Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
- 2 John 1:9-11
Would you give your Social Security information and your credit card number to a person pretending to be the IRS? Would you let a person convince you that your identity has been mistaken and your whole life is a lie? I sure wouldn’t! It may happen to us once, but we would be foolish to let it happen again.
As much as you value your money and identity, you should value your soul much more than that. If you wouldn’t be negligent with your vital, personal information, neither should you ever let a lying, Christ-denying deceiver into your home or your church with a hearty greeting.
Imagine letting a thief enter your home and steal everything you own while smiling in your face and promising they’re doing everything in your best interest. That would be insane.
The apostle John’s stark warning is “watch yourselves!” (2 John 8). Today, there are many lies and heresies that abound as liars attack the church. One such heresy is that Jesus was not and is not God in human form. Some Christian cults have denied the deity of Jesus in favor of a Unitarian—God in one person—view of Father, Son, and Spirit. Others have denied that Jesus really took on a human body—they imply that He is God but not man. Many of them may be earnest, knowing that God is one (Deut. 6:4). However, they fail to take the Bible and it’s full teaching about Jesus into consideration.
Paul clearly refutes such nonsense, saying that Jesus “was in the form of God“ and had “equality with God“. He is wholly God. In becoming human, Jesus “emptied himself“. He did this not by giving up his divine nature, but by taking on a human nature (Phil 2:5-8). If a King puts on street clothes to rescue someone from a ditch, he is no less a king with his street clothes than he was with his kingly apparel. Neither is Jesus, in the flesh, any less God than he was before he took on flesh. To say otherwise is to clearly deny passages of the Bible in the old and new testaments.
Falling into such a mess of denying Jesus’ human and divine natures will cost the full reward of the apostles works (2 John 8). It will render the apostles’ work in vain (Phil. 2:16). To have a human-only Jesus, God-only Jesus, black Jesus, white Jesus, republican Jesus, democrat Jesus, or any fill-in-the-blank Jesus will lead you to eternal separation from the real Jesus. It is eternal to know Him—the real Jesus (John 17:3).
Our Necessary Response
First, let us go on ahead and abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 9). Stick with the basics. Remember the truth that has been preached from the beginning. Church history is replete with documents and statements about the plain and clear doctrines of Scripture. Many modern heresies are just old heresies dressed in new clothes. Let the word of God and the witness of church history be your guide as you seek to discern truth from lies. You don’t need any other Jesus. If you abide in another, you will not have God. If you stay with the teaching, you will have father and son (2 John 9).
Second, keep false teaching far from you, your family, and your church! “Many deceivers” have gone out into the world (2 John 7). They need to be met with fierce rejection. They shouldn’t enter our homes or our house churches. They shouldn’t be allowed into our congregations with open arms. If they show up, they should be met with solemn warnings and exhortations to repent and renounce their repulsive rhetoric. They need to be sharply rebuked (Titus 1:9-14).
This response is necessary because “whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” John isn’t mincing words, here. We can’t keep letting political, ethnic, or any unbiblical versions of Jesus into their homes without a fuss. Too often, we don’t take Jesus serious because we won’t take the time to read the Word and see who He says He is! He has a lot to say!
Know the Real Jesus!
We must all commit to seeing Jesus as he really is! If we aren’t careful and rigorously biblical, we may be swept away into deception and lies. I don’t mean that a true believer can lose salvation. That is not possible! However, many people in churches today are not in the faith and are not safe from these lies. However, the true believer shouldn’t be overly fearful. The God who started a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Christ. He can’t be stopped! The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will not only reveal the truths of Christ to us, He will make us more like Christ as we behold Him!
Do you know the real Jesus? Or have you been settling for a cheap deception? Don’t receive a false Christ. If you do, you won’t have God. It’s a matter of life and death.
In 2007 I was fresh out of high school and new to the faith. An upperclassman football player at Centre College invited me to hang out and study the Bible and watch football. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe I found some Christian friends with the first few weeks of college. I immediately said yes and got my copy of The Cross-Centered Life. I never could have imagined how that Bible study would shape my views on discipleship and the Christian life.
In early 2012, I stumbled upon a community group that was having meals together, walking through books of the Bible, and living their lives together. As a single, 23-year-old bachelor, I was always at John’s house sipping coffee, talking Scripture and theology, and watching him love and lead his family. One night, he handed the teaching portion of the group to me. It was a game-changer. From that night on, I had a hunger to teach God’s word that would eventually come to fruition in a call to preach.
Later that year, when moved away to Knoxville in 2012, I didn’t know anyone except my wife—we were engaged at the time, and she was in college. As I got intensely lonely and depression was starting to set in, a couple of guys from Legacy Church invited me to their community group. We’d grab a meal, spend some time discussing Scripture, and hang out for a few hours afterward. Those were some amazing times.
In 2016, shortly after I moved back to KY, two friends from high school invited me to Dairy Queen once a week to sip coffee and eat the 3 Buck Breakfast. We’d whip out our ESVs and talk about Scripture and life before heading off to work. Those conversations eventually led me to being called and affirmed as an elder.
The common denominator in each of these scenarios is time and proximity. If we want to be discipled and make disciples, we need to find Christians close to us and we need to spend time with them. As we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, we will need other believers to walk with us along the way.
Your local church—and your extended network of believers—are here to help you persevere and to build you up as you walk with God and do the work of the ministry. But what does this actually look like in real life?
I could share hundreds of examples of how God has used the lives of other believers to shape me. We are called to bear one another’s burdens while also carrying our own load. It’s not a contradiction because we work out our salvation by loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
God is working in us to will and work for His good pleasure, so we can rest assured that discipling others is pleasing to Him and helpful for them. As is commanded in the Great Commission, we don’t just evangelize, we make disciples. This is a picture of the Christian life that I can see and rejoice in.
The University of Kentucky basketball program has become the emblem of one-and-done college basketball. We grab high school athletes from the highest tier of basketball greatness, bring them in for a season, teach them the Coach Cal way, and get them to the NCAA tournament. The season-opening blue and white game looks like an all-star weekend dunk contest. The high-scoring, double-digit preseason victories stir up buzz about March Madness before college football has even played their bowl games. If you want to watch freshman phenoms year after year, tune into UK basketball.
By the time they play against the big shots, they are usually a top ten team, and with the exception of some major freshman slip-ups, we always feel one step closer to another national championship banner. As March comes and goes, we watch these young men earn their first round draft picks as they rally to the Elite Eight, Final Four, or the national championship.
They reach the pinnacle and then they’re gone. As quick as they came, they vanish. As soon as they announce their draft status and their agent, we say our goodbyes. Another year of one-and-done basketball. We see them off to their first round NBA glory and they make a life somewhere out there on an NBA team.
We watch them from afar, but we're not nearly invested. We've got eight-graders and blue chip seniors to keep our eyes on! Have you heard about next year's draft class?! We have to watch them early because we know they'll be gone soon.
Following Jesus Is Costly
We need to beware of a "one-and-done" Christianity. Too often, it's right in front of our eyes. It may even be in our living rooms. We invest in some top-tier church prospects—the ones we think can really make an impact for the Kingdom. We tell them we are Christians, invite them to a Bible study, and get them to visit our churches. After some good book studies or a convicting Bible conference, they get all the way to the point of confessing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After their baptism, we celebrate like we just won the NCAA national championship.
Then we see them off to the rest of Christian lives, rooting for them from afar, hoping they look more like Lebron James than Greg Oden (just do a Google search if you don't know what I mean!). Of course, we still want to see them on Sunday morning. We make sure they're in a Sunday School class or weekly small group. We want them to be plugged in to a local church!
However, seeing people saved and attending a local church is not the end. It's only the beginning. For most Christians, following Jesus is long journey of perseverance and suffering. This is why Paul told the Philippians, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Getting into the faith is a glorious miracle! There is no doubt that "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). But we can't stop there. If our ultimate aim is to merely see people baptized and showing up on Sunday mornings, we have settled for a weak, unbiblical Christianity. We have chosen to side-step the path of discipleship for an easier route.
Work It Out
Just as UK's one-and-done freshmen move on to a much more mature game of basketball, so new converts are called to move from "milk to meat" (1 Cor. 3:2). Those young men work with strength trainers, dietitians, sleep coaches, chiropractors, and many more professional specialists in order to grow and thrive in the NBA. Failing to disciple new believers is like an NBA team leaving it up to the players to train themselves for game day. However, God gave the Church gifts to build up His people after they get saved:
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood..."
The aim is much further than conversion. God desires saints who move on to maturity. Together, the church does the work of ministry. Sunday morning is a piece of the preparation. The church leaders are here to equip the saints to do the work of ministry in everyday life.
It is for this very reason that Paul says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). If we want people to mature in their faith, we must continually point them to the Savior who is at work in them "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). We exhort them to live obedient lives because God is at work in them! We walk with them and urge them to pursue spiritual maturity!
Preach the gospel. Urge people to confess and believe in Christ. Baptize people of all nations. But please don't fail to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). There is no one-and-done Christianity. New converts aren't just banners to put in our sanctuaries or hall-of-fame rosters. They are eternal souls awaiting the day of Christ.
I recently came across a Ligonier article titled "Congregational Discourse". I highly recommend that you read it and ponder the conversations in your local church.
How are you contributing to the discussions that happen there? Are your conversations just shooting the breeze, talking about sports, discussing politics and the pandemic, and complaining? Are you intentionally speaking to encourage and edify the believers around you?
As you're reading these questions you may be tempted to bristle and think, "This guy's being legalistic! The Bible doesn't say we can't fellowship and talk about real life at church!". I’m not saying we shouldn't be able to have open and honest conversations about life. It's not a sin to talk about high school football or the Kentucky Derby. However, do you ever spend time "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16)?
It's easy to think this is the pastor's job, but "one another" puts the ball in your court, too. It’s the responsibility of every believer to contribute to the good of the church through godly conversation and encouragement.
If you're spending time with other believers outside of the corporate gathering on Sunday morning, then you're probably talking about the Word of God and how it intersects everyday life. That would allow for some casual talk on Sunday morning. It may also stir you to more godly conversation about the events of the previous week.
But imagine the impact we could have on an unbeliever if they heard us rejoicing about Jesus’ work in our lives and sharing the Word with one another on Sunday morning. They'd be able to truly look in and say, "Wow! They really love Jesus! He's all they can talk about!". Instead of simply being wowed by the pastor’s handling of the Word, they’d be encouraged by “normal” Christians, too.
Imagine our children or a new Christian hearing us talk about Jesus week after week. They would see us living out what we are teaching them! It has been said that more is caught than taught. While there may be some flaws in that statement, we should strive to be Christians worth imitating—especially in our conversations.
This godly discourse could also be preparing our hearts for the songs we are about to sing, the sermon we are about to hear, the Lord's Supper we are about to take, or the week we are about to live.
As a younger man, I would love to have an older believer drop a practical nugget of wisdom on me moments before corporate worship or just after hearing the sermon. It would be a blessing to hear an older woman drop a gem of parenting knowledge on my wife and I. I'd love to hear a zealous young believer share how God is using the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan to shape his days throughout the week.
In the words of Dr. Mark E. Ross: "This is the 'buzz' that should be heard in our congregational discourse. Will it be heard in your church this coming Lord's Day? Will the word of Christ be dwelling among you richly, or just barely?"
Social media is destroying us. I don’t say that lightly, either. We are losing our ability to sympathize with people. We've replaced the virtue of compassion with crassness. Instead of using caution, we share click-bait before we check the sources—sometimes before we've even read it! In these hyper-political days, it’s easy for us to treat every post as an opportunity to be a bastion for our own political stance.
We bite at our opponents—if we can really call them that—with our memes about the mask mandate. We share our hot displeasure about whether the country should have ever been reopened in the first place. We wage war about whether or not athletes should kneel during the national anthem or schools should reopen.
You wouldn’t talk to people that way in person. But “those idiots” aren’t face-to-face with you, they’re behind a phone just like you are. Those spoiled brat athletes have the same constitutional rights to peacefully protest at their jobs as the school teachers who chose to participate in sick-outs to protest against the government leaders. But it didn’t fit your agenda, so you shared a meme.
You say those gun-toting conservatives should leave their guns at home when they go to their “rallies”, but you turn a blind eye when black men show up fully-loaded to protest on behalf of black lives. Both groups have a constitutional right to protest and bear arms, but one group fit your agenda and the other didn’t.
So we continue. I talk to my friends about how dumb your view is. You talk to yours about how stupid my view is. We never talk face-to-face, but we @ one another in the comments and make sure everyone knows where we stand. We screen shot it and send it to other friends, and the gossip ensues. All of this because we don’t think before we post.
We are like conditioned animals who hear a bell or see a red notification pop-up and respond. We ask Google to provide us with wisdom—and it gives us knowledge without reproach. Can a search engine get mad at you? Nope. But it can cheer you on using algorithms that feed you the narrative you crave. So you find it and you post it.
Jesus has a word for us, and obedience isn’t optional. Even if your church doesn’t discipline you for your words, you should read this and tremble:
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak... -Matthew 12:36
Every careless word.
This includes the memes we share, the comment wars we get in, and the private conversations we have about “those” people. You know.. the “idiot liberals” and the “Republican morons“. Every time we falsely label someone a racist or a cultural Marxist counts, too. Anytime we speak slander and spread lies, we are guilty.
Every careless word.
Most of us are guilty of this. Some of us are sinning like this several times a day. It needs to stop. We must not sit back and let sin reign. The Bible calls us to examine ourselves and put sin to death. If we walk by the Spirit, we will live. But if we walk by the flesh, we are on the path to death. God takes even our little “careless” words seriously. If He does, why would we do otherwise?
What does this look like in practice?
Do you think before you post? Maybe it's time to give up social media for a season until you can build up self-control. That's what the Lord has stirred me to do lately.
God the Father has loved His Son for all eternity. As students of the Bible, we know that God’s love for Jesus didn’t begin (John 1:1). God is eternal. The fellowship between the Son and the Father transcends time, and the idea of Jesus being created is a heresy long refuted by Scripture and the Church.
Our eternal God has been in an eternal, living relationship.
That takes me back to something Jesus said in John 17:24. He said, “You loved me before the foundation of the world.” That immediately takes us back to the unimaginable time before there was a universe or even empty space. Empty air is still something! There was not even empty space because the fullness of God simply was.
We can’t even fathom that.
Yet there it is. The love of God the Father being poured out on His Son and the Son reciprocating His love for the Father. The Holy Spirit, too, was in this loving relationship too great for our minds to fathom. This is a sight too glorious for eyes. It’s too vast for the likes of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, or even Augustine. Some things are worth pondering, but they are still too deep. We must be careful (Psalm 131:1).
Even As Jesus Is Loved
As we ponder the depth of the love of the Father and the Son, let us take a long glance at another word Jesus has to say about the love of God. For those who are in Christ through faith, Jesus prays, “You...loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). Again, He prays that “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
Don’t hurry past that. Reread it. Slow down and think about what you just read.
God the Father loved Jesus perfectly and beyond measure (1 John 4:8). He loved Jesus before the foundation of the world for eternity past. And somehow He loves me even as He loved—and still loves—Jesus.
To say I’m unworthy is a gross understatement. I’m a sinner saved by grace. Amazing grace! Matchless grace! Infinite grace! Grace that is greater than all my sin! And by that grace, I am immeasurably loved by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
I'm looking at the moon as write this. It’s 238,900 miles away and it’s massive in the night sky. The sun that is 92.96 million miles away warmed my skin today as I played outside with my family. And the God who made these and everything else loves me as much as He loves Jesus, His perfect, holy Son.
I’m moved to tears. I hope this can rock your soul, too. This is the beauty of the gospel. Sin-stained sons and daughters of Adam are adopted into the household of God by faith, through the Spirit because God loves us as much as He loves His Son. We see it when we read “in love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Not New, But Amazing
This isn’t anything new. It’s not something I’ve never read. But it’s the most amazing verse I’ve read today. It’s the most wonderful truth I’ve pondered tonight. It’s the greatest message I can share with my wife tonight before we drift off to sleep.
If you’re in Christ, through faith in Jesus, you are infinitely loved by the infinite three-in-one God of heaven. Walk in that love. Be one with everyone else God loves. Let your manner of life be worthy of this gospel message. Ponder this love and bask it in for the rest of eternity.
In Christ alone, we are deeply loved by God. In Christ alone, we can press on til tomorrow. In Christ alone, the love of God will compel us to glorify and enjoy God forever.
As of today, July 10th, 2020, Andy Beshear (Kentucky) will require masks to be worn in public spaces for at least the next 30 days. Some think such a requirement is government overreach and unconstitutional. Others consider this mandate to be a simple rule to follow. My aim is not to argue politics or the constitution. I am not an expert in either of those topics, and I think politicizing every issue often misses the point.
Regardless of your political opinions on the matter, should you wear a mask or not? What if a judge has ordered a block on pandemic executive orders coming from the governor? Here's where the issue gets a little sticky. Who do we follow? What does the Bible teach on the matter? How do we move forward for the next 30 or even 60 days?
1. Is it loving or unloving to wear a mask?
A good place to start is Matthew 22:36-40:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Does wearing a mask help us love God or our neighbor? To put it differently, does wearing a mask hinder me from loving God or loving my neighbor? These questions should drive us to think deeply about the health and social implications of such a mandate. Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask display a political stance more than a biblical one? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask portray an unbiblical measure of fear or anxiety? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask shout, "I trust (or reject) the government!"?
2. Is it sinful to wear a mask?
In Philippians, we are called to "approve of what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:10-11). Let's break that down in light of wearing masks. Does wearing a mask stop you from:
If you can biblically answer "no" to these questions, then it is not sinful to wear a mask. If you can biblically answer "yes" to these questions, you shouldn't wear a mask because it is sinful either in omission or commission of sin. Further, if your conscience does or does not allow you to wear a mask, you need to heed Romans 14:23: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin".
Be warned, doing Bible gymnastics to twist Scripture to fit your opinions is dangerous business! If you're willing to do it for a mask, you'll probably be willing to bend over backwards to make more serious and spiritually deadly decisions in the future.
3. Is this a situation where civil disobedience is necessary?
There are times, as in the case of Daniel, where civil disobedience glorifies God—he was told to worship a god other than the God of Scripture (see Daniel 6). The high officials knew that Daniel lived a godly, upright life and would obey the government unless it pertained to the "the law of his God" (Daniel 6:5). This begs for our attention! There are situations where the world and corrupt governments will try to bait us into sinning against God. We must resist the temptation to sin.
However, we need to use the Word of God to discern when and how to resist governing authorities in such cases. We also ought to reflect on how the Bible calls us to relate to the governing authorities in our cities, nations, and states. This doesn't mean reading the Bible through your political (or anti-political lens). It means striving to take the Word of God as it is and applying it to the situation in front of you.
Romans 13:1-7 calls us to "be subject to the governing authorities" and not do wrong because "rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad." Paul refers to God's sovereignty over the rulers of the nations and calls us to "do what is good." We do this not only to guard against "God's wrath", but also for the sake of our consciences.
1 Peter 2:11-17 is similar to Romans 13. Peter calls Christians to "keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable" and to "be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" because "this is the will of God". He continues, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor." Peter reasons that living godly lives and being subject to governing authorities:
After reading these two passages, are masks inherently sinful? Does wearing or not wearing a mask keep us from being subject to the governing authorities? Are we following the revealed will of God if we decide to wear or not wear a mask? Who are we honoring if we do or don't wear a mask?
Let the Word of God Lead the Way
At the end of the day, you must let the Word of God dictate how you'll respond to the mask mandates—and any other government policies we meet in this lifelong journey. Here are three reasons I'll be wearing a mask in public:
I am not prescribing a policy for whether you should wear a mask or not, but it seems that this shouldn't be a hill to die on. This isn't a specific or direct attack on churches or religious liberty, so I don't see the need to buck against the system. You may disagree, but we must all strive to have the mind of Christ and "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves" (Phil. 2:3).
Cry Out, Don't Complain
This is a hard time for us all, but especially pastors and church leaders. Before you criticize or complain, cry out to God on their behalf. You may not like the governor's or pastor's decision on masks, but remember that they are striving to make decisions based on Scripture and the flock God has called them to shepherd.
If you’re looking for a family friendly resource to get your kids learning about the Bible and having fun at the same time, this is it!
The book has several Bible stories to choose from:
Each of these stories has scripture and a brief summary of the Biblical text. In addition to the Scripture is a seek-and-find that is sure to keep kids and parents searching together while talking about the Bible stories. Each page contains at least 50 objects to count, which helps with math skills as well as attention to detail and memorization.
As a guy who loves bonuses and special features in books, I was excited to see some extra goodies tucked into the first page. This is a book full of surprises and fun finds for our children, and it is especially good for younger children who may not be able to focus very well on longer Bible stories.
I recommend Seek and Find Old Testament Stories to families with young children who want to get them involved in Bible time and family worship. It’s a great starting point, and is tied directly to the biblical text for those who want to use it in family devotional time.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Theological Bobble Heads
Bobble heads are some of the funniest decorations I’ve ever seen. The heads are so big that they wobble with every move. They are especially funny when they are on the dashboard of someone’s vehicle. I haven’t seen one in quite a while, but it reminds me of a spiritual problem that I’ve seen in my own heart and in people around me.
I have noticed a tendency to be fat-headed when it comes to theology. When I go to someone’s house, the first thing I look for is their bookshelf. One reason is to see if we stand on the same theological ground and read the same authors. Another reason is simple: I want to see how well-read they are.
By All Means, Read
Reading good books and studying the Bible is not inherently sinful. In fact, Paul tells Timothy to study (or be diligent) to show himself approved (2 Timothy 2:15). However, he also tells Timothy to continue in what he learned from Paul, including his conduct, aim of life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, and more (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
In the same chapter, Paul says that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for a host of reasons including “training in righteousness.. that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Don’t Just Learn
For the more academically oriented Christians, we read of studying and get excited. We envision ourselves with books strewn across the table as we dive deep into the meaning of a Greek term or theological concept. We hear the words “study”, and “teaching” loud and clear. We often feel that we are “equipped” simply by our learning.
This can be a dangerous way of thinking, if we are not careful. Very dangerous.
In some Christian circles, learning is where we stop. As our heads swell with doctrinal knowledge, our desires to love and listen to others seem to wane. We are quick to quote scripture, our favorite theologians, or our confessional statements while we are slow to practice the principles and commands found in those same documents.
Notice that I said “we”. I’m a fat head too, sometimes. Just ask my wife and close friends.
Commit To Obedience
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about how challenging it is to discuss and discern tone—especially in writing. What I mean is this: there is a way to speak truth that is loving, and there is a way to speak truth that is unloving. It is hard to figure out, sometimes, when a person is trying to be loving or unloving.
This is where we must search our own hearts and discern our true motives. As quickly as we study, we must also be willing to apply that learning through loving. That is what Paul speaks of in Philippians 1:9 when he says “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment”.
The clear way forward is to commit to applying and obeying everything we read and study in scripture. We are not to be hearers of the word only but also doers. We can’t settle for just being bobble heads who have minds full of knowledge and hearts dulled by the pride and arrogance that comes with unapplied excessive learning.
Are you a Christian bobble head? What would your friends and family say? What is your social media saying?
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
As we scan the horizon of American church history, we would be foolish to pretend that racism or ethnic partiality has not been and is not an issue. We know that the stain of racism has soiled the garments of the Church in this nation. As John Perkins stated in Welcoming Justice, the church allowed the culture to pervade their thinking.
However, the bride of Christ is always being made pure by her Bridegroom. We are a people being sanctified day by day as we behold our glorious Savior. Her sin-stained garment is being made white as snow by the blood of Jesus, and we must never forget that. The gospel is radically powerful no matter what culture or what sin issues may abound.
The Prophetic Work of the Church
Reconciliation starts with us... well, sort of.
Reconciliation starts with God who first extended His electing love to a people who were hell-bound and deserving of eternal death. Yet, after He saved us, He sent us to all nations to proclaim His glorious message of reconciliation. Our ultimate problem is enmity with God, and politics won’t fix that. Only the gospel can.
Since we have been reconciled to and sent out by God, reconciliation in America starts with us—the ambassadors of Christ.
As I have looked at the issues of racism and injustice in this nation, I have shared a similar sentiment with many friends and family: the church needs to be at the forefront of reconciliation efforts. In fact, I believe the church will lead the cause of racial unity and equality in America. The far-left agenda of organizations like Antifa and Black Lives Matter won’t sustain it. The alt-right groups like bro-confederates and the KKK want nothing to do with it. Partisan politics is only fuel for the fire.
This doesn’t mean we don’t need reforms in the justice system. It also doesn’t mean that fighting for the rights of the oppressed is a waste (see Isaiah 1:17). But it does mean we need more than than that. We need the gospel. We need a biblical worldview. Our foundation is Christ, and our strength lies in the power of God.
Christians are called to hate all evil (Psalm 97:10). As we deal with the evil in our own hearts, we will become more Christlike, and that Christlikeness will be put on display for the world to see. The gospel is a powerful message, and those who have new hearts also have the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwelling within us. We are mystically, and yet actually, in union with Christ. He is our power for a change!
This Is Church Work
The work of the Church in reconciling with one another is prophetic. I am not speaking of institutional religiosity and buildings. The church is the universal assembly of grace-filled believers who join together in local assemblies—churches—to worship and work together for the glory of God.
Our message and mission will speak volumes to the culture around us. The church has always been called to love one another and do good to everyone, though we do this imperfectly. Today, I see Christians throughout this nation rising up and listening and loving one another. I see Christians of every ethnicity studying the Bible in order to grow in their knowledge of the truth as well as their application of it.
I am hopeful! Jesus said that nobody can come to the Father except through Him. He has invited the world to come to Him, and He uses the church to do it. As the world sees Christians love one another, they will know we are His. We are living pictures of the reconciling work of the gospel!
What Is Your Part?
We each have a part to play. What is yours?
As we desire and strive to see reconciliation In this nation, it is going to take far more than more policies and diversity training. Those things are indeed helpful, but they don’t change hearts. We have seen that with the Civil Rights movement and laws that followed it. As disciplemakers, we are in the unique position to both teach and model biblical diversity.
Are you a parent? Teach your children the Bible. Share the gospel with your children as often as you can. And as you’re teaching them the gospel, show them what it looks like to be Christlike toward people to all people, even those who don’t look like them. Teach them to respond to racism or ethnocentrism in ways that glorify God.
Do you have a job? Grab lunch with a coworker that you’ve been meaning to connect with. Speak to them about these issues from a biblical worldview, and share the gospel as you speak on these matters. Reach to friends of other ethnicities and get to know them. Even if you don’t have many opportunities for that, speak to people of your own ethnicities about the issues and show them the biblical response. We don’t have to live in diverse areas to make a difference.,
Do you go to church? If you’re in a predominantly black or predominantly white church, you can still make an impact in the discussion of reconciliation. We should be willing to discuss our struggles and point one another to the gospel. Perhaps there are racist tendencies and mindsets within our own hearts. The church is the place to discuss that, because we have the Scriptures and the gospel to change those things. If you are in a diverse church, share your struggles while carrying the burdens of the Saints around you. This is exactly what the church is here for.
Will you buy in?
For some of us, reconciliation has been a way of life already. There may not be much for you to change at all. As a black man with a white wife and mixed children, reconciliation is part of the fabric of my life. I am in predominantly white churches, but I am striving to stay connected with the black culture in my community as well as connecting my church to the people I love and grew up with. Sometimes it is tough to balance because I feel stuck in the middle of two groups of people I love. For years I’ve been praying for God to send me as a laborer in the harvest of my community, and now I’m seeing some of the answers unfold.
For others of us, reconciliation may feel like a foreign task. It may be scary. It may even be offensive to think that you need to pursue diversity in your life. I challenge you with this: if heaven will be multicultural and multi ethnic, don’t you want a taste of that today? I don’t believe that you have to befriend every black person or every white person you meet. I am not saying that pursuing relationships with Latinos or people from other nations should be your only focus. But could it at least be one of them?
As I look at the world around me, reconciliation is bigger than just race. There are people in poverty from all races. There are people who have faced injustice from all walks of life. There are people everywhere looking for the hope of the gospel. The bigger picture of reconciliation is that we desire to see all people as image bearers of God who desperately need to be connected with the Savior—Jesus Christ. Will you grab them by the hand and take them to the foot of the cross?
Reconciliation starts with us.
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