Spreading the Gospel

Why did God entrust Christians to spread the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins?  It is now over 2000 years since Jesus died and rose again and yet a majority of the people who have ever lived have never heard of the God of Israel or of Jesus. [1]  God obviously knew Christians would not communicate to every person on this world in every age.  So why did he structure his plan of salvation in this manner?

Most Christians do not ask this question.  They just accept the standard Christian doctrine of salvation on faith.  That is fine if you have already heard and accepted Christ, but what if you had never heard of Christ?  Would you think it would be fair and just of God to send you to hell even though you had never heard of Christ or if your culture/religion told you Jesus was just a great moral teacher?  Most people just accept what their culture/religion tells them; they do not have the time to fully question because they are too busy making a living.  If we Christians expect our religion to be taken seriously, we must address this question.

Saying God is sovereign and can do whatever he wants is not an answer.  It is true God can do whatever he wants but it would not be in keeping with God’s character—he is a God of love and justice—for him to condemn people who have never heard.

I have proposed a solution—Jesus death and resurrection for our sins applies to everyone who has ever lived; everyone’s sins are forgiven (see John 1:29, John 3:17, John 4:42, John 6:51, Romans 5:18, II Corinthians 5:14-15, Hebrews 2:9, I Timothy 2:5-6, I John 4:14, 1 Timothy 4:9-10, I John 2:1-2, Romans 5:6-10).  However, the Bible teaches not everyone will be saved.  So how are we saved?  The Bible contains over 70 verses which state salvation is through belief in God, or through our conduct, motivation, repentance, persistence, and development of our abilities (see the tab on the home page of this blog titled “What the Bible Says about Salvation”).  God requires that our soul be changed so it becomes like him; he requires the renovation of our soul.

So, where am I wrong?  Let’s have a discussion.

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[1]   John Sanders, What about Those Who Have Never Heard?, Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1995, p. 9.

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Blaming the gods

This weekend I watched the movie Ran.  It is King Lear in a Japanese setting.  In one scene, the court jester laments the death of his lords, blames the gods for this tragedy, and is reproached with the following words:

“Do not curse the gods!  It is they who weep.  In every age they’ve watched us tread the path of evil, unable to live without killing each other.  They can’t save us from ourselves.” [1]

We Christians are like the court jester.  We think that God’s sovereignty means God must control all events in our world and many blame God for the misfortune that befalls them.  While God is in control it does not mean he causes all events to happen.  It is us humans who are the cause of the evil in our world, not God.  The problem is that we do not want to accept our responsibility for this evil.

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[1]   Akira Kurosawa, Director, Ran, Nipipon Herold Films, 1985.

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Pretty Words

In discussing the value of a well-defined vision to the success of any organization, a management blog comments that:

“When the vision is merely a pretty collection of words that doesn’t drive decisions and behavior it is pointless.  When it does drive behavior it is powerful.  Sadly that is rarely the case.”

Is not the same true in Christianity?  If our beliefs do not drive decisions and behaviors in our lives, our beliefs are pointless.  If they are pointless, then why do we have those beliefs?  Is God content to hear our “pretty words” or does he require more?

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[1]   John Hunter, “Pretty Words”, www.management.curiouscatblog.net, July 29, 2014.

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A Civilized Society

Walter Williams maintains that “A civilized society’s first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions, rules of etiquette, and moral values.  These behavioral norms—mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth, and religious teachings—represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experiences and trial and error.” [1]

My question is:  Is this first line of defense a set of beliefs or a set of behaviors?  If it is a set of beliefs, then we can say we believe in a certain moral value but practice just the opposite.  I do not think that was what Williams meant.  The whole purpose of a belief is ultimately to translate it into a concrete action.

The same principle applies to Christianity.  Knowledge of Jesus’ teachings is good but what God ultimately wants is for us to put those teachings into practice.

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[1]   Walter Williams, “Failure to pass on American values”, Tulsa Beacon, July 2, 2015, p. 4.

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The Right Kind of Christian

Ana Maria Cox is undoubtedly to the left, politically speaking, of most Christians.  When she became a Christian, she was told she was going to hell because she was not the right kind of Christian. [1]  What exactly is the right kind of Christian?

We Christians have a tendency to think other Christians should be like us, believe like us, and behave like us.  We think our interpretation of the Bible is correct.  However, as we have mentioned before, how we do we reconcile this belief with the truth that we all are finite?  Do we really think we know precisely the mind of God?

Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines Christian as:  “of, pertaining to or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings”.  As long as someone makes the effort to follow the example and teachings of Jesus, they should be considered the right kind of Christian.  If their beliefs are different than ours, then that should be cause for contemplation, not condemnation.

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[1]   Jamie B. Cheaney, “You be the judge”, World, April 18, 2015, p. 26.

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The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

It is refreshing to see major media coverage of Christians who actually apply Jesus’ teachings to their everyday lives.  I am speaking of the families of those killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

These families have forgiven the one who visited this violence upon them while at the same time calling on him to repent and change his ways.  Instead of retaliating in like kind, they have retaliated with love.  Like Jesus, they are not giving the perpetrator a free pass (John 8:3-11); they are calling on him to change and they are asking for justice.

They also provided leadership to their community on how to respond to acts of hatred.  Just look at the difference between Ferguson/Baltimore and Charleston.

Following the teachings of Jesus can make a positive change in people’s lives.  The members of Mother Emanuel are a prime example.

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Missionary Work

In an article about Liberia and its recovery from Ebola, a couple who came from the US to Liberia to teach agriculture made the following statement concerning the people of Liberia:

They don’t need millions of dollars. . .They need people who come live among them, exhibit godly lives, and guide them into the future that they are capable of growing. [1]

It also raises a question in my mind:  What exactly what is the task of Christian missionaries?  Is their primary job to preach the gospel or is it to:

. . .let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Is it more important that we just talk about Jesus’ words or should we put Jesus’ words into practice?

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[1]   Jamie Dean, “Not over yet”, World, April 18, 2015, p.17.

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Moving

This blog has been somewhat sporadic the past few months.  The reason has been because we are moving to a new house.  Moving has been an interesting experience.  It is similar to when my computer crashed about year ago.  So much of my life is based upon the routine—I know where my books are, I know where all the kitchen utensils are, I know where all the tools in my garage are.  Routine is good in that it enables us finite humans to cope with the complexity of life.  I do not have photographic memory so I do not remember where I last put that tool.  Therefore, if I always put that tool in a particular location, I always know where it is.

The problem is that when that routine is disrupted, it produces stress, discomfort, and uncertainty.  It takes time to determine where to put all my stuff in a new house.  And more likely than not, I will change my mind about where to place a particular item a couple of times.  Meanwhile, when I want a particular item, it takes a while to find out where I put it.

Our belief system operates in the same way as the routines we all follow.  Our beliefs help us make sense of this world and our lives.  They simplify life in that we use our beliefs to quickly make decisions without a lot of analysis.  We use our beliefs to quickly interpret and make sense of the events we experience.  Because our belief system is so critical to our lives, determining if our belief system is valid should be a top priority.  Instead, most of us just accept what we have been taught or what we pick up from those with whom we associate.  Is this a smart way to live our lives?

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Gospel Hymns

I love the old gospel hymns.  I love rock and roll and the blues.  What I would like is for a group to set the hymns to rock and roll music; to do for the old gospel hymns what the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did for Christmas carols.  Does anyone know of a group that has done this?  If so, please leave a comment.  I’ll check them out and post any groups that meet this criterion.  Or maybe some new group would like to take this on as a project.

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Christianity at Work

In our last blog, we noted that we see so little discussion on how to apply Christianity to our work.  Maybe that is because we have made Christianity a belief system instead of the way we live our lives.  If Christianity is just a belief system, then applying Christianity at work becomes finding ways to convince our co-workers to accept Christianity.  The problem is that takes time and our employers are interested in us doing our job, not in our philosophical and religious discussions.

However, living our life as Jesus would live it does not require words or time.  As Francis of Assisi proposed we should preach the gospel constantly and only if absolutely necessary should we use words. [1]

Applying Jesus’ teachings to our work is much more difficult than trying to “convert” someone at work to our belief system.  However, the Bible does not give us a pass on how we conduct our professional life.  The same standards apply to our personal and professional lives.  An example is Zacchaeus, a tax collector, who after his encounter with Jesus resolved to repay those he had cheated in his collection of taxes (Luke 19:1-10).

So how well do we apply Jesus’ teachings at work?  How do we treat our co-workers?  Do we take advantage of our subordinates?  Do we disparage those with whom we are in competition for the next promotion?  Are we silent when our superiors propose a program that will unfairly take advantage of our customers or suppliers?

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[1]   Paul Marshall, Heaven Is Not My Home, Nashville:  Word Publishing, 1998, pp. 207-208.

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