Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Christian, please fight for your faith (Part 1)

Christianity is warfare.

I have grown to appreciate that reality about following Jesus in an increasing way as the years have passed. My own need to win the battle in my mind and heart has sensitized me to this truth. So has my observation of others who seem to have failed to engage in the fight with the weapons Christians have been provided.

A few years ago I was able to visit with a friend whom I had heard no longer believed the faith he had long confessed. The two of us spoke while surrounded by many others, so the occasion did not provide me an opportunity to speak at length. After he explained his departure from following Christ, I said something like this: "I won't say a lot at this point, but I believe I should say this: 'We have to fight if we are going to continue to follow Jesus.'"

A phrase in the passage I preached on Sunday -- I Corinthians 15:1-11 -- points to this kind of combat. In the first two verses, the apostle Paul wrote, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain."

Paul was saying the fact a Christian holds "fast the word" he preached -- the gospel, in other words -- is evidence that person's profession of faith was not false.

This is certainly not the only such warning in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians, "He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach -- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard" (Col. 1:22-23a).

These texts testify to this reality: True faith results in continuing to believe the gospel, continuing to trust in Jesus, to the end. But that perseverance in the faith is not without opposition. We must recognize the conflict we entered when Christ purchased us for Himself. The war is real, and it has no conscientious objectors who will survive. We must fight.

(Part 2 will address how we are to wage this battle.)

-- Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New desires for evangelicals in 2018

I started this post nearly a month ago and have finally decided to finish it. At the start of last year, I posted seven desires for evangelical Christians in 2017. Here is that list minus the comments made on each entry:

-- More evangelicals would realize Christ is their life and treasure Him supremely as a result.

-- More evangelicals would recognize the significance of the church in their lives.

-- More evangelical churches would be intentional in corporate worship.

-- More evangelical churches would base their ministry on the gospel.

-- More evangelical churches would be committed to expositional preaching.

-- More evangelicals would value the sanctity and dignity of each human being.

-- More white evangelicals would grow in understanding the perspectives of their minority brothers and sisters.

Those remain desires of mine for us as evangelicals, but I have two more to add for 2018:

1. More evangelicals would actually be, and act like, evangelicals.

Increasingly the last couple of years, the label "evangelical" has been up for debate. Some contend it should be discarded because it has come to have a political, cultural or even racial meaning rather than a biblical or doctrinal meaning.

LifeWay Research provided some clarifying information in an early December report. Its survey found less than half of self-identified evangelicals -- 45 percent -- strongly agree with foundational evangelical beliefs as defined by LifeWay, such as salvation by faith in Christ alone and the Bible as a Christian's highest authority. Many Americans identify as evangelicals who are not evangelical in their doctrine. Support for a president or a public policy agenda does not make a person an evangelical.

Yet, division exists even among those who hold evangelical beliefs. Some evangelicals seem to make a position on a controversial issue like immigration the basis for a divisive spirit with brothers and sisters who disagree. Evangelicals remain sharply divided over President Trump, especially his rhetoric. This leads to my second desire:

2. More evangelicals would focus on being the church instead of saving America.

It is clear to me the biblical priority for a Christian is to live in community with other disciples in a way that glorifies God, exalts Jesus, and displays and proclaims the true gospel before a watching world. The church -- not our country -- is to be our priority. The United States is important, and we should be faithful citizens as Christ-followers and work for policies that honor God and provide for human flourishing. But America is not ultimate. God's kingdom is. Each of our churches is an embassy of that kingdom, an embassy that reflects what God and His love are like.

-- Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash