the work of the Spirit if we try to convict people of their sin, because sinners know they are sinning, and that’s why we cannot convict people of their sin. We cannot convince people of the truth of the Gospel if we are constantly putting ourselves in the place of the Person that the Father has given authority to convince people that they need Christ, that Person of the Holy Spirit.
This is what Pastor Rick Thomas has written about the church. “We must constantly remind ourselves that the Church exists because people need to know that our sinfulness has eternally separated us from God; and that the only remedy for such spiritual estrangement is to turn from our life of sin and trust–from the heart–in what Jesus Christ alone has done on behalf of unworthy sinners like you and me.”
John Sanders of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church speaks to how we should reach out to others:
How We Talk
1. Be gracious. We are to guard what comes out of our mouths. Our wise walk should lead to wise words. “Let your speech [conversation] always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6). It is important that we communicate with words of grace when we speak with those who don’t know Christ. Unfortunately, many times, believers go off on people who are living in sin. Or, we begin ranting about a moral issue in our culture, forgetting that there may be someone listening who is caught in that particular sin. When we’re filled with anger and rage, people feel judgment and not hope.
We need to be more like Jesus. Even when He dealt with sin, He spoke words of grace as the story of the woman caught in adultery shows, not condemnation. Those who are involved in sexual sins or addictions, including homosexuality and pornography, need to know that the grace of God is sufficient, even for them. But they cannot, no, will not know if we beat them over the head with our self-righteousness.
2. Be appetizing or tasty. Our conversation needs to be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Salt enhances flavor and makes food appetizing. “Salty speech” in Paul’s day referred to witty and clever discussion. It was the opposite of being boring or monotone. When we talk about our faith, how can we not be interesting?
In other words, we must not take it upon ourselves to interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit by allowing our personal feelings about politics, ethnic status, sexual sins of any kind or the behaviors of a personal nature (smoking, drinking, drug use, homosexual behavior or any other sexual promiscuity) to become an obstacle to someone hearing the Gospel.
We need to take the advice of Thumper’s mom from the Disney movie, Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
If we are to grow, we need to look around each week and see more and more people who we haven’t seen before. We need to look around each week and see different people we haven’t seen before. We need to look around and be surprised at the people we see!
We can only accomplish this if we have the Mind of Christ and look at the world, our city and our family the way that Jesus does. We must always have in mind not what pleases us, but what pleases God.
If we have that in mind at all times, we will be gracious to those outside the church, loving to those inside the church and understanding to those who may disagree with us, regardless of the subject.
By doing this, we will show the love of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In July of 1839, Mende captives from Sierra Leone staged an uprising on the schooner “La Amistad” to try to return to the African continent from which they had been taken.
Deceived by the crew, they were boarded in the waters off Long Island and put on trial. Their case wound its way to the Supreme Court of the United States before they were finally declared to have been kidnapped and victims of the illegal African Slave Trade.
What allowed thirty-five of the original 53 Mende captives to return to their homeland, beside the help of the United Missionary Society and its founder, African-American Congregational Minister James W. C. Pennington, a former slave himself, was the fact of the captives having had due process extended to them, though they were not at that time citizens of the United States.
As one of the foundational principles of American Jurisprudence, the suggestion by a sitting President of the United States that anyone found crossing the boarder would be summarily captured and immediately returned without a hearing is contrary to our ideals and does violence to the American system of justice.
Additionally, it is contrary to the message of the Bible contained in the writings of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The Law and the Prophets in numerous sections give voice to the idea of being gracious to the “Stranger and Alien in your land.”
One of the most famous and favorite parables of Jesus was that of the so-called, “Good Samaritan”. Understood in historical context, it would be more akin to telling the story of the “Good North Korean” or the “Good Terrorist”.
What we don’t understand today is that to a First Century Jewish person living in Judea, the idea that a Samaritan would do anything of worth was mind-blowing. They could not wrap their heads around it. But that was the point of the parable.
We are called to care for those who we are least likely to want to care for, because that is what grace is about; showing unmerited favor to those who don’t deserve it.
The Book of James likewise gives advice that should be taken seriously today in the current climate of animosity and discord. James writes, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in a word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be so. (James 3:2,5-6,8-10 NKJV)
We should all take the advice of the Apostle, and do what we can to season our words with grace, particularly those of the household of faith.
Antinomianism is a theological term, referring most often to the denial of the Ten Commandments having any authority over believers under grace.
I agree with Calvin’s understanding that there are, in fact, three purposes of the Law: 1) To curb lawlessness (people behaving badly), 2) a reflection of what God wants from people that shows them they cannot keep it themselves and 3) a guide for believers daily lives.
I think that you can safely say that American has become totally antinomian. The American experiment is failing, and one reason is the acceptability of lawlessness and the celebration of it.
If you look at anyone driving anywhere today, you will find hardly anyone obeying traffic laws of any kind. From the speed limit to Stop signs to turning without signalling, the vast majority of drivers rarely adhere to traffic laws.
In sports, you can watch the NBA Finals and find that, not only do the players not adhere to the rules, but the Referees fail to enforce them (Does ANYONE call traveling anymore?).
Draymond Green has made ignoring the rules a sport in itself, trying to see how far from the actual rules he can go without paying a price in either technical or common fouls. He is a throwback to the “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons style of play without the panache. They looked like they were having fun; he looks like he has anger-management issues.
No one celebrates Sportsmanship anymore. No one wants to pay attention to fairness and good behavior anymore. Most people want to see how far they can push the envelope.
The Church is not exempt from bad behavior either. Too many Mega-Church pastors have fallen, small church pastoral scandals shown up in local papers and far too many churches are preaching a Christ-less Christianity.
Unless and until the Church returns to its First Love, Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the grace provided by preaching about His substitutionary death and resurrection, the Church will become less and less relevant, more and more powerless and more empty with each passing year.
We don’t need more programs, we need more Gospel.
We often forget that we are made in the image of God, the Imago Dei. This includes those with whom we disagree, those with whom we argue and fight, and those who we love.
But what do you see when you look at someone you are angry with, you are having an argument or just having a bad moment with? Do you see the person that God created, who has purpose and worth, or do you see the worse that is in that person.
We must remember that no matter how badly we have been treated, we are called to respond in love. When God had finished the creative process, He created Adam, he said it was “Very good.”
If God declares that we have intrinsic worth, how can we treat those with whom we have disagreements with disdain? Let us not merely try to live at peace with all, but as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all.
Racism and class warfare seem to be the order of the day, but they are not what the Body of Christ should be engaged in. Those with whom we disagree should receive the same respect as those with whom we are in full and hearty agreement.
It is not just our friends that are created in the image of God, but those with whom we most violently disagree.
This is why the words of Jesus are so revolutionary; we are not to be kind to those who are kind to us, but we are to give love to those who hate us and use us and do all kinds of injury to us.
It’s easy to be kind to those who are like us, who are nice to us, those who agree with us. But it is only by the supernatural love of God that we are able to go beyond that to show the love of the Father to those who hate us.
Stop taking the easy way out. Stop being tribal and expand your horizons. Go beyond what you are able to do, and do what only God can enable you to do.
This is the excerpt for your very first post.
We are to do everything as unto the Lord. It is my hope that this will become of value to those who pass this way, and that it will edify all who stop here.
It is not going to be a easy endeavor, but I hope that the journey will be worthwhile.