Issue: God’s Will-The Gospel

We’ve been praying a lot about what’s going on in North Minneapolis lately. I’ve presented some statistics and needs to share with you about who we are and what’s going on in our lives as a people. Most of these needs are pretty general and differ in different places around the country (and world) as far as how poverty, sin, and religion are interspersed, but in reality there are issues like this everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you go there is a need for the gospel. There is also a need for the people of God to be a light there too. This is God’s will: the gospel will come to every inch of the earth and all the people that inhabit it for His glory. Sin wears different masks, but the problem is still sin. The effects and spread of sin is a problem God cares a ton about. He sent His Son to die so that it might be eradicated and people might be freed to be in relationship with Him.

As a new church planter I sometimes battle with what to share and how to ask people to pray. Let me explain. Most people are drawn to the bad, things that cause fear or alarm. We all have a ton of that in our lives. I don’t go many days without facing the pain of sin in my life. I commit sin and it hurts me and others. I’m not exempt from sin. On the other side, I see the effects of sin crushing people around me, people I love. I’m especially drawn to go to the same places Jesus went. He was recorded as going outside of the city gates to the desolate places, the places where the “unclean” people were (and are). He cared for the people who were looked down upon and where sin was pretty easy to pick out. He went to the lepers, the poor, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and to the place of the Gentiles (people who were not Jews and were viewed as unclean for that reason). He touched the untouchables and He let the untouchables touch Him. What happened? Healing came. But the way He did it sounds so crazy to think about. He gathered together a few disciples and spent three years teaching with them and going deeper with them. Two thousand years later and the whole world is changed. It’s not perfect, but its far better off because He came and built His church. He laid the foundation well.

The conflict is not in any of this. Instead, its in explaining the reason we want to church plant. There is great opportunity. It’s not about having the most murders or violent crime. It’s not about being in the most impoverished place. It’s not about a census on widows, orphans, prisoners, and so on. It’s about the call you have on your heart and the hope He gives you with the vision. As a church planter you are excited about two things: 1) I get to join Jesus in His work and 2) I get to see His miraculous gospel ministry reverberate through the world as a result.

I’m not jaded. Ministry is perhaps the hardest job on the books. Not many should be teachers. The love and expectations can war with each other. You have to be on guard of spiritual warfare from Satan himself that seeks to destroy you and your family. And you get to understand clearly how whatever you do will never be enough or satisfy those you came to set free. We all have different calls. We need Christian business people, stay at home mothers, deacons, elders, encouragers, folks with gifts of hospitality, encouragement, and so many others. We need artists and musicians. Every single person has a call, a unique ministry they were created by God to fulfill. And you can’t run from it. It is in you so its always there. Mine is no different or greater (more special). As scary and overwhelming as it is (am I ready to be persecuted, falsely accused, imprisoned, socially ostracized, abandoned, beaten, maybe even killed), it’s all worth it because God has given me a hope and a joy in walking with Him in my call. And some days, I just want to tell you how amazing an opportunity and how enjoyable a place I get to live and, therefore, serve in. You serve wherever you are and that is God’s will.

So tonight I want to share a quote about religion that is applicable anywhere and also say that I couldn’t have a better place to set our roots down in and get to grow in the journey of love God has called us to right here in Near North Minneapolis. The war starts in my own heart.

The quote comes from Timothy Keller’s Center Church.[1] He is in the middle of explaining the effects of the gospel on every aspect of life and arguing for the need for gospel renewal everywhere. He begins to open up a problem every person in this entire world faces: our natural tendency to depend on self-justification. He states there is a misconception by many Christians that the gospel gets you saved and then you move on past it. The gospel isn’t something we need to preach and teach each other all the time. That’s the thought. Keller disagrees and so do I. Here’s what he says in response to those who believe we need to move past the gospel to stand against post modern thought that makes sin a non-issue and therefore dedicate ourselves to standing against “licentiousness” or “antinomianism” that needs to be harshly rebuked so sin won’t abound:

“Some claim that to always strike a note of “grace, grace, grace” in our sermon is not helpful. The objection goes like this: “Surely Pharisaism and moralism are not the current problem in our culture. Rather our problem is license and antinomianism. People lack a sense of right or wrong. It is redundant to talk about grace all the time to postmodern people.” First, unless you point to the “good news” of grace, people won’t even be able to bear the “bad news” of God’s judgment. Second, unless you critique moralism, many irreligious people will not grasp the difference between moralism and what you are offering in the gospel.  A deep grasp of the gospel is the antidote to license and antinomianism.

In the end, legalism and relativism in churches are not just equally wrong; they are basically the same thing. They are just different strategies of self-salvation built on human effort. No matter whether a church is loose about doctrine and winks at sin or is marked by scolding and rigidity, it will lack the power it promises. The only way into a ministry that see’s people’s lives change, that brings joy and power and electricity without authoritarianism, is through preaching the gospel that deconstruct both legalism and relativism.” 

What’s the point? We need the gospel to be center of our preaching in order to rip our grasps (all of us) from a salvation that doesn’t rest in Christ alone.

In other words, we need to rely in God’s power (the gospel), not our power (a particular siloed view of the problems we face) so that real transformation can take place.

As diverse and dark as North Minneapolis can seem based on the stats, we are here (and plan to stay as long as God keeps us) because it is a joy to be here. We love the diversity in people, thoughts, backgrounds, food, and entertainment. We love seeing God’s hand in all of this. We love our neighbors, friends, and the body of believers here. Believe it or not, we are a part of the diversity in the evangelical spectrum represented. We are reformed unabashedly. And most of our brothers and sisters here are not. Yet they have shown us the love of Christ and I hope we have done the same. We want to love this people well. We want to see God’s hand continue to move mountains and set captives free. Please pray God will continue to satisfy us and His gospel will be our joy. May the passion for God’s supremacy continue to spread in North Minneapolis for God’s glory and the joy of all people here.

[1] Timothy Keller, Center Church. Page 66.