Tag Archives: religion

The Gospel for All of Life

October 23-25 Nansemond River Baptist Church (Suffolk, VA) hosted a D*Now weekend for young adults  (“Disciple Now” for those unfamiliar).  I wanted to bring in a few good teachers so I convened the “unlikely disciples” triumvirate.  All of the Bible Study materials and worship services were directly focused on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  The result was a chance to hear, explain, and apply the gospel while modeling how to read a meaningful unit from the text of Scripture.

Below are the four main teaching times from Bryan and Andy (apologies that Bryan’s second message was truncated due to technical difficulties on the recording end).

01 The Gospel Matters (Galatians 1_1-10) 1

02 Gospel Confrontation (Galatians 2_11-16) 1

03 Do I Have a Story to Tell_ (Galatians 4_8-11) 1

04 The Gospel for All of Life (Galations 5_1-6) 1

Crucifying My Wife

It is disconcerting to be vulnerable on the “interweb.”  I am about to share my marital woes with millions of my closest friends.  Here goes anyway…

I’ve been thinking a lot about idolatry and my own life.  I have a lot of idols (e.g., sports, dreams, job, popularity, friends, etc.).  The most dangerous idol I have recently discovered is the one God has called me to love more than myself — my wife.

In my haste to love and adore my wife (which I most certainly do), I have put a lot of expectations on her.  I noticed recently that I started to get very terse with my wife when she let me down in even the smallest ways.  Their are a myriad of reasons why this is the wrong way to act (e.g., she is the most talented and loving person I know, I act like a jerk way more than she does, she demonstrates sacrifice toward me every day, etc.).

Here is one way that Donald Miller explained it recently:

I realized that for years I’d thought of love as something that would complete me, make all my troubles go away.  I worshiped at the alter of romantic completion.  And it had cost me, plenty of times.  And it had cost most of the girls I’d dated, too, because I wanted them to be something they couldn’t be.  it’s too much pressure to put on a person.

That is so true.  Only God can handle the “pressure” of demonstrating perfect love.  The application of this sentiment is what hit me the hardest.  Here is how Miller finished his thought:

I think that’s why so many couples fight, because they want their partners to validate them and affirm them, and if they don’t get that, they feel as though they’re going to die.  And so they lash out.  But it’s a terrible thing to wake up and realize the person you just finished crucifying didn’t turn out to be Jesus.

Ouch.

On Community – Shared Lives (Part 2)

“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

What a beautiful picture of the gospel!  Paul, Silas, and Timothy came to the Thessalonians promising not to compromise on the gospel message that was entrusted to them (v. 4).  They refused to fall into any doctrinal error (v. 3).  Their speech was not obsequious or motivated by personal gain.  However, in the midst of sharing their message the apostles made sure to share themselves.

In reflecting on this passage I have come to understand a few things about genuine Christian community:

1. Christian community is gospel-centered. Christian community involves more than just gospel information but it does not involve less.  There are plenty of groups to join if you want friends. You can find people that have similar interests (e.g., scrapbooking, MOPS, fantasy football).  Shared interests, however, do not reinforce gospel community.  The gospel breaks down external barriers.  A gospel community is not concerned with external uniformity, but internal unity (Phil. 2:12-13) centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Most people are concerned with finding persons that look, think, feel, and act like them.  People with similar interests and values will tend to confirm what you already believe.  A gospel community is not bound by age, race, or political preference.  A gospel community will challenge you to become like Christ rather than validate your own preferences.

“We often surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community” (Philip Yancey)

2. Christian community is participatory. The information of the gospel was not enough; the apostles humbly participated in the lives of the Thessalonians.  It was not enough to teach a few truths about Christ, their genuine affection motivated participation.  Getting involved in someone’s life is messy.  It is easier to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, smile and shake hands.  It is much more difficult to sit on someone’s couch and listen to their struggles.  It is uncomfortable to go to the hospital when someone is sick.  It is terribly inconvenient to give your money to someone who is in need.

And that brings us back to the gospel.  Think about how messy it was for Christ to become flesh, to endure temptation, and to experience pain.  Sharing your life with others provides the only context to genuinely articulate and, more importantly, demonstrate the gospel.

– Mark

Radical Discipleship

This summer I am teaching through the gospel of Luke. Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of God is so radical compared to my concept of Christianity as hobby. Jesus’ words are haunting:

“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters — even one’s one life! — can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26-27).

Many people followed Jesus (Lk. 14:25), some for selfish reasons. He was a wise teacher and he healed diseases. The large crowds loved Jesus as entertainer. Today many persons self-identify with Christianity for ulterior reasons: social value, political expediency, personal guilt, family tradition, and more. The crowds are not always genuine disciples.

A genuine follower of Jesus — a disciple — participates in every aspect of the life of Christ. As Paul says:

“I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it” (Phil. 3:10-11).

Being a follower of Christ is more than paying God off with a few minutes of Bible reading and prayer. Discipleship is more than a little doctrinal acumen. Discipleship is nothing less than giving every part of my life to the full service of Jesus (Lk. 14:33).

Am I cut out to be a follower of Christ? Do I want to suffer for the glory of God? Do my financial, relational, and temporal priorities reflect a life in which I have renounced all personal ambitions for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

Light Christianity — Great Taste, Less Filling

In evaluating my ministry with high school and middle school students I am continually depressed by their understanding of the Bible.  Many of these young adults have been going to church for years.  Most of them are self-professed Christians.  However, if I ask them to quote 5 verses from the Bible, I suspect few of them could.  Most of them could not give even a basic description of entire books of the Old Testament such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Judges (just to name a few).  I have come to the realization that the deficiency is more in the teaching of the church than the ability of the students.  Here are some reasons I think our young adults are largely Biblically illiterate.

1.  Emphasizing character traits more than Christ. In the desire to teach young adults morality we often miss Christ.  We treat the Bible like a playbook (sorry Joe Gibbs and Tony Dungy) and look for principles of successful living.  As a result we have considerate students who do not know Jesus.  We get to a passage such as Luke 4 (the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness) and teach students how they can use magical Bible bullets to defeat Satan while neglecting to mention how Jesus (the second Adam) passes the test where Adam failed.  We forget to show how Jesus’ time in the wilderness is a reversal of the Israelites’ failures in the wilderness (that is probably why all of Jesus’ quotations to the devil are from Deuteronomy 6 and 8).  The result of character overemphasis is the creation of virtuous pagans.

2.  Relying on literature about the Bible more than the Bible. My new goal in equipping gospel ministers is to free them from shiny Sunday School quarterlies.  If I am unable to explain “the gospel according to the Scriptures” then I cannot teach it.  I want to understand and articulate the gospel according to the Scriptures and use Bible helps only as a secondary study tool.  If we imply that the Bible is not sufficient and perspicuous (+3 points for a seminary word) then those we teach will feel ill-equipped to study it on their own.

3.  Not modeling good Bible-study. When teaching I must not only communicate the truth of a meaningful passage of Scripture I must demonstrate good tools of Bible Study that can be reproduced in the lives of those I am teaching.  While I might not walk them through my hermeneutical method explicitly they should absorb a method of faithful exegesis.

4.  Unnecessarily low expectations. Each Christian is a fully capable minister of Christ.  Further, many of the adults in my church are more intelligent and educated than I.  The young adults in my student ministry spend their days studying Trigonometry, Latin, and Physics.  The people I teach are more than capable to grasp the things of God.  It is arrogant and incorrect to treat them as if they cannot understand the “deep” truths of Scripture.

I am still trying to work out the implications of these suggestions but my basic goals are to trust that the Bible is sufficient, clearly articulate the gospel, and focus on discipleship rather than entertainment in my model of ministry.  Jesus is compelling and relevant.  I must give students every opportunity to know, follow, and obey Jesus.