Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

This is what looks is like to not be ashamed of the gospel.

This past weekend, 60-plus youths got together for an evangelism boot camp and took the gospel to the streets of Houston, TX. There were no pews; no fancy church buildings and altars; no professional bands to back them up…only a group of teenagers that understood the command of our God our Savior to go and preach the gospel to the whole of creation.

It turned out to be a great weekend. We were able to proclaim the truth to hundreds of Houstonians through gospel tracts, one-on-one witnessing, and open-air-preaching. There were some that received it with joy and other that received it with anger but we rejoice that the gospel was preached for we know that it is the power of God for salvation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Than Conquerors (Romans 8:37)

Whether it’s the local mega church prosperity pastor promising that we can overcome any obstacles in life or a head coach of a football team boasting that his players will defeat their rivals, we often hear Romans 8:37 contextualized to fit modern day America. Do a quick search of this text on Google and you'll see ministries and churches slapping the first half of the verse on their URL or church building with the second half out, "...through Him who loved us." I think this sums up our poor use of this popular passage.

But let me take you back to the days when Paul wrote this letter. What were his intentions when he told the church in Rome that we are “more than conquerors?”

Here were these precious Romans that came to faith in Jesus Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul knew that his readers would eventually face a horrible and painful death under the oppressive arm of the Emperor Nero. Many would burn at the stake or be mangled and torn to pieces by lions because of their confession of faith.

So what did Paul do? He encouraged his readers that God loved them with an eternal love. And because of this eternal love, their salvation is secure. Although they were to face some of the hardest circumstances a Christian can face, nothing would be able to sever the love that God has towards them. Why? Because it was God who, before the foundations of the world, chose in His sovereignty to graciously work out a divine plan of salvation for His children that would ultimately bring us into His glory. God, being the author and perfector of this divine plan, will not change His mind (Romans 8:29-30). This is why at the end of verse 30, Paul speaks of the believer already glorified (past tense).

And then in verse 31 he asks, “What then shall we say to these things?” In other words, what should be our response in the midst of suffering and in light of the everlasting and unbreakable love that God shows toward us? He then lays out his response and conclusion that despite the opposition we may receive from Satan and the world, we will be able to endure only because God is for us. We were once alienated and enemies of God as seen in Romans 1 but now he has justified us and reconciled us to Himself through the demonstration of His love on the cross. It is within this conclusion that Paul says,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Notice how Paul says “in all these things” and think back to the list of “things” he wrote of in verse 35...the tribulation (outward opposition), distress (inward opposition), persecution (opposition from enemies of the gospel), famine (being utterly deprived), nakedness (poor and destitute), danger (peril), and finally, the sword (death). So in these things, and not in spite of these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And all these sufferings are nothing new to those who have faith in God. Ever since the time of David, God’s people have been led like sheep to the slaughter…and all for His sake (Romans 8:36).

Now compare Paul’s list to the list of the prosperity preacher or football coach…more than conquerors in our finances or at our jobs or more than conquerors in regards to next Sunday’s match-up. We turn this verse into a motivational cliché and use it like fortune cookie theology. Forget suffering and overcoming for His sake, it’s all about conquering petty circumstances for my sake. Tell that to our Christian brothers and sisters who are facing extreme persecution in Korea, China, and all the other countries where it is illegal to worship Christ.

American or not, there is no justification for the twisting of Scripture. When prosperity teachers, and any preachers for that matter, abuse this particular passage, they rob God of His glory in salvation and consequently rob the congregation from realizing this wonderful truth of God’s saving and loving nature. And the truth being that because God, who is the author and perfecter of our faith, loved us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:12). And it is through this eternal love that while our faith is in the midst of trial and tribulation, we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Gospel According to 2Pac

I came across a website for a young adult service that meets to discuss the bible in a q&a session. I was immediately drawn to a statement on their home page.

‘“God ain’t mad at ya” The biggest myth we help people come into realization is just that, God is not mad at you, nor is He turning His back on you because of poor choices. The fact is where sin increased; God’s grace increased all the more, Romans 5:20 (NIV).’

Immediately I thought of Psalm 5:5 where the Psalmist says that “God hates workers of iniquity.”

Several questions popped into my head regarding the pastor’s theology so I sent him an email and questioned him on his belief that God is not angry with the wicked, as well as his use of Romans 5:20 to support this view. There are a few ministries here in Houston that use this same theme to reach the lost. Just check out http://www.godaintmadatya.com/.

I received a lengthy (3 pages) response as the pastor attempted to lay out his position. While I found numerous disagreements on his poor use of Scripture as well as his stance on certain attributes of God, it wasn’t until the his last paragraph that I saw the foundation of his loose and low view of God and His word.

According to every Christian publication plus News Week, this generation only has 14%-17% believers in Jesus and the bible as the infallible truth of God. My generation is 35% and my parent’s generation, the WWII people was 85%. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize if the Church as a whole does not change its ways of confrontation Christianity and begin to teach the grace of God instead of pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye, the church as we know it is close to an end.

So his entire theology is not driven by the truth laid out in God’s word, but by the results of obscure surveys done by secular and Christian publications. His bad theology is just another fruit of the seeker-sensitive movement that considers more of what the public says, rather than what God says.

According to the pastor, it may be the end of the Church as we know it…at least that’s what the surveys suggest. So what does this cause him to do? Water down the truth and make an image of God that is more palatable to his audience so that they won’t be turned. This is a dangerous mindset that leads to all sorts of false teachings and unbiblical methods of reaching the lost.

We do not tamper with God‘s word simply because we aren‘t getting the results we want. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). We are not co-authors but ambassadors for Christ who make an appeal on behalf of Christ…not on behalf of what the public wants, regardless if people are being turned off by the truth or not (2 Corinthians 5:20).

When we do make a decision to change and tweak the gospel for the sake of results, it reveals a few things:
  1. We are not trusting in the sovereignty of God and His plan for salvation. We know that if our message is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3). Who are we to try to convince someone of truth by watering-down the truth and not making it truth after all? It is up to God to give them eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand (John 1:12-13, Acts 16:14).

  2. We are in danger of preaching another gospel, which is no gospel at all! Some of Paul’s serious warnings were against those who were preaching a different gospel(Galatians 1:6-9). Rather than distorting the message to receive the approval of men, we must always remember that the gospel was not taught to us by men but received through a revelation of Jesus Christ from the Holy Spirit. If it’s anyone’s approval we desire, it should be God’s (Galatians 1:10-12).
  3. Our sufficiency is found in statistics, surveys, and man-made methods rather than the Scriptures. When results become our final authority on whether or not our message is effective and true, we undermine God’s word and let the whims and opinions of carnal human beings be our guide.
In the end, we know that as stewards of God’s truth, successful evangelism does not hinge on the hearer’s response. We know that without the ordinance of God, men will not respond to the gospel. We are the givers of truth and God is the giver of faith so successful evangelism is when we preach the biblical gospel in season and out of season in hopes that God will bring sinners to their senses and grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26, 2 Timothy 4:2).

So then what do we do if people are turned off? We preach the gospel. What do we do if it is received well? We preach the gospel. Why? Because we are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)!