Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Friday, January 27, 2012

  • The Gospel Alphabet by Timothy Keller

    M is for Mission
    And why must we continually learn and teach the Gospel? We do so that we may not lose sight of the great work that God is doing in our day.  God is actively engaged in the wondrous work of reconciling all things to himself.  It was for this that the Son of God came forth.  “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).  And this work continues in and through us, the body of Christ, gathered and dispersed throughout the world today.  The very work for which the Father sent the Son, the Son has now sent his church to continue (Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:21).  And he promises to be with us always.  Being in his presence must be taken as seriously as doing the work of true mission, for mission can only have power and a cutting edge when Christ is indwelling us and we him.

    (Maybe this really happened)

    Deb and I went to SouthPointe Shopping Center last week to buy a few items at Scheels, and she asked if we could stop in at one of her favorite clothing stores, Coldwater Creek. I agreed and knew she wanted to get some new clothing items. I took a seat in the “husband chair” as she shopped and came in and out of the dressing room with the question repeated each time, “How does this one look?”  After about 40 minutes of her trying on outfits, my patience had run its course. Deb came out of the dressing room and I immediately looked at her and said, “That one looks great on you. Go ahead and get it!”  

    “Dear,” she replied, “this is what I was wearing when we came in.”  Whoops again on my part.

    By Rick Thomas, Greenville, SC

    Everything is an opportunity for the Christian. All of life is one big opportunity to put God’s name on display. In one sense it does not matter what you do, as much as it matters why you do it. I’m assuming you understand that when I say “What you do,” that I am talking about things that are morally right, correct? 

    For example, in our small group we like to ask this question:  If your wife asks you to go to the store to get a gallon of milk, what would be your main reason for going to the store?
    The answer to that question should not be, “To get a carton of milk.” That would be a secondary reason for going to the store. The primary reason for going to the store is to seek God’s kingdom. You could say it this way: to glorify Him. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) 

    Jesus told us not to think so much about what we eat, what we drink, or what we put on our bodies (Matthew 6:25). Those are the things the Gentiles spend their time thinking about and pursuing. He said that our heavenly Father will take care of those things for us (Matthew 6:32). While we have a personal responsibility to go and get the milk, it is not something that we should spend a lot of time thinking about. Those are things of this world. We have an eternal perspective.

    As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 1 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV) The thing He wants us to think about is how to seek His kingdom while we are living here on earth– how to push the Gospel forward in our sphere of influence. He says that if we will spend our time thinking about those kinds of things, then He will make sure we have our milk. As you head off to the store to serve your wife, be sure to make it your aim to be on the lookout for what God is writing into your story. Who knows, God may have you at that store because He has somebody else at that store who needs to hear a word from Him. Your job: seek His kingdom. His job: provide you milk.

    In a few days many of us will have another opportunity to spread the Gospel around in our sphere of influence as we gather to watch the Super Bowl. For our family we have an annual Super Bowl party, which is part of how we do life in our small group. Each year we gather in one of our member’s homes and enjoy each other, as some of us watch the game. For the Christian the Super Bowl is not about a game as much as it is about an opportunity. The opportunity is to put God’s name on display. To do this is the grand privilege for the Christian. It does not matter if we are sitting at a congested traffic light, visiting the home where death has come, or watching the Super Bowl, our primary aim in life is to make God’s name great.

    With this Christ-exalting, Gospel-centered thought in mind, here are a few helpful tips as you prepare your heart, your family, and your friends for a Super Bowl bash.

    Enjoy it
    Nobody should enjoy the Super Bowl more than a Christian and the Christian community. If it is okay to do, then there is nothing in this world that the world should enjoy more than the Christian– even watching a TV show.

    The reason for this is because the Christian is the only truly free and joy-filled person in the world. The Christian’s greatest problem in life has been resolved at the cross and because of this he/she is free to enjoy life more than anyone else.

    Isn’t it kinda sad when the world is louder than we are? What do they have to shout about? What do they have to laugh about? Terry Lindvall said it this way, when he quoted C. S. Lewis from the book, Surprised by Laughter:

    Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego….
    Only the truly humble belong to this kingdom of divine laughter…Humor and humility should keep good company. Self-deprecating humor can be a healthy reminder that we are not the center of the universe, that humility is our proper posture before our fellow humans as well as before almighty God. -Terry Lindvall (Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis) Christians should be the happiest and the loudest people in the restaurant, at the ball game, or any other place where laughter and joy is appropriate. I’m not making a case for being loud for the sake of being loud. I’m making a case for living in the on-going awareness of the pleasure that God has in us because of the Gospel. We are truly forgiven and free because of the Savior’s work on His cross. His finished work gives any believer an unsurpassed and unspeakable joy. It does not matter what you are doing, there should be the freeing, guiltless, unashamed, contented victory that only Christ can bring to a person. The Super Bowl is one of those places where that freedom in Christ can be on full display.

    Watch with discernment
    As you know we are not entirely sanctified and our world is not sin-free. Therefore we are not allowed to dismiss discernment while basking in the merriment of being free in Christ. Being happy and loud does not mean being foolish and simple.

    While it would be wrong to think that foolish people are genuinely happy, it would be just as wrong to think that highly moral people are not happy. Just the opposite is true. As I have already stated, the most free and untethered people in the world– Christians– should be the happiest.

    However, that does not negate the need to steward wisdom and discernment. For example, the athletes in our country are often given the center stage to proudly brag on themselves. They do their shuffles, dances, fist pumps, and other forms of self-glorifying, attention-drawing antics. This does not glorify God by putting His name on display. It glorifies the athlete.

    Sports, like all of life, is an opportunity. The Super Bowl will be one of those opportunities to draw attention to what is good, while helping others to discern what does not make God’s name great. For the first time in my son’s life he has taken an interest in football this year. It has been the joy of my life to snuggle with him on Sunday nights to watch a football game. He has a zillion questions about the game. Earlier this season, as he was learning the game, he asked, “Daddy, why are they all cuddling together?” He was referring to a pile of men who were trying to tackle a running back.

    While I laughed to myself at how he interpreted what he was observing, the Spirit also illuminated me to help him understand what was going on. One of the things I have been able to point out to him is how some men brag, while others simply play the game without having to showboat– think Tim Tebow. It is in these moments, when character and humility have been put on display, that we need to draw attention to such things. These are the things I want to emulate in my life and I hope that he will want to do that also.

    Modeling precedes teaching
    You are an example– even at the Super Bowl. No Christian gets time off from being like Christ. For some, there may be no more important time this year for them to exercise self-control than during the Super Bowl.

    Recently I took my family to watch a college basketball game. It was kinda humorous, but mostly sad to hear and see some of the expressions of anger that were displayed by the coaches, teams, and some of the fans.

    The game is not worth a hill of beans, as we say down here in the southern part of the United States. That means, it is a worthless event, as far as an event is concerned. The only thing that brings value to any event is if we put Christ on display by our attitude and actions while at the event.

    You and I are open letters that our friends will be able to read. And a picture is worth a thousand words. Model Christ. What you say about Christ will be marginalized and possibly ignored if the life you put on display does not back it up.

    Guard thy heart when you watch the game. It’s just a game.

    The remote
    As you know, Christians do not run the Super Bowl. Wisdom, discernment, and discretion will have to be ready and on demand. We have found it to be helpful to designate someone to control the remote control. This will serve many parents of little ones as well as friends if you predetermine to guard the hearts of those attending your event. Our culture has a darker and twisted perspective on humor and discretion. Be prepared. This is a distinctly cultural event that we will be enjoying. Do not be surprised with what they present as funny or acceptable.

    Gospel opportunities
    The Gospel is about going– leaving your place, to go to their place, in order to redeem a person. That is what Christ did (Philippians 2:5-11). And He is calling us to do the same– to have the mind of Christ.

    Let me appeal to you to “scan the room.” Look for someone who could use some encouragement, a friend, or a kind word fitly spoken. Be a friend. Be Jesus to them. Don’t forget the Gospel. Look for those opportunities to practically live out the Gospel in the lives of other people.

    Keep your eye on the ball
    Most Super Bowl Games are overrated. Some are good, while others are good for only a little while. Most of them are just average. Out of the forty or so that I have watched, I can hardly remember any of them. Fortunately, the quality of the game is not what determines the quality of your time together with friends. The best part of the Super Bowl is the opportunity you will have to make memories with your friends. Your team may not be in the Super Bowl. Does it really matter?

    Maybe your team is in the Super Bowl. Does it really matter? Maybe you couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter.

    The Gospel it what really matters. The most important part of the party will be the relationships you build or continue to maintain. Don’t go away with just a memory of the game. Make a Gospel-centered investment in the life of another.

    The worst player in the game
    Perhaps a player does something that you do not like. Perhaps you seek to bring attention to what that player did. As you bring your observation to the bad behavior or if you are tempted to respond in anger to what you are looking at, please guard your heart against any hint of self-righteousness. I am the worst sinner I know– at least that was Paul’s assessment of himself and I embrace a similar assessment of myself (1 Timothy 1:15).

    Therefore, whatever I view on “Super Sunday” will not compare to what I have done on the crucifixion day of my Savior. This Gospel-centered thinking may serve you as you watch the game with humility.

    It does not matter
    The game is irrelevant. Our culture makes it relevant because that is all they have for today. They live for today. Therefore, they create the buzz and sustain the buzz. They have no choice. That is who they are.

    We are different. While we are in the world, we are not like the world. We have a higher calling. Enjoy the game, make a memory, and be alert for what the Father may want to do through you.


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