Friday, August 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

"There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have and think they have enough - a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice - which cost nothing, and is worth nothing."

J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 204

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Don't We Share the Good News at Work?

I've been reading Mark Dever's book - The Gospel & Personal Evangelism, in part because it's an area of much needed growth in my life. I don't often share the gospel with others and in particular, I seldom do so at work. Yet, I'm convinced that a normal, thriving Christian life is marked by regular practice of personal evangelism.

Apparently, this isn't just my problem. In speaking with other Christians, I've discovered that many of us fail to regularly share the good news of Christ redemptive work. So why don't we evangelize more often? In his book, Dever offers a number of excuses/reasons for our failure but a couple caught my attention:

"Evangelism could cause problems at work" - Now, we certainly don't want to be irresponsible with the use of our time at work. If our practice of evangelism during work hours impedes our ability to work responsibly, it could bring disrepute to the very message we wish to share. However, for every person who might fall into that trap, I believe there are many more who neglect to share the gospel precisely because it could legitimately cause problems for us at work. Active evangelism could invite ridicule from our co-workers or possibly hinder our prospects for promotion. In other words, sharing the good news of our Savior could actually cost us something and we are ensnared by what the Bible calls "the fear of man".

"Other things seem more urgent" - This is simply the tyranny of the urgent. It's the weak excuse of a hurried life that has little time for what is truly important. To be honest, it's one of my greatest hurdles to regular evangelism. I get so caught up with the pace and responsibilities of work that I forget about those who are around me. I forget that many of them live without the joyful hope of an eternity with God, but rather face a real prospect of judgment. In view of eternity, what could be more important than sharing the good news of Christ and His work? Yet, I am often too hurry to even consider those around me.

After reading and pondering the early chapters of the book, I've had to face another reality of my lack of personal evangelism. It is simply that I do not love "my neighbor" as I ought. I like them well enough to have lunch with them, to discuss our families or share how I spent my weekend. But I'm not moved to actually share this eternal message with them, especially if I suspect that it's not going to be well received. It's embarrassingly true - I love tranquility more than sharing the gospel with my "neighbor" at work.

Is there hope for someone like me? I'd like to think so - starting first with repentance for my heart so lacking in love for my neighbor. In doing so, I need to affirm the good of the gospel for me personally, considering the favor that is shown to me in light of the cross. I also need to invest my confidence in God's transforming work through the gospel, not in my performance. It's not a question of whether I'm "doing evangelism right" but rather my faithful proclamation of the gospel. If the gospel is truly "the power of God for salvation" as Paul asserts in Romans 1:16, then I need to trust in its life giving power to those who are dead in sin.

Any other advice for someone like me? How about you? Are you sharing the gospel regularly with those whom God has placed around you at work? What hinders you?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quote of the Week

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p.7

Sunday, August 03, 2008

New versus Old

A week ago, we discussed why bigger doesn't always mean better. I thought it might be interesting to explore another misconception noted in John Piper's address to INSIGHT graduates - that new is better than old.

If not excusable, it is at least understandable that we might trip over this. After all, as card carrying members of the digital age, haven't we been conditioned to equate "new" with "improved"? In this Web 2.0 world of blogs, social networks and iPhones, there's always a new version of something waiting to be unveiled. And, let's face it - we just like new and least most of us do.

Yet, the idea that new is necessarily better is a notion we should actively resist. Sure, the latest iPhone is probably better and cheaper than the prior model but when it comes to the really important things, new isn't typically better. Things that really matter in life, things of eternal value, are by definition, timeless and old.

Have you fallen into the "new is better than old" trap? I wouldn't blame you at all but here are a few points to consider as you take inventory of your life -

What you read - Do you take the time plumb the wisdom of old classic books instead of the latest bestseller? C.S. Lewis had this to say about the benefits of reading old books:

"It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between...Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

Practical advice - When it comes to advice, is new, novel advice really better than old, trusted and proven? When you're making critical decisions on your job or your personal life, where do you go for trusted, pragmatic advice? What's the best source of wisdom when you need insight on how to run your business or how to raise a family? Unfortunately, many Christians wouldn't think to look to Scripture before they checked out the latest business blog or parenting seminar. While they might affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, at a functional level, they deny its sufficiency for practical living. We are so easily seduced by the latest insights by the congnoscenti of our day, aren't we? But how do those insights compare to God's revealed wisdom found in the Bible?

Proven paths - I'm all for innovation and creativity but I'm also in favor of not reinventing the wheel. This means honoring time tested institutions and practices. For instance, it's become popular to deconstruct the traditional institutions of marriage and church, noting their many, apparent failings. But these institutions aren't just cultural innovations, they were established and set apart by God and hence, holy. Dismantling or redefining these instutions isn't just fruitless, it's foolhardy.

In some other areas, these proven paths aren't quite as significant but the notion that we should pay attention to them is still applicable. At work, instead of perfecting the latest career enhancing techniques, perhaps we could focus on old fashioned values of hard work, integrity and accountability. These values may seem antiquated but they actually might work in your favor.

What do you think? Are you, like me, often captivated by the "new and shiny" instead of focusing on old, timeless truths?