Pastor's Blog

The Christian message calls people to pledge allegiance to Jesus, to follow Him, to become part of and builders of God’s kingdom.  It is not merely an invitation to souls to escape an eternal destiny of misery, nor is it primarily an invitation to enjoy an eternal destiny of personal happiness.

The gospel is about dying to self – not indulging self.  Indulgence of the self is the central problem to be solved, from which we need to be saved.  This self-centeredness, self-focus, self-absorption, is where sin is born and bred and nurtured.  Sin thrives on it.

“It is not good for man to be alone.”  That simple sentence spoken by God in our early history is pregnant with meaning.  We must be saved from self and turned in trusting dependence to God.

When you make the gospel about one’s personal escape from the pains of hell (or enjoyment of heaven’s pleasures), you not only abbreviate the gospel, but shift the message from the focus of the apostles.  You turn the listener toward self, not away from self, and not toward God.  The self is called to protect itself, not abandon itself in trust to God.  God becomes the servant, not the Lord, of the self.

You may feel these are trivial distinctions.  They are trivial at the outset.  But draw a straight line and draw another line next to it that only diverges by one ten-thousandth of a degree.  The lines look parallel at the outset.  The divergence seems trivial at the outset.  But the further out the two lines go, the greater the chasm between them becomes.

You may feel my approach complicates the gospel.  Hell, I’ve been told, is a matter of life and death, an emergency to be solved hurriedly before a person dies unexpectedly.

Jesus said the opposite.  Precisely because it’s a matter of life and death Jesus told people to count the cost of following Him.  Listen, think, weigh out the consequences of what following means.  If you are going to follow, you’d better understand, not that you are purchasing an eternal fire insurance policy that can be shoved into a drawer and forgotten, but that you are committing your life to “hate” everything, including your own self, so that you might pledge allegiance to Jesus (Luke 14.25-35). 

This is not a decision to be made lightly or with as little information as possible.  Jesus expected followers to know what they were committing to.

I have decided to follow Jesus . . . No turning back.  No turning back.

Pledging allegiance to Jesus is not a trivial commitment, and yet I have seen evangelicals treat it as a decision that can and should be made hastily, in a moment of temporarily manipulated emotion – with no consideration of what issues from that moment.  As though the decision involves only what happens to you after you die.

This is not simplified but oversimplified.  The difference is that that which is oversimplified is wrong.

All that to say this:  how you see the gospel will change how you see the ministry and purpose and role of the church.  And perhaps Christianity is so weak these days because we have abandoned a more demanding understanding of the gospel?

 

 

 

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