Speaking the Truth in Love

“…the Christian gospels, and the history they set before us, are a matter of public record and scrutiny, which is why the historical study of Jesus remains not only appropriate but vital… Public truth for the public world; that’s what the Christian gospel offers, because the risen Jesus is Lord of earth as well as heaven..” (Tom Wright, Creation, Power and Truth: The Gospel in a World of Cultural Confusion (London: SPCK, 2013).)


Think about this statement from N.T. ‘Tom’ Wright for a moment.  We are working our way through the book of Acts during our “Prayer & Bible Study” (each Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.).  Some time ago we discovered Peter and John’s refusal to obey the ruling Council when the authorities “charged them to speak no more to anyone” in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17).  I love their response: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v. 19).


In an article I read this past week pertaining to ‘politically correct speech,’ the following sentence brought to light a very important point that needs to be heard.  The author opined, “Indeed, while 80 percent of Americans believe that political correctness has become a problem in the country, even more, 82 percent, believe that hate speech is also a problem.”  Yes, the sentence does lack a bit of clarity, since ‘hate speech’ is a phrase that has often meant whatever a person does not want to hear.  More clarity is needed.


Yes, Paul clearly exhorted the Christians at Ephesus not to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  While there are a lot of “gray areas” in life, there is also that which is right and that which is clearly wrong.  We need to know the truth and in doing so be liberated (set free) by the truth. By the way, please do not accept the argument that “there is no absolute truth.”  That is an absolute statement and, therefore, a fallacy of basic logic. 

 

Moreover, we cannot allow “politically correct” demands to keep us from sharing the Gospel with those who do not have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus as their Lord – the good news of “what [the Apostles] have seen and heard.” Love should constrain us to share the word.


Yet, Paul does address the issue of ‘politically correct’ speech. How?  By exhorting us (his readers) to be “speaking the truth in love” (read Ephesians 4:1–16). This is part of our responsibility as we fulfill the call to “make disciples” in the Great Commission of our Lord! 


Knowing the importance of good dental care, I required my children to brush their teeth (and tried to provide a good example).  There was no question as to whether they would attend school.  If I witnessed someone in grave danger, I would do whatever I could do to bring them to a position of safety. (Yes, I would even risk my life to save someone from a burning house or car!)  And I, like Peter and John, will share what Tom Wright has identified as “public truth for the public world” regardless of attempts by authorities to keep me from speaking in the name of Jesus.


Hope to see you soon!  May God bless you as you “go… and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19) and/or answer Jesus’s call to “be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Fear not... I bring you good news!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

 

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11, ESV)


     Our text for my final sermon in the series “Prepared for Action” and the last sermon I shared with those present on December 22, 2019 included the words “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7a, ESV).  As we closed the year celebrating the birth of Jesus we were reminded of the words of the angels (above), “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…”

     “Fear not…”  [Cast] all your anxieties on him.”  The message seems rather clear!  Yet, the statistics for Christians vary little from those of the world.  In an article I read this morning it was stated that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.  That is 18 out of every 100 and very close to one out of every five!  Unfortunately, the ‘problem’ increases: “…people with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.”  This means that money desperately needed for basic needs is being diverted to doctors and hospitals.

     According to my computerized Bible study program, the specific phrases “fear not”, “do not fear”, and “be not afraid” are found 74 times in 71 different verses in the English Standard Version of the Bible.  In other words, there is a verse containing the basic message not to fear for each and every week of the year.

     Fear can be uncomfortable and crippling.  But feeling fear is neither abnormal nor a sign of weakness!  It is an important part of normal brain function. But fear can also become disabling, developing into either an anxiety or a phobia.  That is not God’s desire!

     One of the verses that I have highlighted in my Bible is Isaiah 41:9-10: “You  are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

     My prayer for the coming year is that we will experience the peace (Shalom) that God offers as a part of His covenant relationship with us.  I pray that we will become ‘fearless’ is the spreading of the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”, proclaiming that Jesus, the baby born in the manger, is none other than Christ (the Messiah) the Lord.  My prayer is that during the coming year we will proclaim Jesus to be not only our Savior, but the Lord of our lives!

     Hope to see you soon!  Let’s reach out to plenty in the year 2020! (I know it’s corny.)