Sunday, April 03, 2005

Loooooooooooong weekend

No, really. Did I mention it was long?

Well, in case you locked yourself in a cave this weekend, Pope John Paul II died. Watching it unfold was interesting. They've been playing lots and lots of those "The Legacy of X" segments on the news channels, where they sum up a person's lifetime achievements in 5-15 minutes. It makes me wonder what they'd say about me when my life ends. Hmmm . . .

I've never been a big fan of the Catholic Church, but I still feel the loss of the leader of the world's largest Christian denomination. The big question at this point becomes, who will be the next pope? I think it's a good question, and the decision will powerfully affect world events, so prayer from all Christians about it couldn't be a bad thing.

So, the other big development in the weekend was BCM spring conference. For those unfamiliar with the concept, IBSA (Illinois State Baptist Association, the Illinois branch of the Southern Baptist Church) hosts a conference each fall and spring semester for college students. It is open to anyone, but the main attendees are the students of the statewide baptist ministries on college campuses (Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Baptist Student Ministries, Baptist Student Unions, etc.). Spring conference typically deals with evangelism, missions, and outreach, particularly because it is a time of preparation for those students going out on worldwide mission teams this summer. This year, there are teams heading out to Azerbaijan, Cuba[!], Lebanon[!!!], Poland, and Bulgaria.

The main speaker this year was a man named Mark Coppenger. He spoke a lot about the important qualities of a Christian, both as a disciple and as a missionary (at home and abroad). Overall, I enjoyed his messages. They were informative and encouraging without being sappy, overplayed, or full of pop-Christian, half-scriptural cliches. As time permits this week, I'll post some more of the content of his messages.

The weekend gave me some time to think, however, about the state of my own evangelistic outlook and my own attempts at reaching a lost world. If I consider it so important, if I think it so necessary for someone to know Jesus Christ as lord in order to spend an eternity in heaven, as compared to an eternity in hell, then why do I share that with others so rarely? Am I ashamed of the gospel, or just lazy? Neither is a positive indictment.

Let me, therefore, take this moment to clarify the matter. I began this blog with a few purposes in mind. I really enjoy writing about politics, news, and other cultural happenings, and I thought that putting my Christian perspective on things out there could be a positive contribution. But as a Christian, I also have an obligation and a privelege (a strange and beautiful combination) to share that gospel of Christ with the world. And this is more "world" than I could possibly ask for.

So let me spell it out for you, then. I'm a Christian: I believe that man is stuck in a predicament. We all want to go to heaven, but nobody wants to do the work to get there. And what work it would have to be! There is so much wickedness in all of us. No matter who you are, it still creeps out from behind the edges of self-righteousness when you least suspect it. God, in all his wisdom, knows it. And in our most honest moments, we know it too: We can never do anything good enough to merit heaven. But God loves us so much, he provided way! He sent his son to earth to die for our sins so that we might share in his righteousness. It is an open deal, available to those who believe and are willing to turn from their sins. Without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, it is not possible to enter the grace and favor of God.

I believe this with everything I am. You may have seen posts on here before where I've expressed moments of doubt. If I told you they weren't genuine, I'd be lying. But God works with me through the doubts, and I've never had to worry about their quick resolution.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you disagree, feel free to say so. But that is what I believe, and I would be remiss if I kept it to myself.


Anonymous said...

Hi Hal! I like the religious topics and I liked your declaration of faith and the nature of justification / means of salvation.

I'd like to clarify the Catholic Church's view, not because you necessarily misunderstand it, but maybe you do, or maybe other readers do - even most Catholics get it wrong.

Here is a quote by Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the first lay American citizen to beatified by Pope John Paul II. (Lay = not a priest, monk, or nun. Beatified = an intermediary step towards an official declaration of sainthood.)

"This common idea that the 'Christian is one who reveres Christ and tries to adjust his or her actions to the moral teachings and examples of Our Lord' is
greatly shortchanged; it misses the essential, the indispensable; moreover, in certain circumstances it may be altogether false. What makes one a Christian is nothing other than divine sonship gratuitously given by God through the grace of Baptism. Only the one inserted into Christ by grace is a Christian. It is necessary to be born again, to become a new creature."

I hope this helped or interested somebody.

-Ryan Herr.

Hal said...

It's a nice thought from Mr. Rodriguez, but I think his statement itself is incomplete. Baptism is good, but faith is far more important. What good is baptism without faith? It is not the water that cleanses, as Peter wrote, but the faithful pledge of conscience to God (1Peter3:21).