While the gospel is not something that Christians can live (Jesus is the only one who “lived the gospel”), Christians should live in light of the gospel.
Here is an article that helps us understand what this looks like.
Here is a local situation to which you may be able to apply the above principles. The McGee Center said they could use bottled drinks (water, coke, etc.) and individually packaged snacks to hand out to folks using the shelter. If you are inclined you can drop stuff off at Christ Church Conway (1125 Oak Street, Suite 204- that is the Halter Building in Downtown Conway) tomorrow or just take things to the McGee Center anytime after that.
Notice that I said that you may be able to apply the above principles to the emergency shelter. One of the tricky parts of living in light of the gospel is that the details of doing this won’t look exactly the same for every person. Certainly, there are many broad principles of sanctification, which in many ways is simply growing in our understanding of what life in light of the gospel looks like and ability to live in such a way, that apply across the board such as, “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13.14, ESV). Or, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3.5, ESV). Or, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3.9, ESV). And there are many more examples. However, when it comes to specific instances in life, I may be compelled to serve in a particular situation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every other Christian should be equally compelled. I may be compelled to take some water to the McGee Center. You may be compelled to lead Bible Study in prison. We may be compelled to do both. We may not be compelled to do either. Whatever the case, we all must act in faith as we are led and helped by the Holy Spirit.
There have been several story lines in the news lately that have been causing me, and probably some others, to think through what I really believe about the gospel, love, forgiveness, and second chances.
Michael Vick is back on top in the NFL. Some folks are cheering for him. Other folks are absolutely appalled that he was given a second chance. One comment on a CNN article said, “He killed dogs that did not perform to his standard, maybe we should ask if he has performed to ours.” This is hardly a subtle statement. Another said he “is an insecure child that does not deserve mercy.” If insecure children don’t deserve mercy, then I can only say I am glad this person was not my father while I was growing up, especially in Jr. High.
Ted Haggard is back in a pulpit in Colorado Springs. In 2006 the world watched as Ted Haggard had to admit to sexual sin and buying drugs. Plenty of people outside of the church have seen Haggard’s fall as a grand example of the hypocrisy of Christians. Plenty of people inside the church have seen Haggard’s return to ministry as working against the purity of the church.
Ted Williams became an overnight sensation after a You Tube video of him on a street corner showing his golden voice went viral. A former radio talent, he was homeless after losing everything from drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and some other things (that he didn’t elaborate on). In a matter of hours he literally went from a random homeless guy with an great voice to being offered jobs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kraft, and many others. For the most part, as far as I have seen, people have been excited for him. Some have had questions as to how he would handle the abrupt turn around, but they were excited for him nonetheless.
Derek Webb was once the patron saint of music for the young, edgy, reformed crowd. Now he is on the outs with many because he has challenged us to actually love gay people. Of course, the critiques are being cleverly shrouded in terms of him perverting the gospel and denying that homosexuality is sin and replacing the gospel of the cross with a gospel of can’t we just all get along and love each other. Maybe (perhaps I should say quite possibly) I have missed something somewhere along the way, but it seems like, based on the interviews, articles, responses, and critiques I have heard and read, we all got slapped in the face about the reality of our judgmental hearts toward certain kinds of sinners by someone calling himself an artist and didn’t like it.
So, here are the questions these various stories bring up for me. Does the gospel inform how we think about and deal with sinners? Does the gospel give us the security to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh?” Does the gospel give us the freedom to love the unlovable and the responsibility to call others to do the same? Does the gospel teach us to celebrate stories of redemption, even if they are not strictly spiritual in nature? Does the gospel teach us to carefully and intentionally assimilate into people’s lives and cultures in order that we might win some?
Of course, we must understand that our response to each of these stories requires some amount of nuance as well. Whether we should welcome Michael Vick back to the gridiron or Ted Haggard back to the pulpit are not the same questions. How we rightly love a guy like Ted Williams, who has basically nothing (or did until yesterday) and someone who lives a comfortable life and is gay are not the same questions. Having forgiveness for sin and restored success in the world are not the same thing. On the other hand, neither are loving a person and condoning their sin the same thing. However, the ways in which we work through all of these issues are related.
At the base of each of these issues is the question of how we, as Christians, go about loving people in light of the gospel? While it is not the whole answer, remembering that God loved his people, by giving his Son to die for them, while they were STILL sinners must play into the answer in a big way. When we refuse to love people because they are sinners, we deny the gospel.
Whenever I hear either biblical language or a biblical theme used in a “secular” song my ears perk up. I am always curious whether they are being antagonistic toward Christianity, or acknowledging some level of truth. In my very limited musical experience it seems that when an artist is honestly grappling with the reality of our brokenness they get a lot right. The song above, “Broke Down & Busted,” is one of those songs.
I was struck by the images of those who are “broke down and busted in the promised land.” The image was so striking because it is a really honest statement about how we typically view life as Americans. We look at our nation as if it is a promised land in which anything is possible for anyone, and, generally speaking, we just don’t know what to do with those among us who have been unable to cash in on the promise. We just walk on by. The gospel should keep us from just walking on by those who are broke down and busted in the promised land, because the gospel gives us the reason for and solution to brokenness.
Sin is the reason for brokenness. This is true on three levels. First, we are born in sin. That means that we are all sinners. We have sinned, are sinning, and will sin, and we will have to deal with the consequences of our sin in this world. If we break the law, we may go to jail. When we get out, we will struggle to find a job or a place to live because no one trusts a criminal (or prison’s ability to rehabilitate). If we cheat on a test and get caught, we fail. If we treat people like dirt, we spend our life alone because no one likes us. If we spend all of our money satisfying our lust for the things of this world, we don’t have money to eat or pay rent. If we spend all of your time making money or gaining status, we look back to see your kids flip us off as they drive away in the new car we bought them because they hate us for not being there. Whether we like it or not, we have to deal with the consequences of our sin in this world, and a tremendous amount of our suffering is just that, the consequences of our sin in this world. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We also have to deal with the consequences of our sin for eternity if we don’t turn to Christ in faith and repentance, and these consequences will make the worst pain this world has to offer feel good.
Second, everyone around us is born in sin. That means we will have to deal with the consequences or our neighbors’ (broadly defined) sin in this world as well. When someone selfishly continues texting while they drive and swerves into the oncoming lane and kills our family on impact, we have to deal with the empty house we now live in. When our spouse cheats on us, we have to deal with the profound pain of rejection. When our house is broken into, we have to live with the vulnerability we now feel. When we are passed over for a promotion because of gender, race, or creed, we still have to work. When we are fired because the owner of the company milked all the profits off for his benefit and can’t afford to pay us, we still have to find a way to pay the bills. Whether we like it or not we have to deal with the consequences of other people’s sin. And I should add, other people have to deal with the consequences of our sin also.
Third, the entire creation has been massively impacted by sin. That means we have to deal with the consequences of a creation that is broken by sin. Dirt is neither moral or immoral, but ever since the fall it has produced plants that bear no fruit. Nature is unbelievably violent at times. Tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis occur with no immediate human instigation, and they can in an instant destroy all that we have worked to build, kill our family and friends, and completely change our lives.
When we take these three realities together we end up with a lot of people that are broke down and busted in the promised land, and their broke down and busted state is likely only in part a consequence of their own sin. To be sure, we can’t overlook the reality of their sin, but we also can’t reduce their entire situation to a consequence of some particular sin or pattern of sin in their life. The gospel tells us its just not that simple. We need to remember this, because our promised land tendency is to assume that the person with less than me is a bigger sinner than me.
The gospel also gives us the solution to the broke down and bustedness of this world. The gospel says, “For our sake [God] made him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The gospel says, “the wages of sin is death” and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The gospel says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” The gospel says, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The gospel says, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The gospel says, “the present form of this world is passing away” and new heaven and new earth will be established. In short, the gospel says that what Jesus accomplished was the undoing of our broke down and bustedness, whatever the source.
Here is a great article about the Halter Building, where Christ Church Conway currently meets. It has a rich history in Conway. Perhaps God will see fit to add to its history a mighty outpouring of the gospel.
There are a lot of things I like about the New Year.
First, it is a vague reminder of God’s promise to Noah to keep things continuing with some regularity until the end of time.
Second, our collective longing for and celebration of newness is a bold reminder that we know things are not as they should be. In this way the New Year reminds me of the need for Jesus Christ.
Third, the State of the Union Address is always in January, and it is always a bold admission of our need. Of course, it is also a bold admission of our pride.
Fourth, the New Year brings the start of tax season, which leads to a whole bunch of other wise normal folks dressing up as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty and standing on the street corner. These folks always make me laugh. If it were April 16th-December 31st you would probably get arrested, or at least questioned, for the same activity, but not in tax season.
Fifth, New Year’s resolution get me excited. Some, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, have written and spoken against resolutions because of the tendency toward legalism and undermining the gospel of grace with a do-it-yourself, boot-strap kind of gospel. I get the warning; it just doesn’t really resonate. Others, like Martin Luther, who could hardly pass for a legalist, made a whole list of resolutions to help in his pursuit of resting in Jesus Christ. I fall more into the second group, kind of digging resolutions; this is for two reasons. First, as I said above, they are an admission of failure, need, and guilt in many ways, which opens the door for the gospel. Second, they may also be tools for pursuing holiness. Admittedly, we must be careful about this part. We must remember that we can’t grow in holiness by pursuing it in our own strength according to the law. However, as the Spirit works in our life to convict us of sin and enable us by God’s grace to die to sin and live to righteousness, New Year resolutions (or any other time of the year resolutions) can be intentional helps.
So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! However you approach it, don’t let the newness go to waste. Rather, let it serve as a providential reminder of the true newness that is ours in Jesus Christ, and abide in him by grace through faith.