Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

A note to pastors, cont. – actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus…

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So, as a follow up to Monday’s post on actually equipping the church to be who Jesus intended, let’s consider what equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus might include?

First, may I suggest the need to clearly and consistently communicate a tenant of the Gospel that is central to our “growing up in Christ:”

>> that God did not intend for us to live FOR Him but rather to live WITH Him.

Please understand that I am hesitant to assert any personal understanding of God’s intent, unless I have become confident that the whole of Scripture supports my hypothesis. I am very confident in this assertion. Simple rationale strengthens the thought.

Why on earth would God put on skin and come to earth declaring His unconditional love and sacrificial friendship if all He desired from us was robotic, ritualistic obedience?

Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Abraham was called a friend of God. Why? Because he walked with God, listened for God, responded to God. He obeyed because he related with God. He did not obey so God would relate with him. After all, God invited him on a road trip, not the other way around.

We need to realize that the Scriptures indicate that Jesus died not only for our sinful disobedience – for what we did. He also, and likely more significantly, died because of who He is. What He did as the death-taker demonstrates who He is as the life-giver. He chose to give His life. Grace was calculated, intentional, resolute, bloody, a temporary burial wrap.

This was not the stuff of Valentine’s Cards. It was and is the stuff of an enduring love. It is the stuff of “with” not “for.” This is the stuff that compels us to want to live in such a way, as Paul says, that is worthy of this “first loved us” Gospel.

May we equip the church to live loved, personally relating with the One who first loved us, secure in His goodness rather than weary trying to prove our own.

Next, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to pray in the same way that we breathe.

To pray without ceasing, as Paul asserted we must, would imply prayer as more than just a periodic exercise. Rather, it is a constant interaction. Probably mostly listening. Often unbeknownst to us. Intentionally as intercession in those times when a deep breath is needed.

This kind of praying produces a Christ-connected kind of living. This kind of praying results in Spirit-prompted rhythms. This kind of praying is the earmark of a personally-relating-with-Jesus life.

This kind of praying indicates a personal belief that we actually can relate with Him.

Finally, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to read the Bible as though nourishment.

Moses in Deuteronomy 32 declared that God’s words are not meaningless words; they are our life. Jesus told Satan in Matthew 4 that man cannot live on bread alone. Paul extended the metaphor of “growing up in Christ” as moving from bread milk to heartier food. Nourishment.

Has the Bible been preserved for the sake of our preservation? Has the Bible’s presence been sustained to be sustenance that energizes us toward greater awareness of His presence?

What if the Bible’s purpose is simply to tell us of God’s enduring love while it grows us in an enduring relationship with Him? Specially in this way:

>> the more I immerse myself in the Scriptures, the more recognizable God’s promptings and more noticeable God’s ways as I relate with Him daily.

Why? Because I recognize from what I have read about Him when He is about to invite me to participate with Him. Because I notice from what I have read of His story when I am getting to be in on a particular scene of His story continued today.

Reading the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes more than a chore. And studying to learn how to better read and understand the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes less of an academic activity and more of a real-life necessity.

Not just meaningless words, but essential to my life of personally relating with Jesus.

Thoughts / Comments???

Next up – what actually equipping for us to walk TOGETHER with Jesus might include…

Praying to be one who actually equips.
-jason