Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Doing Versus What Has Been Done

This week, I stumbled upon another video lecture by Timothy Keller.

When I attended seminary, it was rare that I took notes in class.  Rarely did I find myself engaged and hanging on the words of my professors to the point that I felt it necessary to jot down the words they spoke.

Well, that was certainly not the case with this lecture.  I watched it three times: two just to listen, and a third to write down notes.  It took me almost two hours to make it through the video as I paused and wrote; paused and wrote.

As Keller spoke about "Gospel Centered Ministry", I reflected upon much of my career as an ordained minister.  I thought about my preaching all those years.  I thought about the state of the church in our American society and its decline.  I thought about all the seminars I have attended in those years of seminary and since becoming ordained.  I thought about all the debates I have gotten into with others concerning how Christianity should address what is happening our culture these days.  And I thought about my focus--and often the focus of many of my colleagues and fellow Christians.

What can we do to stem the tide of decline?

That's been the operative question.  And, of course, the answers usually revolve around a couple of things:

1. Make sure we are adhering to the right doctrine.
2. Make sure we are doing the right things.

We've had some tremendous intramural battles over these things.  Tremendous battles.  And we've continued to decline.

Much of our conversations revolve around what can we do better.  We need to do justice.  We need to do evangelism. We need to do social media.  We need to do different forms of worship.  We need to do.  We need to do.  We need to do.

Action is part of the Christian faith.  Of this, there is no doubt.

But, we must ask the question: Is Christianity MAINLY about what we do or is it about what God has done?

That's the operative question, and it changes the way you think, preach, and act.

I love Keller's illustration of this using the comparison of a king who goes off to battle an invading foe.

If the king wins, he sends back heralds who proclaim the good news!   Victory has been achieved for you.  No longer are you under any threat!  Live into the peace that has been brought to you!

If the king loses, he sends back military advisers.   Put up the breastworks here!  Archers here!  Calvary here!  Get ready to fight for your life!

All of the world's religions send military advisers.  They all say, "This is how you live so that you will not endure the wrath of God.  This is how you live to escape the cycle of karma.  This is how you live to escape desire."  They all give advice on life and how to achieve salvation.

Only Christianity sends heralds.  Salvation is achieved without any action on your part.  The battle with the evil one is over.  Reconciliation between God and man is accomplished.  Live into that freedom!

Both of these proclamations receive a response.  Both of these proclamations bring about action, but their motivations are very different.

Military advisers produce fear.
Heralds produce joy.

As people of faith, are we advisers or heralds?
Do we tell people what they should do to live a particular type of life, or do we tell folks what God has done to bring them a fulfilled life?

The gospel is Good News.  Really, it's Greek for Good News.  It is not something people do.  It's a proclamation! 

Live into that freedom!

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