An Alabama pastor caused a firestorm earlier this year when he challenged the validity of the classic Sinner’s Prayer as an evangelism tool. Platt rightly points out that a lot of so-called Christians have combined the Sinner’s Prayer with a very loose understanding of Eternal Security into an easy-believism, guaranteeing them a “seat” in heaven, but placing no responsibility upon themselves to change. These people seem like hypocrites to the culture, damaging the credibility of the church.
To a certain extent this is a Reformed tradition issue, not being quite as common Nazarene/Wesleyan circles. We don’t emphasize Eternal Security and do emphasize life-change. But we have traditionally used the Sinner’s Prayer as a starting point. As I have used it, I’ve included the need to commit to following Jesus daily, leaving your old patterns behind. But maybe it creates too much energy around the moment of decision, leaving potential gaps in understanding and creating the impression that things are settled. I completely agree with Platt that we need to count disciples instead of decisions. In the link above he expounds a bit more, but the more he talks the less clear he becomes. I also don’t like his singular focus on wrath in the atonement. It’s limiting to what the cross accomplished. But at least he’s started an important conversation that needs to happen.
So what do you think? Is the Sinner’s Prayer too compromised to be a viable tool? Have we relied on it too much and failed to develop a disciple-making environment in our churches? What do you think of Platt’s alternative? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to comment below!
Today’s Ashes to Fire reading continued in 1 Corinthians. Paul has established the value of the gospel and the honor due those who proclaim it. But now he gets more personal. He says his great privilege as an apostle is to forego his right to be compensated. He wants to offer the gospel free of charge. This is his reward! There is a secret among mature believers. It is better to give than to receive. Paul was blessed, probably through his Father’s tent-making trade, to supply his needs elsewhere. We don’t know for sure, but if Paul was single this is a little easier to comprehend. But either way it’s a beautiful way of being in the world.
Then he goes on to his larger point. For him, ministry isn’t a career, it’s a way of being in the world. And everyone he meets is someone for whom Christ was raised. He wants everyone, literally “all men”, to walk with Christ. And he’s willing to do anything moral to connect with them. He’s not even worried about the percentages! “That by all means I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22b) it’s worth it to him to give his life to all that some might be saved. And he’s doing this as a believer, not as a clergyman. So it’s a way of living available to us all…
How precious is the gospel to you? How far would you go to see someone experience it? How far out of your comfort zone would you travel to help it be more real and relevant to someone who needs it? Do you see others who are going astray with compassion or judgment? Do you act with gospel compassion every time? Do you believe the same God could help you live that way? Since I do, I’m asking myself these same questions this Ashes to Fire season…
Paul goes on…
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings
1 Corinthians 9:23 NRSV
Well I’m definitely sick this evening, but that didn’t keep me from noticing this tidbit of intellectual honesty. Say what you will about Rowan Williams, I think his approach with this type of debate promotes better thinking in his opponents. I will say that he is taking Peter’s advice to heart…
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience”
(1 Peter 3:15–16 NIV)
39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
Luke 8:39 (NRSV)
I’m struck by how hard life was for the demoniac in Luke 8. So many years of suffering and lashing out. Now for once he’s in his right mind and people don’t want him that way. They want him at arm’s length in the category “other.” He feels it and he wants to hit the road with Jesus. But Jesus says, “no—return home and share your story.” Despite the complications, he does not hesitate. He stays put and tells them what Jesus did for him! Courageous obedience! Life is still hard, but now pulsing with meaning and purpose! The stay-put calling is less glamorous, against our instinct, but truly blessed!
This Sunday, Christian believers and seekers will gather in churches around the world to celebrate Jesus’ final arrival in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Many will be asking the same question that was heard on the streets that day—”Who is this?”
Crowds of people came to meet him! They welcomed him into the city, believing he might just be the answer to their prayers. Many were holding palm branches. Others laid their coats down for him. A scene fit for the arrival of a king. But Jesus didn’t look like a king. He looked like someone they’d never seen before, but had always been seeking. Still the question remained. Who is this?
It’s a question we should all answer. Who is Jesus? But make sure you don’t answer from your easy chair.
This Sunday, go to church. Hear the story. Experience the people who follow him. Get caught up in the moment. Come see for yourself. Many have testified to experiencing Jesus, directly, in worship. Most have told a story of transformation and hope. At NewHope Community Church we welcome you to come just as you are to experience Jesus just as he is. If you’re in Chicagoland, come check us out in NW Indiana. 10:30am (You’ll find directions by clicking on link) Good Friday (7pm) and Easter Sunday (10:30am) are additional opportunities to discover faith and and check out the church experience. Who is Jesus? Wherever you are keep seeking until you discover a life changing answer! Grace and Peace to you!
Just a few minutes left on St. Patrick’s Day, but tonight I’ve been revisiting his story. Now, so far I haven’t uncovered any green beer or Leprechauns, but I did come across some very good stuff!
We can’t recover a lot of A.D. fourth-fifth century details, mainly due to a lot of sixth century legends of his magical powers. What we do have is his Declaration or accounting for his life or Confessio (not a typo, but a cognate straight from Latin).
It’s Patrick’s 2 Corinthians. Here he answers his critics and gives a very personal accounting for his spiritual journey and ministry. We can trust it’s his, because it’s not all positive, but it is all accounted for in God’s mercy. Few people in ministry are this honest about their journey, fears, and failings. It’s the age of spin now, but not then.
Don’t know that he drove out snakes. Do know that he was held captive 6 years. Don’t know that he held magical sway over any who threatened. Do know that God gave him favor and speed in several key situations. There appears to have been nothing special about him, but a simple, radical obedience to God in all things after faith. God said, “Do it,” and He had him a man in Britain who would.
God called him through dreams to go back to the land of his captivity and spread the good news. Thousands answered his invitation. He saw as validation that many were called away from deep immorality to compassion, service, ministry, and even celibacy.
He had settled on his faith while away (people saw a huge difference) and actually came to love his captors and desired for their full freedom in Christ. 30-40 of Ireland’s 150 tribes were converted. And not by traditional means. He used indigenous forms to tell the old story. He listened to their stories and told his in a way they could understand. He apparently worked within families soon after conversion. With contagious faith, these families would then start a church. Others then branched out right away to extend the faith outward, starting another church. It happened amazingly fast, all in the later years of his life.
Here’s his advice to us:
“According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger, to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear…”
“Confessio” (pt 14)
I have a Confessio to make. It’s to and for everyone I meet. Today and always, where I live, may I make known this good news to everyone who will listen. It’s so amazingly precious. How can we not share? People are so valuable in God’s sight. How can we not love them with our lives. Every one of them.
For further reading: The Celtic Way of Evangelism, by George Hunter, III (2010 Abingdon Press-recently revised and updated)
For those who aren’t yet sick of the Rob Bell-Love Wins controversy, I think I’ve found BOTH a good way to finally make sense of the LOST finale AND visualize one of the theories of heaven/hell/Kingdom in Bell’s book.
Using the metaphors of Luke 15 (Father w/2 sons parable) and the always-open gates of the heavenly city (Revelation), this view suggests that free will continues after death. There is only one true story of grace. The prodigal son chose to live a false story, but when it ran its course he traded it in for the true one. Result: enjoying the party forever! The elder son also chose to live a false slavery/obligation story, even just outside the party. His stubborn refusal to accept the grace story keeps him from enjoying the party. But the invitation is always there for him to relent and kick up his sandals inside. When he’s had enough of his good boy creepiness (=hell), he can come inside (=heaven). So, goes the theory, will it be in the fullness of the Kingdom. The gates are open. Whenever the LOST get ready to be FOUND, they leave the ultimately dissatisfying story-of-their-own-making and come on in to the ultimate reality.
The LOST finale features a doesn’t-quite-ring-true post-island storyline. One-by-one the survivors feel called to meet at a church. As they gather, they sense they’ll have to leave something behind. At least one decides, he’s not ready yet. The rest gather in the church. They’re told they’ve been living in a pseudo world they mutually created so they could still be together. But it wasn’t real. Their time together on the island was real and what’s next will be even more real. But they have to leave this intermediate world behind. They rise. The church doors open to the most glorious light imaginable. They follow their guide into the brightness of their intended, but resisted, destiny. The implication is, eventually, everyone will make this choice.
It’s not exact, but there’s enough inter-textuality here to shed some light. It’s interesting. Again, this is not my view (because too many other Scriptures aren’t accounted for-see my previous post.) I’m not even sure it’s Bell’s personal view. But some Christians have believed it. So…
Makes me wonder 2 things:
1. Did the LOST writing team use this view of universalism to guide their finale? (Regardless of their own faith convictions, it made for one innovative narrative)
2. Did Rob Bell get this book idea at an amazing LOST party last year?
So maybe Bell is LOST after all! He-he!
Grace and Peace
Twenty-nine. That’s number of students who just completed Sharing Our Faith, a 1 credit-hour course I just taught at Olivet Nazarene University. The twenty-nine and I studied to learn more about our faith so we could be ready to help someone else who may have spiritual questions. We also learned together about being a good friend and co-worker. Sometimes believers are better at pushing a message than living one. One interesting idea from the book Workplace Grace: The most important way to earn the right to be heard is to be good at your job. If care about reaching out to others who need faith, then get good at what you do everyday. Integrity speaks louder than words. On page 29 it lists Daniel, David, Nehemiah and others as heroes of the faith who worked secular jobs with integrity and changed the world.
Just Walk Across the Room is another great collection of resources that emphasizes how to show love in the simplest ways to others. On page 29 it says, “It’s as though Jesus is saying to his followers, “What I did as I walked across the cosmos all those years ago, I now want you to do. Every day, try to point every person you meet to me…” Most people get a little terrified to be asked challenging questions of faith, but anyone can say hello and introduce themselves to a neighbor, co-worker, or person standing alone at an event. This kind of simple hospitality is another important way to show love. Who knows where some of these conversations might lead? But it can actually save a life to say hello to someone who looks discouraged. Just knowing one other person might care, can keep a person going. The goal is not to convert someone. The goal is to love them like Jesus. And to be willing to listen to their story and share your own if the opportunity arises. Knowing them changes us for the better as well.
I was impressed with how much they cared and how hard they worked. We prayed for friends, we laughed about stories. We even threw a party at the end because it’s one of the best expressions of the Kingdom!
If they all make a difference in one life each, that doubles the impact. If the chain goes on from there it gets exciting pretty fast. I guess that’s how the faith made it all the way from Jerusalem to Chicagoland 2,000 years later.
On the Second to last day of class I told everyone that I was looking forward to seeing them all one day when we stand before God. I told them the goal is hear Jesus say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.” I told them how great it will be to stand and hear these words because their faith in Christ opened the door to God’s grace that made us whole. But then I said I hope we get a chance to hang out together while that’s still going on. I can’t wait to see all the people who experience heaven because these students cared. I think all 29 will be fist-bumping each other as they overhear their friends, co-workers, family, and neighbors being told “Well done, you good and faithful servant.” I can’t imagine a greater feeling in the world! Knowing that you had some small part in helping someone experience saving-faith in God. It’s a vision to live toward with our whole lives. We can bring heaven to earth now and experience the fullness of the Kingdom, then. 29=pure joy forever for who knows how many others! Can’t wait. 29
When was the last time God opened a door for you to share your faith with someone else? When was the last time God nudged you to start a new friendship just to show love and care? What could God help you do today to show compassion to someone else?