Right, Wrong, and Wise

Right or Wrong?  Wouldn’t life be easier if everything were a simple “yes or no”?  Life’s choices would be easier if we right and wrong was always crystal clear.  That, however, is not how life works.

James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Even this verse, which gives a high standard for sin, opens up a discussion that can people can intelligently disagree about.  What does the phrase “knows the right thing” mean?  What are we liable for in our actions and what are we not?

This verse is not actually intended to be the Scriptures total definition of sin (right or wrong).  This passage intended to be a guide.  In other words, when you know the right thing – whether by clear instruction, wisdom given, or leading of the Spirit – and you do not do it, you sin.

Right and wrong are easier to define on certain issues.  Other issues require some thought, discussion, study, and consideration.  The main goal of this blog is to encourage you to seek that wisdom.  This Sunday I am preaching on the topic “who is wise?”  My key text will be Proverbs 14:8, 15.  The idea in this passage is that a wise person “consider his ways.”  The wise person does not just do, they consider.  They consider further than the fork in the road they stand at or the crossroads they find themselves considering.  They consider not just the decision at hand, but where it leads.  They consider their “way.”

The book of Proverbs is a must for a believer.  You need to read and re-read it.  You need to study it and memorize it.  Here is why.

Honoring the Lord requires more than simple right and wrong decisions, it requires wise decisions.

Wisdom is the ability to see beyond simple right and wrong and see better and best.  It is the ability to apply knowledge to a situation.  It is the capacity for a person to consider who they are and who someone else is and make a decision about a situation not based on a universally known right or wrong, but the ability to apply knowledge to a particular situation.

The Proverbs help us learn how to do this.  I hope to share some insight in how to use wisdom.

  1. You must want wisdom to have it. You need to love it and desire to learn it.  (Prov. 19:8)
  2. You must want what is beneficial not just what is permissible. (1 Cor. 10:23) Some applicable examples of this from Probers are the teachings on gluttony, laziness, or alcohol.  Wisdom calls you to consider more than what is wrong to consider what is wise. How does one apply the truth “beer is a brawler and wine a mocker” into your life?  Well you consider the benefit of the drink.  Do I really want to pour some liquid brawler or mocker in me right before I spend time with my spouse that I am already aggravated with?  NO.  Consider the way not just the wrong.  (Prov. 20:1)  Or how does one consider the idea that gluttony and being lazy go together in Scripture?  (Prov. 26:15)  If I have a lot of work to do this afternoon, should I go to the all you can eat Chinese buffet for lunch?  NO – not because of simple wrong, but because of wisdom. 
  3. You must want to honor others above have for yourself.  (Prov. 31:4-5) This is especially true for anyone who leads.  The King should not drink because he has too much responsibility and power to end up foolish.  It is not the right or wrong of the drink but the wisdom to not allow drink to have influence over great power or authority that must be considered.  Consider wisdom not just right and wrong.

I challenge you to become a student of wisdom in Scripture.  So many of life’s decisions are addressed in the wisdom writings.  You must, however, not read them for simple yes/no commands.  God is teaching you wise ways to decide right and wrong along your way.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.  Proverbs 4:7

Keeping Up Appearances

Mask

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”…Proverbs 3:7 (ESV)

It’s been a summer of wisdom at Fellowship Church as we’ve spent the months of June and July exploring the Old Testament’s “wisdom books,” namely Psalms and Proverbs.  As we’ve made the turn to Proverbs this week, we’re zeroing in on the stark contrast at the core of this collection of pithy, memorable sayings- that between (godly) wisdom and (worldly) foolishness.

I think most of us, myself included, really like the idea of wisdom.  Certainly, if given the choice, most of us would rather be described as wise than foolish.  The problem is, though, that God’s brand of wisdom- in reality, the only true wisdom- often seems quite upside down in our world ruined and wrecked by the deception of sin.  Walking in godly wisdom can be costly in the short term- and indeed, all too ironically, may actually earn us to label “fool” from those bought in and caught up in sin’s web of lies.  Given that as the case, here’s the challenging question I want us to consider as we pursue godly wisdom this month and beyond…

Would you rather look foolish for a while, or live foolish forever?

Don’t be too quick to answer now, because while it seems like a softball of a question, our day to day life in this world often betrays the obvious.  Here are a few examples…

  • It looks foolish to many to walk according to God’s high standard of sexual purity, but in the end, the Bible makes clear that destruction awaits those who indulge their every desire for momentary pleasure.
  • It looks foolish to many to be both disciplined and generous with money and material possessions, but in the end, the Bible teaches us that freedom and joy are found not when we hoard, but instead when we give.
  • It looks foolish to many to humbly “consider others better than yourself,” but in the end, that’s how thriving relationships- be it in marriage, in friendship, in the church (or beyond)- are built and sustained.
  • It looks foolish to take risks for the sake of the advance of the Gospel- for example, in places and among people groups that are hostile to it- but in the end, God gets glory and others are set free to follow Jesus through such “dangerous” obedience.

The truth is, we live in a world that regularly runs hard down paths that the Bible calls “foolish”- and in doing so, actually considers themselves to be “wise…enlightened…and progressive.”  I’m more and more convinced that the most significant problem we face isn’t even the specific choices we make, but the deep rooted spirit of pride that underlies them.  C.S. Lewis wrote about this very thing in his classic work, The Screwtape Letters (written from the perspective of an experienced demon seeking to draw humans away from God)…

“The Enemy (in Screwtape’s language, this refers to God) loves platitudes.  Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; Is it righteous?  Is it prudent?  Is it possible?  Now if we can keep men asking, ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time?  Is it progressive or reactionary?  Is this the way that history is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. 

And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them make.  As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on.  And great work has already been done…For the descriptive adjective “unchanged,” we have substituted the emotional adjective “stagnant.” (138-39)

Is this not a striking depiction of the age in which we live, and the kind of thinking in which we often find ourselves caught up?  Rather than asking the “simple” questions presented by God in the Bible, we expend our energies navel-gazing and analyzing how our choices- be they about sex, money, family, politics, authority, or anything else- will appear to the observing world around us.  We so desperately want to be perceived as “wise…enlightened…and progressive” that we will often forfeit the ability to actually be these things in the eternal reality of God.

I want to examine yourself humbly and honestly this week, and ask God to show you how many of your words and actions in a given day are subject to what pastor and author John Ortberg terms “impression management.”  Take a long, hard look at your conversations, at your social media posts, and at the choices you make as an individual or as a family.  Ask yourself, “Now where did I get the idea to say or do that?”  And if the honest answer is that it came from anywhere other than God or a trusted, godly source, ask yourself if you’re really walking in wisdom there, or if you are simply acting out of the fear of looking foolish in front of others.

I like the way pastor and author Mark Batterson talks about this- “If you aren’t willing (as a Jesus follower) to look foolish, you’re foolish.  Faith requires a willingness to look foolish.”  I don’t know the specifics of your situation, and where and how God may be leading you to “look foolish” in the world’s eyes to follow Him in trust and obedience.  But I do know this- It would be the pinnacle of foolishness to turn aside from His voice and “go with the flow” of competing voices instead.  The question is- Are you willing to trust, and act in accordance with, the conviction that God’s ways really are the best ways…even when that’s difficult to see in the temporary?

So back to the question we began with- Would you rather look foolish for a while, or live foolish forever?  I challenge you today to abandon the exhausting effort of “keeping up appearances,” and simply listen to the voice of the Father, trusting Him to lead you into wisdom and its benefits.  He may take you some places you never thought you’d go, but in the end, it’s a road- indeed, the only road- that leads to real life.

 

Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death!

Breaking chain

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”…Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

“Give me liberty, or give me death!”  What comes to mind when you read or hear this declaration?  Is it not the rallying cry of the American Revolution, expressed famously by Patrick Henry in response to the tyranny of the British crown?  200+ years after the winds of revolution blew through the thirteen colonies to bring about the birth of a nation, there is still something about freedom– not just as a political theory, but as a lived experience- that stirs the spirit, doesn’t it?

As tremendous a thing as it is to celebrate the blessing of American independence today, though, what we find when we read the Bible’s New Testament is that liberty is an idea that far transcends- and long pre-dates- the story of a single nation-state, American or otherwise.  The Apostle Paul’s letters, in particular, contend with stubborn intensity for the primacy of the unique, unmatched freedom that is found only in a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  And nowhere is this argument advanced more forcefully than in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

To provide a bit of backstory, Paul had launched the church at Galatia on one of his missionary journeys across Asia Minor, or what we now know as the Mediterranean rim stretching from the northern Middle East into far eastern Europe.  In the time that lapsed between the church’s birth and the time of Paul’s writing, a group of false teachers known as the “Judaizers” had risen to prominence and began to lead the new Jesus followers astray.

Specifically, they argued that repentance from sin and faith in Jesus weren’t sufficient to make someone right with God, but that instead there must be additional works performed to complete one’s salvation.  These works found their roots in the Old Testament Jewish law, and included ritualistic cleansing laws, strict dietary restrictions, and circumcision (!).  There began to be an “insider/outsider” division in the church between those who submitted to such laws and those who did not.  As you might expect, this led to two major problems- deep seated disunity between supposed Jesus followers along ethnic lines, and doctrinal doubts that threatened to undermine the Galatians’ confidence in the Gospel message itself.

In light of this, Paul goes to great lengths to fight for this church’s freedom in Jesus Christ.  Recognizing that works-based religion is the “default mode” of the human heart (a thought that reformer Martin Luther would revisit over 1500 years later), Paul takes his readers back time and again to the Gospel reality that our standing before God is not- and can never be– based on any work of our own, but solely on the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus.  As Paul explains, this isn’t just an empty theory, but something meant to be a lived experience each and every day.  So what are some of the practical ways that we experience Gospel freedom in the “ins and outs” of life in this world…

  • Gospel freedom means hope in the face of your struggles. Because Jesus has set us free from the power of sin, we no longer have to resign ourselves to a life void of deep level transformation.  Whatever your unique sin struggle, the power of Jesus Christ within you affords you the ability to overcome it and walk in righteousness.
  • Gospel freedom means grace in the face of your failures. Because of the finished work of Jesus, your failures no longer define you; His victory does!  This means that even when you fall short of God’s standard (and don’t we all?), His grace is available and sufficient to restore you into right fellowship with Him to keep you moving forward.  To experience this, of course, requires honesty, humility, and repentance.
  • Gospel freedom means humility in the face of your successes. We often don’t think of this as much, but it is no less powerful- and no less important.  Pride is such a vicious prison; it requires you to constantly “keep up appearances” to manage the image you want to project to the world around you.  Christ-centered humility frees us from such compulsive impression management and enables to serve God and others without obsessing over what they think of us.
  • Gospel freedom means courage in the face of uncertainty, and even danger. There are times when God will call you, as a part of His family, to say and do things that are well outside your proverbial “comfort zone.”  So how can you muster the courage to trust and obey in these moments?  By recognizing that your calling is not based on your qualifications, but on His; that your obedience is not made possible by your ability, but by His; and that your success is not defined by your visible results, but by your faithfulness to His

So what’s the alternative to Gospel freedom?  As Paul puts it, a “yoke of slavery.”  “Slavery” trades in the hope of the Gospel for a “try harder, do better” message that put all the focus not on Jesus, but on self.  The net effect of this is not a growing love for God and delight in righteousness, but a begrudging spirit that never can seem to measure up.  God quickly becomes a cruel taskmaster to appease, rather than a kind, compassionate Father to love.

On this Independence Day, my hope and prayer for you is that you’ll live in the freedom that Jesus has made possible for you through the Gospel- and that the result will be ever increasing joy for you, and ever increasing glory for God in and through your life!

Freedom

Preparations are underway around our country to celebrate Independence Day. Chances are if you’re not on the road to a vacation, you have something in the fridge to grill next week. There is always plenty of excitement around any day you celebrate with fireworks, but did you know that this July Fourth marks the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence? Let us be intentional not to take our freedom for granted.

We live in the land of the free, and the home of the brave. We have freedom to do what we want to do and say what we want to say.  We have so many freedoms in America. People long to come to America because we live in freedom. So, what freedom is it that you most look forward to celebrating this Fourth of July?

Reading Ephesians 6, we should be convicted of the urgency to know God well in the present and be as completely prepared as possible for whatever may come in the future. In Ephesians 6:10-17, followers of Christ are commanded to put on the full armor of God. Here are just a couple of the verses from this portion of the scripture, 11“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Our battle is oftentimes an unseen one. Let us not be unaware that we too are caught up in it. We are in a battle for precious souls. Be prepared; 13 “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm . . . .17 and take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

This fourth of July I will give thanks for all of the sweat and sacrifice that makes, creates, and sustains these United States of America. And I will be celebrating my freedom to worship the One and Only, True Living God. I will be celebrating my freedom to teach my children the ways of the Lord. I will be celebrating the freedom to read, study, meditate, and memorize the Scripture. And be sure that I will be celebrating the freedom to help my children do the same.

Why? I do not want to take today’s freedom for granted because though they are protected, the future is not guaranteed. There could come a day where we no longer live in the freedom that we enjoy today. God willing, the day will never come where we do not have the freedom to worship and study God’s Word. It is vital that we know God’s Word! Treasure it this Independence Day.

Have you given up on the Gospel?

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

Do you believe that Jesus Christ will finish what He started in you?  Do you believe he will finish his work in others?  I mean truly finish it.

Salvation is not simply a rescue from eternal perishing – although it is that.   Salvation is the reality that we are “new creations.”  We know the Bible teaches that the “old is gone and the new has come.”

But, if we as followers of Christ are not careful, we actually give up on the Gospel.  We give up on the reality that the Gospel works.  We give up on Jesus actually changing us (and others).

I teach our church to “keep it real.”  This means to be authentic with one another.  If we are not careful though, being authentic can become an excuse to feel comfortable sharing one’s sin struggles not being challenged to seek victory over it in Christ.  “Keeping it real” is just as much about having people and a place that you can share with others the sin struggles in your life, as it is about being told by those same people that Jesus changes things.  Being authentic and real does not lower the standard of the Gospel, it empowers it.

David in Psalm 51 cries out to God to blot out his transgressions.  He begs God to renew in him a right spirit.  Does repentance look like this in your life?  Are you actually expecting God to change you?  Are you actually expecting the Gospel to have power in your life today?

What about others?  Have you begun excusing sin instead of expecting change?  We live in a culture where Christians are completely abandoning the moral teachings of the Bible when it comes to marriage, sexuality, gluttony, and other behaviors.  Christians often would rather celebrate someone’s happiness in their sin than proclaim the real changing power of Christ.

The Gospel does not change situations or standards…the Gospel changes sinners to saints.

We sell the Gospel short by saying grace means that God loves you like you and that you do not have to change.  When in all actuality it is the Gospel that changes you.  It is the power of God unto salvation.  I have grieved watching once faithful followers of Christ absolutely abandon the Gospel itself by choosing to placate to sin in their lives or the lives of others instead of holding to the finishing power of Christ.

I challenge you to read Psalm 51 and really dive into what repentance looks like.  Not only what it sounds like, but what it looks like after the act of repentance.  What should the penitent person expect to happen in their life and the lives of others?  David asked for the joy of his salvation to be returned.  He asked God to create a pure heart in him.  David came broken by his son but asking to be built again.  He expected God to build something better and different.  He expected to change.

Do you believe that Jesus changes people or that he leaves people like they are? Do you believe the Gospel means that no matter what sin pattern and behavior your life is currently trapped in, that if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord you can and will find deliverance and freedom?

I challenge you to stop giving up on the Gospel in your life and expect to change.  Stop quitting on your friends and loved ones by accepting their sin as a good thing and proclaim to them that God’s grace means Jesus changes people.  Quit pretending that you have somehow progressed in your thinking to understand the Gospel means God does not care about sin.

If you are celebrating sin instead of proclaiming the power of Christ…If you are backing down on Biblical standards instead of speaking salvation in the Savior…If you have come to grips with your weakness instead taken hold of his power to change you…you have given up on the Gospel.   You have bought into a sad Gospel substitute where grace is cheap, powerless, and empty.

The Gospel means God cared about sin so much he sent his son to die for it.  He raised him from the dead for it.  And he has sent the Spirit to now convict us of sin and righteousness in our lives.

Don’t give up on the Gospel.  Expect God to do what he said he would do and he said he would finish what he started in you and in others.

God has not given up…neither should we.

The Southern Baptist Convention Takes On The Alt-Right: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What It Means For Us

I Am A Man

Last Wednesday, at its annual gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning all forms of racism in America, targeting specifically what has become known over the past year as the “alt-right” white nationalist movement.

This was undoubtedly a significant moment for a body that was- tragically, but truthfully- born and built in the 19th century on an expressly pro-slavery position, and has a checkered history on issues of racial equality and justice.  At the same time, for those who have been paying attention not just to the SBC’s past but to its recent present and seeming future, the move shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Last week’s resolution marked the third consecutive year that the body has taken up the cause of racial reconciliation in its gathering, immediately following last June’s condemnation of the Confederate battle flag.  The convention is growing more diverse in more ways than one, and rising SBC leaders- while maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical authority and traditionally held convictions- have proven increasingly eager to speak out prophetically on a broader range of social and moral issues, with none more prominent than race.

So why are we talking about this anyway?  Two reasons…

1- Southern Baptists represent America’s second largest organized Christian body, surpassed only by Roman Catholics, and are therefore a leading voice of influence among American Christians, especially in the Southeastern US.

2- Fellowship Church is affiliated with the SBC, meaning that we voluntarily hold to the convention’s statement of belief (Baptist Faith & Message 2000) and that we voluntarily contribute financially to the convention’s collective missions and ministry efforts across North America and around the world.

That being the case, I think it is vitally important that we (a) understand what happened last week in Phoenix, (b) identify why it matters, and (c) consider what it means for us as followers of Jesus gathered together in this community.  First, take a few moments to read the full text of the resolution for yourself…

RESOLUTION 10
ON THE ANTI-GOSPEL OF ALT-RIGHT WHITE SUPREMACY

WHEREAS, Scripture teaches, “From one man [God] has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26); and

WHEREAS, The Psalmist proclaimed, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1); and

WHEREAS, The Apostle Peter said, “God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34–35); and

WHEREAS, Our justification before God is based on faith in Christ Jesus alone and not in our ethnicity
(Galatians 3:27–28); and

WHEREAS, Scripture proclaims that Jesus is purchasing by His blood believers “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9); and

WHEREAS, Throughout eternity we will gather with a “multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” in worship of our risen Savior (Revelation 7:9); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message conveys that all Christians are obligated to make the will of Christ supreme in their own lives and in human society, opposing all forms of racism, selfishness, and vice, and bringing government and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love; and

WHEREAS, We know from our Southern Baptist history the effects of the horrific sins of racism and hatred; and

WHEREAS, In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention repudiated “historic acts of evil, such as slavery,” committed “to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry,” and “genuinely repent[ed] of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously”; and

WHEREAS, In recent years the Convention has nominated and elected individuals from a variety of ethnicities, including electing our first African-American president in 2012; and

WHEREAS, In recent resolutions the Southern Baptist Convention called on “all Christian men and women to pray and labor for the day when our Lord will set all things right and racial prejudice and injustice will be no more” (2014); expressed continued grief “over the presence of racism and the recent escalation of racial tension in our nation” (2015); and urged fellow Christians to discontinue using the Confederate battle flag, acknowledging that it is “used by some and perceived by many as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, offending millions of people” (2016); and

WHEREAS, More than 20 percent (nearly eleven thousand) of our cooperating Southern Baptist congregations identify as predominately non-Anglo and for the last three years more than 50 percent of Southern Baptist new church plants have been predominately non-Anglo; and

WHEREAS, B&H Academic recently published Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, highlighting our continuing need to root out vestiges of racism from our own hearts as Southern Baptists; and

WHEREAS, Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is critical to note that despite some initial procedural difficulties getting the resolution to a floor vote, support for this statement and the convictions it expresses was, by all accounts, unanimous among the near-5,000 voters present.  In other words, this is no “fringe segment” of the convention, but rather a solidly representative group of Baptist leaders and laypeople from across the entire nation.

This is obviously a significant statement saturated with Gospel truth and anchored deeply in God’s Word.  Before delving into why the “alt-right” movement is described above as not only racist, but also “anti-Gospel,” let me clarify what a convention resolution is and is not.  Given that all Baptist churches exist autonmously- that is, outside of any formal hierarchy- resolutions are non-binding on individual congregations such as Fellowship.  They are position statements, not orders.

In Baptist life, it is our opportunity- and let it be noted, our responsibility- to examine all such statements through a biblical lens and respond to them accordingly.  That being the case, how should we think about- and even more importantly, what should we do about- this strongly worded, much talked about resolution at an individual and local level?  Let’s consider this together…

  • Most significant (in my view) is the resolution’s incisive identification of “alt-right white supremacy” as not only inherently and thoroughly racist, but “anti-Gospel.” That’s a pretty serious charge, wouldn’t you say?  So does it hold up to biblical scrutiny, based on our understanding what the “Gospel” is?  I would answer, without hesitation, yes.  Here’s why…
    • The Bible teaches that all men and women were created in God’s image. This places all racial and ethnic groups of equal value before God.  None are inherently superior- or inferior- to any other.
    • The Bible teaches that the fundamental problem of our lives is sin– not the absence of a particular racial or ethnic identity, be it white or any other. All have sinned.
    • The Bible teaches God’s solution to our sin problem is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even setting aside the fact that Jesus Himself was not white, it is critical to recognize the racial and ethnic universality of His saving work.  His sinless life is credited to all who believe, regardless of race; His sacrificial death is sufficient for all who trust, regardless of ethnicity; His victorious resurrection is a triumph for all who surrender, regardless of national identity.
    • The Bible teaches start to finish that God is deliberately building a church and a Kingdom that is global in scope, encompassing “every tribe, language, people, and nation.” His Kingdom transcends all earthly kingdoms and overcomes all earthly barriers.  Such a beautifully diverse Kingdom magnifies His glory supremely.
  • Thinking practically, it is not difficult to see how racist or nationalistic ideologies undermine the local church’s ability to faithfully fulfill her mission, or (in the positive) how potentially powerful it is when a local church commits to reflect and pursue the far-reaching, God-glorifying diversity which our Creator intended. Particularly in the tense, divisive days in which we live today not only in our nation, but across the globe, it is a phenomenal “counter cultural” witness to the watching world when the church is a leading voice and example of what racial healing, unity, and cooperation can look like through the power of the biblical Gospel.

That said, how can you put into practice individually- and how can we put into practice corporately as a church- the convictions expressed in this resolution?  This is admittedly a long haul conversation, not something that will be solved with a quick fix of any kind.  But here are a few ideas of stir our thinking today…

  • We must first recognize and repent of any racial or ethnic prejudice that exists within our own hearts and minds. So often, especially on hot button issues such as this one, we all too quickly look to point the finger at others without “keeping it real” about our own struggles.  I get that it can be incredibly uncomfortable to own up to your sin, but we simply cannot move forward with any integrity or influence without first getting our own house in order before God and before others.
  • We must also become- much as the SBC has done nationally- become a prophetic voice in our community as to the “anti-Gospel” of all racism, and in this cultural, specifically of “alt-right white supremacy.” Where we encounter it- be it within our own congregation, or in the community at large- we must be bold in confronting it as a grievous sin and pointing to the Bible’s clear teaching on the universality of the image of God, the problem of sin, and the solution of the Gospel.
  • We must work hard to understand- and empathize with- the unique challenges and struggles experienced by minority groups. I believe this happens through the intentional cultivation of relationships with those of diverse backgrounds, as well as a willingness to ask questions that may not have particularly easy or comfortable answers.  We simply must have the humility to listen to those who are different than us, and seek genuine understanding before self-justification.
  • We must always, always, always anchor our words and actions firmly in God’s Word, not our own opinions or the sway of surrounding culture. It is easy to get swept up in the emotional frenzy of a social media driven world, but our convictions as Christians ought to run much deeper than simply the controversy of the week.  As the SBC resolution demonstrates with tremendous clarity, this is without question a Gospel issue, and one that is undoubtedly worth fighting for.  But to do that faithfully, we must do the work necessary to understand why that is so- not just because it makes us feel good, or feel like we “fit in” to our cultural surroundings.
  • Most of all, we must maintain a steadfast commitment to our God-given mission- “to make disciples of all nations.” Racism and nationalism simply can’t be harbored in our hearts if that mission is going to be pursued and completed.  To reach all, we must love and value all- just as God does. To teach all, we must come eye to eye with Bible’s clear teaching on these issues- and be prepared to be “doers of the Word, not hearers only,” while calling others who identify as Jesus followers to do the same.  Further, we must commit ourselves to making the most of every opportunity for cross-cultural partnerships in this global mission, not viewing or treating our minority brothers and sisters as mission projects, but rather as mission partners.

It is a massive task to attempt to take on such a weighty issue in a limited space like this one, but my hope and prayer is that what you’ve read here today will spark in you a response of repentance (where it is needed), compassion (because it is always needed), and a humble, passionate commitment to engage this issue through a Gospel framework.  I encourage and challenge you to take some time this week to dig into the biblical teaching on this issue on your own.  Allow God’s Word to speak for itself, and be ready to receive it and put it into practice as it does!

If you have additional questions, or would like to engage in further conversation on this issue, I encourage you to contact me at tblount@fellowshipchurch.cc

Great and Greatly

To Wise Up…Look Up!

This simple statement inspired by Proverbs 1:7 is the driving truth behind our summer series “Wise Up.”  We are preaching on Psalms and Proverbs all summer and we invite you to read through these two wisdom writings through this reading plan.

Psalm 96 teaches us some wonderfully wise truths about worship.

It is wise to praise what is praise-worthy.
Whether it is in our worship of the one True God or in our appreciation for one another praise that which is praise-worthy is simply wise.  The wise person speaks the praise of that which deserves to whom deserves it.

Psalm 96:4 makes this point abundantly clear.  “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”

God is not great because he is greatly praised.  God is greatly praised because he is great.
The wise person greatly praises the Lord because it is simply the only right response to the greatness of God.  If there were no other reason than his greatness, we should still praise Him, but not only is he great, he is good.

This week there has been much online and on-air chatter about who is great.  The NBA Finals has sparked some odd and strange dialogue.  The defeat of Lebron James and his Cavaliers causes some to denounce his greatness as a player while others diminish the greatness of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson because they all play on a team together.  The conversation about who is the greatest players will simply continue and the opinions will grow in number.  Why?  None of these players have a greatness that separates them in every way from everything else.  God is so great he is different.  He is unique.  There is literally none like him.   Not even close.

Yet, I would say the wise sportscaster or social media commentator would be willing to acknowledge each player for their individual talents.  Truthfully, they are all great basketball players.  The wise man is willing to praise what is praise-worthy.

God simply desires what God deserves.
God desires, and therefore demands, our praise.  Why?  He deserves it.  He desires it because it is right and he wants you to be right with Him.  He desires this so much that he gave his one and only son that if you would believe in Him you would not perish but have eternal life.

Praise that is honors what is praise-worthy includes works and words.
Psalm 96:6 instructs us to “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
This literally means give God glory and strength.  The issue is that God is already all-powerful and absolutely glorious.  He does not need your glory or your strength – but he deserves it.

We worship the Lord honorably when our worship with our words matches the worship with our works.  We serve the Lord with words by “declaring his glory among the nations” and “his marvelous work among all the peoples.”  We honor him with our words when we “tell of his salvation from day to day.”  (These are quotes from Psalm 96:1-3)

We give to him strength by serving him with all our of our life.  God rebukes His people in Isaiah by telling them you “honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.”  The heart that is truly for God leads to words from our mouths and works from our hands and lives that bring God the glory he deserves.

I have a challenge for you.

Greatly praise the God that is great.  Read the Psalms and Proverbs with us this summer.  Write a psalm and share it with us.  Serve the Lord with your hands and your heart.  Speak his truth to those far from him and sing his truth among those who love him.

Click this link to check out the sermon from Sunday on this passage.

 

Opportunities to Worship with Words –
Sundays 9 & 10:45 every Sunday.
Students grade 6-12 – Wednesdays at 6 PM.  (Although not tonight due to VBS)
Kids – VBS today and tomorrow at both campuses – Airline 9-11:30 AM / Prairieville 6-8:30

Opportunities to Worship with Work –
Geaux Day – June 24