DEBATING LIKE JESUS—HOW TO CONFRONT OUR CULTURE WITH COMPOSURE

Given yesterday’s sermon and comments made regarding confronting our culture with the gospel, I share this timely article written by David Jeremiah and posted on the Radical website only a few days ago. The gospel is indeed offensive, but we need not be offensive for the sake of offense; instead we should be both faithful to the Word of God and gracious to our audience. This article addresses that critical and sometimes difficult line between grace and offense. You may access the article here on the Radical site or below for your convenience. 



DEBATING LIKE JESUS—HOW TO CONFRONT OUR CULTURE WITH COMPOSURE

Turn on any news channel and you will quickly become jaded by politicians. You can watch as they take the moral high ground while leaving a wake of moral decay behind them—yelling, name calling, trampling over others just to win an argument.

We as Christians have standards and convictions that place us at odds with our culture, and we should stand up and proclaim those convictions. But how can we be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves? How can we maintain our Christian composure in a confrontational age? How can we witness without sparring?

We can learn from Jesus. He was always strong, yet never rude. He spoke clearly and confidently, yet without venom or virulence. The apostle Peter, sometimes a loose cannon, learned that lesson well. Writing in his first epistle, he told us to handle opposition as Jesus did. The theme of 1 Peter is to walk in His steps, to deal with opposition as Christ did.

Speak Up – Respectfully
That means speaking up when needed. Peter told us to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We’re to speak as if delivering “the oracles of God” (4:11). We’re to preach the Gospel given by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1:12). So if you get the chance, say a word for the Lord.

But Peter also reminded us to present our defense of the faith “with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (3:15–16). He warned us about grumbling (4:9) and to be submissive to governing authorities (2:13–14).

It is important for Christians to be gracious and to be patient in conflict. Yes, Jesus spoke with fiery passion, and I’m amazed at the bluntness of His “Woe to You” sermon to the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 24. But Christ always controlled His anger, and Peter said, “Arm yourselves also with the same mind” (1 Peter 4:1).

In our hostile world, a smile and a pleasant demeanor stand out like a redbird on a snow-covered landscape. We can fight the good fight, but we can do so in a Christlike manner. As someone once said: “To win some be winsome.”

Know When to Keep Quiet
We can also learn from Jesus the fine art of keeping quiet. By example Jesus taught us that sometimes a closed mouth offers the loudest testimony. Our Lord’s majestic silence still evokes dignity as we read of Him standing before Herod, Pilate, and the Sanhedrin, offering not a word of despair or defense.

One of the secrets of the martyrs has been their ability by God’s grace to maintain self-possession when being treated indignantly. They displayed a poise and peace that completely confounded those intent on destroying them. It was undoubtedly the glow on Stephen’s face and his words of forgiveness that haunted the young Saul of Tarsus until he became Paul the apostle.

In 1 Peter, wives of unbelievers are told to win their husbands to Christ, if possible, “without a word” by the power of “a gentle and quiet spirit” (3:1, 4).

Pray Always
We can always open our mouths to the Lord in prayer, however, for Peter told us to cast all our cares on Him (5:7). Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…” (Matthew 5:44). Why this advice? First, for our opponents’ sake. They badly need someone interceding for them. But another reason is for our own sake. Praying for our foes (think of some outspoken humanist, secularist, or atheist you know) helps keep our hearts in balance.

As we pray, we can also leave grievances with God lest a root of bitterness spring up. Peter told us, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21–23). We’re to “commit our souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (4:19). We can’t right all the wrongs, nor can we change people’s spots. But we can do our best, leave the rest to God, and shake the dust off our feet along the way.

Let Your Good Works Speak for Themselves
Finally, we find peace amid the conflict when we let our good works speak for themselves. “(Have) your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

In Luke 14, Jesus went to a dinner where His foes were watching to see if He would violate Sabbath regulations. A diseased man was present. Jesus asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees kept silent, so Jesus healed the man. Turning to the crowd, He asked, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

Luke tells us, “They could not answer Him regarding these things” (verse 6).

The world has a hard time finding fault in good works. When we feed the hungry, care for the unfortunate, adopt orphans, provide relief, and live out our faith, they are silenced.

As Christians, we must confront our culture and speak the truth in love. We’re God’s ambassadors in a hostile world. This is no time to go mute. Morals are spiraling downward, marriage is being attacked, the church is being marginalized, atheists are scorning the truth, and humanists are relentlessly advancing an ungodly agenda on a new generation. We have to speak up. But we must do so as Christ did—and He was never ill-tempered, hot-headed, loose-lipped, or bad humored. We have to watch ourselves because the whole world is watching us; and when others see us, we want them to see Him.
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Dr. David Jeremiah is the senior pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church and founder of Turning Point Ministries. He has authored 43 books, including a New York Times bestseller equipping Christians to confront the destructive cultural trends of today.

International Missions Offering

The IMB is the Southern Baptist sending agency for international missions. Each year over half of the agency’s operating budget comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). This offering is given during the Christmas season and is used directly for the sending and maintaining of global workers among the nations. Parkwood gives to the same offering, but we have elected to use the name International Missions Offering (IMO) simply because the name offers more explanation. The IMO is the offering we give for international missions. We significantly emphasize the IMO every year at Parkwood because we believe two truths, and all of missions come together in these two realities. First, we believe that the God of the Bible is worthy of all worship, and his desire is to redeem a people lost apart from his salvation that he might receive their worship and glory in rescuing them. Second, we believe that in the Bible our God has made clear the marching orders for every follower of Christ to magnify the glory of God and proclaim the gospel of God in all the world. Because we are driven by these two realities, we must not rest until Christ returns and announces the mission is complete. Until that day, therefore, Parkwood will give, send, and go to our neighbors and to the nations, and this coming Sunday, December 20, offers a remarkable opportunity as we give to the 2016 International Missions Offering.

As you think about giving, consider this word from our Kids Pastor Ryan Foster:

Imagine what happens when kids begin to see beyond themselves to see how they can be a part of God’s work in the world. Each Wednesday night, 225 Kids & Leaders get together for Awana, a night focused on scripture memory, relationship building, and lots of fun with recreation. This time of year is really exciting for them because it means store night. Store night is a blast because the kids trade in shares to buy gifts for their family, friends, and/or themselves. Shares, paper money with dollar equivalents, are earned throughout the year as the kids learn verses and do other awesome things. This month, we challenged our kids to do something new: to give more than they take. 

With the help of Pastor Kem Lindsay, Jacob Mennear, Lisa Taulman, and our amazing Awana leaders, we hosted a special offering service last week where the kids could give their shares to missions. It was really important to us that they understood how and why they were giving. We explained how their shares would be able to purchase specific things like Bibles, SIM cards with videos articulating the gospel, and even supporting a missionary family for a week on the field. 

After explaining, we showed video of a Nigerian village with whom we are partnered giving as they danced to the playing of drums. As the drums begin, the people come forward to give their offering. All the kids were glued to the screen and became so excited to give like the Nigerian village gave. After praying, I told them it was their turn to give and invited to come. Row by row, with the drums beating in the background, the kids came to drop their shares into baskets at the front.

What happened next, none of us fully expected: 120 Kindergarten-5th graders gave 1,180 shares, which we matched with $1,180. The entire amount was given to the International Missions Offering! Their giving, instead of buying more gifts for themselves, provided enough to support an entire missionary family on the field for 8 days! 

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful – literally “hilarious” – giver. There were a lot of hilarious kids last week, and my continued hope is that on December 20 they will see how Parkwood gives to the gospel and goes to the nations to advance the Kingdom of God. As one mom told me later, “I asked my son in the car how much he was going to give. He emphatically answered, ‘All of it!’” Wow, that kid’s perspective demonstrates the way we all should give and view the gifts and resources God gives us.

Would you consider giving like that, not out of abundance but sacrificially? Perhaps a little more explanation of what the IMB will do with these funds would help. Christ was clear regarding the extent of the mission when he said to begin where you are and continue to give, send, and go into all the world (Matthew 24:14, Acts 1:8). The IMB takes that commission seriously and sends intentionally to global cities and extreme places. They send to global cities because of the vast numbers of people in cities like Dubai and Shanghai that are lost and without the gospel. And they send to extreme places because it’s easy to get people to go to luxurious locations but difficult to convince them to go to demanding or dangerous places. The IMB sends people to global cities and extreme places because more important than preference is the desperate need for the gospel among millions and millions of unreached people who are dying with no one telling them that they can live. For example, one of those extreme places is Central Asia where many of the world’s least evangelized live with little access to the truth. In the Caucasus Mountain region of Central Asia – between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – exist more than 2,000 villages where 45 distinct languages are spoken… and the vast majority of them are unreached with gospel.

The national goal for this year’s offering is $175 million, but that goal would be reached if every Southern Baptist gave only $30. What if every Southern Baptist gave $150? The total offering would be nearly $1 billion. Consider how many global workers we could send to global cities and extreme places with that much money?! In the days and hours leading up to Sunday, December 20, consider giving to the International Missions Offering for the sake of God’s glory among the nations.