Our culture is obsessed with the notion of choice. This becomes especially apparent when you’ve been out of the country for a while. I can remember returning to the states after spending a couple of months in the hills of Northern Thailand and Burma. My first trip to Target was overwhelming. I distinctly recall standing on the toothpaste isle overcome. There must have been 40 different choices. I felt immobilized by the number of options. However, it didn’t take long for me to settle back into the decision-driven, choice-filled ways of our culture. We have an abundance of choice in America. This past week when I was in Texas, our rental car had XM satellite radio. There were 100s of channels to pick from. There was XM1 and XM2 including a station for every major city, news station and even sports teams. Cable TV offers well over a 150 channels and that’s not even the deluxe package. Much of our time is spent weighing our options, balancing pros and cons, whether it’s picking out toothpaste, choosing what channel to watch, renting a movie or selecting what college course to take. Americans spend more time shopping than any other society. They frequent shopping malls more often than houses of worship and 93% of teenage girls say that shopping is their favorite activity. So, in a decision-driven culture what frequently figures foremost is our life choices, US! He is a means to an end, the end of our choices. In fact, comparison shopping fuels the sense of self, the rush of choice, the power of purchasing. It is inevitable that this shopping-soaked, decision-driven culture will influence our perception of God and his will.
Projecting our consumerism and decision-driven lifestyles onto God’s will, we continue our obsession with choice. We seek God for answers, directions, “wisdom” BUT we do not seek God for God! We end up treating God like a Mall Information Booth Attendant. He is not a person to relate to, to know, to understand and enjoy, to worship; He is there to give us direction. We cry out to God, “Just show me where the GAP is so I can get there!” Other times we treat God like a comparison shopping chart or website. He exists to help us line up the products and possibilities of life, compare and contrast their features and options, and wallah- we make our choice! God is not the ultimate comparison shopping chart or website, dispensing wisdom for us to make decisions about what kind of toothpaste, computer, or movie we want to buy or what elective to take. God’s will for us is infinitely greater than supplying directions or narrowing down choices. Desiring help in deciding what God wants us to do with the myriad of choices set before us is understandable. Life is complex and God is sovereign and wise. And yes, God is sovereign over every hair of your head, but does not mean that He is constrained to tell you where it will part or fall. Often God is not primarily concerned so much with what we choose but how we choose it and with whom. God’s will for us is much greater than helping us execute a series of decisions to be made in mapping out our lives. Which raises the question, what is His will and how do we respond to it?
This past Sunday I began my position as Interim Preacher for Covenant Chapel of Manchester, CT The church is a young, vibrant, ethnically diverse church. Primarily composed of second generation Korean-Americans, Covenant Chapel is a warm and inviting place to worship. Emmanuel Chang, the worship leader, leads a very talented band. I haven’t worshipped like I do at Covenant Chapel in some time.
Sermons will begin being posted online within the next few weeks. We are deeply grateful to God for the people of CC and anticipate great things through our time there. The interim is for six months, ending approximately in May. I would appreciate your prayers, if you think of me on Sundays. Sermon preparation every week is a new endeavor.
Looking to future grace…
We want Christ to be central in who we are and what we do because he is the reason we exist (Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3, 2; Cor 3:18, 4:6). It is only through Christ that we can redemptively engage anyone or anything (Col 3.17). Thus, Christ is both the means and the model of Spirit-led discipleship. As the means of Spirit-led discipleship, it is in Christ alone that anyone can experience the transforming power of redemption (Act 4.12; Eph 1.7; Col 1.14). Moreover, through Christ’s death and resurrection his disciples are given his Spirit to empower them for Christ-imitating living, for engaging peoples and cultures with the gospel (Jn 16.7, 13). As the model of Spirit-led discipleship, Jesus followed the Spirit into trial and triumph, burdens and blessings (Lk 4.1ff). In Jesus, we observe a redemptive engagement with people and cultures in contexts of adversity and acceptance. He crossed cultural and ethnic boundaries to share His love and the offer of eternal life (Jn 4.1ff). He critiqued religious practices (Jn 2.14-17) and praised secular ones (Lk 7.2-9; 20.25; Rom 13.1-7). Jesus sought the redemption of institutions and individuals. Therefore, when we speak of “redemptively engaging peoples and cultures through Christ,” we are recognizing that our discipleship is grounded in Jesus. He is the means and the model of our faith!
Vision Statement – Part III (this is especially rough)
Because we have been ‘bought with a price’, we live in the world differently; we engage it redemptively. This does not mean that we do the redeeming; that is God’s job. Rather, we are agents or ambassadors of the redemption secured by Christ. Through his blood, Christ has reconciled all things to himself, peoples and cultures (Col 1.20). It is this blood-bought reconciliation that we have been commissioned to announce and act upon. Therefore, when we encounter people and cultures that do not show evidence of redemption, we engage them redemptively. This means that we consider people and culture from the perspective of the Redeemer. We consider ethics and activities from the viewpoint of Scripture, resulting in any number of responses: celebration, consideration, critique and condemnation. However, our evaluations of the ethics and estate of peoples and cultures (ours and others) should not be reduced to theoretical estimation. As agents of reconciliation, we carry the imperative of proclaiming redemption in Christ. Through Him, we can offer hope and healing to those aspects of life and society that are in desperate need of transformation. Not one people group or culture is to be overlooked in our pursuit of the redemption of the world, because Christ has purchased our praise and our products, our songs and our stuff, our worship and our work for his everlasting glory and honor (Isa 60; Rev 5.9; 21.22-27).
This redemptive witness, the gospel of Christ, is about justice, God’s justice. God’s justice entails both a vertical and horizontal dimension. The unchurched, unbelieving peoples of the world need to be vertically reconciled to God through Christ, in whom God’s just demands have been satisfied. This witness testifies to God’s infinite and divine justice in Christ’s perfect life and death. At the same time, it also testifies to his great mercy in Christ’s incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and intercession.
This vertical dimension of God’s justice cannot stand alone. The only way that our witness can be Christ-exalting is if justice is established both vertically and horizontally. A Christ-exalting witness exalts Christ as the Lamb and as the Lion, as the Way and the Warrior. Gospel justice that exalts the person and work of Christ must be displayed both at the cross and in the culture. What we mean is the gospel isn’t just words, but works (works of justice motivated by love). The peoples of the earth need to not only hear the gospel, but to see it in conjunction with our works. They need to see and receive horizontal redemptive witness. We want to be wholly biblical in fulfilling the Great Commission. Therefore we want to not only tell people about Jesus, but do the kinds of things that Jesus did, like eating with sinners, feeding the hungry, loving the downcast, healing the sick and lame (Mt. 25:34-36). As a result, we approach life with a desire to proclaim and to live the Gospel, that is, to do and to be a redemptive witness.