Cherished in God’s Eyes

IMG_2073What is man that you are mindful of him? – Psalm 8:4a

Genesis 1:26-31 informs us that God intimately created humans in His likeness. According to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor John Hammett, creation in the image of God is the basis for human dignity and that killing a human or to even curse one is an affront to and an attack upon the living God.

This is certainly true of babies, the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Indeed, all human beings are lovingly knitted together in their mother’s womb by God (Psalm 139). According to Psalm 8:5-8, humanity is set apart and crowned with authority over the earth and its creatures. What causes us to think we can use our God-given authority to usurp God and slaughter the helpless babies made in His image?

We should be thankful and tremble over the fact that God is mindful of all humans. The sovereign God of the universe has His loving eyes on every single one of us and always has even when we were “unformed substance.” God values and deeply cares for even the weakest among us.

As our culture sacrifices infants on the altar of personal convenience we must stand and declare, as Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission reminds us, “The image of God cannot be bartered away, at the abortion clinic counter or anywhere else.”

Let’s pray and work for an end to the injustice of abortion. Let’s pray and work for better solutions for women in crisis. But let’s pray for doctors like this as well. Even more, let’s move beyond standing outside abortion clinics with hateful picket signs, let us lovingly plead, “We will adopt these children, or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.”

We must remember Roe v. Wade does not hold eternal jurisprudence in the Kingdom of God. With convictional kindness, we need to speak clearly of the judgment to come. But we also need to proclaim that the blood of Christ can provide mercy for those who repent.

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

Evangelism Training with Dr. Alvin Reid

Alvin Reid

Live around Raleigh?

Join us for an evangelism training event titled “Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out” with Dr. Alvin Reid from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Alvin Reid is the author of dozens of books including Evangelism HandbookIntroduction to Evangelism, and the forthcoming Share Jesus Without Freaking Out.

This is a great opportunity for individuals and church groups to consider Dr. Reid’s call to “move from gospel presentations to gospel conversations, from specialists to normal people living for Jesus in gospel-focused ways.

The training will be from Friday, March 11th from 6:30-8:00pm to Saturday, March 12th from 9:00am-12:00pm at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC.

Free childcare will be available for those who register. Sign up today! 

Evangelism through the church community

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This was originally posted at the North Carolina Baptist Convention’s website, and at the Biblical Recorder. I am leading a breakout session on this topic next week at the REVEAL: Disciple-making Conference.

As church leaders, we all desire to lead evangelistic churches. Proclaiming the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is central to our ministry and our faithfulness to the mission of God. In my experience, there are two primary strategies for evangelism in the modern American Church. It would seem that local churches lean heavily toward event-based evangelism or a more individualistic approach to evangelism.

In event-based evangelism the idea is, “get the unbelievers to the church event so they will hear the gospel and prayerfully be saved.” The problem is, many church events like this tend to attract Christians from other churches rather than unbelievers. While people should hear the gospel at a church event, they shouldn’t have to come to a church event in order to hear the gospel. Simply put, we should not become dependent on an event to reach the lost.

The individualist approach tends to promote an evangelism that is primarily undertaken in isolation. In other words, individuals are sent out like lone rangers to share the gospel by themselves. Certainly, individuals should present the gospel when the opportunity arises. However, an evangelism strategy that primarily depends on individuals has the potential to crush our people under the burden of carrying out the mission of God on their own.

While there are benefits to both strategies, as we see, there are also a few drawbacks. Something seems missing if these are the only two ways we train our people for evangelism. What if we started to think of evangelism as something that is done in the context of community?

In my experience, it is becoming more and more the case that people are attracted to biblical, Christian community before they are open to the biblical, Christian message. Skeptics need to see the power of the gospel lived out in the context of a Kingdom community.

In other words, Christian proclamation makes the gospel audible, but we also need a corporate witness to make the implications of the gospel visible. The local church “examples” the power of the gospel to those around them. The world should look at the Church and see the gospel interpreted in every day.

Our loving commitment to one another despite our differences and our grace toward one another’s failures are a beautiful testimony to the gospel. True gospel fellowship within the local body transcends the barriers of race, sex, class and education, creating a community bound by the gospel alone.

With this in mind, introducing people into the Church community as a relational network becomes an important part of our being a faithful presence in the world around us.

Now, our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe. Isn’t this what Jesus said in John 13? “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The ongoing witness of a church community is much more powerful than a one-time event. The collective witness of a church family is much more widespread than the impact of one individual.

Our Sin and Our Savior (John 8:2-11)

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This was originally posted at The Biblical Recorder.

All Christians have a deep problem of the soul. We are wired by nature towards self-righteousness. We tend to view our own sin in a therapeutic way. “Well, at least I am not as sinful as most people.” However, if you and I could solve our problems with sin, what difference does it make that Christ was crucified?

Ignoring the reality of sin leads to ignoring our need for a savior.

This is the problem with the religious leaders in John 8:2-11.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The Pharisees saw themselves as sufficiently righteous. In fact, their self-righteousness was so great they were ready to murder a woman who had been caught in adultery.

They had failed to see the purpose of the law. For them, God’s law was a means of earning salvation. By their own standards, they were not only righteous enough to achieve God’s acceptance, but also to exact God’s punishment on those who hadn’t.

If we think we are good enough to fulfill the law ourselves, we tend to look down in judgment on others. However, Jesus looks at the Pharisees and declares, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7).

After an honest assessment, each Pharisee dropped their stones and walked away. An honest assessment of sin brings forth a good sense of humility. We realize that the law is not meant to be a means of salvation, but a means to reveal the holiness of God and our own need of salvation from the sin deeply embedded in our hearts.

Jesus’ initial coming into the world was not to cast stones of judgment, but to cast himself towards the cross for the payment of sin. Salvation is not based on our righteousness, but His. However, he will come again one day to judge.

If we believe in Him now, we are able to go and sin no more, not as a means of salvation, but in a Spirit-filled and worshipful response to His salvation. We must realize that self-righteousness is just another sinful way of rejecting Jesus as Savior.

A Christmas Devotion

simeon holding baby jesus 2One of my favorite accounts surrounding the birth of Christ involved a man named Simeon. Simeon was a righteous and devout man. During his life, the Holy Spirit promised him that he would not see death until he had seen the savior of the world.

In Luke 2, Simeon was lead by the Spirit into the temple. At the same time, Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple. It was forty days after his birth, and he was brought to the temple for circumcision as it was custom according to the law. Luke 2:28 tells us that Simeon took infant Jesus in his arms and blessed God and said;

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

What a moving moment! As Alexander Schmemann once noted, Simeon had waited his whole life for this moment. Up until this point he was restless, longing for the comfort and salvation of his people. And then, at last, the Christ child was handed to him.

In that moment, he held the life of the world in his arms.

Let us remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. In the birth of Jesus, God delivered on His ancient promise to provide salvation from sin, and eternal life over death.

May we all stop today and thank God that He is a promise keeping God. The Christ child that was held in the arms of Simeon, is the same Christ that would sacrifice his life in order to deliver sinners into the loving arms of a Holy God.

The Hope of the Church (1 Peter 1:13-25)

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This is an excerpt from the second sermon in my 1 Peter series at Fairview Baptist Church. To listen or watch the whole thing, visit our website.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16

In this passage, Peter calls believers to live a holy life based on what God had already done for them in Christ. In other words, the indicatives (what God has done for us in Christ) are the basis for the imperatives (how we should live our lives in response). So, what God has done for us precedes what we are called to do with Him.

Because we have been given a great hope, we are called to proclaim and reflect that hope as we live our lives. Our new identity inevitably shapes how we interact and engage with those around us.

The call “To prepare your minds for action” (gird up the loins) was a common expression of that time and related to a man gathering up his long garments in order to work or run unhindered. In our day, it means to roll your sleeves up and be on mission.

But we must do so with a sober-mind. In other words, Christians must learn to reflectively think about what it means to be on mission with God in everyday life. This does not happen automatically.

As exiles in a foreign land, you would want to reflect the characteristics, expectations, and qualities of your Father God. Therefore, you would not want to conform to the passions of the broken culture around you like those who live in ignorance of the truth.

But note, being holy does not mean that you isolate yourself from culture or those around you. Being holy means to reflect the Father in the culture, and to those around you. All throughout the Bible, while God is set apart from the world, He is also involved in the world – pursuing the lost and rebellious. We are called out of the darkness to the light, but we are then called to go back into the darkness to reflect that light.

Imagine you woke up one day to discover that you were a missionary in a foreign land? In that context, the first thing you are going to do is try and understand and connect with people around you. Preparing your minds for action means that we need to rethink how we engage those around us on a day-to-day basis with the good news of Christ.

When it comes to sharing the good news, think of it in the context of a relationship, a long-term investment. How can you do ordinary, everyday things, with gospel intentionality? Informal sharing of the gospel most powerfully happens as the church is scattered in the world among other people.

Simply put, we need to think like missionaries. Our hope in Christ motivates our mission to the world. The hope of the church shapes the life of the church.

The SBC, Pastors, and Politics

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I was recently interviewed by Christine Wicker for an article titled “Younger Southern Baptists seek a less partisan approach to political engagement”. The piece was originally posted at RNS and The Washington Post picked it up soon after. Here is one quote:

Like a lot of Southern Baptists who are struggling to keep believers and attract new ones, Capps would like to see a “convictional kindness,” an approach that’s more winsome than confrontational.

“This generation is not going to be known for standing outside abortion clinics with picket signs,” he said. “I want us to be the generation that says, ‘We will adopt these children or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.’”

You can read the whole thing here or here. I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute!