Monday, December 15, 2008

The Gift of Living Missionally: Worship

As Christians we want to share the love of God with people. Not only do we do so because God commands us to share his message, but because we have personally experienced his love (we know God has forgiven us and has accepted us as his children), but also because the love of God for sinners has been poured into our hearts. That is, we truly love people and want them to experience God's forgiveness.

The Bible says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Serving others and sharing the gift of God's love with them is the mission of the Church. We call this missional living. However, missions will not last forever. Why? Because missions is not the goal, only the means to the goal: the worship of God. And this is the real reason for why we want to reach out to people and witness to God's love. We know that people will be better off when they come to know God personally and know his plans for their lives. This is why the gift of missions is worship: the glory, good pleasure, praise and worship of God by his creatures.

Helping sinners find the cross and understand the reason for Christ’s death and resurrection (missional living) is not the goal. The worship of God by sinners is. To serve the poor, feed the hungry, educate the masses, and heal humanity’s pain is not the goal. The worship of God by those who are set free is. The enjoyment of the good things in life and the good pleasures of life is not the goal of our existence. The worship of God’s children who acknowledge that all good gifts come from him is.

As we enjoy another Christmas season let us be on the lookout for the opportunities God will give us to share the gift of his Son with people. As we develop relationships with others and spend time with folks may they see in us the peace and hope that flood our hearts because we have placed our confidence in God. And may we be ready, and willing, to point people to the Savior so that they too might experience God's hope, peace and forgiveness. May we not tire of living missionally so that people can come to know God, worship Him, and become followers of Jesus.
Por Su Gracia y Poder

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Dad, that's not right": Parents, Kids do Listen to Us

A few days ago I was reminded again that our kids listen to us more than we realize. Our family was traveling to Miami and began singing a few Christian songs. One of the songs we sang was “Trust and Obey.” The refrain says: “Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” My daughter interjected, “Dad, that’s not right. We don’t have to obey in order to be saved.” She surprised me because she repeated what I’ve said many times. Now the song is talking about fellowship and service, and in this regards, it reflects proper doctrine. Our greatest joy in the Christian life is found in our fellowship with Christ as we live obediently to his words. That’s pure theology. But, she was also right in stating that we are not saved “because we obey.” Initial salvation, or being justified(=declared not guilty) is not the result of what we do but what has been done. I believe that salvation is by grace, not works. Salvation will produce some kind of work, in varying degrees, but obedience doesn’t save us, nor will it keep us saved.

Of course, I did take the opportunity to once again stress not only “grace” as a significant word for the Christian faith, but also “obedience,” which is how we honor God, show our love for God, show that we are disciples of Christ, and is a requirement for the rewards we will receive in return for our obedience in heaven at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). The book of Acts does say that “many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), but the mention of “disciples” that were increasing in numbers in the same verse leads us to affirm that what the phrase means is that priests were becoming convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and were now following him. Paul in Romans 1:5 speaks of “the obedience of faith.” This phrase has various possible meanings. Among the various alternatives given, the grammatical phrase can refer to 1) “the faith,” as in the content of the Christian message. Or, it can mean 2) the obedience which is the same as our faith and vice a versa. Others also believe it can mean 3)the obedience produced (even required) by our faith. Even if this last interpretation is accepted, obedience is the result of a saving relationship with Christ, and not the requirement for salvation, at least not initial salvation or justification.

Should we “trust and obey”? Yes, most definitely. We are saved and secure, however, because of the promise we have in Christ: “he who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47; see John 20:30-31; Galatians 2:16). To believe in Christ is to be convinced or have the inward certainty that what God says about his Son Jesus Christ to justify me and save me is true. I must personally come to faith in Christ to have my sins forgiven (See Acts 16:31).

Our children not only watch our behavior, but they also listen to what we believe about things, including our beliefs about God and his Word. I want my daughter to be committed to Christ and to want nothing more than to live obediently to God’s teachings because she loves him. But, I want her to be clear that salvation is not meritorious. It is always a grace gift for which she always ought to be thankful and obedient. “Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Por Su Gracia y Poder