Heart of StoneWe often hear about people whose lives hang in the balance because of their damaged hearts. They need a new heart to continue living and cling to life while waiting for a heart donor. All of mankind has a similar condition. Everyone needs a new spiritual heart because the one we have is not open to God or interested in Him.

By God’s grace He offers us a new heart. He sent His very own son, Jesus Christ, as a willing donor. Jesus wants to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh, a heart that is responsive to God (Ezekiel 36:25-27). Actually, He wants to do much more than this. He wants to give us salvation, make us a part of His family, bring about our healing, enable our spiritual growth and bring us to heaven.

All of these blessings are possible because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for our sins on the cross. We deserved to die, but He died in our place. Peter said it very clearly, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (I Peter 3:18).” Christ’s death and resurrection from the dead created the possibility of the redemption of all mankind. Now it is up to us to respond and receive the gracious gift God offers. For those who repent by turning from their sins, turning to Christ and trusting Him for salvation, all that God offers will be theirs. Once a person has received God’s grace and enters into salvation, God begins the process of transforming that person into the likeness of Christ. In doing this, God is restoring His fallen image in man. He is reversing the effects of the Fall.

Man is now made alive spiritually.
Man, who was dead spiritually, is made alive through personal salvation. Paul describes what God has done in his letter to the Ephesians.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1-4)

To be alive spiritually means that we are able to relate to God and experience a special relationship with Him as our loving Father. This new relationship with God saves us from His wrath and will last for eternity. God will never tire of us. And we will never tire of Him. This relationship, like any other, grows as we invest time in it. We have not only gained an eternal loving Father, but we have also become part of a whole new family, the family of God. He is the Father, and we who believe are His children (John 1:12).

Man can now choose to do what is right.
Man, who was enslaved to sin before being made alive spiritually, can now choose to do what is right. He did not lose the ability to choose at the Fall. Rather, he came under the negative influences of his sin nature, the world and the continuing deceptions of Satan. These influences confuse his mind so that he regularly chooses wrong and is blinded to his sinful human condition.

Christ has changed all that. We have been enlightened and delivered from enslavement to sin (Romans 6:6). Through our new relationship with Christ, we can now find wisdom and strength to choose to do what is right. God has given us the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, to live in us and to empower us to live for Him. The Holy Spirit together with the Bible and the people of God show us truth so we can make good choices in our lives, choices that are right and bring glory to God.

This is not to say that we will always make the right choices or do the right things. We can still choose to do what is wrong. In fact, all our old enemies (our sin nature, the world and Satan) are still trying to deceive us and blind us. We are in a spiritual battle in this world, and our enemies are formidable. But Christ is greater and stronger than they are. As we learn to depend on Him and mature spiritually, we will increasingly overcome these enemies, but this battle is an ongoing one, one that will continue throughout this life.

Man now has confidence before God.
Man, who was shamed when he was spiritually dead, can now have confidence before God. Since the Fall, man has had a problem with sin and the resulting guilt. He is not able to live up to his own standards, and deep in his heart, he knows it. There are many ways he tries to cover his guilt, but they are generally unsuccessful.

Jesus came to take that guilt away. His death was sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath against all sins: past, present and future. He removed the barrier of sin that was between God and man, and now, nothing separates the believer from God. Paul put it this way, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

The concept that we are fully and totally forgiven, even when we continue to sin, is a difficult concept to accept. Satan and our consciences continually condemn us and tell us that God certainly cannot love sinners like us. We need to focus on the truth: there is no sin too great to be forgiven, and Jesus has come to cleanse our guilty consciences. Therefore we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. In fact, God tells us to do that very thing. He instructs us to approach Him with confidence in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16) and to pursue Him aggressively.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Man is now made one with other believers.
Man, who was at odds with his fellow man, is now made one with other believers. Needless to say, man’s treatment of his fellow man has generally been less than admirable. As cultures move farther and farther away from Christ they become increasingly ruthless (Romans 1:18-32). There have only been 144 years of recorded history when there hasn’t been some kind of a war going on.

Jesus came to reconcile us not only to God but also to one another. He has leveled the playing field and removed reasons for prejudice by dying for all people. Everyone comes to Him on the same terms; He makes no distinction between races, sexes or any other classes of people. All who come to Him join the same family of God and have equal access to the Father. Christians are a multinational group of people who find their commonality in Christ. The oneness they share implies intimacy, agreement, companionship and teamwork. Christians have shown over and over that they can demonstrate these qualities with other believers no matter what other differences may be present.

Revelation speaks of our common heritage and inheritance in Christ.

You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve God, and they will reign on the earth.

Summary
God, through Christ, reverses many of the effects of the Fall. He takes away our spiritual deadness, our slavery to sin, our shame and our hostility toward one another. He replaces them with spiritual aliveness, the ability to choose right, confidence before God and oneness with one another. The reversal of these effects begins at salvation and continues as we grow spiritually. Finally, when Christ returns for His people and sets up His Kingdom, all the effects of the Fall will be removed and replaced with something far better than we can imagine. We have a great hope and a great future!

Application Suggestions:
• Meditate on the benefits of being God’s child as you read Ephesians 1:3-10.
• What changes have you seen God make in your relationship with yourself, with God and with others?

 

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For more information visit the WDA Store.

universe picture

universe picture

Are we alone in the universe?  For centuries people have wondered about the place of mankind in the vastness of space.  Ancient astronomers calculated the movement of the constellations, wondering if there was some connection between the stars and people on earth.  Now, with the development of long-range telescopes, the observable universe has expanded significantly.  Some now believe there is a high probability that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe.  (Supermarket tabloids certainly agree: reportings of UFO sightings and alien abductions are on the rise.)  But this curiosity is more than a fringe movement, the scientific community routinely explores the possibility of life beyond our planet.

But not everyone is certain we’ll make contact with other cosmic civilizations.  Ever the cynic, the young protagonist of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” quips that the only compelling evidence that there might actually be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is that “no one has ever tried to contact US!”   But despite the various points-of-view, the question remains.

In 2003, Australian astronomers tried to calculate how many stars exist in the universe.  (Every star could be the center of a system of potentially life-supporting planets.)  Using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes, these scientists observed 10,000 visible galaxies.  By extrapolating this data to the limits of the known universe, they estimated the existence of an astonishing 70 sextillion stars!  (For the mathematically challenged among us, that’s a “7” followed by twenty-two zeroes!) (1)  To begin to understand the immensity of this number, try to visualize all the grains of sand along every single beach, and in every single desert on the planet Earth. (2)  Then multiply that amount by ten!  This certainly suggests the possibility that, by comparison, we solar-system earth-dwellers are pretty insignificant.

But the Scriptures maintain another perspective.  Instead of the myriad of stars pointing to humanity’s insignificance in the universe, the Bible says that the vast number of stars actually affirms mankind’s great worth and value.  The psalmist considers the question: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, (I ask), ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ “  The passage goes on to explain that God has placed man (not the rest of the cosmos!) at the apex of His creation, and “crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)

These verses (and others) remind us that God gave man great worth amid all He created.  In addition to placing man at the pinnacle of His created order, He did two other important things to underscore our value to Him:  He created man in His own image; and He honored man by sending Jesus, God’s own Son, to earth as a man.  We are not alone in the universe!  God has chosen to live among us as one of us, not exactly like us, but significantly like us as a friend and brother!  This ‘living among us’ has three encouraging implications.

God Initiates Toward Us.

God came to earth as Jesus to reconnect with us, initiating the restoration of a relationship that had been broken by sin (John 1:14).  He searched for those who were willing to receive His love.  (And though He returned to heaven, He continues to search through His Holy Spirit!)  The Bible describes this search as like a man who has lost something of great value and who leaves everything to find what was lost (Parable of the Lost Sheep:  Luke 15:1-7).  The parable affirms that once the man finds what he lost, he experiences great joy (vv. 3-7)!

We are not alone.  Though we have been separated from our Creator, He has not forgotten us!  On the contrary, He is actively, diligently, looking for and seeking to rescue us, His lost sheep.  We are the people He created in His image, for His glory.  And once the relationship with any of us is restored, God rejoices and the angels join Him!

This longing for a restored relationship has always been God’s agenda, even when the relational distance seemed impossible to span.  When God dwelt among His people in the Old Testament (Exodus 40:34-38) many of His words and actions made Him seem unapproachable (e.g. Exodus 19:1-25, 20:15-21).  He often appeared to people in His awesome power, reminding Israel of His holy nature with repeated warnings that sinful men were forbidden to come near to Him.  To further underscore this separation, there was an immense veil installed in the Hebrew Temple as a reminder that God could not be approached without an acceptable sacrifice.

But here’s the Good News:  Jesus WAS God’s acceptable sacrifice!  After His death on the Cross, the veil-barrier was removed!  Anticipating this reconciliation, Jesus initiated toward people while He was on earth, embodying the love and grace of God the Father (John 1:16-18).  Jesus put people at ease.  Even the worst sinners felt that they could come to Him and He would befriend them.  God’s nature didn’t change, He was still holy; but the relationship was restored at His initiative.  Jesus was the embodiment of God the Father, showing God’s love, grace, and approachability.

God Identifies With Us.

Not only does God initiate toward us, He identifies with us completely.  Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was like us in his humanity (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3).  It’s incredible, but true: God was fully human in the person of Jesus, The Son!  He functioned just like we do: He got hungry and ate, got tired and slept, worked, moved around, thought and had ideas, made decisions, experienced frustration, was limited by time and space, etc.  But one way in which He was NOT like us, is that He never sinned.  He was tempted, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  (This sinlessness allowed Him to be the acceptable sacrifice we mentioned earlier and which we’ll talk more about later.)

Because He was so much like us, we can know and have confidence that He understands us.  He is totally empathetic.  Jesus experienced the ups and downs of life just as we do.  He experienced the joys and challenges of childhood, the teen years, and adulthood.  He experienced good times and disappointments.  He was wronged, suffering unjust persecution at the hands of people with selfish agendas.  He was even betrayed by a friend.  Because Jesus is able to empathize with us and our weaknesses, (without sinning), Scripture encourages us to approach His throne of grace in our times of need with hope, courage, boldness, and confidence (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16).  He’s like a best friend.

We all know what friendship is like, because we’ve all had a friend.  I’ll never forget my best friend from high school.  We did everything together.  We played sports (and rooted for the same teams), we went on double-dates, we took the same classes, we liked the same music, we ate the same fast-food; we could even finish each other’s sentences.  There were few secrets we didn’t share, and he never betrayed a confidence.  Don was more than a friend, he was like my own brother, (but without sibling rivalry).

It’s hard to imagine Jesus being someone like that; but He is!  In fact, He’s better than any friend or brother we’ve ever had, or could ever imagine having.  Because He was like us during His time on earth, we can call on Jesus as our brother and friend (Hebrews 2:11-12; John 15:13-15), and He will be there for us.

Because He was like us, we can also look to Him as a model for living the Christian life.  But He’s not some insufferable bore who’s always correcting us or pointing out our mistakes.  He’s like the buddy who’s always ‘got our back,’ the friend who can teach us how to throw a curve-ball, but who’ll also fight for us and keep us out-of-trouble (if we’ll let him) because He loves us.  We can look to Jesus as this kind of friend, as we seek to emulate His righteous life because it’s the best life, observing how He dealt with rejection and suffering, seeing how He related to God the Father, etc.  And, as we follow His example, we find encouragement and camaraderie.

God Substitutes For Us.

But He’s more than a good companion.  He’s a friend who’ll die for us.  Here’s the Bad News: because all people have sinned, all of us are awaiting God’s judgment and wrath (Romans 3:23, 2:5).  There is nothing anyone of us can do to work our way back into God’s good graces.  All of mankind’s religious systems (attempts to placate God) ultimately fail.  We spoke earlier of God’s holiness and justice.  We can’t approach Him on the basis of our very best merits and deeds, because He is holy, totally unlike us.  Apart from God’s initiative and intervention, mankind has no hope, only the frightful prospect of God’s judgment.

But don’t forget the Good News!  God intervened by sending His Son as a sacrifice and payment.  (John the Baptist referred to Jesus as God’s sacrificial lamb.)  Because Jesus willingly became a man and lived a sinless life, He was an acceptable substitute for us (I Peter 3:18).  When Jesus died a humiliating death on the cross, God poured out His wrath against our sins on His Son, rather than on us (Isaiah 53:6; I John 2:2).

The magnitude of this sacrifice shows the value God places on mankind (Mark 10:45).  (The value of something is seen in the price a wise buyer is willing to pay for it.)  God, who appointed us as the apex of His creation and made us in His Image, also died for us. God has done everything He could do to acknowledge the high worth of mankind and to make it possible for man to come back into a relationship with Him.  Since this was not deserved in any way, all men ought to be humbled and in awe of what He has done in the Atonement.

Though humbled by the majesty and mercy of God, we are not alone in His vast universe, but comforted by His Presence!  He has a cosmic plan and purpose for each of us that spans time and even creation itself.  But at the heart of His plan is a relationship with Jesus, our friend and brother.  It’s impossible for us to fully comprehend all of this, but we aren’t asked to completely comprehend it; God simply asks us to believe it and trust Him.  But it’s a belief that invites action: the decision to follow Jesus!

  Application:

• Choose a passage from a Gospel and read it, paying particular attention to how Jesus relates to people.  Suggested passages:  Luke 7:36-50; John 4:7-30; John 11:1- 44; John 20:19-29

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

End Notes:

(1)Josh Gough, http://www.helium.com/items/128325-ascertain-answer-question-absolute

2)Josh Gough, ibid.

 

Righteousness

At the heart of the gospel, is a very important word, but also a very misunderstood word. Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Righteousness

On the surface, this definitely seems like good news. But the challenge is, for much of the world, this word “Righteousness” doesn’t really compute. It’s not a part of our culture’s everyday vocabulary, and it has more of a negative connotation in today’s world than anything else. You’ll normally find it in a sentence like, “You’re self-righteousness makes me sick.” So even though many Jesus Followers use this word, and potentially talk to their non-believing friends about it, in mostly ends up sounding like “righteous-nonsense.”

But does that mean we should just punt and stop talking about it? I don’t think its possible! This word is literally all over the bible. It’s found all throughout the Old and New Testaments and I would argue that it’s something that every human alive thinks about, and strives after, every single day.

So what is it? What is righteousness?

Well, in its most basic form it simply means “the state of being right, or straight, or conformed to a standard.” In modern English, it means, “adhering to moral principles.” But in the bible, the words justice, right, upright, righteous, just, justified… all revolve around this word for righteousness. And the best way that I know how to describe it is that righteousness is simply the way things are supposed to be.

Think about this with me for a minute. So God, first and foremost, is described as righteous and just, all throughout the bible, but both of those words for humans revolve around our conforming to either a moral or a legal code, something that is higher than us. For example, the word for righteousness in the New Testament was specifically a legal term, and it meant that someone was declared in conformity to the written code of the law. And so a judge could “grant” you, or give you righteousness. But ultimately, the law is higher than the judge, and the judge is just making a judgment.

But when God acts justly, or righteously, He isn’t conforming to a code. There is no one who could sit in judgment of God and say, “That’s not right, you aren’t being fair, you aren’t being just.” You see, because justice isn’t something that exists outside of God, it’s just a word that describes the way that God is.

My son Judah is learning letters right now, and every night at bedtime he says, “Let’s talk some letters daddy.” So we lie down and I’ll say, “Tell me a word that starts with… P” Sometimes he’ll think for a minute and say, “I don’t know daddy.” And then I’ll say, “What abouuuuuuuut Popcorn?” And then he’ll say, “Popcorn, dat’s right!” Or I’ll say, “What aboooooouuuuuut PENGUIN?” And he’ll say, “PENGUIN! Dat’s right!!”
And what I’m coming to understand, is that Righteousness is just God looking at something and saying, “Dat’s right!”

But do you get what I meant when I said that every human does this every day? We spend every waking moment looking around and saying either, “That’s right, or that’s wrong.”

Think of how many times recently you’ve said, or thought what someone else should or shouldn’t do.
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that.”
“He shouldn’t be there….”
“What is she thinking saying that!?!”
“She definitely shouldn’t be wearing that….”
“You’re going to regret that.”

With every one of our judgments we’re saying, that’s not the way things are supposed to be.
If you read the book of Proverbs, which has a LOT to say about righteousness, the author goes on and on to describe both the benefits of living a righteous life, and the consequences of living a wicked life.

But I don’t think the question we all struggle with is, “Should I choose righteousness or wickedness?”; the question that we each look in the mirror every morning and ask our self is “Am I righteous?”

Well, no one actually says that… but we do look in the mirror and ask, “Am I the way I’m supposed to be?” “Am I doing this life right?” “Does God look at my life and say dat’s right!!?”

And these are pretty huge questions, right? These are the questions that drive everything we do, and so I want to try and go about answering them for you in a slightly different manner. But before we go further I have to give you a few points to chew on.

1st thing is this. The bible is pretty clear that the answer to the question of, “Am I righteous?” is, “No, you are not righteous.” Paul in Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. The gospel tells us that we can be righteous, and that righteousness comes from Jesus, and it is something you receive by faith, not something you could ever earn. This IS the gospel. Romans 3:21 says, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

So if there’s ever a point along this journey where you feel proud, or righteous, or better than someone else because of what YOU’VE done… realize that you’re missing the gospel, and you’re missing Jesus.

This idea of righteousness is the foundation of what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ, and so it’s a theme that we have spent a lot of time thinking about at WDA. Without a solid understanding of how God sees us, and an assurance of our forgiveness and “rightness” before God, it’s almost impossible to have an active, growing relationship with Him. This is one of the reasons that we have produced the Cornerstone Project, which helps believers build a robust understanding of their salvation and place in God’s Kingdom.

We believe that this strong foundation of biblical truth will set believers up for a life long pursuit of Christ-like maturity and character. For more information on Cornerstone please go here.
(editor note: The Cornerstone features materials from Phase I and II.)
But in order to get a better understand about what our righteousness looks like practically, tune back in a few weeks for Part II, which uses a modern day interpretation of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet to get a picture of how this fleshes out into real life.

What does it mean to have a ministry atmosphere that is “full of grace” (John 1:14)?

imagesOur communities must be sinner-safe.

There was a reason why all the sinners ran to Jesus on a regular basis (Luke 15:1-2). Though they knew He was against their sin—he never watered down the law’s demands—they wanted to be around Him because they knew the reason why He was against their sin—because He was for their flourishing! If we want to be His ambassadors, therefore, several commitments must characterize us, our ministries, and our message:

Respecting and valuing all people. People must sense us relating to them on the basis of their God-given dignity, not on the basis of their shortcomings. If we are not careful, we can easily fall into the trap of diminishing the worth of a human being by thinking first of the ways they need to be fixed versus valuing them as bearers of the divine image, made for glory.

The following quote from CS Lewis offers helpful perspective:

It is maybe possible to think too much of your own potential glory hereafter. But it is impossible to think too often or too deeply about that of your neighbors. The weight of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back. So heavy a weight it is that only humility can carry it. It’s a serious thing to live in a society of immortals. To remember that millions of years from now, the dullest and most uninteresting person you meet may one day be an incredible creature, who if you saw him now you would be strongly tempted to worship…All day long we are in some degrees helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is therefore in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the proper amount of awe and circumspection that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to our life as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals with whom we joke, work, marry, snub and exploit…your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. (CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

A biblical view of sin. Treating people with dignity does not imply a reluctance to challenge sin. If we are going to love people as Jesus does, we will be committed to their flourishing, which means we will deeply desire that they be obedient to God! So, the question is not, “Will we challenge sin?” but rather “How will we challenge sin, and with what motivation will we challenge it?” We must be on God’s agenda here—He is so vehemently opposed to sin both for His own glory and (how easily we can forget) very much for the person. God’s desire is that we live by His design, which is life to us,

A grace-filled posture toward sinners like ourselves. Whenever we challenge sin of any kind, our motivation must be because we care so deeply for those, like ourselves, who sin. Otherwise, we shouldn’t say anything at all about sin. You are no doubt familiar with the group from Topeka, Kansas who picketed the funeral (!) of Mathew Sheppard (the young gay man who was beaten to death by some of his peers) with signs that read “God hates fags” and “Thank God for AIDS,” among other horrible, evil things. This example is certainly extreme. However, there are going to be seeds in our own hearts that are prone to look down on those to whom we feel superior. It is an evil thing to desire or celebrate someone’s harm instead of his/her well-being. As Jesus stood over Jerusalem (who had rejected His love), He wept for them. Do people, especially people who are “not like us,” sense this kind of love from us? Jesus did much more than merely tolerate sinful people in His midst. He cherished them, and pursued their hearts that they might become free indeed. We have no option but to do the same.

We must keep first things first.

This essentially means two things:

Jesus, and nothing else, must be our “main thing” at all times. Our main emphasis must always be on the Person and work of Christ. Even Paul the Apostle decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Therefore…

Everything else takes a back seat to Jesus. Often we will equate “outreach” to converting others to the norms of our particular tribe (our political views, our theological tradition, our dress code, our ethics, our parenting philosophy, etc.) instead of converting them to a love and adoration of Jesus. But the norms of our tribe must always be secondary to, and in many cases discarded because of, a greater vision for people to see Jesus and know Him for who He really is. Additionally, in all things we must lead with the grace of God versus with the law of God. When we require people to “get their act together” before we give them access to Jesus and His grace, we fail to follow the methods of the Lord, who welcomed and “graced” people before He called them to change (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 15:1-2, John 8:1-11, etc.). A cosmetic, outside-in, second-things-first approach to change contradicts the inside-out, first-things-first approach of the Bible.

Consider the following quote from Rev. Timothy Keller:

We (need to) be careful with the order in which we communicate the parts of the faith. Pushing moral behaviors before we lift up Christ is religion. The church today is calling people to God with a tone of voice that seems to confirm their worst fears. Religion has always been outside-in—”if I behave out here in all these ways, then I will have God’s blessing and love inside.” But the Gospel is inside-out—”If I know the blessing and grace of God inside, then I can behave out here in all these ways.” A woman who had been attending our church for several months came to see me. “Do you think abortion is wrong?” she asked. I said that I did. “I’m coming now to see that maybe there is something wrong with it,” she replied, “now that I have become a Christian here and have started studying the faith in the classes.” As we spoke, I discovered that she was an Ivy League graduate, a lawyer, a long-time Manhattan resident, and an active member of the ACLU. She volunteered that she had experienced three abortions. “I want you to know,” she said, “that if I had seen any literature or reference to the ‘pro-life’ movement, I would not have stayed through the first service. But I did stay, and I found faith in Christ. If abortion is wrong, you should certainly speak out against it, but I’m glad about the order in which you do it.” This woman had had her faith incubated into birth in our Sunday services. In worship, we center on the question “what is truth?” and the one who had the audacity to say, “I am the truth.” That is the big issue for postmodern people, and it’s hard to swallow. Nothing is more subversive and prophetic than to say Truth has become a real person…We, of all people, ought to understand and agree with fears about religion, for Jesus Himself warned us to be wary of it, and not to mistake a call for moral virtue for the good news of God’s salvation provided in Christ. (Timothy Keller, Religion-less Spirituality)

In summary…

In cultivating a “full of grace” ministry atmosphere, we must carefully consider how we are presenting Christ to people who are either not Christian or somewhere along the journey of overcoming sin (that’s all of us, isn’t it?). The following chart is given as an aid for preparing our community to be in line with the Gospel of grace. Obviously, we want to lean against both the religious grid and the secular grid, and saturate everything we think, say, and do from the perspective of the Gospel grid.

Different models of ministry and the “hurdles” people feel they must overcome in order to become “insiders:”

hurdles_Scott_Sauls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is part 2 of a series of articles by Scott Sauls.

Part 1 is here 

Continue Read  Part 3 Here

Scott Sauls, a graduate of Furman University and Covenant Seminary, is foremost a son of God and the husband of one beautiful wife (Patti), the father of two fabulous daughters (Abby and Ellie), and the primary source of love and affection for a small dog (Lulu). Professionally, Scott serves as the Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to Nashville, Scott was a Lead and Preaching Pastor, as well as the writer of small group studies, for Redeemer Presbyterian of New York City. Twitter: @scottsauls

Editor’s Note: Scott was a member of our WDA Campus Ministry (Next Generation Ministry) while at Furman University. We are excited to see our alumni continuing to carry a vision for discipleship!

This is a repost of A Jesus-Like Church Culture  by Scott Sauls. It appears here with the author’s permission. Website: cpcblogs.blogspot.com.

process vs Holy SpiritI had an interesting conversation with a friend over lunch a few months back.

We’re both in the process of joining with other believers in our area to form missional communities and to live out the gospel in community together, so we were getting together to encourage one another and share stories and learn from each other. We got on the topic of processes though, and my friend noted that their community was trying to stay away from all processes whatsoever and really just listen to and be led by the Spirit as to what to do, and where to go with their community in all things.

He noted that this is mainly because many of their leaders are very process driven people (industrial engineers and such), and they feared greater allegiance to the process, than to Christ. He noted that the word organic is getting thrown around a lot these days, but that that was really what they were aiming for.

While I see a lot of wisdom in that thinking, I still wonder if it’s exactly what Christ intended when he told us to “go into the world and make disciples and teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded.” I love that a lot of the language around the missional community movement is the language of discipleship. Making disciples who make disciples, but the follow up question is always, “Okay, so how do we do that?”

Because, as I wrote a while ago, even organic things, or rather especially organic things, go through a process. But then again, most organic things aren’t aware of that process, it just happens naturally, as it was designed to–Mankind being the exception to the rule.

The more I think about this, the more I am amazed by the wonder and mystery of God. He has created us with minds to search through history and scripture and see how He has worked in the lives of countless believers throughout the long river of faith that we belong to. But he has also given us his very spirit, and Jesus said of Him:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Jn. 16:13

At WDA it’s our aim to help people grow into Christlikeness; and if you’re interested in reading some more about the complex balance between our involvement and God’s involvement in the growth process, then I would suggest checking out our document Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework.

As I grow myself, I’m learning (or having to be reminded) that this building of disciples is more an act of listening than it is speaking or following a plan.

Is it just me, or do you ever forget to take time to listen to the Spirit of Truth and ask him for guidance in all things?