The Not-So-Mysterious Mission of God
It does little good to go around talking about the mission of God if we ignore what he’s already said about how he fulfills that mission. Chaos is the inevitable result of that kind of confusion, along with a lot of damage to the witness of the gospel (not to mention the lives of all the people involved).
Grace Is Not “Jesus Plus”
Contrary to how we usually think of discussions and debates, they’re not all bad. In fact, sometimes people disagree about things that are so serious that it would be wrong not to discuss them. Suppose two people disagree over whether or not they could afford to buy a certain house. Or, quite a bit more seriously, suppose two groups disagreed over whether or not murder is wrong. These are not the kind of decisions where we can just say, “No worries. Let’s agree to disagree about this.” The more serious the discussion, the more important it is to decide. This is because no matter what you choose, there will be consequences (in these examples: a house you either can or cannot afford, and a society that either condemns or condones murder).
So then, you see can why there was such a big discussion and debate over how Jesus rescues his people. Are we rescued (“saved”) through faith in the grace of Jesus? Or are we rescued through faith plus obedience to the commands of God?
Discovering What You Truly Love
Remember that time you swore you were running a fever, but the thermometer proved you wrong? Or perhaps there have been times when you thought you were well but you were actually quite sick. In both cases the thermometer was the only sure way to tell what your actual temperature was. In a similar way, Jesus gave us a kind of “thermometer” for our hearts. (In the Bible, the heart is not a reference to the blood-pumping organ in your chest, but a reference to the decision-making part of every person that is controlled by their desires or will.) So if you want to know the state of your heart, Jesus gives you this simple test: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If Jesus had said the same thing in our time, he might have said it like this: “Where you devote your money shows what your heart is truly devoted to.” In other words, our bank statements tell us a lot about what we truly love, care about, live for, hope in, and depend upon. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
An Encounter with Jesus
The recurring pattern among many people who met Jesus was remarkably similar: they became convicted of sin, humbled by their need for forgiveness and rescue, and deeply thankful for God’s mercy and grace. But these people weren’t just thankful; they were changed. Their encounter with the generous grace of God transformed them into men and women who generously gave their time, effort, and resources to serve others.
Talking about Money
Most folks don’t like to talk about money, especially with other people. This is true whether or not we have a lot of money (or possessions) or very little money (or possessions). On one hand, many people worry about whether others will judge them for having more money than they do, on the other hand, some people worry about whether others will judge them for having less money than they do. Sometimes we get sucked into playing these ways of thinking, but the truth is that everyone who lives above the poverty line in the U.S. is actually wealthier than 90% of the rest of the world. What that seems to mean, at the very least, is that our real problem isn’t the issue of having or not having (since we already have so much in comparison to everyone else in the world). No, our real problem is the issue of wanting and craving. Our insatiable appetite for money and for the things that money can buy is what the Bible means when it talks about “greed.” Greed is a very dangerous sin because it both widespread and hard to spot at the same time. It’s kind of like a deadly disease that almost everyone has without even knowing that they have caught it!
Whether it’s seen as the “next step,” or Dating 2.0, or “what you do when you’re in love,” or even God’s stamp of approval for sex—the number of misguided ideas about marriage seem endless. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Jesus is both the creator of marriage and the one who makes healthy marriages possible. He takes broken men and women and turns them into selfless, sacrificial lovers and parents who experience joyful marriages through the power of the gospel.
So what exactly is marriage, anyway?
The church today desperately needs to reconsider how the gospel should shape our political involvement. What should we think about important political issues? How should we act toward those who disagree with us? Is it sinful to vote for an imperfect candidate? Is it OK for Christians to abstain from voting? Questions like these abound. This widespread confusion about how the gospel shapes our political involvement did not “just happen” overnight. A variety of factors have worked together to create an environment in which people who claim to be Christians—followers of Jesus—don’t really seem to look or sound very much like Jesus in many respects.
We’re so thankful to be a part of a church planting network that sees racial reconciliation as a gospel issue.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ…. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:12-13, 19)