Archives For transformation

Truth, Time, Trend and Transformation

Greg Strand – January 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Truth: God is truth and all truth is God’s truth. We believe God has revealed this truth in the Bible, the Word of God (Ps. 119:160; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). This is our foundational base for understanding, knowing and discerning truth. From this truth we understand a frame of the world or a worldview by which we seek to assess and evaluate all we do and experience.

Time: Truth is true everywhere and always and is to be believed and lived by all. But truth must be applied in time at a specific place by a specific people. We are exhorted to use our time wisely since the days are evil (Eph. 5:18; cf. 1 Chron. 12:32; Acts 13:36).

Trend: A trend is something that is occurring in the present that has a certain mass following. It gives one a certain sense of being in or in the right crowd or an elite. Here is one definition: “A general direction in which something is developing or changing; fashion.” The Urban Dictionary defines it in this way: “A trend is the latest style of popular culture including but not limited to: clothing, music, vernacular (common speech), and the latest tv shows. This form of culture is usually expressed by preps and other kids trying desperately to be accepted by peers despite obvious outcastment.” Someone who is then trendy is “very fashionable or up to date in style or influence.” Social media tracks that which is trending.

Transformation: This refers to a change in one’s outlook, character, commitments, and habits. This can be true for believers and unbelievers alike. The difference is that it becomes reflective of the believer, i.e. it will happen (2 Cor. 5:16-17). It is what regeneration means (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18). The key here, however, is to remember that we become what we worship.

Discern and Critically Engage

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An Interview with Billy Graham

Greg Strand – November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham 60 years ago, interviewed Graham about his life, ministry and his most recent book: “Q&A: Billy Graham’s Warning Against an Epidemic of ‘Easy Believism‘.” This interview was conducted in conjunction with the “My Hope America with Billy Graham” campaign during the month of November, which accompanies the release of likely his last book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.

Since 2002, the “My Hope” crusade has reached 57 countries, America being the 58th, with more than 298,000 churches participating, and with more than 4.4 million Christians serving as hosts. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more than 10 million people have become Christians.

I will highlight a few key statements, though I encourage you to read the whole interview. What Graham says is always worthwhile to hear.

In response to the question of how he refers to himself first, as an evangelical or a Christian and why, he stated that “what really matters is how God sees me. He isn’t concerned with labels; he is concerned about the state of one’s soul.” This is exactly right and refreshing to hear. It reminds me of Paul when he writes to the Galatians, “now that you have God, or rather to be known by God “(4:9a).

Graham tells the story of his own life in which he had previously thought he was a Christian, but realized after he experienced the new spiritual birth that he had not been. He claims that what accompanies is a new birth is a new life.

If there is no change in a person’s life, he or she must question whether or not they possess the salvation that the gospel proclaims. Many who go to church have not had a life-changing transformation in Christ.

He was also asked, “Why, according to the title of your book, is salvation the reason for your hope?,” and his response gets to the heart of his concern, “easy-believism.”

As I approached my 95th birthday, I was burdened to write a book that addressed the epidemic of “easy believism.” There is a mindset today that if people believe in God and do good works they are going to Heaven. But there are many questions that must be answered. There are two basic needs that all people have: the need for hope and the need for salvation. It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil’s lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you. While I am no longer able to stand in the pulpit and deliver a sermon from the Bible, God laid on my heart a burning desire to put this message in book form—a message that resonates within me every time I switch on the news. When I visit with people from all walks of life the question is asked, “What is happening in the world?”

Asked about topics and illustrations that address people’s needs, Graham noted that there is a great deal of confusion today – about religions, about God, about heaven and hell – and the answer to it all is Jesus Christ.

There are so many religions in the world, and I have never witnessed as much confusion as there is today about where to find truth. We have people preaching that God is a God of love, not of wrath. We have people proclaiming that Heaven is real but Hell is only a figment of imagination. As research was done for this book, my heart ached to hear story after story of people bragging that Hell will be one continuous happy hour; high profile comedians joke that they are happy to know they will one day go there.

This book is written to sound a warning—a loving warning from Heaven—that Heaven is created for those who humble themselves before God and Hell is created for Satan and those who serve him. Christ came to turn mankind away from the hold Satan wants to have in people’s lives. Jesus Christ is the answer for the world—he is the anchor of the soul—he is the God of hope that came in human form to rescue us from Satan’s grip. A seminary professor once made a profound statement to his students: “Never preach Hell without tears in your eyes.” My message is to proclaim that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and ask each one this question: Have you ever been saved?

I thank the Lord for Billy Graham. I am also grateful that the Lord, in His faithfulness, preserved Graham so that he remained faithful to Him in carrying out his call as an evangelist and as evidenced in his commitment to the gospel in proclamation and life.

Exodus International Shuts Down

Greg Strand – June 21, 2013 2 Comments

As announced by Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the ministry of Exodus International has “shut down.”  They formally terminated the ministry on Wednesday evening. Chambers was interviewed about the ministry, its history, the decision to end the ministry, and a new direction for a future ministry in The Atlantic. Christianity Today included a report on their blog.

In many ways, in light of some of the comments made last year by Chambers in Christianity Today, I am not surprised to hear this. That seemed to be an incremental step in this direction.

My concern with the ministry of Exodus International in the past was their strong sense of “reparative therapy” such that what they meant by it was that the only true healing for those with homosexual inclinations or attractions is to be married and have children – a slight overstatement but only slight. I believe they were well-intended, but over-zealous. It is, in fact, the reason why this ministry, or a representative of this ministry, was not asked to speak at last year’s EFCA Theology Conference. Instead we heard from Wesley Hill, which was intentional and purposeful, and very helpful.

But what we are experiencing is what happens so often. If their original goal was defined by meaning heterosexual marriage with children, one side of the pendulum, then what we are hearing now, at least as it appears to me, is the other side of the pendulum swing such that they are backing away from holding firm on the clear teaching of Scripture. This is not stated explicitly, but it is what it sounds like, or at least there is a equivocation on what can be said and how strongly those things can be said. On some of these sexual matters, the Bible is not silent. Therefore, to equivocate or to suggest that it might be right for me, and it will be what I embrace, but I will not say what someone else must embrace is also a moral issue. Not to speak clearly when and where the Bible speaks clearly is morally wrong. The Bible still clearly and explicitly speaks of change/transformation (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and it also reminds us that we groan while we still live in this fallen world (Rom. 8:22-25).

And added to this is the all-too-typical apology made by Chambers to the LGBTQ community. I am not suggesting repentance and apology are wrong. Where wrongs have been done and where sins have been committed it is right, in fact it is morally right, to repent, to apologize. But often the apology is made in so comprehensive a manner that it negates any and all of the past ministry, including the good. And there was some good that happened with this ministry. I was encouraged to hear Chambers acknowledge this, at least in his own life. And acknowledging there was some good is not hedging whatsoever that there was some bad for which an apology was right. And I also wonder – should the LGBTQ community be the only one to whom an apology is given? Certainly the one sinned against is the one to whom an apology is to be given. Would it, however, also be fitting to give an apology to Christians too? I think so.

Here are a few concluding, summarizing thoughts.

  1. When one is converted by the gospel and transformed by the Holy Spirit, it is often concluded that that becomes the way God works in everyone’s life. In other words, my experience is universalized. The truth is universal; the promise of the gospel is absolute; my experience of it is personal, first, and corporate, second.
  2. Because the gospel brings liberty, freedom, and it is wonderful, one desires that same freedom for everyone else. But in that desire for others to experience the same deep and profound freedom and transformation that the Lord brings through Holy Spirit’s application of the gospel in one’s life, there is a temptation to go about it as if that change can be orchestrated and done by man, by a talk, by a ministry, by a program, by an institution, and not by God. Apart from Him we can do nothing.
  3. It is an ongoing challenge to keep the gospel central in both doctrine and in practice. It is absolutely critical to embrace both the doctrinal centrality of the gospel and the functional centrality of the gospel, that the gospel is central in lips and life, in belief and behavior. Often the Lord gives a person a passion for a ministry that is an entailment of the gospel. This is related to something the Lord has allowed them to experience or to have learned or something from which they have been saved. Because a person becomes so impassioned for this ministry which is to be seen and understood through the lens of the gospel, it becomes the lens through which the gospel is seen and understood. It, then, becomes central and essential, and the gospel is assumed, at best, and misaligned through the grid of this special interest, at worst. This may well be some of what happened with Exodus over the years.
  4. One side of the pendulum is that one becomes passionate and zealous for all to experience the same thing he or she did, and it is expected that it will happen in the same way, at the same time and with the same result. To treat all that way will be hurtful, even if it is well intended. But then the other side of the pendulum is to make everything personal, individual and private, and we do not expect much gospel transformation in others at all. There is little to no expectation that the gospel can and will bring forgiveness, liberty and transformation.
  5. This is related to an over-realized eschatology that expects too much here and now, almost as if the future, end-time kingdom has come in full. Once one realizes that we live in a redeemed-but-not-yet-glorified state, it can lead to an under-realized eschatology that expects little to nothing of transformation here and now.
  6. In much of our Spirit-prompted and Spirit empowered putting to death the sins of the flesh and putting on the graces of Christ, our battle in sanctification, we forget that we still live in a fallen world. We, like creation, groan, longing to be glorified. And not only must we understand this in our own lives, we must also see others in this way as well. No one is exempt from the command to be holy; no one will fully attain it in this earthly life; all ought to long for it.
  7. A ministry begins with a desire to serve and minister and help others. In order to do that most effectively, it creates programs and becomes an organization or an institution. Neither one is inherently bad, but each carries with it certain challenges. It must be remembered that programs, organizations and institutions exist to serve people. When that is lost, then a Christian ministry does need to reconsider its meaning, its purpose and its existence.
  8. There is a huge cultural shift on many moral issues of the day. This is an implication of living in a postChristian day. It causes, maybe even forces, Christians to reconsider things, which can be good. But it must not lead to a denial of the Scriptures, or updating the Scriptures in an attempt to make the truth more palatable. This decision has a bit of this feel. We must not separate or isolate ourselves, for how can we be salt and light if we do so, and we must not accommodate or capitulate to the culture, for then we have compromised. We stand on, proclaim and live the truth. We do so boldly, courageously and humbly.
  9. There is much to learn!

What do you think? How do you process this?

 

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I include another statement from Bishop Festo Kivengere when he was interviewed by Christianity Today (May 21, 1976). He was asked about “the revival that was and is.” I was particularly taken with his responses to two questions.

CT:  What does this revival mean to the people involved in it?

FK:  It is when Christ becomes a living, risen Lord in the life of a believer.  For the non-believer, it is when he is brought into a confrontation with Christ and accepts him as Savior, thus completely changing his life morally and socially.  In other words, revival is when Christ becomes alive in a life, changing that life.  The person is born again, and if he has previously had that experience, then his life is changed in such a way that it affects all his relationships.

CT:  Is it visible to an outsider?

FK:  Absolutely!  Go back to a village a week after a man comes to the Lord in a meeting in the market.  The whole village knows something about it.  He has paid the debts he owes.  He has gone to people he hated and said, “I’m sorry. I’m a changed man.”  He has apologized or asked for forgiveness.  He’s now telling them what Christ means to him.  He has carried his new belief into his business practices.  In other words, it isn’t something he sits on as a comfortable experience.  If anything, it is terribly uncomfortable.

This leads me to four key observations/conclusions:

First, receiving Jesus Christ is more than just accepting doctrine. Though it is certainly not less than receiving the propositional truth that “Jesus Christ is Lord!,” it is more – it is receiving the living Lord Jesus Christ. We believe and receive the truth of the Word inscripturated (in the Bible, doctrine), which is the foundation for believing and receiving the Word incarnate (the living, resurrected and glorified Lord of glory).

Second, believing and receiving the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ leads to a transformed life. Kivengere states that one’s life is completely changed morally and socially. Everything is new; everything is changed; everything is in process of being transformed.

Third, when God the Holy Spirit moves in this way, the fruit is both redemption in that the spiritually dead are made spiritually alive, they are born again, they become Christians, and renewal in that the spiritually lethargic and nominal have been spiritual awakened.

Fourth, all relationships have been changed, and are in the process of being changed, and this new life is lived very publicly. Though this redemption and/or renewal happens to an individual, it does not remain privatized in that it has implications in life with others.

Lord, pour out your Spirit afresh such that we experience redemption and renewal, for the good of your church, and for your supreme glory!