26 February 2010

Are we Relavant? Is the Gospel Relavant?

How Do You Reach a Generation With no Christian Heritage?
Acts 3:19

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

I was having a great discussion with some co-workers yesterday. What we were bantering about was each of our particular looks or understandings of our own spirituality. While it was invigorating, and certainly tested my skills in the area of witnessing and defending my faith, it was troubling at the same time.

When I went to school winter break was called what it really is; Christmas vacation. Spring Break was called what it is; Easter Vacation. We had morning prayer, we took field trips to churches and the Pope's speeches were sometimes shown on TV in class. We had religious school plays, we talked about our faith in school, and for the most part, we all had a general understanding of the bible. As Bob Dylan once said, "The times, they are a changing'".

As I shared with the guys from work, what I found was that I had to spend a great deal of time explaining the most fundamental things about the bible to them to even begin to make any point whatsoever. Now I do not personally begrudge these guys for not knowing scripture; the problem was that I was assuming they knew. And that's my fault.

For all my life up to this point, I have been working under the assumption that a bible discussion could be had with just about anyone and you could interact with a basic knowledge of scripture. In other words, most people can name the four gospels; they know who Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were. They know the story of Moses, Noah Sampson and Jonah. Most people knew where the Jordan River was, who Pontius Pilate was, and what a Roman Centurion was. They had heard the terms salvation, 'saved', and transfiguration meant something other than what happens to the yellow Camaro. And yes, most people knew that the immaculate conception was not a pass caught by Franco Harris in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders.

Today, we can no longer make these assumptions. The generation of children being raised today do not know the stories of their Christian heritage. The federally funded indoctrination... uh-hum, education systems go out of their way to teach Afro-American, Asia-American and Native-American heritages to our children, even dedicating whole months of time to the project. But no public school teaches (or is permitted to teach) the true heritage of this great nation; it's Christian Heritage.

The guys I was sharing with struggled to understand or take in what I was attempting to share because there was no basis for a common understanding. We hear much talk of being 'relevant' to our communities and to our generation. Unfortunately, to many churches today relativism is more important than truth teaching, and standing firm on dogmatic biblical doctrine. In other words, it is more important that they stay relevant to the current generation, than it is to be teaching the uncompromised word of God as dogmatic absolutes. The problem with this is that truth is always relative, and truth is what this generation desires more than perhaps any generation before it.

There is much work to be done. It will take us longer. The world will be harder. But if there is any benefit to e generation lost to the teachings of its Christian heritage, it is that the affect I see it having is that it is forcing us to build more intense, closer personal relationships with the people we are witnessing to. Just as Jesus did with His disciples.

There is only one thing that will bring peace and refreshing to this generation that needs it so badly. Truth. We must give it to them in love, and we must keep giving it to them as long as we have the opportunity to do so. We are perhaps the most privileged generation because we get the chance to do God's work in what are surely the end times. Let us not be caught with no oil in our lamps. Let us not be caught not bring at His work, or burying out talants.

Be Found Worthy

Philippians 1:27

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

In the eighth grade, records will show that I got suspended from school. Official report: I was involved in a fight. Fighting is not permitted; therefore you are suspended. Well, that's the result two good friends getting together before class and one giving the other the classic 'Dutch-rub'. I was on the receiving end of the rub, not that that matters. It looks like a fight to a teacher who already has it out for you and is just looking for a reason to bring down the hammer. Yes, I know this was in the seventh grade and that was 32 years ago and most people will say that I am an adult now (most...), but we seldom forget when an injustice is done against us. Injustices are things we tend to remember.

I mentioned the other night in our mid-week bible study that as believers we have targets on our backs. People who know we are Christians are watching. Of those who are watching, some are believers, and some are not believers. These days, sadly, it is hard to say which group wants you to fail more. But the point is, you are a marked man (or woman) the moment you accept Jesus. Up to this point the devil has had you right where he wants you, and so no reason for extra focus coming from. Since you have confessed to follow Jesus, now there is reason for focus. People will be watching you to determine of you make a mistake, or do something that goers against the tenants of Christianity so they can play the 'ah-HAH!' card and call you a hypocrite. Others from within the church will wait for you to make a mistake so that they can feel better about themselves in their spiritual immaturity.

We will make mistakes. We will find ourselves standing in opposition to God and His will in our lives from time to time. Finding ourselves there does not define us as a hypocrite or a failure as a Christian. It simply defines us as human. It is what we do when we are facing an understanding that we are in a sinful situation that defines us. And that is the greater issue at hand.

People will see you mess up. OK, no problem. It's easy to reason that out with a 'let ye who is sinless cast the first stone type attitude' in order to let ourselves deal with the failure and move on. It's also easier for observers who confront you to understand that as well. Whether they will admit it or not, they have had failures too. But when the observer sees you continue in that sin, that you have given the fuel for their fire, and reason to bring out the hypocrite label.

The gospel is not a message of 'those who fail will go to hell'. That's NOT good news. That instead is very bad news, but critical none the less. We need to know that rejection of Jesus as your only way to heaven and the only way to the Father leads to eternal damnation. Yes, there is a hell, it is so not pleasant there, and if you do not fully accept the gospel and Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you WILL go there for eternity. Not a pretty picture. Rather, the gospel IS good news, and our observers need to know that the good news includes forgiveness, and that by the grace of God we can move forward in our lives setting our path firmly in God's will.

The gospel is not there for perfect people. It is there for sinners; for you, me, and those who are watching us. That being the case, we need to live in such a way that we are found worthy of it. Being found worthy of the gospel is living in such a way that when you find yourself in sin, that you take into account that Jesus does for you and for the forgiveness of that sin, and then make corrections in your life so that this does not happen again. We need to commit to God's will, and not our own. This is how we honor and respect Jesus for His sacrificial and painful death on the cross: by living a life worthy of that sacrifice. Living a life where self is sacrificed and we die to our own will daily.

Jesus is not living on the earth right now like He was in the time of the disciples lives. My Dad was not with me when I got into that fight in school. Had my Dad been there, I'm certain I would not have been behaving in such a manner as I was, that caused me to get suspended. In one moment of projected wisdom from my Dad that will never forget me, he told me this: "You act as if I were always standing right beside you, and you'll not get into the trouble you are getting into now." He was right. I would never have done half of the things I did in school if my Dad we standing right beside me. The trouble is, Jesus is with us always, living in us by the means of the Holy Spirit and we still act like school kids getting into trouble.

Whether Jesus is with us or not, we need to act in a manor worthy of Him. So that when He does come, neither we, nor He will be embarrassed at the moment. Live a life worthy of the gospel.