Bearing Burdens and Racial Reconciliation

racial-reconciliation-1920x1000In light of the tragedies surrounding Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on July 5 and July 6,  I was asked by my pastor to write an article to our congregation that we might take more steps in understanding the racial narrative and how White Christians can better display the gospel toward their African American brothers and sisters. Here is what I wrote.

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I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:1, ESV)

By now we all have heard of the shootings by law enforcement that resulted in the deaths of two African American men, Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile of St. Paul, MN, on July 5 and July 6 respectively.  These two men are just a small, but no less significant, part of a larger narrative of systemic injustice against African-Americans.  As a multi-ethnic church with a considereable number of African-American members and visitors, we must understand the impact these types of tragedies have and know how to respond. Particularly to my white brothers and sisters, but certainly not limited to you, I offer a few suggestions on how to respond.

First, do not ignore the data confirming systemic injustice and do not minimize or ignore the very real pain and hurt of those who have been affected by these types of tragedies.  As gospel Christians, we should be compelled to weep with those who weep.

Second, if you desire to understand the racial narrative more clearly, how to interact with your African-American brothers and sisters from a gospel centered perspective and why we collectively suffer in the types of tragedies, talk to us and take advantage of many resources available. Here are a few resources. I pray they are helpful.

Audio/Video

Articles

Books

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14 ESV

In Him,

David Robinson

 

*image courtesy of veritascolumbus.com
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Ethnicity, Sin & the Gospel

Over the last year, America has witnessed and experienced, what I believe to be racially charged acts of violence, even murder, against African Americans.  Consider Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, the shooting in South Carolina, the McKinney, TX pool party incident, the young lady who was assaulted and was dragged out of class in Charleston, SC, and LaQuan McDonald.  Most of the acts of violence were done by law enforcement.  I’ve heard both sides of the argument whereby each party was to blame. It’s a never ending argument despite evidence captured on camera. There’s also the argument of individual racism vs. systemic/structural racism.

Like many black men in America, I’ve had to process all of this and sort through many thoughts and emotions. I’ve even wondered how law enforcement sees me as we drive past each other.  I’ve been angry and I’ve been sad.  I think some of my anger has been just as I see injustice and murder occurring before my very eyes. I’ve been sad because peoples’ lives have been unnecessarily taken from them through unrestrained violence.  In many ways, it feels like the Civil Rights Movement all over again.

As a Christian black man, I’ve had to process and sort through many thoughts and emotions through the word of God.  I’ve had to fight the tendency to think all white people see themselves as superior and blacks as inferior.  I’ve had to fight the anger I’ve felt when our side of the narrative was being dismissed or when we’re charged with “not getting over it [racism]”.  In other words, I’ve had to fight being partial to my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Clear biblical thinking is paramount in times like these.  Clear biblical thinking must take into account that all men of every hue are sinners and sin manifests in myriads of ways. Specifically, the sin of racism entered the world in Genesis 3. It is nothing new.  As a Christian, I’ve also been compelled to examine my own heart and actions to make sure I’m not adding to the racism narrative.  Clear biblical thinking compels me to love my fellow man in the faith of every hue. Clear biblical thinking compels me love my fellow man of creation of every hue, even those who do evil, because I’ve been so dearly loved by God and because all men are created in His image (Genesis 1:26).  Clear biblical thinking also compels me to speak of the One who shed His blood for the sins of man He created from every tribe, tongue and nation (Acts 17: 26-28, Revelation 5:9; 7:9) and united in Himself as one new man (Ephesians 2:11-22), the Christian, and the church is called to display His particular glory of ethnic unity now and for eternity (Ephesians 3:10-11).

Truly, the gospel is the only remedy for racial reconciliation and it is my firm conviction that pastors lead out personally and corporately in the fight against racism.

This past October, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisvlle, KY) hosted their annual Expositors Summit Conference and Preconference.  One of the preconference speakers, Curtis Woods, offered some great insights concerning pastoring and the changing ethnic demographics happening in America. Please give his talk a listen and be challenged and encouraged!

Grace & Peace,

d.

(Picture is courtesy of The District Church)

 

The Gathering and Singing: The Focus (pt. 2)

choirPart 1 ended with a challenge for worship leaders in the black church to consider how their music set can bring the most glory to God by assessing solo singing, choir singing and congregational singing.   

Some of you may be wondering why I am taking the time to bring up this particular issue.  Others of you may be wondering if this issue is of any true significance.  Of course the music set of a corporate gathering has no effect on one’s salvation, but it does have an effect on our individual sanctification. I’d also argue that it affects the health and edification of the church.  I stated previously that the church gathers for three basic reasons – exaltation, exultation and edification.  For this to happen, every aspect of the service should seek to serve these three purposes, especially the music, not only lyrically, but also in delivery.  

As I’ve talked to many people who currently attend or who have had the opportunity to attend a black (or predominantly black) church, one aspect that always is commented on was how powerful the praise and worship set was. I usually chuckle because I know exactly what they’re talking about, having grown up in the black church.  I admit that hearing powerful singing and seeing the choir display particular rhythmic movements in unison is great to see, but that also is my biggest concern or critique of these types of music sets.   Due to the immense display of talent, the music set often becomes a performance (singing and the accompaniment) that often times rouses the emotions of the congregation apart from biblical truth. Emotions are often elicited usually through excessively repititious choruses, riffs and runs, physical gestures and extended instrumental showmanship. As this goes on, the congregation becomes passive spectators, rather than active participators. In these instances, the focus is on man and not God.  What was intended to be corporate praise (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) has become a concert.

My estimation is that congregational singing is the healthiest form of music worship for a corporate gathering. If you’re unfamiliar with the term or the concept, congregational singing is the practice of the congregation joining in the music of a church, either in the form of hymns or in the form of the office of the liturgy.  Congregational singing normally doesn’t require many people on the platform or stage.  Also, the musical accompaniment is intentionally lowered so the collective human voice of the congregation can be heard singing.   In doing this, congregational singing does quite the opposite of performance oriented singing as the focus is rightly on Christ and the church is edified, hearing itself singing praises to Christ.  Now I am not saying there are no uses for solos or choirs. I think music sets can wisely employ them, but it must be done in such a way that doesn’t blur the focus of Christ, but rather sharpens it.  

Some might object to all that I’ve said under the guise that I am not respecting deeply appreciated black forms of musical expression or an individual’s talent.  My push-back would simply be to ask if the music set serves to bring glory to the music team or if it edifies the whole church and glorifies Christ.  Think about it.  Let us strive to build up one another for the glory of Christ in our singing.

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Gathering and Singing: The Focus (pt. 1)

choir“We had CHURCH today!” “The Spirit really showed up today!”  If you’ve been part of a black church or have visited one, chances are you’ve heard or have even have uttered these phrases.  If you’re unfamiliar with these phrases, let me help you understand. These are words of affirmation spoken by someone who really enjoyed the worship service.  If you were to ask someone what was so enjoyable about service, chances are they’ll say the preaching or the singing. These two components usually tend to be pretty dynamic in the black church. Sometimes they even rival each other and sometimes they’re blended. Here’s what I mean –  the preaching gets a little melodic and then before you know it, the preacher breaks out into song accompanied by the choir for a verse or two and then resumes the sermon.  Despite the many chief characteristics of the black church, music is almost “the” main component of the worship service.  

I’ve previously stated that the sermon, expositionally preached, is to be the central component of every worship service and its biblical text should shape the content of the songs being sung.  But in addition to the content of the music, we also must think critically about its delivery and who we are to be focused on.  Contextual and cultural differences surely will warrant a  modification of the tempo of the songs or their melodies. We will do well to pay attention to the composition lest we lose some of the gravity of the songs.  But also, great attention must also be paid to how the songs are sung and we must evaluate if Jesus is the focus or the singer(s).

The Purpose of the Gathering

Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us not to neglect meeting together, but why? Why do Christians gather? What is the point? I’d like to offer 3 main reasons why the church gathers – exaltation, exultation, edification.

Exalt means to elevate or to praise; extol.  When we gather, we are elevating and praising God for who He is, what He’s done and what He’s promised to do for the glory of His name.  We do that primarily because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, believers are reconciled to God, called to live as lights in the world and look forward to an eternity of unhindered fellowship with God in the new heavens and new earth.  The preaching is meant to instruct our heads, encourage and convict our hearts, fill us with gratitude and move us to loving obedience for the praise of His glorious grace.

Exult means to show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; rejoice exceedingly.  If we truly understand the gospel and all of its implications (forgiveness, adoption, eternal life, etc.) we ought to be truly joyful about worshiping Christ in our gatherings.  If there is a lack of joy, it could be due to unrepentant sin in your life or possibly you have not yet mined the depth and the breadth of the provisions of the gospel. Preaching that is faithful to the text and the overall theme of the Bible should cause us to exult in Him (Psalm 32:11; 35:9).

Edify means to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually; uplift.  The primary way that the New Testament speaks of believer being benefited or built up is by the instruction of the Word (Eph. 4:12, Col. 1:28) and also by the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:4, 12, 26) so that the church would be mature growing up in Christ (Eph. 4:15).

When we consider these three basic reasons, it should be plain to see that man is not the focus of a worship gathering, Christ is.

The Purpose of  the Worship (Music) Team

If the main component, biblical preaching, is focused on God, specifically Christ, then every other aspect of the service should do likewise, especially the singing.  As I’ve stated previously, song lyrics ought to be biblical and should complement the sermon.  The music should serve as another teaching moment in the gathering.  It is no secret that the black church is replete with musical talent. History repeatedly proves this. From musicians to singers, the black church is rich with musical talent and that’s a good thing!  In fact, we ought to thank God for the way He dispenses His gifts and talents to people. But as with all of God’s gifts, they must be stewarded well for His glory. In matters of worship by song, we must be careful that our singing doesn’t betray the focus that is to be given to Christ in our gatherings. It might be wise for worship leaders or choir directors to ask themselves what will bring the most glory to God during the music set.

How should the black church think about solo performances, choirs, and congregational singing?

We’ll examine these in the next article.

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Gathering and Singing: Take Care How You Sing

AAWOrship2In another entry, I wrote about the importance music plays in the life of corporate worship.  The importance it plays can be for good or for bad depending on your understanding of the primary or central component of a corporate gathering.  One of the recoveries of the Protestant Reformation, argued by Martin Luther and John Calvin, was the preaching of the word. But not only that, but its primacy over all other aspects of a corporate gathering.  Since the word is God breathed, sufficient for godliness (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and living, active and able to discern the intentions and thoughts of the heart (Heb. 4:12), the preaching must be the central event of every corporate gathering. Not only must it be central, but the Word must also govern and shape the other events of the gathering, especially the music.

My purpose here is not to argue appropriate styles of music for a corporate gathering, though I think that is a worthy conversation, but to stimulate thought about the lyrical content of the songs we sing in our corporate gatherings.  I think the most helpful songs sung in corporate gatherings are those that are shaped by biblical truth and complement the theme and tone of the biblical passage that is preached.  For example, can the things that are sung be found anywhere in the Bible? And concerning appropriate themes for example, overly triumphant songs seem a bit out of place if the text preached was a stern calling for the believer to take serious heed of the warnings of God’s word lest he suffer discipline. Simply put, the songs we sing ought to be rooted in Scripture complementing the sermon preached.

Recently during a time of corporate worship I was more cognizant of this and I was greatly edified again by Ada Haberson (1861-1918) and Matt Merker’s song, He Will Hold Me Fast.

When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast (John 6:37);
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast (Lk 22:31-32).
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path (Matt. 26:30-35; 69-75);
For my love is often cold (Eze. 16);
He must hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight (Isa. 62:5; Zeph. 3:17),
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight (Ps. 72:14; 1 Pet. 2:4),
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost (Ps. 16; Matt. 1:21; John 6:39-40; Eph 1:3-14; 1 Pet 1:3-5; Jude 24-25)
His promises shall last (Nu. 23:19; Isa. 46:10, 55:11);
Bought by Him at such a cost (1 Pet. 1:18-19),
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24, 3:18),
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10);
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life (John 11:25-27; 1 Cor. 15),
He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight,
When He comes at last (1 John 3:2)!

Being replete with biblical doctrine was the reason why I was so edified by the song.  I was singing the Bible! As I was singing, I was being instructed and reminded of the biblical truth of the assurance we have in Christ for our salvation.  That is the main point of the song and it is encouraging!!! This is a song I can “Amen!!” simply because of the truth it contains, not primarily because of its melody.  A song with great melody, but devoid of biblical truth is ultimately not God glorifying, soul satisfying, faith fortifying or joy intensifying.  However, a song with biblical truth, though it may not be your melody of preference, is better for your soul simply because of its content. Consider the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Colossian church:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

(Colossians 3:16, ESV)

Next time you gather for corporate worship, take note of the lyrics and examine the degree of biblical fidelity.  May we take care how we sing!

Grace & Peace,

d.

A Woman’s Place

woman preachingNow that I’ve gotten your attention with the title, I will proceed. 😉

In my ongoing desire to see churches function biblically and to see Christians think clearly, one area that we must think about, especially as African Americans or as black people, is the role of women
in the church and to some degree in civil society.

Let’s consider these questions:

1. Is a woman biblically permitted to serve in the church? If so, how? (Please provide Scripture references to justify your answer.)

2. Is a woman biblically permitted to serve as a pastor or co-pastor of a local church? (Please provide Scripture references to justify your answer.)

3. Is there a difference between preaching and pastoring?

4. Is it okay for a male pastor to give bible teaching opportunities to a woman to a congregation of men and women at a Sunday gathering or in a bible study setting?

5. Are there any consequences for allowing women to serve as pastors, co-pastors or teach a mixed crowd at a Sunday gathering or bible study?

These types of questions are issues that we should be thinking about when we consider how we think about the local church and what the Bible prescribes. Really, at the heart of this discussion is the glory of God displayed in the worth and in the roles of men and women (yes, genders are distinct and created by God) as God intended them in general, but specifically in the church for the purpose of this discussion. I readily affirm women are gifted to serve. This is not an issue of competence, but of design and purpose.

Concerning gender roles circulating in the church, the two opposing ideas are:

1. Egalitarianism
2. Complementarianism

As brief descriptions:

Egalitarianism states that men and women are ontologically (the essence of being) equal and therefore should function (roles) as equals. (i.e. Since women are equal to men, then a woman can do what a man can. If a man can pastor, a woman can too.)

Complementarianism states that men and women are ontologically equal, but have differing roles as men and women according to God’s design. (i.e. Even though men and women possess dignity as image bearers of God and are equal in essence, God has ordained that men lead and women serve in assisting roles in the life of the church.)

Complementarians root their argument in Genesis 2:18-25 and this is very crucial to understand the order in the church.

Whether or not you’re in a church that has an egalitarian philosophy of ministry, it’s important to understand these things so we can think more clearly and live as God intended in these areas.

I would love to engage with you on this topic!

Grace & Peace,

d.

The Gospel & Ethnic Reconciliation

Concerning the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and likely several hundred other unreported cases surrounding the sinful treatment of black males, many of us wonder if ethnicity was the motivating factor for police brutality or the overuse of their authority or the lack of justice at the court level. Given the history of systemic racism, which truly is a product of personal racism, it’s hard not to think this way when we look at the disproportionate number of the arrests and imprisonments between young white males and young black males for relatively the same crimes. While I am all for punitive requirements being met for all criminals, it does seem like the scales unjustly lean a little lower on “our” side. Print So what are we to do? How do we, as Christians, deal with the issue of personal prejudice or racism and dare I say ethnocentricity? We all know that no law passed at the city, state and national levels will ever rid man of the sin in the unseen recesses of his heart. Since racism is a sin, the only remedy for it, as with all sin, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. First, I encourage my white brothers and sisters to take a humble posture of heart and listen to the minority narrative. I guarantee it will be worth your time. Secondly, I urge my black brothers and sisters continue to deepen your roots in the sweet soil of the gospel of grace to prevent responding to sin sinfully. For we all are not without sin ourselves.

From the first book of the Bible, but certainly not the only place, we understand that mankind (man & woman) was created in the image of God (imago dei) and therefore has inherent dignity. This very truth was the truth that under-girded the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. Slogans like “Ain’t I a Man?” and “I Am a Man!” were birthed in these movements respectively.

Genesis 1:27 says –

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Iamaman

However, when biblical truth is silenced, even hated, in the public square, what can Christians do? What ought Christians to do regarding racial reconciliation?

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) held a leadership summit in Nashville to address the topic of racial reconciliation, primarily in the church. Now if you’re familiar with the SBC, this might seem like a shocker. If you’re not familiar with the SBC, let me give you a quick historical overview. The SBC was started due to its desire that slavery be a lasting institution in America. Baptists in the south disagreed with and split from Baptists in the north for this very reason and formed the SBC. Even though the SBC issued a public apology and a confession of sin in 1995, many still look at the SBC with disdain. Some may wonder why any African American would join an SBC church. In fact, many black Baptist denominations were founded and formed because of this very reason and still exist today.

Perhaps you’re wondering how professing white Christians during these times could maintain such a low view of  the black man in light of the Bible’s teaching on the dignity of all mankind. I wonder the same thing too. But the pull of sin and the pressures of our culture have us all unfaithful at times, right? However, in an effort to sincerely glorify the wisdom of God in the gospel, the SBC is seeking to make strides to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding this issue because only the church has the ultimate lasting cure for racism.

Since the church is the only institution that has the ultimate lasting cure, it should be the leader reflecting unity in diversity where there is a collection of ethnicities in a concentrated area.  Imagine the effect the church would have on the surrounding culture if it lived out the implications of the gospel in this way.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul details how the gospel has united Jew and Gentile to be one new man – the Christian (Ephesians 2:11-22). While their God given ethnicities were not done away with, their ultimate identities were now Christian. The same is true for believers of every hue. In light of this truth, how are we seeking to show forth the fruit of the gospel regarding racial reconciliation? What are some practical implications of the gospel concerning racial reconciliation? I can think of a few. Consider these.

1. What does our closest circle of friends look like?

2. Are we seeking to build relationships with Christians of different ethnicities?

3. Are we sharing the gospel with people who are ethnically different than we are?

4. When was the last time we had a person of a different ethnicity in our home?

5. How do we really feel about white people? Or any non-African American?

6. Do our churches reflect the diversity of the community it’s in? Or is it a mono-ethnic church?

7. If my church isn’t multi-ethnic, is it making strides to become one, if possible?

Consider this passage from Revelation 7-

9 After this I (John) looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Who is standing before the throne of God and the Lamb? God’s people from every nation, tribe, people and languages!  God’s eternal covenant community is multi-ethnic! This future reality is to be displayed here on earth in local churches when possible.

church-segregation

If you have some time, consider looking at the talks given by several members of the SBC addressing how the gospel cures racism and why Sunday at 11am should not be the most segregated hour in America.

The Gospel and Ethnic Reconciliation

For His glory,

d.

Brand New | New Kingdom & King (pt. 1)

In my previous article of this series, I stated that one of the biblical implications of having a new life is being part of a new kingdom, namely the Kingdom of God. Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,…”. Throughout the New Testament there are many mentions of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. These terms mean the same thing as well as the expression the kingdom of his beloved Son.

What is the Kingdom?

A close read of the Gospels, which mentions the kingdom over 85 times, reveals that the kingdom of God is not a geographical location or a matter of political rule. Two key texts that convey this are John 3:5 and John 18:36. In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that entrance into the kingdom is a spiritual matter – being born of water and the Spirit. In other words, one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that His kingdom is not of/from this world. By ruling out a geo-political kingdom, we naturally must ask ourselves what the Kingdom of God is. The Kingdom of God refers to the rule and reign of God in the hearts of man and over all creation and is entered into by faith in Christ.

Has the kingdom come already or will it come later?

Yes. In one sense, the kingdom has already come and in another sense it is coming and has not yet been fully consummated. Theologians call this the “already, but not yet” aspect of the kingdom. There is a present and a future aspect of the kingdom. The Scriptures make mention of this nature of the kingdom in many places.

The Present Kingdom
• Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7, 12:28
• Mark 1:15
• Luke 10:9,11; 11:20; 17:20-21

kingdom of GodThe Future Kingdom
• Daniel 2:44
• Mark 9:1; 14:25
• Luke 9:27; 13:29; 14:15; 19:11; 21:31; 22:18
• 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50
• Galatians 5:21
• Hebrews 12:28
• James 2:5
• Revelation 12:20

Seeing that Jesus said the kingdom was at hand (Matthew 4:17; 10:7) and had come upon (Matthew 12:28) His generation, how do we know that the kingdom had arrived? What marks the signs of the kingdom? To answer this we must go back to the definition of the kingdom. It is the rule and reign of God in the hearts of man and over all creation. To fully understand this we also must consider that another kingdom exists with another ruler. As previously stated, Colossians 1:13 tells us that once a person becomes a believer, that they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Beloved Son. This kingdom of darkness (the rule of Satan) entered the world through sin (Genesis 3), which brought the fall of man and everything that was subject to him. When the fall happened, the effects of rebellion went viral, if you will. This was the beginning of the kingdom of darkness. Now, all of humanity and creation are under the effects of sin and its implications. Sickness, disease, decay, death, environmental and natural disasters, relational strife, etc. all have their foundation in man’s rebellion against his Creator (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:19-21). When Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command, they ushered in the kingdom of darkness.

However, in the first coming of Christ and His ministry, we see that Christ ceased demonic activity, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, raised the dead, and forgave sins. All of these miracles were works that reversed the effects of sin. Sickness was eradicated, ailments were healed and life returned from the dead. One of the glorious promises for believers is that, in eternity, there will not be the presence of or the effects of sin. We can count on this because when Christ offered himself on the cross and resurrected from the grave, Scriptures tell us that Satan, sin and death were defeated forever (Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15). Jesus’ miracles were a demonstration of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus was demonstrating glimpses of the reign of God over Satan and the effects of sin in particular instances which pointed to the future total reign of God in the new heavens and new earth.

What does all of this mean for Christians?

Every believer is already in the kingdom of God, even though the kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. Until that day, we are called to faithfully live on earth as citizens of His kingdom under the orders of our King awaiting His return (Philippians 3:20).

Grace & Peace,

d.

Brand New | New Life

As I stated in the introduction of this series of articles, I believe there are six foundational truths that new Christians should be familiar with very early on in their Christian life.  The first, which this article will focus on, is the reality of the believer’s new life. Let’s examine two texts:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:1-6)

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,… (Colossians 2:13)

The Apostle Paul uses very vivid language concerning the former state of the Ephesian and Colossian believers.  In both texts, Paul says they were dead in trespasses and sins. The death that he is speaking of is spiritual death, which is due to the sinful nature every human is born with because of Adam’s sin.  Every human being born since Adam and Eve transgressed God’s command has been born with a sinful nature and is spiritually dead.  To be spiritually dead or dead in trespasses and sins is to be without spiritual life and separated from God.  This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that no one can see the kingdom of God (or be in the kingdom of God) unless one is born again.

regenerationHowever, once new life is granted to unbelievers, they are in union with Christ and are spiritually alive. This is known as regeneration and the Holy Spirit is responsible for it (Titus 3:5;  John 6:63). Some of the terms the Bible uses to convey this reality are to have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27), to be alive in Christ, born again or born from above (John 3:3), raised from the dead (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12, 3:1), new life (Romans 6:4) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). This new life exists because the Holy Spirit not only causes spiritual life, but also because He indwells every believer (Ephesians 1:13) as a promise of future salvation. This new life also transfers us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13).

Going from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive is no small matter. In fact, it is miraculous! Regeneration and conversion are miraculous gifts from God that change who we fundamentally are. Was that something you were taught early on in your Christian life? Imagine a new believer being taught this early in his Christian life.

Now that we’ve considered the new life and how that makes us subjects of the Kingdom of God, next we will consider the Kingdom, the King of the Kingdom and our relationship to Him.

Grace & Peace,

d.

Brand New

“Hello.”

“Hey, Aunt Kim!”

“Hey, Dave! How are you?”

“I’m good! I know I don’t call you often, but I was wondering if I could go to church with you next Sunday?”

“Sure! Why?”

“Well, I’ve become a Christian and I have a desire to be in church.”

About two days prior to that conversation back in September 1998, I found myself on my knees in my bedroom crying out to the Lord confessing my sins and receiving, by faith in Christ, the pardon for my sins. My conversion is what some would call a “Damascus Road” (see Acts 9) experience.  I was confronted by the Lord and drastically changed almost instantly.  The knowledge of sin and righteousness seemed to be crystal clear and I was overjoyed at the reality of my salvation.  Maybe you didn’t have that experience, but what I began to realize soon after my conversion is something that every Christian experiences.  I began to feel a tension between what I knew was right and what I was surrounded by, and the war within me.  I knew my life had to change.  I no longer had the desire to do the things that I once enjoyed doing and I had new desires and new affections for God and the things of God.  I knew there would be a risk of losing my girlfriend and some of my closest friends due to my new found love.  I needed someone to talk to.  I needed guidance. I needed to know how to live the Christian life and none of my peers were believers.  Thankfully, my aunt was there and she helped me as much as she could understand what it meant to live as a Christian.

discipleshipOver the course of my life as a Christian, it has been a joy to see the faith and excitement of new believers.  There is such a brokenness and a raw love for Christ and for others that it puts many seasoned believers to shame.  As great as that excitement is, it needs to be tempered with wisdom and discernment.  If you are a mature believer, one of the greatest joys you can experience is the joy of discipling a new believer. Aside from the gospel, there are some fundamental truths that need to run deep in the lives of new believers.  I’m sure you agree.

This became very clear to me due to a situation close to me.  As I began listening to particular conversations and questions more intently, six ideas came to mind as I thought about future conversations with this particular person. These six ideas were:

* New Life
* New King & Kingdompart 1 & part 2
* New Identity
* New Community
* New Goals
* New Destination

I am aware there could be many more categories and that there is some overlap between these, but I think these help lay a solid foundation.

In future posts, Lord willing, I will explain in detail what these are from Scripture and why they are important.

Grace & Peace,

d.