Have you heard of the Cajun Navy yet? They are an impromptu group of Louisianians who banded together to supplement rescue efforts in Houston and Eastern Texas. They utilize their own money and their own boats and watercraft in order to rescue people from a tragedy most of us only hope to comprehend.
So yesterday after hearing about the response that normal, everyday people had to the hurricane, I was extremely encouraged to see this Twitter thread from Brad Watson comparing the rescue efforts of the church in Houston to the way the church is supposed to function every day:
Frankly, Brad’s right. It takes a catastrophe to show us this, but when the church really recognizes the seriousness of its situation, it can mobilize and become the most generous, resourceful, and creative force for good on the planet. The issue isn’t our ability, it’s how awake we our to the situation around us.
Here in the city I live in Iowa, we have what amounts to a refugee crisis. We frequently have men, women, and children flowing in from Chicago, literally fleeing the violence and lifestyle that Chicago has been known for. Some people come with nothing but the clothes on their back. One of my daughters came here with her biological family in the back of a moving truck. But there are parts of our city that receive fresh influxes of wonderful people from Chicago who bring their hurts and their poverty. We love these people, but there are definite needs. It’s a quiet crisis, so there’s very little response or help. Your city has a quiet crisis of its own kind, I’m sure.
But even if you live in a near utopia suburb or small town, there is a constant crisis that we all are experiencing and few of us are awoken to it. It’s the crisis of a life with out Christ that culminates at death in an eternity in Hell. We don’t talk about those realities much any more because they’ve become unfashionable. They seem antiquated and an attempt to motivate people out of fear. We’d rather talk about how Jesus affects our life here in the present.
Make no mistake, Jesus changes everything! But in the same way that just a few days ago there were desperate people with water completely surrounding their homes that needed a volunteer navy to intervene, there is a generation of people who don’t know Christ that need the church to leverage what they have to rescue them from an unseen, but terrible fate. It’s a quiet crisis of epic proportions.
When we wake up to this quiet crisis, it compels us to get involved. The early church was so incredibly committed to the mission, that Luke describes it this way:
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
There was a common unity around Jesus and His mission (that included caring for the poor) that compelled the people in the Jerusalem church to leverage everything they have for that mission. Our ability to mobilize and be a solution to the crises around us are tied to our ability to not let our hearts get lulled to sleep by the seeming normalcy of these everyday emergencies.
There are quiet crises going on all around us. There is one eternal crisis constantly going on, being played out in the hearts of men and women we all know. We have the answer for both in the Gospel of Jesus. We just have to keep our hearts open to the need.
Stay woke, church.
Every night we have a certain bedtime routine where we read our kids a story from the Bible, pray with them, and tuck them into bed at night. However, the last three or four months or so, my youngest has started to ask us to tell her “the Jesus things” before we tuck her in. What she means by “the Jesus things” is the story of how Jesus rescued her (and all of us) from sin and its consequences. My daughter uses this as an opportunity to stay up late. I’m using it as an opportunity to soak her soul in the Gospel.
Last night on my 97th time telling my daughter “the Jesus things” I started to realize that I was only telling her part of the Gospel. See, I told her about sin, about how she was separated from God, about how Jesus came and lived, taught, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and taught people how to be close to God. I told her about Jesus’ death and the cruel way He was treated. I even told her about how Jesus was raised from the dead and because of that resurrection, when we receive Christ, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God.
What did I miss?
Last night, I realized I missed anything that happens after saying “Yes” to Jesus. You see, I had focused on the theological, evangelistic portion of the Gospel…the “sign here” kind of Gospel that you come to expect from used-car-salesmen-style evangelists. what I hadn’t told her was what to expect after that and why it was still good news.
After I realized it, I changed the last few lines of my finely honed presentation to include a couple thoughts about what that would look like. It got me thinking about how often we present the Good News to people about Christ as a decision to make that will make their life better, but we present discipleship to people as a cross to bear. While I definitely believe that there is a cross to bear in discipleship, I do not believe that Jesus is the Good-News-yin to discipleship as a bad-news-yang.
So what’s the good news in discipleship? It’s simple and its what caused the first disciples to leave their businesses, family, and comfort and face persecution and death to spread the Gospel–we get to be like Jesus. Jesus put it this way: “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6:40).
That’s the good news in discipleship–that we can be like Jesus. This man who we begin to learn how to follow after coming to Him and surrendering everything, actually has a plan to make us like Him. We will grow up into all aspects of Him–His character, His power, His nature–everything Jesus was and is we get to grow into. This is the good news that keeps us saying yes to the discipleship process. It’s good news to our hearts when we’re tired and weary. Most importantly, it’s not the dreaded fine print to what had previously looked like a really good deal.
So, I told my daughter a little different Gospel. I told her when she says yes to “the Jesus things,” she gets to grow up and be like Jesus. I intend to tell those I’m discipling the same thing. My guess is they haven’t heard it from me nearly enough.
Maybe you should go back and check your Gospel, too?
One of the mysteries of the Christian faith is that God has always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since before the creation of the world, these three have existed in an exchange of love and unity so perfect that we describe “them” as one God and three persons. This love flowing back and forth from God to God is the foundation for the reality we describe as Heaven. Everything we love about the idea of Heaven is born out of the glory of the love of God being exchanged between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So when we think about Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us, we often think about the fact that He was unjustly accused, the pain He endured on the cross, the loss of His physical life, and the punishment He took on Himself for our sins. Rarely, though, do we think about the fact that Jesus made an earlier sacrifice. Jesus actually willingly laid down the life of Heaven to come to be a man. He left perfection and chose to live in a world damaged by sin and full of brokenness. He stepped outside of the tangible presence of God in order to lay down His life for us. Paul actually says that He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men,” (Philippians 2:6-7).
Jesus had to give up everything that made Him God in order to walk out our redemption. He had to leave the unbroken relationship with the Father He had since the beginning of time in order to come and save us. He left the comforts of Heaven for a life on Earth that would end with the most terrible death humanity had yet devised. He traded everything He had so we could know the Father.
Friends, this reality should challenge us to our very core. At it’s root, there is a radical surrender unlike anything the world has ever seen at play here, all for our good. This sacrifice caused our salvation. It purchased redemption for our world. This sacrifice wasn’t just to save us though, Paul also uses this picture of Jesus laying down the privilege of being God as an example of what we are to do: “Have this attitude in yourselves.”
We are to lay down our lives the same way Jesus laid down His. Not just by suffering a painful death on the cross, but by leaving behind our privilege for the sake of others. Nowhere is this message more needed than in the West. We have become, for all intents and purposes the most comfortable generation in the history of mankind. And yet, though we have more comfort, more ease, and even more ability than generations past, we seem to struggle with sharing the Gospel and leading people to Jesus. We believe this is because of the hardness of our hearts, the wealth or wisdom of the population, or the fact that our culture is just tired of Christianity.
But what if the problem is at least in part that we’re not willing to get uncomfortable? What if as a church, we haven’t done what Jesus did? Is it possible that we haven’t been willing to embrace the radical leaving behind of the comforts of the world and the comforts of the church to bring the Gospel to places damaged by sin? Is it possible that we are making the opposite choice that Jesus did? Are we choosing the comfort of a relationship with God and God’s people, the comfort of nice things, the comfort of safety, and loosing out on a life lived among the lost helping them find their way back to God?
Friends, today, I want to challenge you. There is a radical sacrifice that Jesus made when He became a man. He laid aside His status. He embraced suffering, even to the cross and it opened up salvation for millions. Can you lay aside your status? Can you bring the Gospel to those who don’t have it? Can you embrace the suffering that comes along with that life, knowing others will come to Christ?
I don’t believe that most of the world hates Christ. I believe they’re waiting to see the life of Jesus displayed in front of them. The question is will you lay down your life like He did? Will you embrace the radical surrender of your own life for the life of Christ?
I challenge you to do it.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,
Recently a friend of mine from my time in Kansas City suffered a terrible tragedy. Jason Johns, an inner city leader of a church in Kansas City, was in a terrible car accident with his three children. All four were injured, but his daughters Hope and Elise need miraculous intervention. You can read more updates on their GoFundMe page. Please pray for Jason, his wife, their family and extended family with me and believe for God’s best for this young family.