• Would The World Be Better Off Without Christians?

    Some people say today that if there was no religion in the world the world would be a better place. Usually this pointed remark is aimed at Christians and Christianity.

    But would the world really be better off if there were no Christians? I think not, if you have a look at all the work Christians organisations do for this world our world would be far worse off without Christians and/or Christianity.

    Country star Brad Paisley nails this point with his song Those Crazy Christians.

    Check out the lyrics here:

    Those crazy Christians, I was gonna sleep in today
    But the church bells woke me up and they’re a half a mile away

    Those crazy Christians, dressed up drivin’ down my street
    Get their weekly dose of guilt before they head to Applebee’s

     

    They pray before they eat and they pray before they snore
    They pray before a football game and every time they score
    Every untimely passing, every dear departed soul
    Is just another good excuse to bake a casserole

     

    Those crazy Christians, go and jump on some airplane
    And fly to Africa or Haiti, risk their lives in Jesus’ name
    No, they ain’t the late night party kind
    They curse the devil’s whiskey while they drink the Savior’s wine

     

    A famous TV preacher has a big affair and then
    One tearful confession and he’s born again again
    Someone yells hallelujah and they shout and clap and sing
    It’s like they can’t wait to forgive someone for just about anything

    Those crazy Christians

     

    Instead of being outside on this sunny afternoon
    They’re by the bedside of a stranger in a cold hospital room
    And every now and then they meet a poor lost soul like me
    Who’s not quite sure just who or what or how he ought to be
    They march him down the aisle and then the next thing that you know
    They dunk him in the water and here comes another one of those crazy Christians

     

    They look to heaven their whole life
    And I think what if they’re wrong but what if they’re right
    You know it’s funny, much as I’m baffled by it all
    If I ever really needed help, well you know who I’d call
    Is those crazy Christians

    Do you think Brad Paisley is right?

    You may also like:

    The Checkered Histories of Christiantiy and Atheism

    What Everybody Ought to Know About Atheism

    Why the Claim Jesus Never Existed Should be Put to Bed

  • What is your attitude to the poor?

    In preparing a sermon about Social Justice and the gospel I found this convicting quote by the great  Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne:

    “I fear there are some Christians among you to whom Christ cannot say ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’ Your haughty dwelling arises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost, and yet you never darkened their door. You heave a sigh perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them. Ah my dear friends, I am concerned for the poor, but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you on the great day. You seem to be Christians, and yet you care not for his poor. Oh, what a change will pass upon you as you enter the gates of heaven! You will be saved, but that will be all. There will be no abundant entrance for you. ‘He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.’

    And I fear that there may be many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians, because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends, enjoy your money. Make the most of it. Give none of it away. Enjoy it quickly, for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.”

    Robert Murray McCheyne, Works (New York, 1847), II:482.

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 5:The priority of Preaching and the mission of the church

    Because of the reality of hell and the nature of the cross by far the biggest concern for those of us who are Christians needs to be the eternal fate of those who do not know Jesus. So therefore the priority of our time, money and planning should go to making sure that the most people hear the gospel as possible. At Resolved we see Social Justice and evangelism as distinct expressions of the outworking of the gospel. We agree with Stott who writes that social Justice and evangelism are “partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other.  Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside each other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other.  For each is and end in itself.  Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”[1] This is not to say that evangelism won’t be done because of social justice or that we will be trying to both evangelise and do social justice in every situation. We see both evangelism and social justice as necessary and yet distinct outworking of the gospel. But that being said, as we have noted because of the day of Judgement we put an emphasis on preaching of the gospel. Because that is what we are called to do (c.f. Matthew 28:18-20)

    This brings us nicely into the question about the mission of the church. Is Social justice part of the mission of the church? I would say no. The mission of the church is outlined by Jesus in the above quote from Matthew’s gospel. The mission of the church is to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded them. But social justice is part of what Jesus taught and so as pastors and leaders it is our duty to help people see the need for social justice, equip them to serve the poor and displaced and to provide opportunities to do so.

    I put social justice on the same level as pastoral counselling. Christians are commanded to love each other and provide support for each other but is pastoral counselling the mission of the church? If we take the mission from  Matthew 28:18-20 then we conclude no it isn’t.  But the church would be disobedient if it didn’t partake in caring for each other.  That is the same with social justice. Is it part of the church’s mission? No it isn’t but it is commanded by Jesus and the bible and so we must do it if we are to be bible believing Christians. This being said I do believe that there is far more scriptural support for pastoral care then social justice. But this doesnt negate my point about them both not being the mission of the church but being necessary things the church does.

     

    Over the past few days we have looked at social justice form a variety of viewpoints and we have seen that even though social justice isn’t part of the mission of the church it is so biblically waranted that for a church to ignore it that church would be ignoring the teaching of Jesus. So let all churches and all Christians care for the poor because of the gospel and for the glory of Jesus!


    [1] Stott, J.R.W, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 27
  • Every church must do social justice part 3: Social Justice and the Gospel

    The problem with just stating that the bible commands that we are to care for the poor is that it is a cold hard law which will either make us fall into despair because there is always poor and we can’t help them all or we will be proud because we are doing more then the next Christian or church. Christians need to be motivated by grace first and foremost. As Jerry Bridges says “We are brought into God’s Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace.  The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.” So if this quote is true then the ministry of social Justice must be motivated by grace but how is this so?

    The bible gives us a great example in 2 Corinthians 8, in verse 1-5 Paul tells us about the example of the Macedonians who out their poverty they want to give money and be abundantly generous. But Paul Gives us the theology that motivates their giving Paulstates “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The motivation for their giving is the fact that Jesus gave up his riches and made us rich. Once you were poor, once you were spiritually destitute and Jesus left behind the riches of heaven and became so poor for you. It is in the cross we see the great exchange that Paul describes here in economic terms. Because of the cross we are able to give our money away because Jesus has given us the example of how to treat riches just as he gave his riches away, we, like the Macedonians, are free to give our money to help those who are poor. Therefore it is because God has been generous towards us in Jesus and the cross that we can be generous towards those who are needy and suffering in our world.

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 2: The Biblical Witness

    The Biblical Witness

    The words of Jesus are meant to shock us, one of the most shocking things Jesus did was tell stories that seem harmless but under the surface they snare us in a loving trap which is meant to show how we as people fall far short of the mark when it comes to living as God would have us live.

    One of the most loved stories of Jesus is the Parable of the Good Samaritan which is found in Luke 10:25-37. The story is preceded by an interchange between Jesus and an expert in the law. The   expert in the law tries to test Jesus by asking him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). The expert is trying to trap Jesus by minimizing the role of the law in salvation. So Jesus replies by pointing him to the law and asking him how he reads it. He replies by quoting a mash up of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus replies “Do this and you will live (Luke 10:28). Now we have to realise what Jesus is doing. He is not saying that you can do the law and be saved; no he is trying to show the impossibility of doing the law. Because neither you nor I nor this man could possibly love God with everything we have and love our neighbours with the care and the passion for their dignity that we show ourselves. This is a trap that Jesus has set to show the expert that he has no inherent righteousness of his own. The expert should have replied in the same way that Nathan Cole a farmer from Connecticut replied when he was converted in the 1740 after hearing George Whitefield preach ‘And my hearing him preach gave me a heart wound; by God’s blessing my old foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me’[1] As Christians we need to see that we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), only once we see that we can see that Jesus death bring us forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7) and his righteousness ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).

    But the expert in the law didn’t see his own righteousness wouldn’t save but he sought to justify himself (Luke 10:29). He asked the question “who is my Neighbour?” (Luke 10:29)The demand to love neighbours as yourself was a huge command and demanded a lot so in asking this question “he wished to soften the demand and not feel the obligation to respond.”[2] “He wished to define the second commandment in such a way to make its requirements reachable”[3] Then Jesus tells us a story most people know. But we need to be careful, Jesus is not telling us that we can saved by imitating the good Samaritan but he is trying to humble us by showing the love and action that God requires with the result that we see the impossibility of living this way and then accept the forgiveness that God offers.

    The story describes a man who has been beaten and robbed he has been stripped naked and left for dead. (Luke 10:30) Which means that, as a Jew, this man shouldn’t be touched. You shouldn’t touch a man who was dead because you would become ceremonially unclean. But more than that you couldn’t see whether this man was Jewish because just like today clothing showed who you were so if you were a Jew or a Samaritan it would show by the clothes you wore so him being naked it wouldn’t have been clear where is he was from and if a Jew came into contact with a foreigner they were ritually unclean. The other thing is to note the road, on this 27 kilometre long road you went from Jerusalem which is 2700 feet above sea level to Jericho which is 800 feet below sea level the road was well known as a place where robbers and thieves abounded[4] and so to stop and help this man would leave you open to be beaten and robbed yourself! So in every way this man was, at best, a major risk to help because, as a Jew you’re standing in the community if not your life was at risk. But the thing that shocks is the characters especially the hero.  The hero of the story is not a Jewish man as you would expect but a Samaritan. Samaritans were the most hated people by Jews. So Jesus takes the most hated and he makes him the hero of the story who helps the man physically and materially. But the significant thing is the way Jesus inverts the expert’s question. Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbour?” and Jesus ends the parable with a question who was his neighbour? The expert doesn’t even mention the word Samaritan he says the one who helped him. Jesus command is to go and do likewise. Jesus is saying that a person who follows him loves those around him by seeking “justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong.”[5]

    As we have seen there is a strong command from Jesus to care for those who are suffering and this is a common teaching in the rest of the Bible. In Leviticus 25:35 we read: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” We see the priority of caring for the people of God first but what is implied is that when a foreigner came into the land that the Israelites would take care of their needs.

    In the book of Galatians, Paul is commissioned to preach to the gentiles and then is commanded to that they “should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10). It is striking that in a book which is so concerned about the gospel and getting it right that there would be a commission from the Jerusalem church to Paul to care for the poor. So as Paul was to be a missionary he was also to care for the poor.

    We could go to many other places in the bible to show that the God intends us to show concern for the poor[6] but this brief survey is enough to show us that God wants us to care for the poor. But you may ask “How does the gospel fit into social Justice?” Is the Gospel Separate to social justice or does social Justice Spring from the Gospel? We will turn to these questions tomorrow.


    [1] As quoted in Keller, Timothy. Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road (P&R Publishing, 1997), 37

    [2] Bock, Darrell L. Luke. (Downers Grove, Illinois : Intervarsity, 1994)

    [3] Keller, Ministries, 38

    [4] Snodgrass, Kyle, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2008), 345

    [5] Snodgrass, Stories, 361.

    [6] E.g., Deuteronomy 27:19, Proverbs 14:31, Isaiah 3:14-15, Ezekiel 22:29, Amos 2:6-7, Malachi 3:5, 1 John 3:17-18

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 1: Setting the Scene

    Social Justice seems to be one of the sweeping fads in contemporary Christianity. We see movements like the” I Heart Revolution” and “Make Poverty History” being championed by churches and Para-church organizations. On the other hand there seems to be a reluctance to see social justice as part of what the church does. This may be for one of two reasons:

    Firstly, people see the core task of the church as proclaiming the gospel of the Life death and resurrection of Jesus and anything else is not necessary.

    Secondly, there seems to be a reluctance to do social justice because of fear of becoming liberal of abandoning the gospel. This fear, put bluntly, seems unfounded but when we have a look at churches that seem not to preach Jesus there is a strong emphasis on social Justice as the Gospel and because of the abandoning of the gospel Social justice is avoided.

    But is it that cut and dry? Can you preach the Gospel and do social justice? Can you believe in strong reformed, evangelical doctrine and be committed to seeing people saved from Hell and still seek to alleviate the earthly suffering of those around you? This week I will be blogging about social justice and I will argue that you can preah the gospel and do social justice. in Tomorrows blog we will first examine the Biblical witness and see that one of the marks of discipleship is the care for the poor. Then we will see how the gospel is the grounds of social justice, then we will turn to church history and see that Christian since the early church have sought to relieve the suffering of those around you because of the gospel not in spite of the gospel. And finally we will wrap up with some seeing how evangelism and social justice relate to each other and then offer some conclusions.

    I hope that you will see how the gospel and social justice arent opposites but both are to be employed by every gospel centered, reformed evangelical church.