DiM | “Evidence” by Citizen Way

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

May 12, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Evidence” by Citizen Way which currently sits at #17 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list. Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

This song has no depth. There is a thin veneer of truth that is worth mentioning, so I haven’t completely disqualified this song, but it needs some work. The best construction on this song would be a reminder to Christians that Faith without Works is dead. We’ll discuss that in detail below, but this song also has some dangerous ideas running through it, namely the false-notion that our ability to Love people (Law: love your neighbor as yourself) is the only way the lost can find Salvation. That’s bunk, and it’s dangerous.

VEVO Lyric Video

[youtube https://youtu.be/zotmQph6xEc]

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Evidence by Citizen Way

It’s not a flag on a field
It’s not a sign in my yard
Not a cause that I join
Not a phrase on a coin
It’s the change in my heart
Mercy and grace and compassion
They’re only words without action
I need hands that are open
Reaching out to broken hearts
Cuz’ that’s the only way this world
Will ever know who
You are Love is the evidence
Love is the evidence
Might be the pain that you share
Might be the time that you spend
Or the war you don’t fight
Backing down from your pride
After all in the end
My life wasn’t changed by an argument
That never would have been enough
My life was changed by the evidence of love
Your hands that were open
Reaching out to my broken heart

Publishing: Fair Trade Music Publishing (ASCAP) (admin. by Music Services); Meaux Hits / Bears In the Bowl (ASCAP) (admin. by EMICMG Publishing). All rights reserved. Writer(s): Ben Calhoun; Jeff Pardo

Discussion

Let’s start with the problem of the false evangelical premise of the song.  The false premise is that of the quote falsely attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words”. Preaching of the Gospel requires the use of God’s Word. You can’t “demonstrate” the Gospel to anyone without first speaking Truth. Without preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, your “good works” point others to you, not Christ. We’ll come back to this point in a moment. The first pre-chorus actually infuriates me: mercy and grace and compassion are only words without action. The context for this statement to be a valid one is extremely narrow, and really shouldn’t be driven into our heads in an ambiguous song on the airwaves. Who is the speaker of this song? There are phrases that identify the earthly individual as the speaker of the song, “My life”, “my broken heart”, “change in my heart”… so is the singer a Christian or an unbeliever demanding more evidence from the Christian who is sharing the Gospel with him? If the former, the assertion that mercy, grace, compassion are nothing without action is obnoxious. God’s grace, mercy, and compassion are the reason the Earth yet remains, and why we even have the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we are talking only about earthly grace, mercy, compassion of believers… sinful, fleshly believers, the statement still falls flat. Restraint, the absence of self-seeking action (vengeance/judgement/vindication) is the predominant form of grace and mercy in our daily walks. Forgiveness isn’t always an action. Mercy and Grace are not always actions, many times they are exemplified by inaction. However, as we discovered in our walk through the Sermon on the Mount, even in the midst of practicing the good work of extending outward grace/mercy/compassion to our neighbor, our sinful hearts sully our good works. If the singer of the song is an unbeliever demanding proof from the one preaching the Gospel, then we are dealing with a red herring. The unbeliever is fully accountable for his unbelief.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

It isn’t up to you to provide evidence of the Gospel. Despite what any unbeliever demands of you or even swears to you, they don’t need anymore proof that God exists than what He has already provided. They need to die to the Law of sin unto repentance and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to New Life. Hands that are open… The open hands that we are in desperate need of daily are those nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Law of Righteousness and then gave up His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, so that by faith we might not only be spared the due punishment for our sin but that His Righteousness would be bestowed upon us at the Resurrection. Oh how I wish that this was the direction the writers of this song had taken… but it isn’t. The writers aren’t pointing to Christ, they are pointing fingers at Christians who “need to do a better job of obeying the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself”. Dear reader, these two themes don’t fit together. We’ll talk about the work of the Law in the Christian’s life, but for now we need to make a clear distinction: the unbeliever is not granted saving faith by the believer’s keeping of the Law, nor is it dependent upon the believer living a sin-free earthly life. If it were, no one would ever come to saving faith after Jesus ascended into heaven. The only person who could ever legitimately demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in that manner, was Jesus Christ, the only truly Righteous and Good Person, completely sinless. The rest of us rely on faith in the Word of God. Cuz’ that’s the only way this world will ever know who You are. Is that what the Bible teaches? No. There is buried here an allusion to something Jesus said:

John 13:34-35 (ESV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

It’s only an allusion to what Jesus was teaching. To suggest that this teaches the only way that we might evangelize unbelievers is to twist this text. This relates to the authenticity of their faith in Gospel of Jesus Christ designating them (and we also who Believe) as His disciples. All people will know that we are truly His disciples by our love for each other. Jesus doesn’t include the notion that this is also how unbelievers will suddenly start believing in Christ. That’s not in the text. The Apostle Paul clearly instructed how people are to come to saving faith in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 10:11-17 (ESV) 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached… with words, specifically, the Word of Christ. The Law cannot be skipped in the Preaching of Christ, for His first purpose was to fulfill the Law on our behalf. Therefore, we are to preach both Law and Gospel, for that is the ONLY way that the unbeliever is granted faith. Sadly, not all who hear the gospel obey it… some will inexplicably continue in the condemnation of their sin

John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

It is not up to you to “prove” to the unbeliever the Truth of the Gospel. It isn’t up to you to grant the unbeliever saving faith. That isn’t your part in their salvation. Your part is to preach the Word of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that opens the ears, hearts, and minds of the hearers of the Gospel. The burden of the unbeliever’s unbelief isn’t yours to bear. Preach the Word. Now then, let us look to the element of truth in the general theme of the song. We are commanded to love one another as Christ loved us. Once we have come to saving faith, we are caught in the daily struggle between the sin that dwells in our flesh and the Spirit of God who fills us. Until the day we finally put off this flesh of sin, we will have to put to death our selfish, sinful desires and seek first the kingdom of God. We are commanded to Love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to Love our neighbors as ourselves… and we will continue falling short of this Law until the Resurrection. Our hope remains fixed on Christ’s Finished work on the cross… it doesn’t shift to our ability to keep the Law, we are to remain humbly repentant of our sins. Give us this each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins (Luke 11)… Jesus taught us to pray daily. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The world sees your sin, and proposes the impossible test of “prove your righteousness and then I’ll accept your God”, as a red herring, a smoke-screen distraction from their own sin and need of a Savior from the Just Wrath of God. Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge sets the terms, not the defendants. God is faithful, and it was He who began a good work in you for it was by Him that you were brought to saving faith. Let’s look to James 2 for a moment.

James 2:14-26 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Dear Christian, please don’t be scared of James, nor distracted by those who would use James to burden Christians under the works of the Law. James is pointing to a faith problem, not a conduct/discipline problem. Genuine faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ produces fruit in the believer, and as the believer grows in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, so will the fruit by faith. If there is no fruit, James is pointing to the problem of a lack of faith as the cause of the lack of fruit. So many preachers today flip it around, as though by some manipulating of good works of the law can instill faith. That’s not how it works, and that is not the focus of  James. If you have faith, the works will follow, for we are not saved by good works, we are saved by faith for good works (Eph 2).

Conclusion

So here’s the idea: as Christians, we need to be reminded daily of our need for a Savior. We need to hear the Law preached lawfully, so that our flesh, our sinful nature remain crucified, but we also need the Life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that our faith can grow and be sustained. When our good works fade, the answer is to return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Repent and be forgiven, and in the same measure that you are forgiven forgive others. In the same measure that you are loved by Jesus, love others. We will fail, He knows this, and He is faithful and Just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of our unrighteousness. We are commanded to love others as Christ loved us, and when we fail we are to repent of our sin. Preach the Word of God faithfully and humbly so that the lost might hear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that by the Grace of God they might come to saving faith. If your life is not bearing any fruit, its time to examine your faith… most often what we find is we’ve gone dry from spending so much time under Law without Gospel, and we’ve allowed our focus to drift away from the cross and onto our own ability (truly inability) to keep the Law of Righteousness. We need to keep an eye on our brothers and sisters in Christ and lovingly stir each other up, by reminding each other of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

James 5:19-20 (ESV) 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Whenever this song plays on the radio, think on these things rather than what the song is pushing. Preach Law and Gospel to both the unbeliever (that he might be saved) and the believer (that he might be encouraged). Amen. In Christ Jesus, Jorge

Social Gospel? You keep using that word…

GospelIf I may be a bit blunt… I’m tired of reading/hearing about the so-called “social gospel”. There is no “social gospel”. There is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s begin by reminding ourselves of what “Gospel” means and where the term comes from:

From Bible.org:
The term gospel is found ninety-nine times in the NASB and ninety-two times in the NET Bible. In the Greek New Testament, gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion (occurring 76 times) “good news,” and the verb euangelizo„ (occurring 54 times), meaning “to bring or announce good news.” Both words are derived from the noun angelos, “messenger.” In classical Greek, an euangelos was one who brought a message of victory or other political or personal news that caused joy. In addition, euangelizomai (the middle voice form of the verb) meant “to speak as a messenger of gladness, to proclaim good news.”Further, the noun euangelion became a technical term for the message of victory, though it was also used for a political or private message that brought joy.

So what is this “Social Gospel” people keep talking about? Does the Bible speak some good news about society or the world being made better by the Church? That we don’t need to preach on sin or repentance; rather, we should just “live out the Christian” life and the world will simply bow its knee under the superior living of the Church? Is that the good news? That Christians will “change the world”? Not even remotely. I believe the roots of this “social gospel” thing to be decided anti-christian, because it de-emphasizes the preaching of Law and Gospel and instead burdens people with law-only living and universalism (allowing others to remain in their false theology as long as they live outwardly godly lives). But is it even remotely Biblical?

The first point I’d like to address is this whole “befriend the world to earn the right to share the Gospel” nonsense. I’d like to jump straight to the book of James, since it is fresh in my mind after our last CTT post. I’m going to be hopping a little bit through James, but I want to remind the reader that the Book of James begins by addressing the purpose of trials and tribulation (debunking “prosperity doctrine”) and then to address strongly those who profess empty faith while living worldly lives. We see him state this quite plainly in the first chapter:

James 1:19-27 (ESV) 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Notice here that there is to be a separation from the world, such that we are to be kept unstained from the world. James returns to this point again in chapter 4:

James 4:4-5 (ESV) 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

A major problem with the theology of a “social gospel” is the idea that the world can be “made a better place” by works apart from the Word of God. Jesus, God the Son, didn’t come to fix governments, end wars, make peace, repair the environment and eradicate hunger. The clearest passage of scripture that refutes this “social gospel” can be found in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16-42 (ESV) 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

That’s rough… direct… and plainly spoken/written. Combine what Jesus told the disciples what they were being sent out for with what He said about the time of His return (Matthew 24), is there really any reason to accept a “social gospel” that suggests that the church will somehow make the world a better place before Christ’s return simply by “living out the Gospel”? Absolutely not. In fact, persecution is coming as a direct result of the world’s hatred of Jesus. We will be forced to either acknowledge Him or deny Him, before the world in their synagogues and before the Gentiles (interesting delineation there, don’t you think?).

How did Paul minister to the Gentiles? Would the Apostle Paul buy into the “social gospel” concept? Let’s look at his first trip to Athens.

Acts 17:16-34 (ESV) 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them[Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Does it seem like Paul was interested in “earning” the right to preach the Gospel to these polytheists? Did he dance around their faith, or their religion, or their doctrine? No. He preached the Gospel both in the synagogue and in the market place, with whomever happened to be there. With their philosophers. And when brought to the Areopagus, he preached the direct and plain Gospel declaring their idols to be false and preached repentance from their ignorance for the coming judgement. I think it is safe to say that the Apostle Paul would take issue with the “social gospel”.

Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV) 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Perhaps the most telling sign that the seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, social-gospel, emergent relevancy is leading men and women astray is recent news of major denominations giving lip service to unity despite doctrine and the willingness of some churches to redefine sexual immorality in order to maintain friendship with the world. Doctrine matters… it is not a side-issue of what color carpet you think should be in a church.

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (ESV) 11 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Does it sound like the Apostle Paul would accept a CEO like lifestyle for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ? It doesn’t to me. Did he encourage Timothy or Titus to “live their best life now”?

2 Timothy 3 (ESV) 1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Nope… not to Timothy.

Titus 2 (ESV) 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

This one definitely reads better, but Titus is told specifically to preach. There is still renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions, and exhortation and rebuke with all authority. Contrary to popular evangelical myth, Jesus didn’t “hang out with sinners” he ate with them, healed them, called them to repentance, and forgave them. That’s not really “hanging out with” them. That is the work of the ministry, repentance and forgiveness. He had mercy on us, and gave His life as payment for our sin, not that we go on sinning, and let the world continue in its sin without offending them with the spoken Gospel, but that we might proclaim the Gospel of Grace to those who were born dead in their sins and trespasses.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He came to pay the ultimate price of sin on our behalf, so that we will be spared on the final day, when Christ comes to Judge both the Living and the Dead. That is the good news. That through His atoning sacrifice, by His shed blood on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, we have been brought out of darkness and into the Kingdom of Heaven. That when this Earth is finally judged, and the present heaven and earth are destroyed and a God creates a New Heaven and a New Earth… we will be with Him, adopted in Christ as heirs and joint heirs to the Kingdom of God. There is no other “Gospel”.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Amen. May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

So, we’ve spoken a bit about delegated authority within the Scriptures. I’d like to continue in that thought by looking at several examples throughout the Old Testament. But I don’t want to lose sight of the end-goal of this series, so I want to anchor each post in this series in the Great Commission found in the book of Matthew:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is our mission. All of the scriptures are about Jesus Christ, and He left us with this charge before He ascended into Heaven. The book of Mark also records the Great Commission and summarizes the portion that I want to focus on for this study. The two accounts should be taken together. I believe that a strong case can be made for the modern church having made huge strides at following the “preaching the Gospel” as summarized by Mark (though the argument wains a bit when we look at the signs that follow believers)… but what I struggle to find is a modern-day understanding of “making disciples”. I suspect it will become increasingly difficult to connect or appreciate what it means to make disciples or to even be a disciple, because I believe that culturally we have lost sight of the concept of apprenticeship. Why? I blame individualism; however, having something to blame does not in itself address the problem. So, to explore the concept of Discipleship, I want to start out by breaking down discipleship into 3 major steps or phases: the calling, apprenticeship, and ministry.  Taking the 2 accounts of the Great Commission, we are called by Him through the preaching of the Gospel, then we are to become disciples of the Word (apprenticeship) and then go out and be partakers in the Great Commission ourselves. I’m breaking this down only as a generalized theme, and am in no way trying to make hard-lined separations so that you must be in one phase or the other.

Adam

Let’s start by returning to the Genesis account of Adam and the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1:26 (NASB) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Here we have God announcing the purpose of man before He creates man, “…let them rule…”. We have our calling. Our purpose was determined before we were created. Now, on the grand scale, since we know that in the Kingdom of Heaven we will reign and rule with Christ; therefore all of man’s earthly existence fits in the apprenticeship phase… sure, but that is not where I want to go. For apprenticeship, and what that means in our daily walks, lets look at the individual call of Adam.

Genesis 2:8,9,15 (NASB) 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it…

Here, we have a garden that God planted and caused to grow, and then He places Adam in the garden to cultivate it. Here we have our first apprenticeship. God showed Adam how to cultivate His garden. Adam sins against God and fails his task, sending all of mankind into darkness and cursing the very ground he was supposed to cultivate and forfeiting his delegated authority over to whom had fathered Adam’s sin, the devil.

Genesis 3:21-23 (NASB) 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

Now, here our phases are broken somewhat, because the story of Adam is one of man’s failure and of God’s Sovereignty, Grace, Love and provision. We’ve already looked at how Jesus came to fulfill God’s plan and redeem all of mankind by paying the debt of Adam, by offering Himself as the Pure Spotless Lamb of Sacrifice. However, even after the fall, we have Adam being given his ministry, “to cultivate the ground from which he was taken“. I also like that we still have Adam being taught by God in that He, “made garments of skin…and clothed them“.

Abram (Abraham)

Let us now jump ahead a bit to another individual about whom we’ve discussed recently. Paul writes in Romans 4 about how Abram’s faith in God was credited to him as righteousness before the covenant of circumcision. Let us turn now to Genesis 12 which starts out with God’s calling of Abram:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NASB)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Seventy-five years old when God first calls Abram! I remember wringing my hands unsure of what God wanted from me as a 20yr old college failure. But I digress, here in Genesis we have a rather sudden and out-of-the-blue call of God to Abram. In Chapter 11 we have the lineage from Noah to Abram, Sarai, and Lot. Aside from some basic family data, the only thing we know about Abram at this point is that God has a plan and a calling for Abram… and its BIG. To this point, Abram has done nothing deserving of the call of God, just as Adam had done nothing to deserve his calling. The Bible… is about God. Also notice that there is no delay in moving from Calling to Apprenticeship, “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him“. What we will see here is that Abram has a long way to go before he can start experiencing the call on his life. He lies to Pharaoh in Egypt which almost leads to adultery (however, God intervenes), he and Lot have to part ways due to land not supporting both their wealth, and Lot takes the better looking land. Not exactly an explosive start to his calling, eh? Then the Lord speaks to him again

Genesis 13:14-17 (NASB) 14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

So, we see here God is continuing to reveal to Abram all that He intends to do in Abram’s life, and for his descendants. In Gen 14, we see 4 kings (Chedorlaomer’s team) come against 5 kings in the region (Bera king of Sodom’s team), and prevail against them, ransacking Sodom and taking with them Lot and his possessions. Abram rises up and defeats Cherdorlaomer and the kings with him and rescues Lot. That’s no small feat, not in the slightest. The Bible is quick to point out to whom goes the credit for such a feat…

Genesis 14:18-23 (NASB)
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.

Abram declines the “fulfill your calling quick” scheme. No doubt with all of the spoils of war, Abram could indeed have made himself a great nation. But he knew better, because he feared the One who had called him, and remembered that it would be He who would bring His Will to pass. Abram’s faith was not in the schemes of men (though he will still falter on this point regarding his wife… but hey… God’s Grace is truly amazing!); rather, it was in the Word of God. In Chapter 15, we see Abram ask God directly, “Oh Lord God what will you give me since I am childless…” and God answers him with a promise that his heir would come from his own body. It is then, that Abram believed in the Lord God and it was credited to him as righteousness (now we’ve come full-circle to Paul’s explanation of justification by faith in Romans 4). God’s call to Abram was a mighty call. And God had to work with Abram for many years. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham after establishing the covenant of circumcision and He had to deal with Abraham both in blessings and in rebukes. Twenty-five years after being called by God, Abraham finally has his son, Isaac. Abraham is 100 years old by the time a son is born to him. In the very next chapter, God tests Abraham. Now, I pray that we never have to deal with this level of testing to move on from apprenticeship to ministry, but Abraham passes the test for which he had been studying for 25 years (since the God called him):

Genesis 22:15-18 (NASB) 15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

Abraham didn’t do anything to invite God’s call on his life, anymore than Adam did. But what Abraham did after God initiated the call on his life: he believed in the Lord, and obeyed His voice. As Christians, we’ve been grafted into God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham through Jesus Christ, who bore within Himself the punishment for the sin of all mankind. We’ve been granted an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven, where we will reign and rule with Christ as heirs and joint heirs.

But what is our calling now? Remember the Great Commission (Mark 16 & Matthew 28). That is a calling for all of us who’ve answered the call of the Holy Spirit on our lives, to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That is not to say that we don’t have individual callings. God has a plan for each of us made before we were born (Psalm 139:16) and when we are made alive in Christ, He gives us gifts and callings:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

It takes time, we will stumble along the way, but God is faithful to complete His work in each of us. Not everyone has the same calling, and we really have no say in what our calling will be, nor can we randomly pick a calling from the Bible and implore to grant us that calling. God does the calling, and the teaching, and the perfecting. What do we do? In closing this post (we’ll be revisiting this topic), let us turn to James 4:

James 4:7-10 (NASB) 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

We submit to God. Please know that I am in no way claiming to have succeeded in this myself. I struggle as you. I stumble just as you stumble (maybe even in the same areas). And like you, I put my hope in Jesus Christ. For apart from Him, I am nothing.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
FS