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Can We Talk About It

September 19, 2013
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Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said fear drives legalism. Let that sink in. Then asks yourself what about your spiritual life creates fear within you. Fear of it overcoming you or the fear of someone finding it out. I contend it’s that fear that drives you and me into some of the most blind legalistic behavior and rhetoric known to Christendom week to week.

I long for the day when I’m not defensive of my actions nor biblical positions. That feeling is breathtaking. It creates such freedom that is really hard to describe with words. I really believe it’s a spiritual feeling that people must experience in order to understand and relate. But until then, I struggle with fears like the rest of the body of Christ.

I fear not being accepted and liked for who I am. Who am I? I’m a Black Christian man with so many hats that I often forget to take one hat off to reveal all the others. And that’s not by coincidence. I fear being the go-to guy at times. I fear having to step up sometimes.

Can we talk about what we fear in the Church, or are we too cool to be transparent?

I hope this blog inspires you and propels myself to confess my weakness publicly before watching eyes so that they know how much I need Jesus on a daily basis, and I’m never doing enough or working hard enough to arrive at a point where I can tell Jesus, ‘hey Jesus, I got this.’

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Talking At The Problem

September 9, 2013
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I often hear things being said about marriage from Christian folks. There is a great fear that marriage is being robbed of its purity and innocence. I question the last time marriage was pure and innocent. There is a great fear that marriage has lost its definition with the recent Supreme Court rulings and the divorce rate inside and outside the church. As I hear these pleas being made over and over again wrapped in fear dripping of despair, I get the feeling that we’re talking at the problem.

Everybody knows what happens when you talk ‘at’ a problem instead of talking ‘to’ the problem, right? Nothing changes. We choose to remain positive, form popular phrases and clichés about marriage for folks to remember and use in some quinsy manner during a conversation, and go to a marriage conference. And yet things still look grim.

Why not change our approach, talk frankly about marriage, confront these questionable clichés, only be concerned with those inside the Church, and pray more?

At the first church that I really began to grow, soak up good doctrine, and learn how to practically live life, I was taught a serious mistruth that plagued me when it came to my view on marriage. “Happy wife; happy life” was the mistruth. That is such a lie from the pit of hell. That was the running joke amongst married men and those may have desired to get married. I knew nothing about marriage because I grew up in a broken home where marriage wasn’t spoken of in any positive light. So telling me and anyone else for that matter that this is the key to marriage, happy wife; happy life, is beyond unbiblical and logically daunting.

How about we start telling people, obedient wife; happy life. If you can’t say amen, you can say ouch (thanks Voddie). That phrase strikes at the heart of the feminist women whose eyes are bulging and jaw is now twitching. This also exposes the chauvinistic men slightly smirking and relishing in their non-verbal body language. But this is exactly what the Bible teaches, is it not? Wives are called to be obedient in serving their Jesus by submitting to their husbands. Peter even calls them to let their behavior be in such a way that lost husbands are won to the Lord by their wives wise ways.

What about the other side you ask? What about him is my response. All the onus is placed upon the man to ‘learn’ how women are and ‘deal’ with it the best they know how. We even speak this way inside the church on a regular basis. Excuse me folks, but did we forget that marriage is a picture of Christ and His bride? Since this is the prevailing lie being spread in the pews couple to couple, I think it best to expose that lie and give believers something biblical, tangible, logical, and honest to consider instead.

Having an obedient wife can make life happy at times. There’s no guarantee that life will ever be happy. Life with marriage ain’t about happiness, but holiness. It’s not about smiles, but sanctification and finding sufficiency in the life-giver, not in the woman bearing life. The time for us to be candid about this has sailed by. My hope is that we can start afresh and stop telling quirky lies to married couples and singles. Time to let the Bible speak louder.


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When Their Praise Paralyzes You

September 5, 2013
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Is that a frightening title? To call oneself paralyzed, one must be humble and willing to be vulnerably weak. Is that you? I’m writing this blog with myself in mind and others on the backburners. So I mean every single word of this to be directly for me.

One summer day, while playing in a basketball game, I suffered a back injury to the point where back spasms left me laid out on the court. I had just grabbed a rebound, passed the ball out to another guard to push the ball, took a few steps and collapsed. Me knowing that I hadn’t slipped on anything, I mentally told myself to get up and trail the fast break. Only problem was that I couldn’t move. I was in fact paralyzed. Unable to feel the pain, the reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I could not move, and required assistance off the court. For those 10 seconds or so I felt somber, sad, and frightened all at once. I was vulnerable and everybody could see me. No mask to put on. No wall to hide behind. No other person to pretend to be. I just had to face the music.

Have you ever physically been paralyzed due to a spiritual longing to be recognized?

When I use the word paralyzed, I mean it in the most general sense without sole negative connotations. I’m simply taking about hearing words from someone you’ve desired to hear from more than anyone else and it makes you stop in your tracks….and stick your chest out and lift your head up. Or when you hear words from someone and it makes you feel inept and condemned unable to move forward. Has that ever happened to you?

Taking pleasure in people is what I call a way of life. Since we live in this world and are forced to be relational on some scale, we take pleasure in relationships with people and pets. This is in no way, shape, or form a bad thing. Unless it becomes our god. And that’s no small thing. Let me explain.

Beyond the terms of idolatry and adultery, we Christians risk splitting our allegiance and ultimately our hearts desire between the God who is and the god we create. In other words, we fashion our god, the idol, talk it up in our heads and hearts, speak highly of our idol every chance we’re given, spend the most intimate times with our idol, and promise to follow its lead at all cost. See what I mean? It’s no small thing. It’s a titanic sized thing. Our object of affection is no longer the Lord whom we are called to love with every fiber of our being; it’s our idol. We may as well be contestants on American Idol.

It’s that type of allegiance that paralyzes us. We either shine or desire to stand out to make much of ourselves, or we cower in the fear of not meeting one’s expectations. This is no way to live. Where’s the freedom in Christ we used to have? Why do return to the bondslave shackles that so easily entangle us from following our Lord and our God? How long will we continue to form these idols from our hearts? When will we consecrate our lives and limbs to the Creator? What will it take for us to experience godly submission?

These are just questions I’d ask of myself if this occurs to me. And I’m allowing you to look into my personal conversation.


Must Every Christian Evangelize?

September 2, 2013
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This question is huge amongst Christian pastors, brothers and sisters, and the watching world. Much is at stake here in how we answer this.

A former professor at my seminary, Timothy Beougher, has done an awesome job in answering it, so much that I felt rather inadequate to offer up my own take after reading it. I may as well share what he wrote and let you all indulge. Enjoy!

 

Does the Bible require every Christian to evangelize? How we answer this question will radically impact the shape of pastoral ministry and daily discipleship, so it’s imperative to answer it correctly.

ANSWERING TWO COMMON ARGUMENTS

The scriptural answer is “yes.” But I have encountered two main reasons for why some argue the answer is “no.”

1. The Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today.

First, some argue that the Great Commission was only given to the apostles and therefore does not apply to us today. While it is true that contextually the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) was given to the apostles, it was not only for the apostles. The command “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” certainly includes the command to make disciples. D.A. Carson notes that the Great Commission does not record Jesus saying to the apostles, “. . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, except for this commandment to make disciples. Keep their grubby hands off that one, since it belongs only to you, my dear apostles.”[1]

What had Jesus commanded the apostles? Among many other things, he commanded them to preach the gospel to the whole creation. So this command of Jesus given to the apostles also applies to every believer today. In addition, should we try to limit Jesus’ promise “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” as only applying to the apostles, or does it apply to us today?  Certainly it applies to us today!

2. Since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness.

Second, some claim that since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness. Space prohibits a full discussion on the topic of “the gift of evangelism,” but a few observations are in order.

First, evangelism is not recorded in the common spiritual gifts listings in Scripture; instead, the office of evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Some (myself included) question whether “evangelism” should be seen as a distinct spiritual gift, such as giving, serving, and so on.

In addition, even if evangelism is a spiritual gift, it is also a command for all believers, just like giving, serving, and so on. Not having “the gift of evangelism” does not excuse a believer from his or her call to share Christ with others.

FOUR BIBLICAL REASONS WHY EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD EVANGELIZE

Does Scripture mandate that every believer should evangelize? I argue “yes,” for the following four reasons.

1. The commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ

First, the commands to witness are given to all followers of Christ. Acts 1:8, for example, reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This verse gives a command from the risen Lord to all his followers. As John Stott argues, “We can no more restrict the command to witness than we can restrict the promise of the Spirit.”[2]

In writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul maintained,

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

It’s not only apostles that have the ministry of reconciliation and the role of Christ’s ambassadors—all believers do! Other verses that reflect on this ministry of witness for all believers include Matthew 5:14-161 Peter 3:15Philippians 2:14-16Colossians 4:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9.[3]

2. The example of “ordinary believers” in the early church

Second, consider the example of “ordinary believers” in the early church. As we follow the storyline of the early church it is obvious that the apostles sought to evangelize and disciple others. But we see ordinary believers sharing the gospel as well.

Following the stoning of Stephen we read in Acts 8:1, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” And what did those ordinary believers do?  Acts 8:4 tells us:  “Now those who were scattered went about preaching (euangelizomenoi) the word.” They went about sharing the gospel with others.

Noted historian Kenneth Scott Latourette makes this observation about the spread of the gospel:

The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity appear not to have been those who made it a profession or a major part of their occupation, but men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion.[4]

3. The stewardship the gospel imposes on us.

Third, consider the stewardship the gospel imposes on us. Jesus reminds us, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We have been given no greater gift than the gospel, and we have no greater stewardship than to share that message of good news with others. Paul expresses it well in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “for the love of Christ controls us.”

4. The “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4.

Finally, consider what Paul calls “the work of ministry” in Ephesians 4. In this chapter Paul notes different offices in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers). He declares part of the reason God “gifts” the church with such leaders is so they will “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). And we should certainly include evangelism in “the work of ministry.”

Ephesians 4 raises a challenge for pastors: Are we training our people to do evangelism? Are we setting an example for them in our own personal evangelism? Some people run from the idea of evangelism because they assume it means they must be obnoxious and pushy. There are many approaches to sharing the gospel. The only fixed method is the message: telling others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

LEAD BY EXHORTATION AND ESPECIALLY EXAMPLE

Pastors, we can say to our people with confidence, “you are called to be a witness for Christ in both word and deed.” As leaders, let us challenge other believers not only with our exhortations but also with our example.[5] And let us take great confidence in the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

Tim Beougher has served as the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Associate Dean of the Billy Graham School at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1996. He is the author of numerous works, including Richard Baxter and Conversion (Christian Focus, 2007) and Overcoming Walls to Witnessing(BGEA, 1993).

[1] D.A. Carson, “Ongoing Imperative for World Mission,” in The Great Commission:  Evangelicals and the History of World Missions, edited by Martin I. Klauber and Scott M. Manetsch (Broadman & Holman, 2008), 179.

[2] John R.W. Stott, Our Guilty Silence (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), 58.

[3] While the context of 1 Peter 3:15 is what can be called “passive evangelism” (responding to a question that an unbeliever asks), this command is clearly given to all believers “to be ready” to answer when asked.

[4] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity (Harper & Brothers, 1937), 1:116.

[5] Among the many helpful resources for personal evangelism, I highly recommend:  Will Metzger, Tell the Truth; Mark Dever, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism; and J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.


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