Sunday, April 24, 2016

What the Heck Did I Just Do?

Are you an "Evangelical"? In a recent article, Christianity Today provided four defining characteristics to help you to know. Today I’d like to focus on the second defining characteristic.  Number two states:

"It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior."

Based on that one, I might be in trouble!

Truthfully, that one scares me a bit, but not in the way you'd expect. I am not afraid to tell anyone about Jesus. That's actually pretty easy...and often completely ineffective and in my view, mostly pointless in today's post-Christian culture.

When I was a "church guy”, one of the things we were often challenged to do was to “share” our faith. That basically meant, get out there and ask people, "If you died today, where would you spend eternity?" This was followed up with a bit of "You're a sinner", "You're going die and go to Hell", and finished with, "Now, pray this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart so you won't split Hell wide open"...and it NEVER really produced any real fruit.

Oh yeah, I had a few "lucky"souls pray that prayer, but looking back, I wonder what in the world were we really doing? Honestly, I have to believe anyone we "reached for Jesus" had to be left with a large dose of "What the heck did I just do?"

So, what do you think?  Is that really what it means to “encourage non-Christians” with the Gospel?  I just don’t think that was ever our Lord’s plan.

It all reminds me of some kind of twisted arranged marriage.  “Okay my daughter, we’ve decided we know what’s best for you, so here’s the boy you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.  The wedding is Saturday…congrats!"

I’m just not convinced that’s a recipe for life-long marital bliss.  Where’s the romance?

Indeed, I’d say the same thing of our approach to “winning” people to Jesus…what about the romance?

I don’t care how many or few steps your particular method of evangelism uses, if there’s no romance, there’s no love!  No love…no relationship…no relationship…NO ANYTHING!

At the end of the day, what does it really mean to be a child of God?  For me it means knowing Him, and better yet, knowing that He knows me!  Sure, I’m a card carrying “get out of Hell free” club member, but that’s NOT what holds me steady when life turns upside down and inside out.  Only His love can do that, and if all people ever experience is a cold, “Here’s Jesus, now pray to Him so you don’t burn in Hell” presentation, they will completely miss the heart of the Gospel!

Isn’t it about time we quit “encouraging non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior”, and instead started sharing with them His unfathomable grace and love?

Friends, the world is gagging on the "religion" of Christianity, and they’re weary of our loveless, “chalk up another one for Jesus” approach.

Bottom line:  True evangelism starts with love, ends with love, and always shares the joy of knowing the one who loves the unlovable.

So, am I an “evangelical”?  I guess that would depend on who you’re asking, Christianity Today…or Jesus.

What about you?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Eating Mud Pies with Mr. Hyde!

Disclaimer: I am a man on a journey, a journey to walk with the King who called me to be His child, and I often lose my way. You may disagree with some or all of what I'm about to share, but that's okay. I am where I am, but...

So are you

I have no doubt; every Christian on the planet, including me, deeply desires to do the "right thing". We thirst to be the "good guys" of this world, lights shining in a dark place! In fact, it's in our reborn DNA to be holy and faithful, and yet, we all fail each and every day. Yes, the old "dirt skirt" aka. flesh is always working overtime to drag us through the mud of life, and more often than not, we are quite glad to oblige!

I have ministered to crowds of people with a genuine heart on Sunday, and then like some kind of twisted "Jekyll and Hyde", turned around and sinned my heart out on Monday. I know, that was very "hypocritical" of me, and indeed, this up and down, back and forth courtship with sin continues to drive me completely insane! Why? Why am I so easily swayed by certain sins? Why can't I just break free?

Ever been there? I'm figuring your answer is yes.

For years, I listened to sincere brothers stand behind pulpits challenging me and others to "rise up" and "defeat sin". "Do not sin!" Seems so obvious and simple sitting there in the pew, but once you're out the front door, it can be a bit "challenging".

I'm going to say something here a bit controversial, but I really believe it's true.

Honestly, I just don't think being "sinless" this side of Heaven is possible for us. I do believe we are fully accepted/forgiven, but sin is of this world, and for now we are stuck here in bodies that crave the stuff. If you disagree, I would challenge you to find someone other than our Lord that has ever lived a sinless life. Of course, you will not, and therefore I must assume I am correct. Still, does that mean we are doomed to be enslaved to our sin nature? I don't think so.

As I've searched the scriptures for a "fix", a final solution to defeat this thing called "sin" in my life, I have found only this to be true: The closer I get to Jesus, the less I sin. The less I sin, the happier I am. In fact, I have found when I am truly focusing on my Savior, I rarely even consider sin. I do still fail, but I'm able to move on quickly in light of His grace and strength.

No, I did not quote a scripture there, but there are plenty in the Book that will back those statements up.

I say all that to say this: I know sin is terrible. I hate it, and I'm certainly not condoning it in any way, BUT I know Christ Jesus has set us free from its power over us. We sin, but He is always there to set us aright with grace and mercy. Of course, we absolutely do not deserve it, but that's what makes Him so incredible! In fact, I just don't think Jesus is keeping score in regards to our failures, but I believe He hurts to see His kids struggle, and wants us free.

Can we sin less? Yes indeed! Like I said, focusing on Jesus makes that possible, but the key (at least for me) is that when we do fail, we know we will still be accepted and loved, and can walk in the freedom of knowing He does not condemn us. I know...makes no sense to me either.

Is that a free pass to sin? Well, in a way, we are completely free to sin, but if you are a believer, you know it will only bring torment, denying you of any peace or happiness. So yeah, we can eat the mud pies all we want, but they will never taste good!

Bottom line (at least for me this morning): When I sin (and I do all the time), I must continue to cling to the one who clings to me knowing I am loved and cared for despite my failings. My guilt and shame demands that I run and hide. Jesus beckons me to come to Him, and I know that is the only place of healing.

So will I sin today? Unfortunately, I think it is likely. The question is, then what? My only answer to you and to myself...put down that mud pie, and run to Jesus!