Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Teaching Summary (4/28)

Rediscovering Church:
Being a Bold Church
Acts 4

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Peter and John were arrested and threatened because they were showing compassion. Their response? An exclusive claim that Jesus is the only way. How intolerant of them. And it wasn't exactly the best legal strategy to employ in front of the same council that killed Jesus only months before. But they didn't back down from the bold message, telling the council that, " we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."

The persecution and martyrdom of first century Christians wasn't political. It wasn't cultural. It was because people were offended by their message that Jesus is the only option for salvation. Well you know what they say- the more things change...

Today, the culture is demanding that we back off from such bold rhetoric. We're told it's it's arrogant. It's self-righteous. It's insensitive. It's intolerant. It's offensive. Whether or not it's true is inconsequential. As Christians, we're told we need to stop pushing our beliefs on others and strive to find middle ground with other faiths by compromising what we believe. You know, back down from a bold message. As if it's more respectable to not really believe what you say you believe.

The reaction to the new Pope is a great example of this. The backlash against his "conservative" policies and the smear campaign against him in the media shows how offensive boldness is to our culture. Apparently, he would be a much better Pope if he wasn't so doggone Catholic.

It's is the same for us Bible-believing Protestants: Apparently, we'd be much better Christians if we just weren't so "Jesus-y". Tragically, too many Christians have let this message influence them. Instead of churches proclaiming Jesus is the only way, some have "muti-faith banquets" where they celebrate the commonalities between Islam and Christianity (that would be a very short meeting). Instead of proclaiming the Word of God, they build series around pop-psychology and self-improvement messages and talk about how that one episode of "Desperate Housewives" had that cool depiction of the human condition.

I'm all for using the language of the culture to proclaim the message. But we need to make sure we're not using the church to proclaim the message of the culture. Jesus is the only way. Period. The Word of God is the only authority that can change our lives. Period.

After Peter and John were released, they returned to where the believers were meeting. Upon hearing what had happened, the church prayed. What did they pray for? A more favorable environment to talk about Jesus? No. Religious freedom so they could practice their faith without opposition? No. That their hearers would have softer hearts? No. That they'd know how to make the message more culturally relevant and hook seekers? No.

They prayed for boldness. They prayed for more power from God so they could boldly proclaim that Jesus is the only way. In response, the Holy Spirit shook the room and people came to faith in Christ at an astonishing rate.

Peter and John had proof of their message: the healed man. Their compassion gave them an audience for their boldness, but it also validated their boldness. While we must stand firm for the exclusive message of Jesus, it must always be accompanied by selfless compassion for the hurting. Truth and Grace. Boldness and Compassion. They always go hand in hand. Too many churches and famous Christian leaders are doing more harm than good by being bold without being compassionate.

We at Harvest are committed to proclaiming the Word of God with boldness and without compromise. But always in a spirit of love and compassion. I am convinced that most people are hungry for truth and are attracted to boldness. The relativism and "whatever works for you" mindset in our culture is utterly empty. And even if people can't explain why, they know there's something missing. Our response is to boldly proclaim the Word of God.

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:1-4)


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