A Simple Way to Share Your Faith


The hardest part of sharing the gospel (for me) is starting the conversation. Like most Christians, I love to talk about Jesus and the truth of the Scriptures, but it is hard to get the conversation going. So, I’ve tried to identify easy “connections” between the Bible and everyday life. One of the most natural connections to everyday life is found in John 3:16.

Share Christ Christian Evangelism Salvation PersecutionJohn 3:16 is a great place for starting gospel conversations because it is easily remembered. Most Christians memorize John 3:16 early in their Christian walk. More than a few pastors, scholars, and teachers have recognized how clearly the gospel is present in this simple verse:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

To begin with, John 3:16 gets immediately to the heart of the human problem: Perishing. From birth, we are perishing apart from the life-giving, resurrection power of Jesus Christ. This concept of perishing operates as a great connector from the mundane world of human existence to the heavenly glories of Christ and His kingdom. Here’s how to make that connection plain.

Have you ever heard your friends talk about their problems? Have you ever had family members dump their emotions on you, venting about their frustrations? Have you ever heard your colleagues bemoaning some injustice in the world? Yes, yes, yes! Of course, you have. Each of these experiences exists on account of the Fall of humankind from peace with God.

In other words, all problems are ultimately rooted in the singular problem of our being at odds with God: the Fall. Because of the Fall, we are all mired in sin, stuck in a web of deceit, sinfulness, and death. The problem, ultimately, is that we are perishing. We are in the darkness and hating the light because of our own evil deeds (John 3:19-20).  We are living as human beings in the world, but we are under the curse of death. That is our problem. We are perishing.

God’s provisionto remedy the curse and reconcile us to Himself, giving us life instead of death, is nothing less than Jesus Christ. God so loved…that He gave Christ to be a payment for our sins. The problem is that we are perishing under the curse. The Provision from God is Christ Himself, who came to satisfy the payment price for our sins and purchase for us the remedy for death.

The problem is that we are perishing in our sin under the curse of death. The provision is Christ who came to pay the price for us. And now there is a promisefrom God. The promise is eternal life. God so loved that He gave with the purpose and intent that whoever believes will NOT perish, but HAVE eternal life. Christ remedies the curse of death with the sure, purchased promise of eternal life in His name.

In this simple way, this one common verse is able to move you from a perennial problem (sin, death) to an eternal solution (eternal life in Jesus’s name). You are likely already familiar with John 3:16 so there is no need to get anxious about “what should I say” or “how should I start”? Just start with John 3:16 and cover the problem (perishing); God’s provision (Christ); and the promise of a new life (eternal life).  Problem, Provision, Promise. There’s the gospel from John 3:16. Now, let’s go share it!

Can Watching a Horror Film Save Your Soul?


William Peter Blatty, the son of Lebanese immigrants from New York, won an Oscar and three Golden Globes for his famous movie, The Exorcist. Before this film, Blatty’s success was limited. Most likely, the success of The Exorcist exceeded even his wild imagination. It turns out, the success of that movie extends beyond the material world and into the spiritual. God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.

Exorcist Salvation While Blatty was touring and doing interviews about his movie, a street kid from Los Angeles was studying martial arts. Mr. E grew up in the city, in a home which included daily beatings from his dad for both him and his mother. Mr. E was cruelly made tough. He could take a hit. And he learned to deliver one as well.

Nevertheless, the streets were hard. So, Mr. E decided that he could not yet match everyone on the streets. He had been fighting since he was a kid in grammar school. And he knew there were kids tougher than he was. Sort of foreshadowing the MMA/UFC movement, Mr. E decided he needed the extra advantage martial arts could give him.

Feeling relatively secure with his fighting abilities and martial arts training, Mr. E was beginning to trust himself more and more in the concrete jungle of inner-city LA.  Drugs, violence, and a cock-of-the-walk swagger characterized the young man’s life, until his friends took him to see this “bad” movie (Bad meant then what sick means now). The movie, in his words, “literally scared the hell out of me.”

The young man wasn’t scared because he realized the demonic powers might really exist. He knew such forces of evil were real. He was scared because of how much sense the movie made to him. He was scared because he felt like he knew these demonic powers. The movie made Mr. E realize that no amount of martial arts sophistry—no degree of toughness or physical power—could enable him to stand against the forces of evil.

The next Sunday—not knowing what else to do—Mr. E went to a local church and asked someone there to tell him whether God had the power to overcome the forces of evil. Can you imagine stepping out of Sunday school and being asked such a question by a troubled young man? What glorious Providence!

The young man went home after the service and devoured the Bible he was given, reading the gospels with such a liberating force that he knew he was saved before he reached the Great Commission of Matthew 28. His life was transformed, and his soul secured in the rest of Christ.

Today, this street kid no longer fights with his fists and his feet. He no longer needs the empty crutch of martial arts to protect him. He no longer craves the drugs that once drove his fleshly desires—he flushed two bags of dope the day he read the gospels. And he never went back.

Mr. E has earned college and seminary degrees and pastors a church in a growing suburb outside of LA. His life has been surrendered to fight the good fight of faith, a fight which has love as its aim and eternal security as its prize. Blatty may in fact be glad to know his movie played a part , but I doubt he ever expected The Exorcist to lead to the saving of a man’s soul.

An Ugly, Unattractive Jesus


Jesus

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy once proclaimed, “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”[1] Americans in particular have a fascinating attraction to beauty (or, more accurately, to the beautiful). Consider this simple factoid: Vogue magazine has nearly three times the readership of Sports Illustrated—and Sports Illustrated’s most successful issue is the annual swimsuit edition! Beautiful women get our attention.

 

The quest for beauty is not lost on the church in America. Sanctuaries and lobbies are often decorated by women with a feminine perspective of beauty: flowers and pastels rule the day.  Not long ago, I visited a church which was intentionally “masculine” in its décor: rocks, stones, steel, and brown. Mundane. Bland. Yet very sturdy and forceful was the building. Which is the more biblical approach to building décor? That is a great question to which I do not know the answer. I do know, however, that we have a problem when it comes to communicating Jesus.

 

The biblical record is quite plain: Jesus isn’t pretty. Jesus is ugly. We tend to feminize Jesus—painting Him in accord with our lobbies—in pastels and flowers. He is rarely forceful. And never ugly.  Yet, in the Bible, He is unattractive. Consider the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53:

 

…He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

 

Contrast the passage above, which the New Testament affirms is fulfilled in Jesus Christ,[2] with the popular presentation of Jesus in our churches. Typically, Jesus is promoted as the antidote to whatever is your Kryptonite. Are you weak and in need of power to perform? Get Jesus. Are you depressed and in need of a super-sized, pick-me-up? Get Jesus. Are you suffering from a rotten life and in need of a better life now? Get Jesus. Does your marriage suck? Get Jesus. Financial woes? Jesus. No matter what brings you down, Jesus lifts you up.

 

Jesus has been tamed into a prophetic panacea, a Self-help Savior. He is no more threatening than “Mr. Rogers with a beard.”[3] And he is typically portrayed as being at least as attractive as Brad Pitt—but even more popular. The musical group Down Here gets to the point in their song “The Real Jesus:”

 

Jesus on the radio, Jesus on a late night show

 

Jesus in a dream, looking all serene

 

Jesus on a steeple, Jesus in the Gallup poll

 

Jesus has His very own brand of rock and roll

 

Watched Him on the silver screen

 

Bought the action figurine

 

But Jesus is the only name that makes you flinch

 

Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?

 

Oh, let Your love unveil the mystery of the real Jesus

 

The real Jesus has scars. He is cursed by God, hanged on a tree. He is forsaken by men who mock him, ridicule him, and slander him falsely. So

 

Leo Tolstoy 1848

Leo Tolstoy 1848 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

hideous were his final hours that his closest companions denied they ever knew him. When he died, he had no crowd. Even after his post-Resurrection appearances, Jesus had only 120 following him (Acts 1:15). His ministry would not be lauded by anyone taking score with any human measure of efficiency.  Jesus proved not to be much of a leader (by our typical leadership measures).

 

There was nothing in His appearance to draw us to Him. In fact, He had the kind of life—and the kind of appearance—that would make us turn away from Him.  The real Jesus turns out to be ugly, unattractive, and downright distasteful. He proves to be the kind of man rejected by almost everyone.

 

So, why would anyone follow such a man? The real ugly truth about Jesus is that His ugly appearance reveals our own sinful nature. He condemns publicly the sin that ruins us privately. He reveals to us the life that swallows our own deserved death. He reveals the purity that washes away our vanity. But vanity, sin, and death are not easily dismissed. The remedy for such horrendous maladies is unapproachable apart from suffering. And suffering God’s curse is an ugly affair. Christ came as a suffering servant for us.

 

If we see our own sin as ugly before the holiness of God, then we might begin to see the loveliness of a suffering Savior. The one reason to follow Jesus is to be reconciled to God forever. And, for us who are being saved, ugly has never been as lovely as it is in Jesus Christ.

 


[1] Leo Tolstoy, Kreutzer Sonata.

[2] See Acts 8:34-35; Matthew 8:17.

[3] Phrase used by John Eldrige in Wild at Heart.

 

 

Did Jesus Have a Wife?


There’s a new controversy a-brewing, and it’s all by design. Professor Karen King is promoting the novel idea that gospel jesus wife controversy Jesus had a wife.  She has found a fragment—supposedly from the 4th century (though not yet attested)—which contains the line, “Jesus said to them, My wife….”

Whether anyone in the 4th century actually wrote that line, we do not yet know. We do know that Jesus had a bride—the church (Ephesians 5).  And we know something else: Professor King has not uncovered “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” as she is now calling the fragment.

Referring to a fragment in this way is like calling a business card a biography. As a matter of fact, the fragment is a little smaller than a business card. It contains maybe 30 words in Coptic script. It is hardly sufficient evidence for anything, much less proof that Christianity had lots of different gospels that taught lots of different things (which is the professors real aim—not just in this latest controversy but in all her “scholarship.”)

Dr. Mohler has a full review of the latest claims Professor King is making in regard to a wife for Jesus. His critique is excellent and thorough. For those of you who do not have the time to read through his fuller critique, I offer Dr. Mohler’s final assessment of the matter:

“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?” Not hardly. This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents — an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.

The reason Dr. Mohler asserts that this is an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith is that news outlets have been all too eager to report the fragment find as though it were actually a new gospel. No new gospel has been found. And, even if it were a whole gospel account, why would anyone on the basis of a single 4th century document consider overturning 20 centuries of tradition which is based on thousands and thousands of documents—many of which were written within decades of Jesus’s life on earth?

The entire affair is a sad commentary of the state of scholarship at Harvard Divinity and in America more generally.  If this is scholarship, then we might as well say business cards are literature and bumper stickers are fine poetry. There is no such thing as a gospel of Jesus’s wife.

Jesus Is God Says John


Jesus Christ is Lord

The point of the Gospel of John is to demonstrate that Jesus is God so that the reader of the gospel would trust his soul into the care of this Jesus.  Folks who cannot see the divinity of Jesus in the gospel of John have not yet understood the gospel.  In fact, the reality of the deity of Jesus Christ fills the New Testament. If you don’t know Jesus as the incarnate God, then you don’t yet know him at all. He will not be accepted as a teacher or a moral leader or a good man–or even a prophet!  He must be accepted as God the Son if he would be your Lord and Savior.

Here is a nice, summary article on the teaching of Jesus as God in the New Testament.

7 Pounds


The newest movie by Will Smith, 7 Pounds, not unlike I Am Legend, deals substantively with the human dilemma.  Specifically, Smith portrays a man who has unexpectedly come face with face with the frailty of the human condition.  Death comes suddenly, and he is unprepared for its arrival.

As a result, Smith (not his name in the movie, of course), devises a scheme whereby death might somehow be defeated.  In the unraveling of his plan, Smith becomes something of a Christ figure, using death to extend life.  Without giving too much of the movie away, I want to offer four key observations from the movie.

First, Smith clearly becomes a Christ-like figure.  In the movie, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice for the well-being of others.  Indeed, the sacrifice motif plays itself out throughout the movie as an integral part of the substance of his character.  The movie intends for Smith’s character to be one who sacrifices.  Ultimately, the Christian will see sacrifice in its quintessential display through Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many.

Second, and again like Christ, Smith acts on behalf of a certain group of individuals who most assuredly will be helped by him.  Beyond mere sacrifice, Smith—in acting this way—demonstrates great love.  He is willing to lose so that others gain—but not everyone gains.  The objects of his affections are particular.

Third, and in this instance not like Christ, Smith plays a figure whose righteousness is self-imposed.  Never in the movie is there a hint that righteousness is alien to the main character.  Smith plays a character who—though he has been devastated by unexpected death—is still perfectly capable of determining the righteousness of others and making determinations about their worthiness to receive (or not to receive) the blessing he will offer.  One may leave this movie with the mistaken view that righteousness consists of not getting angry or being overly selfish.  Giving and being considerate of others is apparently righteousness enough.  (There is one thing that is absolutely forbidden, but I will not mention it here because it isn’t revealed until the end of the movie).  The main point to make on righteousness is that it appears to reside in the character himself.  Thus, there are judgments made against others, but the title character himself is not judged, even though he might be guilty of fornication, forgery, impersonation, theft, espionage, and, potentially, self-murder. 

Finally, and again unlike Christ, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice only on the condition of perceived righteousness.  In this way, I believe, Smith’s character is the most unlike Christ.  Though I found the movie to be a well-acted, very worthwhile production, I could not help at the end of it to quote Romans 5: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Though I appreciated the thoughtful plot of 7 Pounds, I left the movie thanking God for the gospel of Jesus Christ.