The Resources from Sunday’s Message are:
> Generous Living: Finding contentment through giving” by Ron Blue
> Money, Possessions and Eternity” by Randy Alcorn
> God and Your Stuff: The vital link between your possessions and your soul” by Wesley Willmer
> www. ChristianPersonalFinance.com
For those who might have missed it, the message on Sunday, January 18th was about being a steward of what God has trusted us with. It focused on just three of the many areas of our stewardship: money, the environment and the message of grace.
The money theme focused on God’s heart for the poor that is revealed in Isaiah 61:1,2 and a challenge for us to embrace and reflect God’s heart for the poor.
The environment theme focused on our Genesis 1:28 mandate to care for God’s creation.
And the grace message theme focused on our responsibility as ambassadors with the message of God’s grace in many areas of life like extending forgiveness and breaking down the walls of bitterness and prejudice.
More to say…
There was so much more I wanted to say. These three themes – caring for the poor, caring for the environment, and proclaiming the message of grace – are all intimately tied together.
When we care for the poor, we declare God’s grace and mercy, not only to the poor but also to all those who “see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The church was for many centuries on the front line of compassionate caring for the poor. But a deadly combination of factors in the early 20th century stopped that. The rise of the strength of government programs and the post-depression Keynesian policies of the government took over what had been the turf of the church on a much broader scale. And so the church took a side role, never stopping its concern, but overpowered by the breadth and depth of government programs like welfare, public schools, etc.
At the same time what are now called the “mainline denominations” – Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Congregational, Baptist and Episcopal – embraced European higher criticism of the bible and soon began to move in liberal directions in their understanding of Christianity – to the point that they denied the inspiration of the bible and the historicity of the events of the bible, as well as anything that called for supernatural intervention like the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At the same time, these denominations embraced what came to be called “the social gospel,” that proclaimed the “fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” that deemphasized the substitutionary death of Jesus for an emphasis on meeting the needs of people from a humanitarian perspective that was devoid of the spiritual needs of mankind.
Those churches which held strongly to the inspiration and authority of the bible, the virgin birth, the substitutionary death and victorious resurrection of Jesus quickly separated from the liberal mainline churches and the “Liberal vs. Fundamentalist” controversy had begun.
The fundamentalist bible-believing churches, in an effort to be separate from those they considered apostate, would not cooperate with the mainline churches in their social efforts. And they carefully avoided getting involved with any social / humanitarian causes for fear of being lumped together with those thought of as “liberal.”
These well-intentioned fundamentalists stuck to preaching the good news of the gospel. And in doing so they lost hold the imperative of Jesus’ Matthew 25 command to “care for the least of these my children.”
The birth of the new-evangelicalism…
In the post-WWII era, a group of bible-believing Christians, led by evangelist Billy Graham and others like Park Street church pastor Harold John Ockenga, Carl Henry and Kenneth Kantzer, broke ranks with the fundamentalists. As Kantzer put it at the time, the name fundamentalist had become “an embarrassment instead of a badge of honor” because of the extreme separation from society and the loss of care for those in need.
This new evangelicalism movement is just now coming to full blossom with evangelical churches in North America and around the world retaking the Genesis 1:28 mandate to care for creation in the name of Jesus and the Matthew 25 mandate to care for the poor in the name of Jesus – while not losing any of the importance of being messengers of God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren has mounted a major effort to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. And many humanitarian relief and development organizations have sprung up in the past 35 years to serve the poor in America and around the world in the name of Jesus including Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse (run by Billy Graham’s son Franklin), International Needs, World Relief, Compassion International and World Vision.
It’s imperative that these bible-believing, God-fearing evangelicals do not again lose sight of the “both-and” balance between caring for the body and caring for the soul; not let the pendulum swing too far exclusively in one direction at the expense of the other.
Making that point clearly in this month’s issue of Christianity Today, the editors write that the greatest social need today is for the church to do what only the church can do, present the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ that alone can remedy that the alienation from God that 21st century people struggle with.
In the middle of this inaugaration season, when hopes and expectations are high that a new administration can fix what is broken, we need to remember that government is not God’s solution to the problems plauging mankind. Jesus Christ is the solution. And only the church of Jesus Christ carries the message of jesus Christ.
As Bill Hybels likes to say “The church is the hope of the world.” Not that the organization of the church has power in and of itself, but that the church is the carrier of the unchanging messageof grace, and individual Christ-followers are the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to a fallen and broken world.
So the call is on us to be in the frontline, not behind the secular humanists, not behind the “social gospel” liberals, but in the frontline, boldly and unapologetically serving the poor and caring for creation in the name of Jesus Christ and being the messengers of God’s grace in a broken and helpless world.