Christianity 201

February 21, 2018

Remembering Our Mission

NIV Romans 5.6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

NLT 1 Cor 5.17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

NCV Eph 2.4 But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace. And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it.

Today we’re showcasing a new writer, Chicago area Youth Pastor Joshua Nelson who writes at The Sidebar Blog: Current Issues from a Biblical Perspective. There are a number of scripture passages alluded to here, so you need to have whichever Bible program or app you use open as you read. We’ve placed the three key passages above. As always, click the title below and read this at source.

Transforming Society

Chances are that this last week, whether on the news or in a casual conversation, you heard the questions; Why did this happen? and What can we do?

The answers to those questions are both very complicated and yet plainly simple.

This, along with every other mind-numbing tragedy, happened because of sin. And what can we do? A lot.

Before you read on I would challenge you to stop for a moment and pray. Pray for all of those who have been impacted personally by the horrific events of last week. I would also encourage you to pray for the transformation of our society of which has become numb to death and destruction.

It is saddening to see “shares” on social media of numbers of deaths caused by guns vs. drunk drivers vs. knives vs. etc. Giving into those arguments only continues to make us numb. I fear that we have gotten to a place where we forget that there are real people behind each of those numbers represented. Human life is worth more than that.

Laws are important, but I do not want to get into any sort of debate here. The reason is that neither the right nor the left have the remedy for what ails us. That remedy only comes in one form and one form only. His name is Jesus.

Jesus is the centerpiece of the Bible and He carries with Him the message and the mission of the Bible: redemption. In simpler terms, God heals what is broken.

Our society is broken. Our neighbors, co-workers, families, and friends are all broken. We are broken. Jesus can fix that.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 promises that if anyone belongs to Jesus they have been made new.
  • Ephesians 2 tells us that we can be transformed from death to life because of God’s great love.
  • Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that Jesus welcomes us in our weakest, ugliest, and worst states.

[see above for verses referenced]

So, what are we, those who have been transformed by the love of Jesus, to do in the midst of times such as these? We do what Jesus always intended for us, the church, to do.

We transform society. (Matthew 5:13-16)

We shine so that others may see. (Matt 5:16)

We don’t conform but rather allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. (Romans 12:2)

We remember where we come from. (John 17:16)

We stand up against what is wrong. (Daniel 1 & 3)

We remember what our mission is. (John 17:15 &23)

We remember who is with us on this mission. (Matthew 28:18-20)

We tell others what Jesus came to do. (Luke 19:10)

We walk what we talk. (James 1:19-27)

We trust God to make beauty from ashes. (Genesis 50:20)

One of my favorite Missions organizations (Sent me a message if you’re interested in finding out which one and I will tell you all about them!) has an incredible missions statement. Here are my favorite parts of it.  “A movement of God…that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.”

I love that statement so much because a movement of God that is fueled by local churches and transforms society can and should happen anywhere. Whether we are here or there, God can and will use us, His church, to impact the world around us. Imagine what could happen if believers everywhere began to focus all their time, effort, and energy on transforming society. We transform society by telling people about Jesus and by living our own lives like He did.

We can’t afford to not tell people about Jesus. We can’t afford to not live for and like Jesus. The people around us can’t afford it either.

Revelation 21:3-6

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Come soon Lord Jesus.


Here’s another article by Joshua, as he describes his situation as he and his wife wait for the adoption process to kick in, and learns that God is greater than the wait. Check out, The Wait of It All.

November 28, 2016

The Shortest Path to Reconciliation

Yesterday, Andy Stanley spoke on the the three “lost” parables of Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son. While this is very familiar to most of us, I am always amazed at how the various dynamics and nuances of this famous story result in the situation where good preachers always find something new in this parable.

The premise of the parable is set up very quickly:

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

The last seven words have been amplified and expanded in expository preaching for centuries, but Andy noted:

Andy Stanley 2013This son was gone relationally long before he left home. This relationship was broken.

The father wanted to reconnect with the son so bad, he chose the shortest road back. The father wants to reconnect relationally so much; he knows the relationship is broken; the conversation is the pinnacle of a bunch of other conversations that probably went on… He knows the son is distant… the son is gone, he’s just physically there. The father wants him back; not his body, the relationship. He chooses for the shortest route back. He funds his departure.

What the audience heard when Jesus said this was that the father loved his son — don’t miss this — the father loved the son more than he loved his own reputation, and for that culture, they summed the father up as a fool. This is when you need to go to Leviticus and find that hidden verse that says, ‘stone the rebellious children,’ because this kid deserves to be stoned. In the story the father says, ‘Okay. Let’s pretend that I’m dead. I’ll liquidate half the estate…’

…Here’s a dad who is willing to lose him physically, lose him spatially, lose him to (potentially) women.

He didn’t mention this, but I couldn’t help but think of Romans 1, verses 24, 26 and 28:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Implicit in this is the idea of God “letting go” of someone, giving them over to their sin. This particular message in Romans 1 seems very final. But in I Cor. 5, a book also written by Paul and in a context also dealing with sexual sin, we see Paul using the same language but with a hope of restoration:

So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,[a][b] so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

The language in the last phrase isn’t found in Romans 1 but occurs here. Eugene Peterson’s modern translation renders it this way:

Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man’s conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can’t, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.

Back to Andy’s sermon! The story in Luke 15 continues:

20b “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Andy continued:

He ran to his son and threw his arms around him…

…Why, when the son was leaving; why when the son had his back to his father,  did the father not from that same distance, run throw his arms around him the son? Why does he let the go? He doesn’t chase after him throw his arms around him and say ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’? Why now? It’s the same son, it’s the same distance. It’s the same two people But now he’s running toward his son to throw his arms around him and bring him back. Why? What’s the difference.

This is Jesus’ point. This impacts all of us… The father desired a relationship. The father desired a connection the father desired a connection. — not a GPS coordinate, it was not about not knowing where the son was — it’s not spatially, it’s relationally. What the father wanted more than anything in the world was not the son living in his house, but to be connected with the son and when he saw the connection being made when he saw the disconnected son begin to reconnect he ran toward his son and he kissed him.

He concludes this part of the sermon by reminding us that Jesus is telling his hearers:

‘My primary concern is not the connected; I know where they are. And I’m grateful that we’re connected. My priority, my passion, the thing that brought me to earth to begin with was to reconnect the disconnected to their father in heaven.’ This answers the question, why would Jesus spend so much time with irreligious people? …The reason Jesus spent so much time with disconnected people is because they were disconnected. The reason Jesus was drawn to people who were far from God is because they were far from God.

The gravitational pull of the local church is always toward the paying customers. It’s always toward the connected. It’s always toward the people who know where to park and know how to get their kids in early and find a seat… The gravitational pull and the programming of the local church is always toward the 99 and not toward the 1. …We all, individually and collectively, run the risk of mis-prioritizing… how we see people.

There’s much more. You can watch the entire message at this link; the passage above begins at approx. the 50-minute mark in the service.