Proclaiming the Gospel

Growing up, I was always a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I rarely did anything wrong. I followed the rules. I never rebelled. I defended my faith and brought my Bible to school to show just how serious about my faith I was. I was your classic good Christian girl.

While this is wonderful, it took me a long time to see just how lost this world is, but how genuinely human my neighbor is, regardless of their faith or knowledge of Christ. The topic of how to approach nonbelievers has been one that is on my heart a lot lately. I have seen far too many Christians build up walls around our churches, judging newcomers and young Christians by their sins instead of getting to know them personally. But I feel that Jesus has been shifting my views a little, allowing me to see a generation, however selfie-obsessed, that is broken and in need of the knowledge of the love and grace that only Jesus can give.

I am not alone in this. Many growing churches today have the same mindset — we live in a world that needs Jesus, so let us show Him to them. Sometimes, the mindset can be viewed as a watered-down Gospel. Many Christians feel that love is taught too freely and sin is not taught enough. I believe that sin should be pointed out among Christians, but that love cannot be given to freely.

I recently watched an interview with Carl Lentz on The View that had many Christians angry. He did not point out that abortion is a sin on national television.

From the very beginning, they introduced Carl Lentz as a pastor “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and then went straight for hot button topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. It’s The View, so controversial topics are not unexpected, but it really looked like they were asking not out of genuine interest but to stir up something. Immediately, I got uncomfortable — not from the question, but from the motives. He got uncomfortable too, and refused to give a straight answer when asked if abortion was a sin. I quote, “I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story; before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

I thought about those words — similar words to what I had told my husband only days before. If you don’t know Jesus, I want to get to know you and point you to Him. I do not want to look at you and point out your sins. This is not my job.

In fact, my job as a Christian is laid out in Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” – and in Matthew 28:19-20 – “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Firstly, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is NOT that you have sinned but that the God of all creation has loved you so much that He sent his only Son into the world as a baby for the sole purpose of dying one day all for you. Because you matter.
Secondly, I don’t think that the order in which Jesus speaks in Matthew 28 is an accident; in order to make disciples of all nations, first we must baptize and then we must teach. First we must lead them to Jesus and then we must teach them His ways.

I talked about this a few posts back in No Place in Heaven; that there had to be a better way to approach nonbelievers than telling them that God hates sin and that they have sinned. This could not be the gospel that Jesus was talking about in Mark 16:15. That could not have been what He meant.

Recently, I read in 1 Corinthians 5 about sin in the church. Specifically, Paul had received reports that there was a case of sexual immorality in the church, something that is so obviously sin, even pagans did not practice it. He rebuked this sin specifically and said there was no place for it in the church. But he also touched on sin outside of the church and said,

 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

The more I read my Bible and how Christians are to ask, the less I am compelled to point out that my neighbors who do not know Christ are actually sinners by a standard they do not understand. The more I think about Jesus, the more I want to let people know that he was a radical in this time and would likely be considered a radical in the church today. He ate with sinners. He refused to cast stones at an adulteress. He gave the good news about the living water he offered to another adulteress who wasn’t even Jewish. He was touched by a woman who was ceremoniously unclean and did not rebuke her. He loved the unlovable and the pharisees scoffed at him.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my first son. I was not prepared for him. I wanted kids, but not yet. I was only four months married when I found out about my son. It was not the first year of marriage I had always imagined. I knew, though, that God had given my my son at that time for a reason. As life goes on, I am realizing more reasons for all of it. One thing God did in me at that time was give me compassion for the girl who chooses abortion.

I was always pro-life and will always be pro-life. I wrote about it a little here. There were facts I had always known from research that supported the ideology that a fetus is actually a life. And yet, five years ago, I felt scared and ashamed to be pregnant. I never considered ending my pregnancy, but I realized how people could. The life growing inside of me was something permanent that I would have to care for when I was only learning how to be an adult myself. I could not see past my current situation, and my current situation certainly did not allow for a child.

My heart melted the day that I saw my “little gummy bear” dancing on the screen during my 9-week ultrasound. I knew the scientific facts about how babies grew in the womb. But to see my baby, only an inch long, dancing and jumping, made everything that much more real.

If I had chosen to end my pregnancy, I never would have seen that ultrasound. I never would have actually seen the life inside of me. You could have told me about it, but I would not have known. I could not have pictured it. If I had chosen to have an abortion, that guilt would have stayed with me, as I have heard from many women who have had abortions out of fear from their current circumstances. Every birth date that would have passed would have been a reminder that the baby I never had was not with me.

You see, many women who choose abortion do not do it out of spite or callousness. They have so many different reasons. And many genuinely do not see the fetus as a life and therefore have no reason to call it murder. Do you not see why a Christian who claims the love of Jesus above all does not want to call it sin on national TV? Do you not realize how many broken women there were watching that morning needing to not hear that there choice from years ago, months ago, or the day before was simply a “sin”? And could you not imagine the backlash that a Christian man would have gotten for calling all these women sinners?

The world does not need to hear right now that it is in sin. In the midst of all that is going on in these weeks alone, we need to hear that there is a God who loves us, a God who wants to be with us, a God who thought that we we worth His death on the Cross.

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No Place in Heaven

There’s no place in Heaven for someone like me.

Because I am a sinner. I’ve lied (Lev. 19:11), I’ve been proud, I’ve been lazy, I’m addicted to chocolate and potato chips (Proverbs 6:16-19), I’ve been angry and held grudges, and I’ve insulted people (Matthew 5:21-26). I am a sinner (Romans 3:23) and there is no room in Heaven for sin (Rev. 21:27).

And yet, I know I will get to Heaven (Acts 2:21). It is not of my doing, but because Jesus loved me so much that He was willing to leave His place in Heaven to come as a baby, grow in the world and walk this earth, die and rise again, all so that I could have a place in Heaven with Him. He has saved me by His grace.

I named this post after a song I recently heard, by an artist I really like. I love a good portion his music, although I am saddened by some of his lyrics and his skewed views on theology. But my heart really fell when I heard his song about being gay and begging God to love him in spite of it.

Listening to the words was sobering. My mind raced around the ideas and words and beliefs regarding Christianity and homosexuality. It skipped past protesters who picketed, holding signs of “God hates gays” (He doesn’t) and went straight to the commonly heard phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” (Jude 23).

Let me be clear: all types of sexual immorality is sin (1 Cor. 6:12-18). It is important, as Christians, to not forget that sin is real and it separates us from Christ — it is the entire reason Christ came to the world at all.

And yet, I feel like we got it all wrong. I feel like I got it all wrong.

When we, as Christians, single out homosexuality as a sin, we act as if it is a greater sin than anything else. Why does no one call out liars, claiming that the liars are loved, but the lies aren’t? I’ve even seen more compassion for murderers than for homosexuals. So, how is a person supposed to feel when he is told that his identity is a sin? How can he not feel that he is beyond saving, beyond grace?

The Nashville Statement came out recently. (I am not against it nor condemning it. I think it is necessary for the church to defend its statutes when politics start to interfere with freedom of religion.) How must a person feel to know that out of every possible sin, there was a separate doctrine written only about himself and people like him? When you are personally hurt by people who claim to love the most compassionate Man to ever walk this planet, how could you interpret it as anything but condemnation?

I think we as Christians need to be more empathetic and more willing to show the love of Jesus. We are doing no one a favor when we blindly call out sin into an already hurting world.

As a Christian, I don’t ever want to be the one to tell you there is no place in Heaven for someone like you. But if you feel that way, come to Jesus. Let Him love you. Try Him and let Him do whatever He needs to do with you.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

A Timely History Lesson

I had an exam the other day which warranted a lot of studying on my part. I mean, I have never in my life studied for any test like I did for this one. Mostly, I studied history.

I had never liked social studies or history too much during my school years. There were some years, I thought it was pretty OK, usually thanks to a good teacher. Most of the time, though, I struggled to remember what I had to learn for tests and I didn’t do too well. It was usually my worst subject every year.

So, I needed to study. And as I studied, I became enthralled by what I read and watched. I saw history in a new light — not as a series of facts I need to know for a test, but as a series of events that led to the world today. But, being enthralled doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed all that I had re-learned. There were some things that made me angry and disheartened — things that made me want to go back in time and ask people why on earth they thought that way.

In 1619, the first slaves from Africa set foot on American soil, and from that point, slavery stayed in the US for almost two and a half centuries. Between 1619 and today, slavery was a norm in the south and some other states for 61.8% of that time. Yet, that isn’t what made me angry. The anger that I felt stirring in my heart was from Christian slave-owners.

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America actually said, “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

How could people actually believe that God was totally OK with it if you took ownership of someone else and treated them as less than human? Did these people actually believe in Jesus Christ? Do they not know He died for everybody? Whatever happened to loving your neighbor as yourself?

It hurts my soul to think about a time when slavery was prevalent. It hurts me to know that slaves were “people of color” — that, based on the color of their skin, their destiny in this life was decided by someone who bought them from someone else. It bothers me to my core to see that slave-owners actually treated slaves as less than people based on the amount of melanin in their skin.

And then came the Three-Fifths Compromise, the one time when slave-owners felt their slaves should be counted as people, and the non-slaveowners up north turned their cheek and insisted that they should not be part of the population. So, in came the compromise: every black slave will count for 3/5 of a white person.

Every black slave will be considered 60% human.

Somehow, for me, there’s a difference between being treated poorly by your owner and having the national government declare that you’re 40% less human than your owner — the one who doesn’t even believe in your humanity.

For anyone who knows American history, there was eventually a war. The southern states did not appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s stance on slavery and keeping it out of new territories and seceded from the union, which caused a civil war — the outcome of which was slaves being abolished.

I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since then. I’m not naive enough to say that racism doesn’t exist. But, I feel like pro-slavery activists then were victims of groupthink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) — deep down, they knew that their treatment of other people was wrong, but everybody else was doing it, so their judgment was clouded (this is my opinion — not stating this as a fact).

I know desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement didn’t come about until almost an entire century passed after slavery was abolished. I know that this is still recent in the light of things.

But most people, most people, aren’t so bold as to think that people of color are less than human. Right?!?

And then I saw the news about what happened on Saturday Night, an attack by white nationalists after a rally which started with the planned removal of the statue of the Confederate general from the Civil War — the one that was lost by confederates over 150 years ago.

I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why people want to still honor a man who lost a war for a very good reason. I don’t get why people who weren’t there for the war could get so worked up about it. I don’t know how people in the twenty-first century can actually think they are above another person simply because of their skin color. I don’t know how people can be so evil today. This is stuff I read about in my history books. This is all over and done with. We know better now.

Yet, sin remains in this world, unleashed, launching its attack on every one of us in different ways. It’s why I can’t let my first reaction — one of anger and even hatred towards the people who committed this violence — dictate my actions. It’s why I have to surrender the human emotions that I have right now, however righteous they feel. Christ is the only One who can cancel sin.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Lastly, I pray that no one is made to feel like 3/5 of a human. One hundred percent is made in the image of my God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus loves every single part of you; He died for your entire being (John 15:13).