Encouragement From The Word

Fight the good fight

These are challenging days to be a follower of Jesus.

We are living, it seems, in a culture that is about as far removed from its Christian heritage as it can be.  Living for Jesus is a daily battle.

There are a couple of principal ways that God’s people, the church, can respond to culture.

First, the church can adopt culture when communicating the gospel.  For example, a church can reflect the musical style preferences of the community it is seeking to reach by singing songs in worship whose style sounds like what its neighbours are listening to on their car radios.  (That means, in urban centres, there can be room for churches that express worship style in virtually every fashion – but in smaller communities, it is necessary to know what people listen to in order to design worship effectively.)  Another example comes in using language that makes sense to the contemporary ear – using modern Bible translations, avoiding religious jargon, and the like.

By adopting culture when communicating the gospel, the church speaks the language of the people it seeks to reach, and more people come to know and love and serve the Lord.  Win!

Another way that the church can respond to culture is to adopt cultural values in place of the gospel.  If you’re an active follower of Jesus, I don’t need to list off the cultural values that are winding their way into the church’s doctrine across North America, but there are some that don’t make the headlines.  Downplaying the centrality of the cross, for example, leads to the downfall of the church as people assume that everyone’s going to be saved in the end.  In churches that adopt cultural values in place of the gospel, some are also using contemporary means of communication, but what they are communicating is not the gospel.

If you are seeking to live for Jesus, you understand that you’re fighting a cultural battle.  As Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene said in a tweet earlier this week, “If you’re still breathing, you’re still soldiering.”

Each of us who loves and serves the Lord Jesus is responsible to soldier on, ensuring the good news is told far and wide:  that Jesus died in our place, to atone for our sins, and rose from the dead to bring us eternal life.  There’s nothing culture’s got that can beat that!

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6.12, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

See the glass half full!

“What goes into a mind comes out in a life,” wrote A.W. Tozer, the great Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor from the 20th century.  He was right. And we200458043-001 see this reality all around us.

Media of all sorts provide us with many entertainment and information options, and we are left with choices. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t always choose wisely, do we?  Even if what we pick seems benign in its morality or its message, it’s easy to fill our minds with cognitive junk food.  Even non-violent video games, some of which aid our hand-eye coordination, so well exercise one part of our brains that the other part feels edged out.

Much of what passes for news is not very encouraging, and even some bits that are intended to take our minds off the discouraging news are not altogether edifying.  (I mean, really, who cares that Kanye West is inviting royalty to witness his marriage to Kim Kardashian?  Really?) All this, coupled with what feels like a much-delayed onset of spring, can leave the mind feeling pretty flabby.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Philippi from prison, encouraged the believers in this way:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4.8, NLT).  In a sense, what Paul wrote was not just good advice, but a helpful spiritual discipline. When we are tempted to think or speak or act negatively, we can fix our thoughts on what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, admirable.  We can choose to see the glass half-full.

It doesn’t have to turn us into religious pollyannas; we can still be realistic. But amid our realism, it is good for us to think positively, to attempt to see others as God sees them, and to live in such a manner that others see Jesus Christ living in us. May people see us, and long to follow Jesus!