English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...

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How often have you heard that you’re a no-good sinner and will always be a no-good sinner? Jesus taught, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good.” (Mat. 12:33) “Wash the inside of the cup and the outside gets clean in the process.” (Mat. 23:26)

Some will say, “Jesus was good on the inside, but we can never be.” This is only partially true; and it robs us of hope. The idea that we’re nothing but no-good sinners and will always be no-good sinners in this life is a terrible conflict with God’s refinement and redemption process.

In a busy restaurant, I recently overheard part of a conversation between two people, apparently Christian. One was saying, “But even when I’m saved and in heaven, I’m still a sinner. God only lets me in because His love is so great that He forgives me.” The other person nodded emphatically.

I don’t know where the rest of the conversation went, but I thought how sad it is that we’ve been convinced that even in a resurrected state in a perfect heaven, we still can be no different. Even then, we can’t be made new; we can only be forgiven, which, for many Christians, is the “greatest” expression and fullest extent of God’s love.

It’s so bleak, so minimal, so unworthy of our calling; and it’s hardly true redemption. If this is the best hope that the “saved” can look forward to, no wonder the “doomed” have less than zero chance and God is so underwhelming. (more…)

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English: grapes or vine

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The original disciples weren’t a race of super-beings and didn’t have anything that you and I don’t have. They simply learned from the Master who holds the plan, shares His wisdom, and makes Himself accessible to the world.

Pastors have their hands full overseeing church programs to tend their flocks as best they can. They work hard for many long hours a day, usually sacrificing their own families and needs in the course of their duties. Many fine ministers and churches are simply overwhelmed.

So what can we do about it? First, we can recognize that churches shouldn’t be forced to take up the slack that individual members should take. Overwhelmed churches struggle because we tend to treat them, rather than Jesus, as the primary providers of spiritual leadership, so we bankrupt them of resources. Then everybody ends up in the quicksand.

Second, even in churches with different services geared toward different age groups, it’s often just a different presentation of the same wrong message. The style of service isn’t what needs to change; it’s the content and message. The best answer is to restore to our churches the missing gospel of the kingdom, love for God, self, and neighbor, and personal discipleship to Jesus. That’s what calling him “Lord” is all about.

We need more than stories or facts about Jesus. We need more than confessions of him as King of kings and Lord of all. We need more than “belief” in his death and resurrection. What we need is why these matter, and, more specifically, how it leads to changed lives. In and of themselves, they don’t transform, but they’re the beginning.

With few exceptions, there’s currently no system in place to guide maturing Christians beyond spiritual infancy into Jesus’ gate. Surely, there’s a place for them in God’s church family! The Way is the gospel message and the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian community needs help to implement it, and pastors need to know that it’s okay to care for their own souls—heart, mind, body, and behavior. Then we’d be truly following Jesus, and the term “lordship” would actually be relevant.