Mission can’t be reduced to preparing people for this life


The gospel is the good news of how God reconciles his rebellious image-bearers to himself by the death and resurrection of his Son. This good news properly entails transformed living that touches all our horizontal relationships, but which is never reducible to horizontal relationships. The proclamation of this gospel that has freed us and prepared us to meet our Maker is our joyous privilege and solemn responsibility. When the discharge of this mission is met with God’s blessing, it produces men and women who are ready for both this life and the next.

Thus Christian mission can never be reduced to preparing people for this life. It can never be properly Christian if all that it aims to do, if all that it accomplishes, is to effect some reforms in government, or to improve social, moral, and economic standards. I cannot imagine a church profoundly shaped by Scripture that will not want to reform government and improve social, moral, and economic standards. But if that is all the church is trying to do, if it is all that individual Christians are trying to do, they have lost their moorings. There is a primacy to preparing people to meet God which, though its horizon is eternity, will also change how people live here and now. To put the matter another way, the notion of realized eschatology is ridiculous unless it is predicated on futurist eschatology. The ethics and values of the End cannot be brought back into the present if there is no End.

D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, pp. 434-435

Photo: iStock

Have the courage to apologize

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

So yesterday news broke about yet more unethical behavior from a celebrity pastor, this time buying his way onto The New York Times bestseller list.

There is so much wrong with this kind of behavior that I don’t even know where to begin. Frankly, I’m not sure I could say it any better than has been said here. But since reading about this latest in a series of life lessons on the dangers of unchecked hubris, there’s been one thing I’ve felt I’ve needed to say:

If you’ve done this, have the courage to apologize. 

Look, I know none of us are perfect. Anyone who says they’re without sin is a liar and a fool, and I am chief among them. But you know what I do expect? I expect that if we’re people who claim the name of Christ, we’re people who apologize and mean it.

What do I mean when I say we “mean it”? Simple: we’re genuinely repentant.

So a true apology is not immediately pleading Jesus, saying how thankful you are that He’s forgiven all your sins, past present and future. That’s spiritual and emotional manipulation, not asking for forgiveness. And it’s not a political non-apology, something akin to “mistakes were made.” That’s acknowledgement, not contrition.

What I mean when I say apologize is simple:

  • specifically name your action or attitude
  • own your personal error
  • explain how you are making restitution
  • ask for forgiveness

But all of this, of course, hinges on a critical truth: you have to actually think what you’ve done is wrong.

My fear for many who engage in shenanigans of this sort is they really don’t care. As much as they want to say they’re trying to boost the name of Jesus, they’re really out for themselves. They’ve traded integrity for influence. So the ends justify the means (even when the means are wrong). Their consciences may be so seared that that they’ve become blind to their own folly. They are like those leaders who sat in Moses’ seat, whom Jesus commanded the Jews to listen to but not imitate, for they do not practice what they preach.

They talk a good game, but it’s all talk.

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

Your integrity is worth more than your celebrity.

Your ministry is more important than your influence.

Your reward with Christ is better than the riches of this world.

If you are truly in Christ, you know this to be true. Now act like it. Have the courage to apologize.

Book Review: Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann

Title: Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully
Authors: Steve Chalke and Alan Mann
Publisher: Zondervan

As the world’s morality and ethics grow increasingly “gray,” Christians need to know how to respond to moral dilemmas in a way that reflects Christ to the world. To be “salt and light,” as it were. But how do we do it when there seem to be so many issues that the Bible doesn’t speak explicitly about?

“How do those who follow Jesus live distinctly in a time of uncertainty?” ask Steve Chalke & Alan Mann in their new book, Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully.

A Worthy Attempt…

The big idea behind the book is important. Christians need to know how to interact on a moral/ethical level with the world around us in a way that reflects Jesus. From what I can see, Chalke & Mann don’t want people to simply read their book, but engage with it. To actually try to put Christian ethics into practice. As they rightly say, “Our faith may be personal, but it can never be private” (p. 102).

This is an important point because it is essential that Christians think and act Christianly within our spheres of influence. When we fail to do so, we fail to be salt and light in the world. The discussion questions on four selected topics are also useful for thinking through the reasons why we believe what we believe about issues of homosexuality, war, euthanasia and the use of wealth.

Where we start running into problems is when we start seeing everything as being potentially gray, forgetting that where the Bible is clear, we must be as well.

…That “Misses the Mark”

Honestly, I found this book to be a mess. Throughout there’s a relatively low-view of Scripture presented that simultaneously affirms its truth as a narrative, but suggests that many of its commands are not binding. “The Bible is first and foremost a story-based moral vision rather than a list of universal rules,” Chalke & Mann write. “Believing that the whole of life is somehow covered by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Law is even more unrealistic than it is optimistic” (p. 38). Read More about Book Review: Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann