Category: Gospel and Culture

We’re All Great Abbreviators

I’ve just finished writing a study guide for three of the craziest letters in the New Testament–1, 2 Peter & Jude. The letters cover stuff like: angels sleeping with humans, gang rape, homosexuality, greed, self-made morality, godly character, doubt, faith, eternal fire, eternal life, angels disputing with demons, the end of the world, and its total renewal.

If 1 Peter exults, “Jesus will return,” and 2 Peter rebuffs the claim, “Jesus won’t return,” then Jude exhorts, “Jesus is just about here.” The crazy content in these letters all revolve around the person and return of Jesus, which to some, sounds even crazier. However, there’s an awful lot of history and evidence for the life and ministry of Jesus, and he gathers praise from people around the world, even across religions. Even if you don’t believe Jesus is returning, you should want him to.

Why? Because he’s bringing redemption with him. He’s a God who finishes what he starts. Peter, Jesus’ close disciple says this whole glorious mess of a world will end in dissolution and renewal. He promises that when Jesus returns the world will become “a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). With Jesus back, justice will move into every neighborhood, shanty town, and back alley.

We are all, in the words of Huxley, “Great Abbreviators.” No one tells the whole truth about the whole world. We abbreviate things from our finite perspective, from our own front porch, step, or stoop. Heck, I’m an abbreviator, which is why I need to hear from someone who has full-length understanding. Someone who views all the steps, stoops, and porches–all the souls and the sciences of this world–and can tell me how it I’m supposed to live.

That’s why I find the Bible so meaningful. It tells me who I am by telling me who God is. It’s not a history of everything, but everything in it is historically oriented. It’s not just vague philosophies or moral codes; it’s about real people and events happening in space and time.

And let’s face it; if you’ve seen Stranger Things you know there’s more to this world than what we can see. And the strange things of this world pull us toward the darkness or to the light, toward the end of the world or its new beginning. If all that’s true, then Bible is an indispensable guide to help us through to where we all want to be, a world submerged in justice and peace. In Jesus’ renewed world.

My Best Books of the Summer (2015)

Here are some of my best books from the summer:

MOST ENTERTAINING FICTION

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

BEST LITERATURE

Notre-Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo

BEST SHORT STORIES

Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway

MOST UNUSUAL SCI-FI

A tie between:

Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess & Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

MOST PROFOUND

Faith Beyond Reason: A Kierkegaardian Account, C. Stephen Evans & Philosophical Fragments, Soren Kierkegaard

BEST CHARACTER FORMATION

The Road to Character, David Brooks

MOST SPIRITUALLY FORMATIVE

Sermons on the Mount, Martin-Lloyd Jones

BEST ACADEMIC on CULTURE

The Slain God, Larsen

BEST ON APOLOGETICS/EVANGELISM

Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness

 

 

 

Does the How of Evangelism Really Matter?

Think about the last time you tried to share the gospel. What was going through your head? Were you angling to find an opening to mention Jesus? Or perhaps you were more intentional, looking for an opportunity to lay out a “gospel presentation” over lunch or coffee? This kind of evangelism focuses on what we have to say, not on what others are saying.

This can make our evangelism unbelievable. 

All too often we look to download gospel information instead of considering people’s objections. If we’re honest, we are often content with “name dropping” Jesus in a conversation because our evangelism is more about us and less about them. Saying Jesus’ name to a non-Christian gets us a √. Saying what Jesus did in the first century, on a cross, gets us a √+. This kind of evangelism is more about clearing our evangelical conscience than compassionately sharing the good news with fellow sinners.

This evangelism is unbelievable because it is motivated by unbelief in the gospel. Our hidden belief is that doing evangelism makes us better with God. Or better in front of spiritual peers we esteem.

The Self-Righteous Approach

The Lord certainly uses defective evangelism (Phil. 1:15-18), but that doesn’t mean we should promote it. In fact, the Bible repeatedly exhorts us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), watch our life and speech (1 Tim. 4:16), walk with wisdom toward outsiders (Col. 3:4-5), and live with others in a understanding way (Rom. 12:17-18). These texts all add up to tell us how we share the gospel matters.

The gospel can be easily dismissed because of the self-righteous manner of our gospel communication. When I was in college, I often felt guilty if days went by without sharing my faith. I was driven by performance. As a result, I’d end up sharing the righteousness of Christ with others in a self-righteous way. I would think to myself, “If I share the gospel, God will think better of me.” But that actually contradicts the gospel.

God thinks perfectly of us, not because of our right performance, but because of Jesus’ righteousness performance! When we are caught in the performance act, we may come off wooden or uncaring. People need to not only “hear” the gospel but also “feel” it in our speech. Good evangelism results in gospel stereo—Christ-shaped speech and action.

The Sheepish Approach

The gospel can also be dismissed due to the sheepish manner of our evangelism. Sometimes we are indifferent to evangelism because we don’t want to come off as preachy. I was sitting in a Starbucks when a gentlemen asked me what I was doing. I replied, “Working on a sermon.” Oh, great, here it comes. Yep, he replied by waving his hands back and forth, across one another, saying “Don’t preach to me, don’t preach to me!” All accompanied by a nervous chuckle. How would you respond?

I responded by saying, “You don’t have to worry about that.” Really?! I left the poor man with the wrong impression of gospel preaching—that it mounds up not relieves guilt. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus absorbs our guilt and sets us free. That’s just what he needed to hear, just not in a “preachy” way. My sheepish indifference left him stranded in guilt.

People interpret the gospel by how we say the gospel not just what we say.

But it’s not enough to critique self-righteous and sheepish evangelism. We must reconstruct a biblically faithful, culturally sensitive, and personally discerning way forward.

I propose Gospel Metaphors. You can read more about them at UnbelievableGospel.com

A Good & Hard Good Friday

Good Friday is good because it interrupts our weekly liturgy reminding us of the bounty of grace won for us at the cross.
Good Friday is hard because it reminds us of the sheer innocence of a spotless Lamb who meets utter horror—Jesus slain for our sins.
Goodness, Jesus is worth pausing to adore on Good Friday as we move toward the great hope of Easter Sunday. After all, we can’t have one without the other.