Nov 19, 2010
neil

it is not just what you do, it is what you are excited about

Earlier this week I attended an event organised by Church leaders and attended by over 2000 Christians. The meeting was a call for Christians to step up and play our part in serving our city; working with other agencies to redeem our communities.

What was striking was that at a gathering of Christians not once was the name of Jesus mentioned by any of the hosts and when it came to songs all we were invited to sing were soul classics such as James Brown’s ‘I feel good’.

Did those who organised the event love Jesus? I’m sure they did. Do they desire that many would come to share their faith?  Absolutely. So what was it that most troubled me? Simply that the call to Christians to engage in social action was made without reference to the very gospel that should inspire it.  In other words the gospel was assumed but not proclaimed.

Today I came across the following statement by Don Carson made in a lecture in 2009 and included in a blog post by CJ Mahaney which helps establish exactly what is at stake with assumed evangelicalism.

There are some wonderful instances of ordinary Christians, not least the young, who are concerned to preach the whole gospel unabashedly and do good first to the household of God and then, as much as is possible, outside as well [Galatians 6:10]. That has got biblical mandate behind it.…

My warning would be to those who are coming along and talking a lot about, “I want to be faithful to the gospel, but I also want to do social justice of good works.” My warning would be: it is not just what you do, it is what you are excited about.

Carson goes on;

If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important.

And here is Carson’s crucial insight:

You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

So what should have happened at our gathering earlier this week? We needed to find ways of communicating through word, prayer and song that we are indeed passionate about serving our communities because we are passionate about Christ.

As Tim Keller’s set’s out in his new book Generous Justicewe must neither confuse evangelism with doing justice, nor separate them from one another.’

The big lesson then according to Carson is simply this:

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.

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