Authentic Humanness

Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ: The Urbana ’79 Compendium
Edited by John W. Alexander

Chapter 4: God’s Judgment
John R.W. Stott

Romans 2:14-15

[14] For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…

Paul is saying neither that the Gentiles always know what is right, nor that they always do it, still less that they can earn salvation by doing it.  He is saying rather that on those occasions when they fulfill the requirements of God’s law (which everybody does sometimes), they give evidence that they know it by nature.

This teaching has great importance.  It declares that the same moral law which God revealed in Scripture he has also stamped on human nature…

In consequence, the moral law is not an alien system, which it is unnatural to expect human beings to obey.  The opposite is the case.  God’s moral law perfectly fits us, because it is the law of our own created being.  There is a fundamental correspondence between God’s law in the Bible and God’s law in our hearts.  Hence we can discover our authentic humanness only in obeying it.  If we disobey it, we contradict not only what we know to be right, but we are contradicting our own human being.


Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

Link: Complete Article

For the Sake of His Name

Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ: The Urbana ’79 Compendium
Edited by John W. Alexander

Chapter 3: God’s Gospel
John R.W. Stott

Romans 1:1-5

[1] Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, [2] which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, [3] concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh [4] and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, [5] through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…

If it is God the Father’s purpose that every knee and every tongue should acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus, it should be our purpose too.  We should be “jealous” for the honor of Christ’s name, troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed and all the time anxious that it should be given the honor and the glory which are due to it…

This is the highest missionary motivation.  It is neither obedience to the Great Commission, nor love for perishing sinners (right and strong as these incentives are), but rather zeal for the glory of Christ.  Some missionary endeavor has been a thinly disguised form of imperialism; that is, a hunger for the prestige of our country or our church or our organization or ourselves.  Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for Christ’s empire or kingdom.  “For the sake of the name” is the missionary goal which causes all unworthy motives to wither and die.

The God Who Has a Plan

Ephesians 1
Ajith Fernando

Most people come to Christ to get a personal need met. Often we continue to view God as being primarily about meeting our needs. But God is the sovereign Creator. He is bigger than meeting our needs.  In fact, some of our needs won’t be met as we’d like.  He is not just the God who meets needs but the God who has a plan for the whole universe.

Link: Complete Sermon

A Changed “You”

Transformational Expository Preaching
Colin Smith

We’re talking about how Christ changes your soul not how Christ changes your life. Because as we normally speak about life, people think of the things that are happening to them, the things that are going on – I lost a job, what’s happening in your life?  Your life is the sum of the things that are happening to you but your soul is the “you” to whom these things are happening.

People get the idea that if I come to Jesus Christ, he’s going to come and change my life and I’m going to get a new girlfriend, get a new job so I better come to him for that.  No, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to change the “you” to whom these things are happening.

Link: Complete Sermon Audio

How Could We Possibly Be So Arrogant?

Don’t All Religions Lead to God?
Amy Orr-Ewing

In my experience there are usually two motivations in dismissing the idea that Christ is the only way to God and we need to be able to deal with them both. The first objection is that it is arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way. How could we possibly be so arrogant as to say that all the other religions are wrong and Jesus is the only path to God? Often at this point the parable of the elephant is used to illustrate how arrogant Christians are. It goes something like this: “There is an elephant and there are blind scribes touching different parts of the elephant. One is holding onto the tail and saying ‘this is a rope’ another is holding the front leg of the elephant and saying ‘no this is not a rope – you are wrong, it is a tree trunk’ another person is holding the trunk of the elephant and saying ‘you are both wrong this is neither a rope nor a tree trunk it is a snake!’” The moral of the story is that all of the religions are like those men. They each touch a different part of Ultimate Reality and therefore Christians are arrogant to say that they have the truth.

Let us take a step back and think about what is being said here. Think about the two main differences between the person telling us the story and the people inside the story. The first difference is that the people touching the elephant are blind and the narrator can see. The second difference is one of perspective – the people inside the story are close up to the elephant but the narrator is standing back and has the full picture. Do you see the breathtaking claim that is being made here? Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses and Muhammad are all blind, but I can see! They all had a small perspective, but I can see the full picture – I can see that all of those ways actually lead to God. The question now is “Who is arrogant?” It is just as arrogant to say that ‘Buddha, Muhammad and Jesus were wrong in their exclusive claims,’ as it is to say ‘Jesus is the only way’ – the issue then is not about who is arrogant or not but what is actually true and real?

The second motivation or moral force behind this question is about exclusion. How can you exclude all of these religions? Jesus said that he was the way to the Father but I can’t follow him because I do not want to be an intolerant person who excludes others! Again we need to think carefully about this, because the reality is that whatever position we hold we exclude some views. Even the person who believes that all ways lead to God, including Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin and Osama bin Laden excludes the view that only some ways lead to God or only one way leads to God. In the same way the average person in Britain would probably want to exclude some of the extremists like Hitler or Milosovich and would believe that only some ways lead to God – perhaps the 5 main world religions. This excludes the view that all ways lead to God or that one way leads to God. And the Christian who wants to say I follow Jesus and he said that he was the only way to the Father excludes the view that all ways or some ways lead to God. Every view excludes some – so the issue is not who is excluding people but what is actually true and real.

Link: Complete Blog Post

A Lack of Information

Neil Postman

Did Iraq invade Kuwait because of a lack of information?  If a hideous war should ensue between Iraq and the U.S., will it happen because of a lack of information?  If children die of starvation in Ethiopia, does it occur because of a lack of information?  Does racism in South Africa exist because of a lack of information?  If criminals roam the streets of New York City, do they do so because of a lack of information?

Or, let us come down to a more personal level: If you and your spouse are unhappy together, and end your marriage in divorce, will it happen because of a lack of information?  If your children misbehave and bring shame to your family, does it happen because of a lack of information?  If someone in your family has a mental breakdown, will it happen because of a lack of information?  I believe you will have to concede that what ails us, what causes us the most misery and pain – at both cultural and personal levels – has nothing to do with the sort of information made accessible by computers.

It Matters to Jesus

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Mike Wittmer

Everything hinges on how we answer the question, “Why justice?” or “Who is justice for?”

We fight for justice in part because we want to stop the perpetrators of evil and violence. This is why the most satisfying part of a Chuck Norris movie is the last ten minutes, when the smirking gangster takes a boot to the face.

A better answer, especially for pacifists, is that we seek justice to help the victims of oppression. We care about the widow being scammed by a conniving contractor and we grieve for children who are forced into prostitution or maimed to enhance their begging.

But the best—and only Christian—answer is that we seek justice not only to pay back the perpetrators and to rescue the oppressed but because we love Jesus Christ. No one weeps over injustice like Jesus (nor has anyone been treated so unjustly), and he has been taking names for a very long time. Unlike Chuck Norris, who returned each week to battle new bad guys, Jesus will return to settle things once and for all. He will “set the world to rights” (see N.T. Wright), for his words will become swords that “strike down” evildoers and he “will wipe every tear” from the eyes of his suffering children (Rev. 19:15; 21:4).

We are committed to justice because it matters to Jesus. But if we fight for justice for Jesus’ sake, we will never be satisfied with justice alone. We will not rest until every perpetrator and victim bows before his name, the returning King who gave his life so every unjust person who repents and believes in him may live forever.

This requires evangelism, and it flows naturally from the Christian passion for justice. If justice is primarily about Jesus, we will eagerly tell others about their need for him. If we forget Jesus, it won’t be long until we also lose our passion for justice. For without the promise of his glorious return, really, what’s the point?

Link: Complete Blog Post

God is Awake

Sarah Albrecht

When we respond to our fears by trying to take on the attributes of God – like, for example, omniscience and omnipresence – we will be plagued by restlessness. We think we are taking control by thinking about all the possible precautions against robbers (and there is no harm in being responsible in locking our house – so long as our trust and hope is in the Lord and not in a deadbolt) breaking in or by staying awake and looking in every place. Yet, in reality, instead of controlling the situation, we become controlled and enslaved by fear.

Omnipresence and omniscience aren’t the only attributes of God that we are tempted to take on.

We try to control situations by demanding perfect justice when we are wronged. We refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit can and is working in the hearts of men. We sacrifice relationships because people do not meet our expectations.

We try to be self-sufficient – planning for ever possible circumstance or by refusing help when we really need it. We judge people who can’t get it together. We miss out on being blessed by God through others.

We try to be perfect and good and never sin on our own accord. Instead, we become self-righteous. We are controlled by what others think of us and keeping up the image of perfection rather than trusting in Christ for our salvation. We know deep down that we are fakes. We worry that God knows this and is out to get us.

When we try to be God, we will always fail. We will quickly grow weary, and our souls will not be at peace. We feel the burden of the ultimate sin of pride when we think that we can do God’s job better than He can.

The Bible says, in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”