Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Here’s a list of some of the people who don’t get to go to heaven. This is a tough, uncomfortable list, especially in 21st century America. Sure, we can agree that some of these people are evil and shouldn’t be in heaven. But banning gay people? And it seems like everyone is having sex, or having a few too many drinks. And when you look at some of Paul’s other lists, we see that he includes liars and people who are disrespectful to their parents. If we include those people, then no one’s getting to heaven. After all, who hasn’t given their parents a little lip, or told a little white lie?

But we’re missing something subtle here. Paul isn’t saying that anyone who has ever done any of these things is permabanned from heaven. He’s talking about identity. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s ever had sex outside of marriage,” he said the sexually immoral. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s had romantic thoughts about someone of the same sex,” he says men who practice (ongoing) homosexuality. He doesn’t say “anyone who’s ever stolen something,” he says thieves. You get the picture.

God isn’t demanding perfection. If he was, none of us would get into heaven. But he does require that we change our identities. Check out the next verse:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:11

I love that line.

And such were some of you. Were.

Once we were defined by our greed, our lust, and our alcoholism. We were once defined by our rebellion, our lies, and our addictions.

But no longer. For Christians, yes, we were those people. But now, by the grace of God, we are changed. We are made new. We are found innocent of our sins and are gradually renewed, day by day.

God has made a way, through his son Jesus, for us to be new creations. We are no longer defined by the broken identities we once had. Instead we take on new identities as sons and daughters of God. How awesome is that?


A New Understanding of the Seed

4 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.[a] 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this passage (or its parallels in the other gospels), but I’ve always heard it explained in one way: the Word is the gospel, and this parable is about how different people respond to the gospel message.

I’m not saying that interpretation is wrong, but yesterday during my reading (actually, I was listening to an audio Bible on my way to work) I was struck by a new interpretation: The word is the word. I know, I know, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but hear me out.

The Bible tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that every word of Scripture has the power to provide growth in our lives, given the opportunity.

However, too often we read without reading, and the word does nothing, like seed on a path.

Or we get really excited about a passage for a time, but things return to normal quickly, like seed in the rocky soil.

Or we’re distracted because we forgot to set our alarm and overslept by an hour, so we’re only absentmindedly listening to our audio Bible on the way to work. We’re distracted by the cares of this world, and the thorn choke out the freshly sprouted seed.

But sometimes we sit and receive the Word. And sometimes that passage sits in our souls and it stirs something inside us. As the seed germinates, we begin to tell others about what we’ve learned, and we begin to make changes to our lives in response to the passage. And pretty soon, we find that, through thoughtful obedience to the Bible, we have changed for the better and that change is evident to those around us.

So tell me, what has God been showing you in Scripture lately? Drop it in the comments below!

Day 31: Truth in Love

Day 31: Truth in Love

You may have noticed that I didn’t post on August 31st to wrap up my Better Every Day Challenge. And you may have also noticed that this is that Day 31 post. Although some of my challenge posts were quite short, I felt like this last one came with a “Handle With Care” sticker. In an effort to make sure that I dealt with the topic well, I pushed back the post so that spend time over this extended weekend (Happy Labor Day!) to really think through this topic.

If you’re an American Christian who regularly uses social media, you’ve probably heard something of an incredibly divisive document (website?): The Nashville Statement. The Nashville Statement is a series of 14 articles (short statements, actually) that seek to clarify the Biblical perspective on human sexuality. If you haven’t heard about it, I’m sure that you can understand why it’s so divisive.

Continue reading “Day 31: Truth in Love”

Disciple-Making Disciple Makers

Disciple-Making Disciple Makers

For the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve really had discipleship on my mind. I knew my definitions well. A disciple is a person who is dedicated to becoming more like his master. So a disciple of Christ (i.e., a Christian) is a person who is dedicated to becoming more like Jesus.

Discipleship, therefore, is the process of becoming more like Jesus. I would have said that this process involves developing biblical literacy, prayer, community, and witness. I would have said that you learn these things by engaging in them, by being involved in Bible studies, by taking time to pray, by being involved at church, and by seeking to tell others about Jesus.

But all these things only answer the “What?” of discipleship. A few weeks ago, I started really questioning whether or not I understood the “How?” of discipleship.

  • How do I help others learn the story of the Bible? And furthermore, how do I help them to understand that reading comprehension is not the goal, but obedience is?
  • How do I help others learn to pray?
  • How do I help foster true, life-on-life community – one that encourages, rebukes, comforts, and directs people toward Christ?
  • How do I make sure that we not only know how to tell others about Jesus, but that we’re actually telling people about Jesus?

Continue reading “Disciple-Making Disciple Makers”

Day 6: Spiritual Hunger

The Bible is filled with food analogies for our spiritual lives. In Psalm 34:8,

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

In Deuteronomy 8:3 (quoted by Jesus during his temptation in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4),

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

And in Luke 22:19 (and elsewhere), Jesus uses bread as a symbol for his sacrifice on the cross,

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Continue reading “Day 6: Spiritual Hunger”