Do you want to remove all doubt about your sincerity?

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” -Colossians 2:15

It seems that God likes removing doubt about sincerity. From Noah, to Job, to Abraham and Isaac, to Moses, to Jesus and the apostles, God brings people into situations that cannot be faked. Anyone without faith would give up. But when someone does not give up, then their value is made known. No one can call them insincere.

Some people think Christians are insincere. Since our faith is unbelievably good news, our motives have to be unbelievably sincere. That simultaneously puts us in a vulnerable and a powerful position. Vulnerable because anything we do that might be, or appear, insincere will draw flack. Powerful because, if we are able to remove all doubt about our sincerity, we have a hope and a joy that nothing can rival and that everyone wants. Showing our sincerity beyond all doubt is perhaps the most powerful way to bring people to belief.

We should not chase persecution, I think. But we should, absolutely, live according to the standards of justice and mercy found in the Bible without regard for negative consequences to ourselves. Rather, when we see something bad coming, we should rejoice, because God will be glorified in our suffering.

Twice this year, the choir I’m in has sung a song called “In Christ Alone” by Koch and Craig. One of the stanzas goes like this:

And now I seek no greater honor
Than just to know Him more
And to count my gains but losses
To the glory of my Lord

The last two lines have been running through my head a lot recently: “To count my gains but losses to the glory of my Lord.”

Have you ever thought that your gains–your successes, your comforts, the extended length of your life–might actually be losses to the glory of the Lord? I love that Adventists are healthy enough to live on average 10 years longer than the rest of the U.S. population. Our health can be a testament to God’s power and righteousness. But I wonder if the fact that we actually do live longer–that we take our gift of health and stay in safe places, instead of using our health to go work in the hardest places where we might die sooner–I wonder if the fact that we actually do live 10 years longer is a greater testament to God, or to human security.

Would you rather live a life without problems, or would you rather take every opportunity you can to show people that God is worth everything to you?

Jesus made a spectacle of the powers and authorities by revealing his allegiance beyond a doubt. He came in order to do that.

As Christians, why have we come? Why have you come? What will you do?

 

What about worship justice?

“In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth… ‘I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.'” -Isaiah 42:3b, 4a, 8

I’ve spent some time thinking, praying, and working for justice of various kinds–social, political, economic–and I’ve spent time trying to introduce people to Jesus. But I’m just starting to realize that these two sectors–justice and evangelism–can merge. They aren’t disconnected.

This might not sound special. Of course justice and faith are connected. The Bible teaches that we should care for the oppressed. Actions speak louder than words. Hundreds of Christian NGOs use the Bible to back-up their mission statements.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. Our faith informs our justice. But our faith also is justice.

It is just for the Created to worship the Creator.

And so I would like to add one more category to the many existing existing categories of justice work: worship justice.

Bringing people to worship their Creator is justice work, like advocating the rights of trafficked people, or providing shelter to refugees, or bringing education and work opportunities to people on the frayed edges of global empires.

Just like people deserve life, health, safety, and dignity, God deserves worship.

And as we know,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The clearest way to bear witness to the full extent of Christian love is to engage in close community life.

“We had a glorious mess that looks much more like God’s work in hindsight than it did in the moment.” -David Janzen

Today, after almost three years, I finally finished The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus, by David Janzen. It’s the fourth book I’ve read on the subject of Christian community, interrupted in the middle by Being Church, by John Alexander, and preceded by Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne.

Someone who dreams of living with lots of people, sharing almost everything, and worshiping and eating together, might seem like an idealist. But one of the strongest lessons from each of these books is that Christian community is never ideal. At least not in any Utopian sense.

Rather, Christian community is a glorious mess.

The goal of community is not better living conditions; although that can happen, in some ways, community also forces you to sacrifice. The purpose of life together is to build character. To grow up into the fullness of the stature of the body of Christ. To discipline each other and bear each other’s burdens. And to bear witness to the world the extent of Christian love–love through the mess.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34, 35

Are you white rice or brown rice?

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.” -Mark 4:20

White rice cannot reproduce. If you plant it in the ground, it will do nothing.

White rice is meant for food, not for planting. Its purpose is nothing more than one tiny, tiny piece of your meal. So small you don’t even need to chew it.

Brown rice, on the other hand, will grow if you plant it–often bearing over 1,000 new grains in a single season. It still has its germ–the key ingredient for reproduction.

So what’s the original difference between brown and white rice? Do they come from different plants? Or is brown bred in a special way so that it can be used as seed?

No.

Brown rice and white rice come from the same plant. There is no difference in how it is grown. There is no difference in how it is harvested. The difference is in how it is processed.

Brown rice is only shaken away from its chaff before going to the market–the bran and the germ are left. But white rice stays in production a little longer. After the chaff is removed, it continues to be cleaned, and even polished, before it is packaged and sold. It completely loses its bran and its germ.

So what kind of rice are you? If your Christian life consists of attending church, getting purified day by day, but never sharing–never getting planted–you might be getting whiter and whiter, and losing your ability to grow. You might become one very fine looking Christian–good enough to eat!–but you will never bear fruit.

You do not have to be purified to the maximum level in order to be planted. You do not have to stay in church, working on yourself year after year, until you attain some level of perfection high enough to become a suitable seed. In fact, the sooner you get out, the better. It’s often the newest Christians that make the most converts, just like it’s the lightly-processed seeds that grow the best.

One rice seed can turn into 1,000 in a single year. What could you do if you were planted?

Love–love into baptism.

Two understandings for this year:

“And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.'” -Mark 12:32-33

  1. Loving God and loving the people around you is much more than any offering or sacrifice. Not only is it the greatest commandment–it is the greatest joy.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

2. Love is the underlying value in every spiritual gift and righteous act. Check if you have it, and if you do, let it be your motivation.

With this in mind, my 2016 resolution is to engage as many people with the Good News as needed until one person decides to be baptized.

Would you like to try, too?

Please pray about this, for both of us.

One thing you have to do to understand your life in Christ.

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” -Philemon 6

Most of my Christian life, I have felt like I’ve been missing something. I think Philemon 6 gives me a hint: I’m supposed to be sharing more actively.

It absolutely makes sense! From the Sanctuary analogy to 1 John 1, Matthew 10 and then Matthew 28, raising awareness of Christ is key to life with the gospel. Without doing that, I don’t know if followers can feel fulfilled in their belief.

That is why, for 2016, I have one resolution: walk someone through the beginnings of belief. From introduction to baptism, I want to connect one person with Jesus. I want to have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

We should spend at least as much of our time getting to the heart as we do getting to the mind.

Preface: I think prophecy is important. And please forgive my unclear use of the word “theology”. Some kinds of theology are better than others, and here I’m referring to the worse kind; the light kind.

Five and a half years ago I was just finishing my student missions term in Thailand. My flight home included a layover in Korea, where I met an elderly Chinese evangelist. At the time, I was feeling confident in my faith, and I thought I’d get into a friendly conversation with him. After hearing he had just finished an evangelism program, I told him what I’d been doing, and asked “So, what are the differences between our beliefs?”

He, as I remember, just walked away. Maybe he just didn’t speak English, but I don’t think so. I took it as a reprimand. I don’t think this man was interested in light conversation about faith.

As such studious people, Adventists may be especially vulnerable to talking too lightly–too theoretically, too academically, too impersonally–about our faith.

We have lots of information. With our emphasis on prophecy, current events can be really interesting. Or maybe we just like to theorize about very specific passages in the Bible (maybe like I do on here sometimes…).

But how often does our post-lunch, Sabbath afternoon conversation begin with prayer? And how often do we care to dwell on the simple beauty of Christ instead of the latest Daniel 11 interpretation? When was the last time we spent that time holding each other accountable for our own witness during the week, or sympathized with each other over our deepest struggles? Some do it. But do we?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” -Matthew 22:37

Faith requires heart, in addition to mind, and soul in addition to strength. Faith is deep, thick, painful, and open. It’s joyful and honest. It won’t accept a counterfeit.

All the prophetic knowledge in the world will avail us nothing without a living relationship with our Creator, and we should spend at least as much of our community time getting to the heart of the matter as we do in theology and prophecy. Probably more.

Building an interest in people and trying everything to bring Jesus back.

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.'” -1 Corinthians 9:19-23

My personal mission statement starts like this: “Building an interest in people…”

I was intentional about the word “interest”. I chose it over words like “investing in”, “empowering”, or even “identifying with”, because the key to mission is not in the act of helping, nor is it in sentimental advocacy. The key is in tying my fate in with people. Making their end, my end. Because that way, and only that way, will my self-interest include them. “Identify”, in it’s thickest meaning, could also work in this case.

One of the hardest-hitting claims against Christians today is that we don’t love, or that our love is conditional–limited to people like us. We very likely deserve it. In too many Christian circles, members of local society (rich or poor) are left out. Our “target audience” is less than all of humanity. The farthest in they may ever get is the soup kitchen or the donation box, because that is the closest any church-goers are willing to get to them. Even if their salvation is at stake.

My personal mission statement begins with “Building an interest in people” because it ends with “and trying everything to bring Jesus back”, and the only way that I can possibly give everything I have–the only way I can try everything–is if my end depends on their end; if I have an interest in them.

Besides, to pretend as if our end doesn’t depend on that of anyone else on the planet is obtuse.

This is the thick definition of love. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)

Unless you tie your interests in with the people around you–unless your end depends on their end (and you recognize that)–you will never give everything for their salvation.

It’s what Jesus did. And it’s what he calls us to do.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

Consider this from Micah Bournes and World Relief:

Go buy that field (three reasons to talk about Jesus all the time).

The main reason for yesterday’s post was actually to push you towards talking more about Jesus.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, sharing your faith is the third staple of discipleship that’s rarely included with it’s well-known counterparts of Bible study and prayer. But it’s very real. There are at least three ways that raising awareness (my preferred term for evangelism) shapes your personal faith:

  1. Talking about Jesus forces you to think

Talking with people that don’t believe forces you to identify and critique the actual reasons you believe. It forces you to step back and try to understand yourself from another point of view. And that is a glorious exercise in strengthening your own faith.

2. Sharing your faith forces you to depend on God.

If you ever approach someone thoughtfully to share your hope with them, you realize that you cannot change their heart. You can never turn someone into a sincere believer. The primary force in any Christian awareness campaign is the Holy Spirit’s conviction. That is what changes people into believers. And that is what you need if you are going to share anything good about God. You need Him.

3. Bringing people to Jesus means you will see Him sooner.

One reason raising awareness is part of our mission is because Jesus wants to be with us in person again, soon. And when the entire world knows about what happened, that will be possible. He will come back. This is the most drastic way awareness will affect your faith; someday, when the Gospel reaches the globe, it will remove the need for faith, because Jesus will finally come back. Your faith will turn into sight.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” -Matthew 24:14

I cannot emphasize enough how important sharing your faith is to personal discipleship. Remember these three reasons to share: it will help you think about your faith, depend on God more, and see Jesus sooner.