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.

Mission Impact Celebration

MIC is Parkwood’s Mission Impact Celebration. In less than a week we will kick off our biannual conference in which we celebrate missions to our neighbors and among the nations. Mission Impact Celebration exists to glory in the mission of God, to share what God is doing through the mission of the church, and to exhort the church to be on mission in the intentional opportunities of everyday life and in the strategic cross-cultural communication of the gospel. Consider with me the mission of God, the mission of the church, and the opportunity we have to be involved in the mission for the glory of God and the sake of his gospel.
  MIC is for glorying in the mission of God. His mission is to magnify the glory of God and proclaim the gospel of God among the nations. The motivation of the mission is clear in Psalm 67. God wants the nations to praise him; he wants them to be glad and sing for joy as they find their salvation in him. The time of the mission is clear in Matthew 24:14. This gospel will be preached until it has reached the end of the nations and until the end of time. The example of the mission is clear in John 20:21. Disciples of Jesus are sent just as Jesus was sent, and so we go as his representatives with his example. The strategy of the mission is clear in Matthew 28:18-20. Our Father wants his glory magnified and his gospel shared, and disciple-making is his chosen methodology. And so we glory in the mission and missionary heart of our God to reach a people who are running and to redeem a people who are wretched.

MIC is for sharing the mission with the church. The mission of the church is rooted in the mission of God. He is using his church to accomplish his mission. Parkwood is delighted to send and/or partner with a number of harvest field personnel who have given their lives and their families to see the mission realized. MIC is a great time of celebration, and certainly of thanksgiving, as we gather with guests who have surrendered to the call from the Lord of the harvest. He is sending laborers into his harvest field because his mission is to magnify his glory and proclaim his gospel. As Lord of the harvest, his prerogative and delight is to send laborers to carry his life-giving gospel and accomplish his mission. So the mission of God has been received and embraced by laborers as the church’s mission. We do not gather for Mission Impact Celebration to pat ourselves on the back but to express thanksgiving and share the work that God is accomplishing through the church for his mission. It is not a time for pride in our work but for rejoicing in God’s name.

MIC is for exhorting the church to be on mission. With this grand mission to be sent out as ambassadors of Christ to proclaim reconciliation to a world far from God, we want to exhort the church to join the mission. Collectively, Parkwood embraces God’s mission in the mission of the church, and this resolve is evident in her stated purpose of glorifying God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all peoples. Individually, though, it is a constant work to exhort the faith family to join the mission. We must be consistent here for two reasons. First, the church is growing, so we must communicate well across the body of Christ to new members/visitors, and second, the natural tendency of fallen creatures is away from the surrender and discipline of mission. For these reasons, we exhort the church often, and particularly during our Mission Impact Celebration, to join the mission of magnifying his glory and proclaiming his gospel in all the world until Christ returns. I anticipate MIC with much excitement as we glory in the mission of God, share the mission with the church, and exhort others to join in the grand, creation-consuming, Christ-exalting mission. Hope to see you March 2-6 at our 2016 Mission Impact Celebration.

Schedule for Mission Impact Celebration

Wednesday, March 2

     6:30 pm MIC Worship Celebration in Worship Center

Thursday, March 3

     6:30 pm MIC Guests “Really COOL Story Night” in the Worship Center

Friday, March 4

     6:30 pm On-Campus Growth Group Dinner Meetings with MIC Guests

Saturday, March 5

     11:30 am Off-Campus Growth Group Lunch Meetings with MIC Guests 

     6:30 pm Night of Prayer and Fasting in the Worship Center

Sunday, March 6

     8:00, 9:30 & 11:00 am Worship Celebration and Life Commitment

     8:00, 9:30 & 11:00 am MIC Guests Share in Adult Growth Groups during Bible Study Hours

Racial Reconciliation 

Racial Reconciliation. The term exists only because sin exists. The call goes out for racial reconciliation because racism abounds and it should not. While seemingly commendable, the call to reconciliation is alone presumptuous, for there will not be racial reconciliation until first there is confession and repentance. Racism is more pervasive than hating someone of different skin color; it is people acting consistent with their fallen nature. Racism is deeper than people of one ethnicity behaving sinfully against those of different ethnicity. The problem stems from a perverted theology of the image of God, and the problem is as deep as our disdain and rejection of God’s character and design for his creation.  
So do we need Racial Reconciliation Day? Well, I guess we do, inasmuch as a society of prejudice should experience reconciliation, and we should not miss or reject the opportunity to announce the clarion call against such a horrid sin. However, the goal that we seek is not a culture that preaches reconciliation, but a culture in which we experience unity and love in the midst of ethnic diversity. In other words, racial reconciliation, while admirable, is only a point in the process and not the goal. Having the goal of racial reconciliation assumes the continued existence of racial prejudice for which reconciliation is required. Is it not better to have as our goal brotherly love borne from a theology of every man as an image-bearer of God?

I am not saying in the least that we should oppose racial reconciliation, but I am questioning the presumed goal and the means by which we arrive. The goal is life in Christ through which we glorify and proclaim him and in which we recognize and value fellow human beings as image-bearers of God. And the means is the gospel – repentance from sin and surrender to Christ. Under no other circumstances can we realistically hope to see true racial reconciliation. So, yes, let’s acknowledge racial reconciliation, and let’s strive to see it become a reality; but let us not lose sight of the gospel and also recognize the mission of God to magnify his glory and make his disciples as the ultimate goal.

New Growth Group Material

Parkwood unveils new sermon-based Growth Group material today. This new material has one component – Bible Study Guides – designed for everyone and a second component – GG Leader Guides – designed for Growth Group leaders. Each of these Guides will be available one week in advance of the text being preached and studied in GGs during the week. For example, I will preach ‘The Death of John the Baptist’ next Sunday, February 7, so Bible Study Guides and GG Leader Guides are available today in the lobby and downstairs, on the website, and on the City so that you can begin preparing this week for next week’s sermon and next week’s GG discussion.

The theological and methodological inspiration for sermon-based GG material comes from the desire that increasing numbers of people would be equipped to study their Bibles and engaged in GG discipleship. To this end, Bible Study Guides introduce a text of Scripture and teach the student of the Word to study the text through several basic steps of Bible study: observe, ask, gospel, apply, and share. These Study Guides secondarily lead the Bible student through a set of discussion questions that will focus on the primary point of the text from a biblical theology perspective. 

Visual inspiration for the annotated steps of Bible study, while typical of basic hermeneutics (art and science of Bible interpretation) and foundational to exegetical (authority residing in the text and meaning coming from the text rather than being read into the text) study of the Scriptures, originated from an excellent article written by Marshall Segal at desiringGod.org. Segal’s goal is similar to our goal of equipping Christians to study the Scriptures, and his article is also written for the context of small group discipleship. For further preparation, consider reading his article Six Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible in a Group

This new strategy for Growth Group material carries massive potential for the growth of all believers, and I am sincerely encouraged and excited as we begin to make this available today. I pray you will be encouraged as you avail yourself of it, that this material will be as beneficial to you and your GGs as we expect and hope.