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Disciple-Making Life

Welcome One Another

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Romans 1-9 gets all the love. All the attention. As it should. It’s a dynamic exposition of sin, God’s wrath, justification by faith, and the power of the Spirit. It’s a tour de force from the Apostle Paul.

But today, as I’m finishing up reading through Romans, it struck me how important Romans 14 and the first six verses of chapter 15 are. I was struck a second time when I realized how vital they are for Christians, particularly in the United States, at this particular juncture in history.

To sum it up, Paul first tells his readers that Christians are not to pass judgment in non-essential matters (in his context, he’s referring to the choice to observing festival days or not). In non-essentials, people are free to do what they like (provided, of course, they aren’t being a jerk doing it.) Everyone is accountable to the Lord in these matters.

Second, he writes that believers are not to cause others to stumble. Paul isn’t forbidding women from wearing a bikini, here (that’s an entirely different blog post). Rather, he’s cautioning his readers to watch their actions so that others aren’t tempted to return to a particular lifestyle they had before their conversion.

Then, at the beginning of chapter 15, Paul gets at the root: Don’t live to please yourself. Live to please your neighbor. Welcome one another.

In other words, people–even other Christians–are different than you. We agree on the most fundamental tenants of our faith. But there are other areas where we disagree. Welcome these people. All of these people. Live in harmony with them. Love them. Accommodate them.

Welcome one another. 

Why?

Christ has welcomed you.

Why would Paul say that? Thick guilt trip? No. True freedom from the peripheral entanglements that enslave us? Yes. Jesus has welcomed all sorts of people into his kingdom, and there’s one common denominator. He is God and everyone else is not. That’s quite the difference. That’s quite the welcoming.

If Christ can welcome sinners, like you and me, we can welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who have different affiliations or are in another tribe, whether they are political, social, racial, economic, or otherwise. We can say to them, “I know we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but please come in. You’re family.”

Will there be some things to sort out? Oh my, yes. Will there be some course corrections that need to be made? Definitely. Will there need to be contrite confessions and long-term changes made? On all sides.

But what divides Christians in this country today is no worse than what divided Jews and Gentiles in the first century. Consider that task! The power to change back then and now is found only in the person of Jesus Christ, the One who welcomed rebellious enemies into his fold. It’s easy for us Christians to forget that even (especially!) we need Jesus.

At the end of the day, Jesus did not live for himself. He gave himself away.

Are we willing to do the same?

Categories
Life Ministry

Day 23: Christmas: A Mission to the Nations

[Through Jesus we have received] grace and apostleship to bring about
the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (
Romans 1:5-6)

The first Christmas was a mission trip. The mission trip of all mission trips. Jesus left the comforts of his home in heaven to come here, a foreign land. Why did he come? It was for nothing less than to inherit the nations as his own possession, drawing all men to himself. In the opening words of his great letter to the Romans, Paul says as much. Jesus “was descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3)—reminiscent of the angel’s announcement that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in the city of David. And for what purpose? Nothing less than “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5).

At the beginning of Jesus’ life, the nations, represented by the magi, came to worship him (recall Day 18). At the end of Jesus’ life on earth, Jesus said to the disciples, “Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations!” (Matt. 28:19). And at the end of history, this will come to completion as the nations are gathered together to sing praise to Jesus (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

We rightly think of Christmas as a time for good-will and generosity to the poor. But what if we saw Christmas through a missional lens? Jesus left the comforts of his home. He became like the people he wanted to save. He preached hard truths to these people. He showed compassion and love to them. He sacrificed everything, even his own life, for them.

He’s the ultimate missionary who now calls his saved people to join and imitate him in reaching the nations. The question is not whether the mission will be completed. It will. The only question we face is whether or not we will be a part of it.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Romans 15:8-21

  1. Read vv. 9-12. What do you make of these Old Testament passages that predict the Gentiles/nations will come to know Christ?
  2. Are you passionate about the renown of Christ among all the peoples of the world? If it passion is not as high as you’d like, how can you cultivate it?
  3. What opportunities do you have around you to spread the gospel? How might you engage with the spread of the gospel to the unreached?
  4. How can you orient your prayer life around God’s mission? What are some nations/peoples/missions that you can be praying for this Advent season and beyond?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

Categories
Theology

What Are You All About?

What are you all about? If you are a church leader, what is your church all about? If you had to give a one-word answer, what would you say?

As Paul begins his letter to the Romans, he writes that he has been called to be an apostle, “set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). In other words, all of Paul’s life and ministry revolves around the gospel. That’s Paul’s “what-am-I-all-about-in-a-nutshell” word (see Rom. 1:16-17, too). To Paul, the gospel isn’t simply some piece of “helpful” information he throws to people on his missionary journeys, as if it’s a pill they swallow or a membership they sign up for to get eternal life. Paul’s whole existence is centered on the gospel, so it is gospel he’s going to give to saints that they might be more like Jesus and to unbelievers that they might come to Jesus (see Rom. 1:15).

Why is his focus on the gospel? First, God promised the gospel in the Hebrew Scriptures (Rom. 1:2). Paul, like the other New Testament authors, read the Old Testament “christologically,” that is, the Old Testament promised and foreshadowed Christ’s incarnation, redemption, and restoration. The gospel does not exist in a vacuum–it is grounded in the history of God’s people Israel.

Second, the gospel does not just promise Jesus, it reveals who Jesus is and what he has done. Jesus’ life and work is the content of the gospel. As it has been said before, he is the gospel. In Romans 1:3-5, Paul’s writes that Jesus is revealed in the prophets (the Old Testament) as the Son of David and the Son of God. He is the One who has ushered in the new creation through his resurrection and the one who has given us grace and the mission to make disciples of all nations.

Discipleship, mission, sacraments, doctrine, and other things are vital to our lives as Christians. But none of them can be the main thing. The gospel gives unity, meaning, and purpose to all those things. In his book, Center Church, Tim Keller writes, “Because the gospel is endlessly rich, it can handle the burden of being the one ‘main thing’ of a church” (37). Would that it be so for our churches and our own lives!

Categories
Theology

What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

Christians have asked this question centuries. Even in today’s globalized, social-media-driven world, Christians are still asking it. In question 60 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, the question is posed: “Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?” Here is its answer:

They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

It is true that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus (Acts 4:12). To be saved means to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that he is risen from the dead (Rom. 10:9). God is sovereign and he saves those whom he wills (see Rom. 9:19-24; John 6:44; 10:25-28; Eph. 2:8-9). The unsaved are non-elect, and therefore, those who have not heard are not elect. Furthermore, people are condemned because they are guilty sinners (6:23). We must remember that there are no innocent people in the world (Rom. 2:12-16; 3:10-23).

How could this be, you ask, when a person in the jungles of Africa does not even know God exists? John Calvin helps us understand: “Since, then, there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, this amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of deity is inscribed on every heart. No, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact.” (Institutes 1.3.1).

God promises there will be a multitude from every tribe, language, people, and nation who were ransomed by the blood of the Lamb and who will reign with him forever (Rev. 5:9-10). So rather than raising a finger at God for what is clearly taught in Scripture, we must resolve to spread the gospel across this earth, making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). That might mean leaving all you have to be a frontier missionary. It might mean giving more (yes, more) money to missions. It will definitely mean praying often for unreached peoples. In all you do, remember to rest in the truth that God will bring all his sheep into one fold under the care and provision of their one, good Shepherd, Jesus Christ (John 10:16). cit confession, that a sense of deity is inscribed on every heart. No, even idolatry is ample evidence to this fact” (Institutes 1.3.1). There is a sense in every person that God exists. and the very fact that we worship something proves it.

To hear a little more on this, listen to a two minute audio clip to from John Piper.

Categories
Life

My Top 10 Posts of 2011

Top ten lists. That is what the last week of December is for, right? I should probably get in on the action before it’s too late. Without further adieu, here are the top ten posts from this small corner of the blogosphere. Thank you all for reading. I am truly humbled.

10. Your Words Have the Power of Life and Death
9. The Result of a Depraved Mind: Practicing and Approving of Evil Deeds
8. Gospel-Centered Devotions
7. I Want to Love Jesus, Not Just Know Stuff About Him
6. Long Snapping Amazement
5. Happy Anniversary to My Wife
4. Biggest Out of Context Pet Peeve: Matthew 18:20
3. The Rob Bell Saga
2. Thoughts on Erwin McManus’s Talk at the Global Leadership Summit
1. Should We Rejoice Over Osama Bin Laden’s Death?

If you read this blog often, what was your favorite post of 2011?