A few years ago, when I was with my family in Europe, we were on a train ride from Venice to Alessandria, Italy, It was on that train I got into a very interesting conversation with a fashion executive from Milan.
There is a lot of confusion in this culture today over gender and sexual identity issues. There is a lot of head scratching in the church, as well. But God’s Word brings clarity where the world and religion often brings a fog.
500 years ago today Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Door and sent a shock wave around the world. I think it's time for a new Reformation...or at least time to get back to the heart of the orignal one!
October 31, 2017 marks the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, the theological battle between the Roman Catholic church and those Protestants who protested their teachings. But I think the Protestants need a reformation today, a "re-reformation" if you will...and so do many of our Gospel presentations.
Many churches have strayed from one of the key pillars of the original Reformation, "Sola Fide" ("faith alone" as the sole prerequisite for salvation.) Many have unwittingly replaced faith alone in Christ alone for salvation with the leaven of a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps humanistic approach to salvation.
Think of some of the gospel presentations you've heard given in church. You've probably heard phrases like this....
- "Just say this prayer and you'll be saved"...sorry Charlie. But there are going to be a lot of people who end up in the Lake of Fire who said "the sinner's prayer" but never put their faith alone in Christ alone for the salvation of their souls. You'll never find one case where Jesus or any of the disciples led anyone through a prayer for salvation. Having said that I don't believe there is anything wrong with having a new believer articulate their newfound faith in God in the form of a prayer (I do it myself). The problem is when a person thinks that saying the right words will save them. No, only Jesus can save them through faith and faith alone.
- "Fully surrender yourself to Jesus and you will be saved"…Nope. Can't be done. A lost man cannot commit to anything. Why? Because he is spiritually incapable of following through on any commitment. And as soon as you start depending on your own "commitment", "submission" or "surrender" then you are forsaking the gospel of grace. When we ask someone to “surrender all” to follow Jesus we are actually turning our backs on Jesus and insulting his free gift of grace in the same way that we would insult somebody who was taking us out to dinner and we chose to pay the tab instead. Why do you think Paul was so hard on the Galatians? He said that as soon as you start trusting in yourself and your own ability to commit/surrender/submit to God by keeping the law rather than trusting in Christ alone (sola fide) then you are "deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ" (Galatians 1:6.) Let's not desert Jesus or his scandalous message of grace. Let's embrace him and his message by faith alone. And then, once we've received it, let's surrender fully to him out of utter gratefulness for his free gift of grace!
- "Turn from all your sin and you will be saved" Oops. Those who preach this as a condition of salvation forget one little thing in their salvation formula...Jesus. How can we turn from one sin (let alone all our sin) until Jesus is working from the inside out? The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament simply means "a change of mind". When used in the context of salvation it is used to describe a person changing their mind about who Jesus is (Acts 2:38) and what they are trusting in for the salvation of their souls. Did you know that the only book of the Bible written to a totally unsaved audience, the book of John, doesn’t use the word “repent” once? Instead it uses the word “believe” almost one hundred times! Does that mean “repent” is a bad word? NO! NO! NO! Repent is a great word. And repentance is necessary for salvation. But the word repent is interchangeable with faith throughout the New Testament. When you repent about what or who you are trusting in, you are believing. And when you believe in Jesus, you are changing your mind about who or what you are trusting in. But to say that repentance is turning from sin and a separate act of faith implies that the book of John and Jesus himself preached an incomplete gospel. That’s a dangerous if not damnable implication.
The last two Mormon missionaries who came to my door reminded me that they “had the same view of salvation as most Protestant churches.” I begged to differ. They said something like, “Oh yeah, you guys believe that to be saved you need to repent from your sins and completely surrender your life to Jesus to be saved and that’s what we believe.”
I guess they were right. Many Protestant churches preach the same thing.
But I have a really big problem with a gospel presentation that a Mormon has no problem with? Don't you? I mean if Satan is giving your gospel presentation a standing O you may want to reconisder.
Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace that we receive through faith alone in Jesus. Once we are saved we don’t “make Jesus Lord” of our lives. He is Lord! As we submit to him we are blessed and conformed to the image of Christ. If we resist we are disciplined until we submit. If we continue to resist then one of two things is true: we were never truly saved or we're in for a divine come-to-Jesus-meeting of Biblical proportions (Hebrews 10:26-32.) Once we repent (i.e. change our minds and believe in Jesus) he begins a work of sanctification and starts turning us from our sin...and he doesn't fully complete this work until we are dead.
We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. We are saved by God's grace, not our works. We are saved by what Jesus did, not by anything we have done.
This is the message of grace! This is the good news of Jesus! This is the Gospel that rocked the world 500 years ago and needs to revolutionize the church once again today!
The original Reformation began when a young, rogue monk, named Martin Luther, nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Door. Well, I'm no Martin Luther, but I hope the Spirit of God nails this message to your heart today!
Accusations of fake news are everywhere these days. Thanks to the President's Twitter happy fingers this term is now part of the American vernacular.
Every great revival has both sizzle and steak. The sizzle is the rally point for the revival, the shock and awe of an event or a moment that captures attention, imaginations and hearts.
"After they prayed the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Acts 4:31
Dare 2 Share Live is fast approaching. On September 23rd we will, by God's grace, gather 50,000 teenagers in 69 locations across the nation to inspire, equip and unleash them to pray for, care for and share the gospel with the people in their cities and on their social media feeds.
I've been involved with youth ministry in one form or another (volunteer, intern, leader) for over 30 years. Even when I was a lead pastor I still considered myself a youth pastor with a bigger budget and a tad more authority.
I'll never forget the week of September 11th, 2001. After being traumatized by terrorist attacks our entire nation was shaken to the core. People were afraid to fly. Many were afraid to be in public places. The potential of another terrorist attack seemed like it could be imminent.
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
I was raised in an all white family in the middle of a mostly Mexican neighborhood. At the time, North Denver was in the top high-crime rate areas of our city. And my family members were right in the thick of it.
Growing up I heard countless stories and witnessed tons of "situations" that ended in some kind of bloodshed. My family was notoriously violent, so much so, that the Denver mafia nicknamed my five uncles "the crazy brothers."
So racism was real growing up in North Denver. For my family it was "us" verses "them." And the result was extreme violence, shed blood and intense hatred.
But then Jesus came in and changed everything.
A southern-drawled preacher from the suburbs nicknamed "Yankee" came to the toughest and angriest one of my uncles (Uncle Jack) and led him to Christ. That was the beginning point of his transformation!
My Uncle Bob came fully to Christ in the back of a squad car after beating a guy to death (they eventually resuscitated him.) And on and on the story goes.
Over the period of a few years most of my very large, very loud family put their faith in Jesus. Although I was a child when most of this happened, I remember watching the transformation of my family members as a result of the Gospel message.
That's when the Holy Spirit began to go to work on my family members. As they grew closer to Jesus the slime of racism (and other sins for that matter) began to get scrubbed away.
Soon my family members were side by side in church with their Latino brothers and sisters in Christ. It took time. It was messy. There were slip ups. But the trajectory of their transformation from racism to love was shockingly obvious to me and to everyone who truly knew my family.
So what are the implications of all this? Simply that the cure to racism in our hearts is Jesus and the cure to racism on our streets is the church.
Only Jesus can replace the hatred of racism with true and deep love for those who are not like us and those we may not like. The Gospel changes everything.
What is the Gospel? It's simply the message that God created us to be with him and that our sins separate us from God. Those sins cannot be removed by good deeds. So paying the price for sin Jesus died and rose again. Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life and this life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever.
If you have never put your faith in Jesus do so right now. It will change your destiny and transform your heart. It will give you the divine power to eradicate racism and every other "ism" in your life (i.e. hedonism, selfism, etc.)
The second part of the cure is, not for our hearts, but for our streets. It's the church mobilized to gospelize.
The church is God's change agent for the neighborhood. It was a church that reached into my hood and rescued my family, discipled my family, equipped my family and then unleashed my family back to the streets...but this time on a redemptive mission.
And our churches must learn how to increasingly reflect the multi-ethnic world we are living in. This is what they did in the early church, especially in the church of Antioch (Acts 11:19-26.)
The church of Antioch had Jews and Gentiles side-by-side, working together to advance God's kingdom. As my buddy Derwin Gray said, "In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son Jesus to transcend this racial hostility, injustice, and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death."
The people in our churches must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to share this message across the street, across the tracks and across the world. And I'm convinced the teenagers in our churches can help lead the way!
That's why on September 23rd we are doing Dare 2 Share Live, a live simulcast event that will broadcast into 72 churches across the United States! Our prayer is that, on a single day, we will be able to mobilize a force of teenagers who will be inspired, equipped and then unleashed to go out into their cities to show and share the love of Jesus! We have venues from South Chicago to Puerto Rico to Los Angeles to Fairbanks, Alaska that will be launching points for city-wide Gospel transformation!
Dare 2 Share Live will be the church unleashed to transform cities across America one Gospel conversation at a time. Our goal is to replace hate with love, to exchange racism for redemption and to tear down walls and build bridges.
Join us in prayer at 9:23 everyday that Dare 2 Share Live is used by God to be a rally point for revival. Pray that tens of thousands are unleashed that day to bring transformational unity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
May the Gospel of Jesus Christ scrape every last shred of racism out of our hearts. Let's start sharing this message across the street, across the tracks and across the world! Only through the Gospel can racism be cured!