Posts Tagged ‘witnessing’

We say we believe in evangelism, until someone has the courage to do it

October 24, 2017

The above quote was purportedly the Rev. Moody’s response to a woman who criticized his methods of evangelism. He said, “I agree. I don’t like my methods, either. How do you do it?” She said, “I don’t.” “Well, in that case, I like my way of doing things better than your way of not doing them.”

I hope he said it—it’s funny, plus it encourages all of us Christians to try to do something rather than nothing when it comes to witnessing.

Just today, I read on Facebook about an 87-year-old retired Methodist minister in North Carolina who handed out gospel tracts that looked like auto insurance cards—except in this case the insurance was related to the eternal life made available through Christ. Yes, it was a little corny, as these things tend to be, but the information was true. And to the man’s credit, he put his name and number on the card for people to follow up with him.

My clergy colleague posted a picture of this card approvingly, and he was criticized (naturally). We contemporary Methodists say we believe in evangelism, until someone actually has the courage to do it. One of my friend’s critics, whom I gather is also a Methodist minister, said that he believes in hell as a reality that people experience in the here and now. He neither confirmed nor denied that hell was an eternal reality. Regardless, our evangelistic efforts, he said, should be first aimed at saving people from this kind of hell. (If you didn’t go to mainline Protestant seminary, you won’t know how common this view of hell is, unfortunately.) Finally, he said that attempting to “scare people” into God’s kingdom is ineffective.

In response, I wrote the following:

Props to this retired minister for living as if he really believes that heaven and hell hang in the balance—and not (mainly) in the here and now but for eternity. If we don’t believe that, as Jerry Walls has said, then it’s no wonder our enthusiasm for evangelism has waned. To whatever extent we experience heaven or hell in the here and now, it pales in comparison to the heaven or hell that we will experience in eternity. And all we know for sure is that we have this life to repent and believe in Christ. Time is running out. Our mission is urgent.

In Acts 20, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all.” Who among us UMC ministers can say that? I am not innocent. I have hardly done all I can to share the gospel with people in my corner of the world. And whatever his shortcomings, this elderly minister’s method of evangelism certainly beats my (usual) method of non-evangelism.

Theologically speaking, I find the fear of “turning people off” to border on Pelagianism. We’re not in charge, ultimately, of whether or not people believe the gospel, or even how they react to it. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that grabbing a bullhorn and a stack of Jack Chick tracts is as good as other methods. But I am saying that It’s clear from scripture that many people will be turned off—no matter how sensitively and lovingly we offer the gospel to them.

Finally, as far as “scaring” people, nothing we say is scarier than Jesus’ own words about Final Judgment and hell. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Thoughts?

Sermon 06-04-17: “The Holy Spirit Lives Here”

July 10, 2017

In this sermon, I emphasize our church has all the power we need to be successful in the mission our Lord has given us. Why? Because we have the Holy Spirit. Are we living as if we believe it? 

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 2:4-12

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Roger Moore: If you can’t have fun being a British spy, why bother?

Roger Moore was the James Bond of my childhood. So I love him. And after reading a Facebook post by an Englishman named Marc Hayes, in the wake of Moore’s death last week, well, I love him even more!

When Hayes was seven years old, he was with his grandfather at the airport in Nice, France, and he saw Roger Moore. He said to his grandfather, “Look, there’s James Bond!” His grandfather had no idea who James Bond was, much less Roger Moore. But he walked over to him and said, “My grandson says you’re James Bond. Can he get an autograph?” And so Roger Moore signed the child’s plane ticket. But the child was disappointed because he signed it “Roger Moore,” not James Bond. This kid didn’t know who Roger Moore was. So he and his grandfather went back over to the actor, and the grandfather explained the child’s disappointment.

At this point, Moore took the boy aside, leaned down to him and said,

“I have to sign my name as ‘Roger Moore’ because otherwise…Blofeld might find out I was here.” Blofeld is a famous Bond villain.” Then Moore asked the child not to tell anyone that he’d just seen James Bond, and he thanked him for keeping his secret.

Isn’t that great?

Twenty-three years later, a grown-up Marc Hayes had the opportunity to meet Roger Moore again, this time as part of a film crew that was filming a commercial for UNICEF. And Moore was part of it because he was a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF. Anyway, Hayes told Moore about meeting him when he was a kid. Moore said he didn’t remember the encounter but was glad he had a chance to meet “James Bond.”

Then, after the filming was over, as Moore was leaving the studio, he turned back to Hayes, “looked both ways, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said, ‘Of course I remember our meeting in Nice. But I didn’t say anything in there, because those cameramen—any one of them could be working for Blofeld.’”

I can hardly share that story without tearing up. I’m sentimental about my childhood heroes. When William Shatner and Henry Winkler die, I’m going to be a wreck.

Anyway, I share this story with you this morning because like James Bond, you and I—and everyone who’s a member of Hampton United Methodist Church—have a secret identity. And like James Bond, we have access to a great deal of power. Remember one of the highlights of every Bond movie was when Bond would go into Q’s laboratory and get all these powerful gadgets that enabled him to accomplish his mission? We have something infinitely more powerful than Q’s gadgets. We have the Holy Spirit, which means we have all the power we need to accomplish our mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-19-17: “Dealing with Doubt”

March 30, 2017

Do you ever have doubts about your faith in Jesus Christ? In today’s scripture, John the Baptist, surely one of the most headstrong of Bible heroes, expresses doubt in Jesus. He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the One”—meaning “Are you the Messiah”—”or should we expect someone else?” How could John, of all people, ask this, unless doubt is a normal experience for Christians? Nevertheless, God doesn’t want us to remain in a state of doubt. This sermon explores reasons we often doubt and potential traps we may fall into while we’re doubting. If you’re in a season of doubt, I pray that this message encourages you.

Sermon Text: Matthew 11:1-15

My boys and I have been bachelors this weekend, since Lisa and Elisa are out of town, which means we’ve had the TV all to ourselves. On Friday, we watched that recent Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips. It’s based on a true story about a cargo ship that got taken over by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. It was good—suspenseful—and Tom Hanks, as usual, was outstanding.

Last April, Hanks gave an interview to Terry Gross on the NPR interview show Fresh Air. He said something that may surprise you. He admitted that he was plagued by self-doubt. He said,

No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’…

There are days when I know that 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon I am going to have to deliver some degree of emotional goods, and if I can’t do it, that means I’m going to have to fake it. If I fake it, that means they might catch me at faking it, and if they catch me at faking it, well, then it’s just doomsday.[1]

I guess I’m naive. I thought that acting was supposed to be about faking it, but what do I know?

Tom Hanks is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed actors in the history of Hollywood. He’s starred in some of the most beloved movies of the past 30 years, which have earned $8.5 billion worldwide. He’s won two Oscars and two Golden Globes—and he’s been nominated for a ton more. Literally a ton, if you could add up the weight of all those trophies. In 2014, President Obama awarded him a Kennedy Center Honors medallion.

If someone like Tom Hanks can doubt something—in spite of all this evidence to the contrary—is it any wonder that we Christians will sometimes also have doubts—about God, about Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

A recent example of effective witnessing

March 23, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I preached about witnessing. I shared some advice on the topic from a recent article in Christianity Today. The author, Jerry Root, a long-time associate of Billy Graham, said that when we witness, it’s not a matter of “taking Jesus to someone”; Jesus is already there. We follow Christ’s lead. But doing so still requires preparation. It’s a deliberate action.

For example, when we meet someone, he suggests asking them what he calls “public” questions—non-threatening questions like, “What’s your name?” “Are you from here?” Then we “listen to the answers and find in them the permission to go deeper. Eventually, we connect the gospel at the very point of deep felt need.”

Easy, right?

Well… I suspect for many of us this still seems intimidating—in part because we’ve seen so few examples of people who are doing it, or doing it well.

Last Friday, however, I encountered a living, breathing example of someone doing it well. I had business in Atlanta. While I was there, I went to a favorite coffee shop near Emory to work on my sermon. A couple of tables away from me, two young women were talking. I promise I wasn’t eavesdropping, but one woman’s voice carried across the room.

I overheard her telling the other woman about her experience raising an autistic child. I gathered that she was counseling this young woman, a new mother whose own child had recently been diagnosed with autism.

My ears perked up at one point when she told the young mother that she was a Christian. She volunteered this in relation to some educational choices that she and her husband had made. A few minutes later, she said the following: “I believe that God has made your child perfect, just the way she’s meant to be. And the Lord is going to take care of her—and you—and give you all the love and support and strength you need to be a great mother to her.”

I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, “Amen!”

Nothing about this conversation felt forced. First, the woman volunteered that she was a Christian. Then, as Dr. Root described in the article I cited above, she waited for “permission to go deeper.” Having found that permission, she spoke from her heart about Jesus and connected the gospel to the young mother’s deeply felt need.

What convicts me about this conversation is how easily this Christian could have remained quiet about her faith. Doesn’t it often seem easier not bring it up?

What would happen if we prayed regularly—daily—for opportunities to bring it up? Who knows what the Holy Spirit might do? Is it possible that this young woman was so accustomed to sharing her faith that it would be harder for her not to bring it up?

“Telling fire to come down from heaven”: Seeing ourselves in James and John

November 11, 2016
From the Crossway tract, "Hope for Hard Times"

From the Crossway tract, “Hope for Hard Times”

I wanted to include the following point in last Sunday’s sermon, but I ran out of time. The scripture, you may recall, included Luke 9:51-55. In this episode, Jesus and his disciples are passing through a Samaritan village on their way to Jerusalem. The Samaritans refuse to let them stay in their town.

So James and John have a brilliant idea: “Lord, do you want to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

This is not without biblical precedent. There’s an event described in 2 Kings in which King Ahaziah sends soldiers to arrest the prophet Elijah. The commanding officer says to Elijah, sitting on a hill, “O man of God, the king says to come down.” And Elijah says, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your men.” And that’s exactly what happens. Twice. It would have happened a third time, but the commanding officer begs Elijah for mercy and God relents.

To their credit, James and John know that Jesus is much greater than Elijah. So why shouldn’t the fire of God’s judgment fall on these Samaritans who’ve rejected Jesus, just as it fell upon the enemies of Elijah?

Regardless, as sensible as this suggestion may have seemed to the brothers, Jesus rebukes them. And their suggestion rightly offends us today. We hear this story and feel morally superior to James and John. After all, we would never want the fire of God’s judgment to come down and consume people who reject Jesus Christ. Right?

Let’s not answer too quickly.

After all, at this moment, there are tens of thousands of people within a few miles of our church who are currently rejecting Jesus Christ. What do we believe will happen to them if they persist in unbelief and reject Christ’s free gift of salvation?

If we refuse to share the gospel with them—either out of of fear, indifference, or benign neglect—aren’t we saying through our actions that we’re O.K. with the fire of God’s judgment falling on them—if not right away, then at least in the distant future?

As I’ve preached recently, many of us, including myself, need to change. We need to make witnessing—by which I mean sharing the gospel through words in addition to actions—our top priority.

Let’s begin by heeding Jesus’ words in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Let’s pray that the Lord will send laborers into the harvest in our community.

When I last blogged about witnessing, by the way, I said that I was recruiting a “Witness Team” from our church to share the gospel, hand out tracts and Gospels of John, and pray with people at our annual Trunk or Treat event. I’m pleased to say that it was very successful: we shared the gospel with dozens of visitors who came to the festival.

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A couple of members of our Witness Teach sharing the gospel with visitors to our annual Trunk or Treat.

We will continue this effort at the beginning of December at our annual live nativity.

Piper: Ultimately, scripture is the “God-ordained means of creating saving faith”

October 26, 2016

In the sermon I posted yesterday about witnessing, I argue that the proclamation of the gospel possesses its own power—through the Holy Spirit—to change lives. Therefore, if our efforts to witness never include a deliberate proclamation of the gospel, we are robbing our witness of power, and we shouldn’t be surprised when we fail to make converts.

As I’ve said before on this blog, the vast majority of church growth—especially once you subtract confirmations or baptisms of children who already go to church—is “sheep-stealing”: already-Christian people leave one church to join another.

Surely, our Lord wants us to do better. As I said in my sermon,

The gospel, Paul writes in Romans 1, is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” As I said earlier, citing 1 Corinthians, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The gospel is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” but Paul continues: “to those whom God has called,” the gospel of Jesus Christ is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Do you see the point: The gospel itself has power. God has made it to be that way. God calls people through our gospel proclamation. If we aren’t proclaiming the gospel to people, then we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re not making disciples! [pick up smartphone] If we as a church aren’t sharing the gospel as our number one priority, it’s like we’ve spent money and resources to build this amazing device but we’ve removed the battery… or we’ve disconnected the power supply… This may be the greatest thing people would ever experience, but they’ll never know because all they have is this blank screen! It’s not working! There’s no power! They need power. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power they need!

I was heartened to read that John Piper, in his irenic yet critical assessment of Andy Stanley’s recent sermon “The Bible Told Me So,” makes a similar point. As important as it is to clear away intellectual hurdles that prevent people from believing in Christ, mere intellectual assent can’t bring someone to saving faith.

Saving faith is not the persuasion that the resurrection of Jesus rose bodily from the grave. That persuasion is essential to saving faith, but not the essence of it. The devil knows that Jesus rose from the dead, and he is not saved (see also Luke 16:31). The essence of saving faith is seeing the supreme beauty of Christ in the meaning of the event, and embracing him as Savior, and Lord, and the greatest Treasure in the universe. Satan does not see the crucified and risen Christ as supremely beautiful, and he does not treasure him. But believers do. That is the essence of saving faith…

The gospel is more than the events of crucifixion and resurrection. It is a God-given narrative of what the events meant (as in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “for our sins”). It is not merely the assembly of events and evidences. It is a divine interpretation of their meaning…

What young preachers need to be clear about in deciding how they will preach is how God planned for the glory of Christ to be revealed to more and more people as the centuries pass. When Stanley says, “For the first 300 years the debate centered on an event, not a book,” that’s not quite right. The debate centered very largely on which written witnesses provided a trustworthy interpretation of the event. The church realized immediately that everything hung not just on whether the event happened, but on what it meant: What were its roots, and accomplishments, and implications for life and eternity? Who was this man, Jesus? Whom can we trust to tell us? How then shall we live? Who can tell us this with authority? That was the issue, not just the event.

God was kind enough to bring those authentic, long-trusted Gospels and Epistles together in the New Testament in due time. But their trustworthiness and authority were functioning from the middle of the first century onward. And the most significant reason God provided these Gospels and Epistles from the beginning was so that the compelling beauty and worth of Christ would shine through these God-given writings. That is how people came to faith. They saw the glory of Christ shining through the writings God had given — or the oral heralding or reading of them.

Therefore, what I am suggesting is that in our present New Testament we have the consummation of God’s demonstration of the beauty and worth of Christ. It is God’s own complete portrait of the glory of his Son — the meaning of his work from eternity to eternity, and its implications for human life.

Piper says that this truth has several implications. Chief among them is that the

testimony of God in Scripture to the truth and beauty and worth of Christ is self-authenticating. That is, the decisive cause of saving faith is not human argument (as crucial as that is). The decisive cause is described in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God creates a real illumination of our hearts by lifting the veil so that we can see the glory of what is really there in Scripture.”

Another implication is that “God’s portrait of Christ, as he is presented in the inspired Book, is the God-ordained means of creating saving faith.”

Finally, lest you doubt that Piper is one of his generation’s most gifted preachers, he concludes his essay with this:

So my concluding suggestion is this: join Andy Stanley in caring deeply about winning “post-Christians”; join him in moving beyond simplistic and naïve-sounding shibboleths; join him in cultural awareness and insight into your audience; join him in the excellence of his teaching and communication skills; and join him in his belief in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. And then spend eight years blowing your people’s post-Christian circuits by connecting the voltage of every line in the book of Romans with their brains.

When it comes to preaching, nothing is more powerful and self-authenticating than the Spirit-anointed, passionate, expository exultation over the inspired text of Scripture. If you don’t believe that, perhaps you have never seen such preaching.

Do you believe this? I do—although I confess I haven’t always acted like I do.

But that changes now: My invitation at the end of the sermon I quoted earlier was to invite members of our church to join me in creating a “witness team.” In fact, we’re having our first meeting tonight. I don’t know who or how many will show up. But we’re going to discuss ways in which our church can share the gospel in a more deliberate way with people outside of our church—starting this weekend, when literally hundreds of people from our community will be on our church property for our annual “Trunk or Treat” festival.

For starters, I’ve ordered a couple hundred tracts from Crossway. I’ve also ordered some pocket-sized New Testaments to give away to visitors.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and insights.

Sermon 10-09-16: “Keeping the Promise, Part 8: How We Witness”

October 25, 2016

keeping-the-promise-sermon-series

Most Christians are afraid of witnessing. Instead of admitting our fear, however, we often make excuses for why we shouldn’t witness. We tell ourselves, for example, that we don’t want to risk “turning someone off,” or that we don’t know someone well enough to talk about religion. What excuses have you used? This sermon challenges us to overcome our fear.

(Sorry… no audio or video this week. 😦 )

Sermon Text: Acts 17:16-34

If you’ve lost a job recently, and have had to find a new one, you know all about networking. The idea behind networking is, when it comes to getting a good job, it’s not what you know, or how good your resumé is, or how well or poorly you interview, or even how skillful or well-qualified you are. No: it’s all about who you know. “Networking” is about marketing yourself to the right people, meeting the “right” people—people who can help you find the right job.

It’s about putting yourself out there, going up to complete strangers and introducing yourself, and making small talk, and talking about how great you are. Many people, especially people who are shy and introverted, would rather die than do these things.

A consultant named Andy Molinsky wrote an article in last month’s Harvard Business Review about the discomfort that many people feel about networking. His advice? Step outside your comfort zone and do it anyway. Otherwise, he says, you’ll make excuses to justify why you shouldn’t do it: “Networking isn’t that important,” you tell yourself. “It’s the quality of your work that counts,” or “People who network are slimy or full of themselves, and I’m not like that.”

I bring this up because I’m interested in talking about witnessing—that fifth promise we make to God and to one another when we join a United Methodist church. We promise to witness. Yet for many of us, the prospect of witnessing is at least as scary as speaking in public, or making small talk with strangers, or anything else that’s outside of our comfort zones. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-23-14: “Hearers and Doers, Part 2”

February 28, 2014

practically_perfect

Perhaps the most important way in which the church fails to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” is when it comes to the work of evangelism. If we Christians believe that eternity is at stake in the question of a person’s decision to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation, wouldn’t we approach this task with greater urgency? Instead, we are often reluctant to witness to our faith. Why? What can help us become more faithful in this mission?

Sermon Text: James 1:19-27

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

So, Satan made news in Hollywood this week. I’m sure that was a mistake on Satan’s part. Usually, he goes about his work in Hollywood under the radar, without anyone noticing!

Be that as it may, Satan was in the news. You may recall that last year, Roma Downey, former star of Touched by an Angel, and her husband, Mark Burnett, creator and producer of the show Survivor, produced a hit miniseries called The Bible. They announced last week that they are recycling part of that miniseries to create a theatrically released movie about Jesus called Son of God.

If you saw the original miniseries, however, you may notice one small difference: Satan didn’t make the cut this time.

Literally, they’re cutting out the scene in which Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. When the original miniseries aired, that scene caused controversy after Glenn Beck tweeted that he saw a resemblance between Satan and President Obama. And that’s all anyone was talking about the next day. Roma Downey said she didn’t want a repeat of that experience. She said, “I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want His name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon for 03-11-12: “The E-Word, Part 2”

March 15, 2012

"The Baptism of the Eunuch" (1626) by Rembrandt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Where's the water, by the way?

Many of us are very reluctant to share our faith with others. It might feel intrusive or pushy. It might make us feel like we’re selling something. We worry that our efforts will feel phony. As I share in this sermon, however, if we Christians are not witnessing to our faith as a regular part of our routine, we’re already being phony: if we believe what we say we believe about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should naturally want to share that news with others.

What are some practical ways in which we can witness? I explore this question in the following sermon.

Sermon Text: Acts 8:26-39

The following is my original manuscript.

In case you haven’t heard, we are in the midst of a heated political season. There’s a satirical negative political ad on YouTube you might have seen. The idea behind the video is that all these negative attack ads, regardless who’s running them, follow the same script. All you have to do is change the names and some of the words. It’s like “Mad Libs.” Anyway, it goes something like this:

“Can we risk an America run by [insert opponent’s name]? He clearly doesn’t understand that America is built on hard work, not [insert opponent’s previous occupation]. Sure, now he says he opposes [insert hot button issue; show news clip], but he used to support [hot button issue; show grainy footage with dead politician]… Around here, that [insert downhome metaphor] just don’t [insert verb]. Better ask yourself: Can America risk [insert opponent’s name].”

You get the idea. There’s something generic, impersonal, and inauthentic about these ads. I’m sure that when I talk about doing the work of evangelism, the E-word… otherwise known as “witnessing”… you’re worried that I’m talking about doing something generic, impersonal, and inauthentic—that I’m talking about following some script. Read the rest of this entry »

What is the gospel, exactly?

March 12, 2012

Yesterday, I finished my two-part sermon series on evangelism. I hope yesterday’s sermon gave some practical advice on how to do it. One gaping hole in my presentation was that I didn’t spend time talking about what exactly the gospel is. At some point, we need to be able put the gospel into words.

An early draft of the sermon included the following paragraphs, which I cut due to time constraints. In it, I summarize the gospel. How did I do? What would you add? What would you subtract?

I hope that last week I got across the point that we who have given our lives to Jesus Christ have an urgent mission: to share with others, through our actions and our words, the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s urgent because people in our community and all over the world are living and dying without being in a saving relationship with God through Christ. And why does that matter? Well, if what we say we believe about Jesus is true, it isn’t simply the case that it doesn’t matter what we believe about God, so long as we’re sincere; or that Christianity is one of many possible paths to God; or that God is going to forgive everyone in the end, regardless of what they believe about God’s Son Jesus.

I understand the emotional appeal of believing these things—in part because I’ve had non-Christian friends who put me to shame when it comes to loving other people and performing acts of kindness, and I’m tempted to say that on that basis they should be saved—that they’ve “earned” salvation every bit as much as I have. The problem is we don’t earn salvation. In fact, we’re all sinners—even the most virtuous among us. One ironic side-effect of growing closer to God—what the church calls “sanctification”—is that we simultaneously become more aware of how far short we fall of God’s glory. We become increasingly aware of our sinfulness and how much we need God’s saving grace.

Left to our own devices, we’re all in trouble because of our sin. Fortunately, God didn’t leave us to our own devices. God has rescued us through Christ’s atoning death on the cross. As Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Out of love, God took care of our problem with sin on the cross, which enables us to be in right relationship with God—not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who God is and what God has done for us through Christ. We no longer have to fear standing before God in final judgment, because in Christ, God has already read our verdict: and that verdict is “not guilty.”

Now because Christ defeated death in resurrection, we can face death with confidence, knowing that it no longer has the last word: we, too, will be resurrected into God’s coming kingdom. And not only that: we have power through the Holy Spirit to live differently now—to live now as if God’s kingdom were already here. And that means loving our neighbor, loving our enemies, and working for justice and peace in the world. Through faith in Christ we become everything God created us to be.