Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Close to Salvation #2

Modern man, (in the west), is in his post-modern philosophic era. There is nothing rationally utopian about this current age. Everyone knows life without absolutes comes to a meaningless end. Man in the west has given up on a rational explanation for why we are here. Might I suggest to you that Biblical Christianity hasn’t been abandoned as a world view because its claims are irrational? It’s just the opposite. That it is all too believable and requires us to make a decision about who Jesus is, and what he actually meant when He said: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Mathew 16:25.

There is no way to look good coming to Christ. It was our sins that pinned Him to the cross. It was our punishment Christ is paying. It’s something I can’t pay back. I can only come sorrowfully and pathetically confessing that it was my rock that went through His window and that I have no money to pay Him back. In doing that I am giving up the fig leaves. I am admitting I can’t decide what’s right and wrong on my own. That is when God clothes me with His righteousness. That is when He lifts up my head and takes away my shame. Even on the cross Jesus said: “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).

I have come across many atheists that have an intellectual framework that is not rational. They can’t give an accurate explanation for order in the universe. They can’t explain why morality is more than just a social necessity. They can’t give an adequate explanation for things like, compassion, art, enjoyment, or even reflection. As a Christian I know we have been made in the image of God. Though evil exists, the fact that we can call it “evil” is because there is a good God.  In the words of John Foreman: “The shadow proves the sunshine.” Everyone is free to believe what they want, but your worldview will be challenged by the world that actually exists. 

I have seen the Bible meet these challenges. That is why I am also intellectually a Christian. Many people (Atheists included) stand at a distance, seeing the creator of the universe, and wanting what He has to offer. But they don’t choose God because of what He demands. All too many are like the rich young ruler in Mathew 19:22. They go away sad, because in this life they have great wealth. The irony is that in giving everything to God we are just acknowledging the truth. It all belongs to Jesus anyway. 

There are many who are close to salvation. They will face the Judgment of God because they won’t give Him their lives. They say “I will follow Jesus as long as He lets me keep my status, my money, my life of comfort, or my self-reliance.”  Christ won’t allow that, ever. He won’t because fig leaves aren’t clothes, and it is our rock that we threw at his window. Imagine the audacity of saying this to God: “God, you should just give me everything you have, and let me keep all the things I took from you as well.” 

Law breakers must be forgiven by the law maker, and to be forgiven they have to give Him back the “goods of their plunder” i.e. the claim that they can decide for themselves what is right and wrong. But that’s when He adopts us as his children, purchased by the shed blood of his son. He takes us in, forgives us and treats our sins as if they never happened. Before we were just beggars pretending we were the king. Now we are sons of the king and heirs of His inheritance.

If you are reading this and haven’t trusted in Christ, don’t go away sad like the girl in the first part of the story. Search out the Bible, if it’s true ( I know you will find it so) trust in Christ with everything. You will gain much more than the world can offer. You will be forgiven and adopted by the creator of the universe.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Close to Salvation

 In 2002 I was traveling up the east cost of the U.S. with my first youth mission team. We stopped in Maryland in a beautiful town on the docs near a river. We did our gospel presentations often times with a drama and choir presentation. A youth mission choir was always an odd bunch. The choir had no harmonies, was always assembled in haste and usually had a couple guitarists. Often times it was an out of tune cacophony of sound. Something that ranged between several would be pop artists, those who should always be wearing a pitch pipe and at least one person who could never agree with the given tempo. To my surprise that night I remember thinking that we actually sounded OK. Afterwards we were supposed to go out and explain the meaning of the drama to the onlookers and passers by. That was the bit that I liked. I like to share the gospel because for me it was terrifying being that open, but I was always able to see God work.

I was 19 and always looking for “the one” as we call it in church culture. I thought maybe I would find her if I just lived for Jesus hard enough (which is all a topic for a different blog itself). I stepped out to have a conversation with a pretty girl with curly brown hair. She was a few years older than me probably about 23 or 24; and was staring intently at our singers. I thought she was a Christian because she looked so interested in what we were doing. After about a 5 minute conversation I asked her what she believed. I was surprised that she said she was an Atheist. I shared with her the meaning of the drama that we preformed ( i.e. “the gospel”); and asked her what she thought? She said she wanted to believe, and that the faces of everyone singing were so authentic and joyful. 

She went away wishing there was a God that created her and loved her but just couldn’t believe. I think that in a way it was a good thing. The Bible is rational, and if she applied herself to searching it out, she would find it actually in line with reality. I didn’t have the kind of rational tool to help her then that I do now. Although what she said may have been out of a lack of testable evidence, that usually isn’t the issue. There are many people in life who are close to salvation. They wait on the banks of commitment to Christ. It’s not that they don’t know God is real, but that they do know it. They understand what it means to trust God and in that sense, they don’t have faith. 

The God of the Bible agrees with and is in line with reality, otherwise scripture passages like Romans 1: sound utterly bigoted. It makes bold statements because they are testable and notably true. We dare not take scripture to the realm of being accepted on an irrational basis. Its text won’t allow us that. On that note…… God will never be satisfied with are acknowledgement of truth alone. It’s not enough to just know any truth in the Bible.  Even only knowing that Jesus died for your sins isn’t enough. 

My dear pastor from my school days in Florida, (Gerry) while he was still with us, gave this example. He said that his mom used to have a picture in his room that says “God’s watching you” and as a young unbeliever he would turn it around so that he couldn’t see it. He believed in God but it took God’s persistence for Gerry to trust in him. When the Bible talks about faith, it’s not talking about intellectual ascent. The Christian life is a hard life. It’s a life that is full of joy and fulfillment, but also can be very difficult. It’s one that demands that you live in accordance with the truth. That can be really hard. 

The truth is that this world is not your final home (Hebrews 11:14). In scripture it mentions the faithless Israelite people wanting to go back to Egypt (Numbers 14:3). They wanted their best life now. The way to their inheritance was a difficult one, full of the need to trust in God. The red sea, possible starvation and a forty year journey, were all things that God used to show them that they can trust his promises. Salvation requires us to give ourselves to our rightful owner: God. Christ paid our price but we have to admit that we are in the wrong. We have to admit that we are not God. We have to trust that God knows more about life than we do. We have to turn over the reins of existence to our creator. We have to take off the “fig leaves” and admit that we are naked without God.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Parable of the Sower

By: Daniel Martin

Though I had felt like I should be telling other people about Jesus since I was a child, the first time I can recall boldly telling anyone about Jesus and following through was at Bible camp.   It was my first week with kids as a counselor in training and I had only four campers. The gospel came with an object lesson by my counselor that week. I carried the four boys on my back across a small creek. Now, as I look back, it was semi comical. The rock hurt my feet and I almost dropped one of the boys in the water. I remember giving them the roman’s verses and John 3:16.  Not slick, not cool, not really about the situation at all.  Strangely though for one of the boys, it seemed like it really seemed to make sense. 

I remember that the whole time I was embarrassed and scared to share what I believed as if that was something you just don’t do. I now know that the Bible is all about making disciples and that this is false shame.  It is something that it took a long time to learn.  

After the time at camp two of my boys said they became Christians, the fourth said that he already was. Looking back I feel the truth about the fourth boy. Even at thirteen he had false Christianity. One that can’t save you from your sins and that isn’t really personal.  Christ warns about this in the parable of the sower in Mathew 13.  He tells us some truly believe, some pretend, some don’t believe at all and some just believe at first and just fall away.  People always fall into one of those categories.  If you can put the people you come into contact with in one of those spaces it give you an idea of what you are dealing with when it comes to telling the gospel.

I often come across people like the young man at Bible camp who say they are Christians but it is obvious they do not have a saving faith.  There is no heart change.  He believes himself to be the seed that was planted and grew strong but in reality he has fallen away.  Forgetting what it was that drew him to Christ in the first place.  These people are the hardest to reach.  I often find myself mostly praying for them.  That God would reach them again and help them to see what true Faith in Christ is.  It is a hard fact about street evangelism that you don’t know what happens after your conversation.  Were they unbelievers and will never believe?  Are they just going to fall away again?  No one but God knows.  I pray, speak the truth and hope they will be one of the ones that will grow strong and tall and reach people for Christ themselves one day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Grace and Forgiveness

By: Rachel Martin

It is only recently that I have spent some time thinking about those words.  In principle I think we all know what it means.  Well the dictionary says that Grace is the gift of God to mankind.  The infinite love, mercy, favor and goodwill shown to humankind by God.  I just love it when the dictionary gets it right.  

God’s grace and forgiveness is a principle that I am very familiar with as I grew up in church.  I have always known that I was a sinner in need of Gods beautiful grace.  What I didn’t really realize is that I have to show that same grace to others.  I know it seems like a silly thing to say for a missionary.  Showing grace is in large part what we do.  However it not that kind of grace I am talking about.  It is the grace that goes between me and those closest to me.  Showing grace is easier to some homeless man I don’t know then it is to those I love and am closest to.  Which is silly because who am I closer to the God and yet he graciously forgave me.

No one knows me better then Jesus.  No one have I hurt more, no one knows exactly what is in my heart and is more grieved by it.  Yet he still with grace gives me grace.  Whenever I mess up he still with love and mercy forgives me.  Not only does He forgive me He does it with love, without condemnation, gently, and patiently.  Yet when someone sins against me my reaction is to get mad and sometimes hold onto that for days or even months and years.  I have an issue with forgiveness with grace.  I will admit it.  That does not mean that I am OK with that flaw in my character at all.  It is something God is gently working on in my heart and has been for a while now.  

I will never forget my turning point.  I had someone that spent and still spends a lot of time trying to hurt me and my family.  It was about two days after listening to a particularly great sermon that my whole family attended.  My sister called and said OK it’s time to forgive this person.  It was not until that moment I realized that I had not been giving this person the same grace that God had afforded me.  Also until my sister pointed it out, I didn’t realize a huge issue with my thinking.  Forgiveness is not about the other person.  It is about you and your heart.  We find all over scripture talk about whatever is in your heart is who you are. This other person has never asked for grace and surely never will.  Yet don’t we do that to God?  Spend years in sin and never ask for forgiveness and grace because we prefer being who we are in our sin?  I know I have as evidenced by the fact that it took me 2 years to forgive in my heart the before mentioned person.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  We in our humanness want to only give what we believe is fair.  We only want to forgive when the other person knows what a gift we are giving them or when they really ask and deserve it.  OR when we feel like it because we are so mad, or when we are ready to in our hearts.  Yet this verse tells us that grace is unearned, not by anything we can do but as an amazing gift from God.  Later in Ephesians 4:32 we are told to:  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Oh man.  There it is, “like Christ forgave us”.  For someone that has a hard time with forgiveness in the first place that last thing my heart wants to do is forgive with grace.  Yet there it is as plain as day, “like Christ forgave us”.

As always I ask……  Are you forgiving?  If so are you doing it as grace or with something else in your heart?  If that is the case, sorry folks, then it is not true forgiveness as Christ would have us do.  If you know how to “grace someone out” as my dad would say, are you sharing?  Cause it’s not an easy thing to do.  Others like me need to know how and be encouraged.