“Becoming a (Christian) People of Action, Compassion, Unity, and Love” (Ephesians 4:7-16)
An Excerpt of my Sunday Morning Sermon (to be preached on Sunday, April 8, 2018)
Jesus Center Community Church
“If you’re a Christian or an Evangelical Christian and you were taught that to become a Christian, you must embrace a set of distinctive theological truths, your Christianity is probably inadequate and not biblical. Below is an example of the probable things you were taught in the church you grew up in:
Historic Christianity is the belief in a body of theological doctrines and truths such as the categorical confession that (1) God is one and Trinity, (2) the virgin birth and deity of Jesus Christ, (3) the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, (4) (5) the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, (6) the second coming of Jesus Christ, (7) salvation is by grace alone, and (7) salvation is in Christ alone. Many Christians and Evangelical Christians in America embrace these theological beliefs and substitute biblical ethical demands with cultural values and political ideologies. Consequently, these individuals serve God only with their intellect, but betray him in their action.
The separation between the biblical call to theological belief and biblical call to a Christ-centered life is a serious problem in many contemporary Christian circles, Evangelical churches, and schools and institutions in America that train men and women for the ministry. To express this another way, your pastor or youth minister probably taught you something like this: “If you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will go to heaven and escape hell. That’s all you need to be saved and become a Christian.” Friends: this is a convenient faith, a microwave Christianity. This form of Christianity that emphasizes “orthodox beliefs” concurrently undermines the “ethical virtues and practical demands” of biblical Christianity. This is not healthy for the spiritual life of the believer nor is it constructive to the life of faith of the people of God. This “soft Christianity” does not transform culture, but it is transformed by the culture (See Ephesians 4:14). This form of Christianity is subservient to the culture, and it is not a faith that believes in service, civic participation, and self-sacrifice toward the common good and human flourishing.
Moreover, this “soft Christianity” is not an optimistic faith one can count on when facing existential troubles and the harsh life in this world at risk, nor is it meaningful for the believer’s uneasy interactions with others. No wonder American Evangelical Christianity is in deep trouble today because of its failure to understand the correlation between theological confession and biblical ethics. (My assumption is that contemporary (some) American Evangelicals are too busy honoring cultural heroes and political superstars to live in the way of Christ and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)). Theology and ethics are not divorced in the biblical understanding of religion and the practical life and experience of the people of God; the people of God cannot have one and neglect the other; in other words, faith and works are inseparable in the biblical notion of the living (Christian) faith. Biblical Christianity is not mere “intellectual assent,” it is a way of life (See Ephesians 4:15-6).
Biblical Christianity, that is a “thick faith,” establishes a set of demands, values, and imperatives that govern the life and interactions of the people of God and followers of Christ; they include the following: to intentionally pursue justice (i.e. legal, racial, economic, environmental) and truth (“speaking the truth in love”: Eph. 4:15), to be ministers of reconciliation, agents of peace and unity, to hate injustice and evil, to care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow, to visit the prisoner, the feed the hunger, to heal the sick, to welcome the stranger and the immigrant, to show compassion and kindness to sojourner, to love your enemy, and to imitate the life of Christ. These are non-negotiable moral virtues of biblical Christianity. The underlying aim of the Christian life, according to Paul, is to “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
The people of God must embody the ethical values of biblical religion and pattern their life after the biblical God who gives and forgives unconditionally, shows grace and compassion without restraint, and loves indiscriminately. This biblical God is against empires, the capital exploitation of the poor and the workers, and unjust treatment of the vulnerable. The people of God in the twenty-first century culture is called to love justice and make Christian ethics as a practical witness in a world at risk. As Paul urges the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Ephesus:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
You are cordially invited to come worship with us this Sunday, April 8. Worship service at Jesus Center Community Church starts at 10:00 AM. Come 15 minutes early to have breakfast with us as well as to socialize and fellowship.
If you’re looking for a good, friendly, and relational church, and a Christ-centered and teaching congregation, with other believers, you will grow socially, intellectually, and spiritually, and be encouraged in serving, loving, and connecting with Jesus and one another.”