Teaching and Disciple-Making

Where is the intersection of Sunday School and disciple-making? I recently sat down with the North Carolina Baptist State Convention and shared my understanding of how these two cross paths.

June 27, 2016 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Sin of Retaliation

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

The natural mode of our hearts is expressed well in the Latin phrase lex talionis, which means “the law of retaliation.” When someone crosses us or makes demands on us our initial reaction is to respond in the same way. Why not? This is the way we’ve heard that the world works. Right? Retaliation is sinfully seductive and bitterly sweet.

However, as Christians we operate by the laws of a different world, the Kingdom of God. This is why in Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus says, “you have heard it said … but I tell you.” What does he tell us? Jesus demands that when someone insults us, we should not respond in a way that escalates violence. Instead, we should respond in love towards our attacker, in a way that prevents further attacks or stops the progression of violence.

Moreover, when someone takes your possessions, Jesus calls us to respond in the way of love, namely, to go the extra mile, to give freely to those in need. In many cases, those who pursue our possessions have an actual need they are trying to meet.

Doesn’t Jesus call us to give to those who are truly in need?

Now, we can split hairs on this passage and develop numerous scenarios where helping can hurt. Or we can think of many modifiers to these words in order to show how these things may or may not play out. But I think that misses the point of the passage.

In fact, the initial response of counting the costs to respond this way shows that retaliation is our natural desire.

However, Jesus calls us to think differently. Moreover, His Spirit enables us to respond differently.

In a unnatural way – better yet, a supernatural way – our need for retaliation and personal justice is not bound by the “pay out” on this earth.

If our self-esteem is found in our stance before God, we can lovingly stand in the face of sinful insults. If our treasure is found in the inheritance we have as children of God, we are not devastated when our earthly belongings are taken. This is the power of the gospel.

June 20, 2016 at 7:15 am 1 comment

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enimies

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

The election season is a good time to gauge fears of our fellow citizens. Politicians are experts at exposing and exploiting the suspicions of our culture. Right now, many people fear Middle Easterners because they merely resemble their religious extremist neighbors. Some candidates have proposed that we respond to entire people groups with fear by shutting them out.

However, Jesus calls us not to respond in fear, but in faith. To open our hearts to those who are different that we are. Even to our enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

It is easy to love those who are like us, but what reward is there in that? Is God not sovereign over all things? Does He not allow His sun to rise on the evil and on the good? Does He not send rain on the just and on the unjust?

We know from scripture that God hates those who are resolutely and unrepentantly wicked. Those who do, and intend to do harm against us will face the judgment of God. In most cases, even those who resemble the enemy do not intend harm. Without reservation, we are called to reflect the grace that we so commonly enjoy.

Doesn’t God show grace and care for all of His creatures? Absolutely. Therefore Jesus’ disciples are called to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy. I recently heard International Mission Board President David Platt say that “Only an Americanized Christianity would prioritize security over the proclamation of the gospel.” We must remember the power of Satan is limited by the prerogative of God. When we face the enemy, and the perceived enemy, our initial response should be love: pray for them; love them; open your hearts to them.

The power of the gospel dissolves fear and empowers us to act in faith. Perhaps the most poignant way to apply this text is to remind us of Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, love others with the same amount of energy and tenacity that you would for your own well-being. How would you want to be treated?

June 14, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

The Deadliness of Lust

Lust

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

Lust is not a new problem; it’s as ancient as the post-Eden condition. Human lust for covenant-breaking sexuality is rooted in the fallen passions of our heart (Matthew 5:27-28). However, the problem of lust has been exasperated in the age of the Internet beyond what anyone could have imagined. And while pornography is an issue of public morality, it’s often shrouded in the secrecy of personal privacy. Our sinful lust is easily fed by the Internet, which offers an easily found image, an easily accessible video.

Though no sin is safely hidden from the eyes of our Savior. Even more so, Jesus died to pay the price for our sinful indulgence of lust. Therefore, God takes the sin of lust seriously. And so should we. According to Jesus, indulged lust is equal to adultery. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). This is an issue of the heart.

Lust begins in the heart, the center of a person’s being. It is not enough to maintain physical purity alone, for many Christians adultery is easily avoidable. Jesus calls us to guard against engaging in lust mentally, a heart act of unfaithfulness.

The imagery of “tearing out one’s eye” is a deliberate overstatement to emphasize the importance of purity. Those claim to be children of God should be willing to go above and beyond in order to avoid becoming ensnared by sexual sin that finds its origins in the pits of hell. Lustful intent promises satisfaction, but delivers death. The pornography industry is empowered by the fires of hell.

Thankfully, in Christ there is salvation from the snares of indulged lust. Even more so, by the power of the Spirit, there is the offer of salvation from sinful patterns of unfaithfulness to God and one’s spouse.

The Good News of the gospel is that when we take sin seriously, God will deal with us graciously. In Christ there is true satisfaction of our deepest desires.

June 7, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Conflict and the Christian

Path Broken Between People

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

Unresolved conflict is damaging to our soul. As Christians we know God calls us to pursue peace in our relationships. As Christians, we also know conflict in our relationships is to be expected. The doctrine of sin is most evident when we are angry at one another. The sinful nature of our hearts is often exposed by our thoughts, words and actions. Anger typically occasions a desire to damage or destroy another person. While we are called to love one another sacrificially, when conflict arises, we often lash out at one another relentlessly. Jesus says, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).

While we all acknowledge unresolved conflict damages our souls, we often fail to recognize it is detrimental to our worship. In Mathew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches that if we intend to offer a gift at the altar of worship, when unresolved conflict is between us and another, we should first attempt reconciliation. This may seem like an odd command at first, but if we reflect on the nature of the gospel, this command is given context.

Aren’t we all, as Christians, recipients of God’s grace in reconciling us to Himself through Jesus Christ? Aren’t we the ones who have wronged God in unimaginable ways with our sin? Hasn’t God offered us grace when we did not deserve it? God offers reconciliation, when we deserve judgment. How can we come to the altar as reconciled worshipers of God if we are withholding the opportunity of reconciliation from another person?

If we have truly experienced the Good News of Jesus, we will see reconciliation with the person who has something against us is a gospel issue. What is interesting about this passage is that the one who initiates the reconciliation here is the one who has wronged the other person. God has taken initiative to reconcile us even when we did not deserve it. We must take initiative in conflict to be reconciled to those we’ve hurt, because they deserve it. This is the power of the cross.

May 31, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Christian Living as “Salt and Light”

salt-and-light2

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

As citizens of the Kingdom of God, Christians are expected to live according to high moral standards. However, when we reflect on the ethic that Jesus calls for in the Sermon on the Mount, it can be easy to fall into despair. Who among us can perfectly uphold these holy virtues? If we are honest, all of us fall short more than we’d like to admit.

The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus came to fulfill the totality of the law. In other words, where the Israelites failed, where we fail, Christ has perfectly lived according to every “iota and dot” of God’s perfect law.

Though our righteousness has not exceeded the Scribes and the Pharisees, His has. And it is through Him that we are able to enter the Kingdom of heaven by grace alone, through faith alone.

But do not be mistaken! Christ still calls His disciples to not only teach His commands, but also live according to His commands.

Jesus illustrates this point by using the examples of salt and light. Like salt, Christians are to preserve what is good, and season our lives for the good of the world. As a light to the world, God’s people are called to illuminate the world through good works that bring glory to Him.

This is a call for believers to live a life of worship in response to God’s saving grace.

The law is for our good because it shapes our life of worship to be offered as a sacrifice of praise. Christ did not abolish the law, He fulfilled it. He also empowers us to live out the law through His Spirit. Oh what amazing grace!

We live in a broken world where all that is good is being corroded away by sin. In His power, we are the salt that preserves God’s good presence to those around us.

We live in a dark world where the shadows of sin creep into every area of society. By His power, our lives illuminate the darkness, pointing others to find their way to the light of Jesus Christ.

May 24, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Christian Character in the Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount

This was originally posted at The Biblical Recorder.

Throughout the ages the Church has utilized Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to frame the Christian life. More specifically, one of the essential passages that the ancient Fathers of the church used to catechize new believers was the “beatitudes,” which are short statements that summarized the essence of that sermon. These statements are labeled the “beatitudes” from the Latin word beatus, which means “blessed or happy.” In other words, it is a state of living that is not marked by temporary and circumstantial happiness, but a deep joy that is rooted in one’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

  • The poor in Spirit are blessed because they recognize their neediness for grace from God.

  • Those who mourn their sin, also recognize the comfort they find in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

  • The meek are blessed because they do not feel the need to assert themselves over others to get what they want, but find rest in God’s providential sovereignty over all events on earth.

  • Those who long for righteousness, find satisfaction in the deep wells of gospel empowered and Spirit reliant living.

  • The merciful are blessed, because they, after receiving mercy from God, can offer mercy to others freely.

  • The pure in heart are those who have seen God in Christ, and have received His righteousness as a gift in faith.

  • Those who make peace, (or seek the well-being of those around them) receive the blessing of giving the lost a picture of what is to come.

  • Even those who are wrongly treated and reviled are counted among the blessed, because their reward in the world to come is certainly worth the trials here.

This is a life lived in the power of the Spirit and in response to God’s blessing. We are doubly blessed because we experience God’s blessing in obedience (Luke 11:28; 1 Peter 3:9; James 1:22; Revelation 22:7). But even more so, obedience itself is a blessing! Which one of us would be able to live this way in our own power?

May 20, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

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In NYC for a few days to learn about @namb_sbc's church planting strategy. Happy 9th Anniversary to my love @lauracapps3195! Bathtime baby.

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