The Optional Gospel?

What part of the gospel is optional? This is our mission, God’s global purpose…

This book takes you on a transforming journey in authentic discipleship. During his time as pastor of a large and wealthy congregation, David Platt began to see a discrepancy between the reality of his church and the way Jesus said his followers lived. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt examines how American Christianity has manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences and challenges us to rediscover the path.

The Jethro Principle

This is a VERY practical story, EARLY in the community life of the recently freed Israelite nation. Do you recall the occasion in Exodus 18 when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit and found Moses hard at work? He certainly couldn’t accuse his son-in-law of laziness. He was busy, busy, busy! (Does that sound familiar in your life?) Moses was attempting to “be there” for everybody. He was on call for any and all occasions.

But, since Moses was working from morning until evening (Exodus 18:13) Jethro warned him that what he was doing was NOT good (Exodus 18:14, 17). In time, he was only going to wear himself out. Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience, but in any case, Jethro realized that as leaders grow weary, they risk burnout. Inevitably, we lose the joy of service we once knew.

Jethro’s advice to Moses represents what is known as the Jethro Principle for leaders. That is, no leader is called or gifted to do everything. It’s the wise leader who understands their limits.

The wise leader will ask the question, “What are the two or three things I do that are most valuable to the Kingdom and my church?” Then delegate the rest. The result is we will work out of our strengths while delegating our weaknesses to those whose strength is in that area. I’m not saying I have all this figured out, but it is a worthy goal of all leaders to listen to the wisdom of Jethro.

If you are NOT the leader, how are you stepping up to take the burden off of your church staff or other leadership? (Exodus 18:24-26)

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive or effective. I can look at my busy calendar and at the end of the day still wonder what I did for the kingdom. I want to do things that will yield an eternal investment, not just stay busy. The real return on our life’s investment is realized when we work through our God-given strengths. May each of us find our strengths and allow God to work through us.

The Importance of Purity

God gave man and woman the joy and pleasure of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage, and the Bible is clear about the importance of maintaining sexual purity within the boundaries of that union between man and wife (Ephesians 5:31). We take this to extremes, outside of marriage and it causes all sorts of troubles. The secular world’s philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” permeates our culture to the point where sexual purity is seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Let’s look at what God says about sexual purity.

You should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

This passage outlines God’s reasons for calling for sexual purity in the lives of His followers.

We are “sanctified” and for that reason, we are to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. The Greek word translated “sanctified” means literally “purified, made holy, consecrated [unto God].”
  2. As Christians, we are to live a purified life because we have been made holy by the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of Christ on the cross and have been made completely new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  3. Our old natures, with all their impurities, sexual and otherwise, have died and now the life we live, we live by faith in the One who died for us (Galatians 2:20).
  4. To continue in sexual impurity (fornication) is to deny that and doing so is, in fact, a legitimate reason to question whether we have ever truly been born again.
  5. Sanctification, the process by which we become more and more Christlike, is an essential evidence of the reality of our salvation.

We see the necessity of controlling our bodies.

  1. When we give in to sexual immorality, we give evidence that the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us because we do not possess one of the fruits of the Spirit—self-control.
  2. All believers display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of time they have walked with God.
  3. Uncontrolled “passionate lust” is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), not of the Spirit. So controlling our lusts and living sexually pure lives is essential to anyone who professes to know Christ. In doing so, we honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We know God’s rules and discipline reflect His love for us.

  1. Following what God says can only help us during our time on earth.
  2. By maintaining sexual purity before marriage, we avoid past emotional entanglements that may negatively affect present relationships and marriages.
  3. Further by keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), we can experience unreserved love for our mates, which is surpassed only by God’s enormous love for us.

[print_link] [email_link]

What is Bad Religion?

Have you ever been disappointed or even angry with religion? Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that the church is full of hypocrites. Maybe you’ve even said that yourself!

This is a passage of Scripture that we looked at last night, the first is out series on Decision: Seeking God’s Guidance. At the end, you’ll see how this chapter fits into the topic.

Isaiah rebuked Israel for practicing bad religion—religion that benefited no one and offended God (Isaiah 58:1–14). The prophet specifically zeroed in on fasting (Isaiah 58:2–5), pointing out ways in which the people misused this important spiritual discipline:

  • They nagged God in the interests of their own personal gain.
  • While seeking their own self-interests, they exploited their laborers.
  • Their fasts became a source of strife, debate, and hostility toward others.
  • They used severe fasting practices to call attention to themselves.

After challenging these practices, Isaiah described what true fasting ought to be like (Isaiah 58:6–13):

  • It should result in bringing relief to the oppressed.
  • It should result in feeding the hungry.
  • It should result in the poor being taken into homes for shelter and clothing.
  • Superior attitudes of finger pointing and evil should decline and ultimately disappear.
  • It should lead to repairing things, including damaged relationships.
  • It should involve treating the Sabbath as a day to worship the Lord rather than continuing to work for personal gain.

It’s easy to point the finger at others and criticize or ridicule their religious practices and spiritual life, but what about your own patterns of faith? How do they measure up to the Lord’s description of true religion? If there are places where you need to change, find at least one other person who will hold you accountable for making the necessary reforms.

For me, Isaiah 58:11 ties this chapter to the key on seeking God’s guidance: The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. Pay attention to THIS chapter to better position yourself to hear from God and allow him to guide you.

[print_link] [email_link]