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Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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Executive Minister’s Advent Article

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As we move through this Advent season reflecting on various Christmas themes one that stands out to me is the relationship between Christ’s birth and the need for humanity’s spiritual birth. The carol Hark the Herald Angels Sings articulates this connection for us in verse three:

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Jesus is born so that we may be raised out of our spiritually dead condition and be “born from above”, or “born again”. Through Christ we are raised to new life. Otherwise, we continue to be dead in our sins, without hope in this life or the life to come. (Eph 2:1)

We used to talk more about “regeneration” in the Church, that is, the need to be born again. Perhaps the concept of being born again garnered too many negative connotations due to the disappointing lifestyles of so many who claimed to be born again.

Regardless, it is important that we teach what Jesus taught, “you must be born again.” That is, we should avoid leading people into believing that Christianity is primarily a reformation project.

Reformation projects teach, “Just do a little better, improve yourself, God will be pleased and the world will become a better place.” This project is predicated solely on self-improvement. Humanity’s fallen condition, apart from rebirth, precludes this possibility. Reformation projects are hopeless in that they are akin to dead people trying to raise themselves from the graveyard.

Rather the Christian faith is a regeneration project. It is initiated by God in Christ and completed through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is predicated solely on Christ's work on our behalf. God acting in Christ regenerates us.

God’s regeneration project teaches, “You are a dead person walking. Only Jesus Christ can resurrect your life.” Humanity cannot birth itself out of spiritual death into spiritual life. Rather, this is work that must be accomplished from One who comes from outside our fallen world; who pre-existed in a realm of eternal light, holiness and divine power. This One, Jesus the Messiah, is born into our world in order to regenerate us, that is, give us second birth.

Therefore, the first priority in Christ’s mission on earth is to proclaim the Good News of regeneration that comes through a power alien to our own. This is our message. This is our hope. When people respond by receiving the Savior, submitting to His rule as King, they are born from above and become God’s children (John 1:12-13).

All of this reflects what Jesus taught in his explanation about rebirth that puzzled Nicodemus:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

We rejoice in Jesus in this Advent season as we reclaim the Good News that Jesus was “born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth."

~ Charles Revis, Executive Minister

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God Sent

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

He was sent from God. He was not sent to shed new light on the human condition. He was not sent to be the greatest of all moral examples. He was not sent to point us towards some inner spark of divinity already residing within us. He was sent to redeem! ~ Galatians 4:3-5 NIV

When it comes to the Christmas season I find myself pulled between two poles: The “Splendor of the Season Pole” and the “Bah! Humbug Pole”. When I wrestle with a tangled cord of Christmas lights, half of which are not working, I am pulled towards the “Bah! Humbug Pole." On the other hand, when I am celebrating communion in the midst of flickering candles reflecting on the mystery of the Incarnation I am pulled towards the “Splendor of the Season Pole."

Christmas is a study in contrasts. There is the contrast between cheap tinsel on a tree and the “gold” of wrapped presents underneath. There is the contrast between the crass commercialization of the season and the greater meaning of gift-giving that is the season’s very foundation. There is the contrast between the announcement of peace unto all the world and the ugly reality of war’s constant presence. It’s a season of contrast; a season of dark and light.

Before the first Christmas the world was cloaked in darkness. Evil, death, bondage and decay reigned supreme. But, then light entered the world. Eternal light. That light was not a new philosophy, or self-help program, or even the birth of a new religion. That light was the pre-existent Word, the second person of the Trinity, who donned human flesh and became one of us.

He was sent from God. He was not sent to shed new light on the human condition. He was not sent to be the greatest of all moral examples. He was not sent to point us towards some inner spark of divinity already residing within us. He was sent to redeem!

Redemption language finds its true context in the realm of slavery. In the ancient world slavery was a fact of life for a great number of people. A slave could be freed if someone paid the owner the value of his property. Once the price was paid, the slave could be released into a new life of freedom. Some slaves were set free in this way. Another path to freedom transpired when a wealthy, childless man would adopt a young slave. Then the owner would trade the young man’s slavery for sonship. This resulted in special dignity and family membership to someone who would otherwise be a slave.

God sent Jesus to redeem. He paid the price that releases us from bondage (the condemning law, sin, death, addictions…the list is long). In doing so He made it possible for us to become sons of God. Through Jesus’ redemption we move from slavery into sonship, from bondage to release, from captivity to freedom. Now, that’s a study in contrast! And, it’s exactly what God set in motion when He sent His Son into the world at that first Christmas.

What God did in sending His Son to redeem us should be at the heart of a church’s motivation for ministry. Just as the Son was sent, so too, is the church sent. God sends His sons and daughters into the world proclaiming the Good News of redemption. He sends us into a dark world, just as He sent His Son, to be light and hope and blessing… that eventually the world will be turned from darkness into light, from bondage to freedom. This is our mission. A mission that was first launched in the heart of God and is now working out its full effects until that day when the world is completely and wholly made.

2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]

Making Jesus Famous

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

One of our solid pastors has been criticized for making this public statement, "We want to make Jesus famous in our city."

Should we attempt to make Jesus famous? My response would be, "Can you imagine doing the opposite? Hiding Jesus from a lost world?" Of course we are to make Jesus famous. We are to publish His name in all the earth. The Bible expects this to be our number one job. We are to proclaim from the rooftops, "Jesus is the Lord, the Savior of humankind." We are to lift Him up so that all will know his wonderful grace and love.

Habakkuk prayed, "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord." (3:2).

Paul, in his incarnational hymn of praise writes, "Therefore God exalted Jesus to the highest place...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Phil 2:9-11) That's just a little bit famous.

Our culture is obsessed with worshipping the "famous ones" of Hollywood and pop music stardom. Many, at this very moment, are grieving the death of one who proclaimed himself the "King of Pop."

In the midst of this misdirected obsession is it not right and proper to lift up the name of the True King? And, make Him more widely known than any of the pretenders who display only a fading glory. His is the glory that will shine for ever. Why not get a head start on worshipping the One who has everlasting glory? Why not make Him the truly "Famous One" in all the earth?

Of course, we want people to move beyond knowing about Jesus to personally encountering Him as God, and as Savior, and as Lord. That goes without saying. But for some people you have to fill in the lines so they can see the full picture, which is impossible to do when the real issue is not the presenting issue.

Perhaps the objection is rooted in a misunderstanding, that we are to avoid recasting Scriptural principles in the vernacular of our culture. No doubt there is always a danger of miscommunication when we attempt to employ contemporary cultural idioms. Yet, there is a greater danger if we do not. And that is to fail to communicate to this generation at all. It seems to me it's well worth the risk to employ popular language and concepts to convey biblical truth, which is exactly what the pastor was attempting to do. The beloved paraphrase of the Scriptures, The Message by Eugene Peterson, attempts this very thing, and in spades! And, I would add, with great success.

This is a lengthy way to say that I agree with the pastor. Let's make Jesus famous! In all the Northwest! In all the world! I can't think of a greater calling than this one thing!

I'll close this long posting with words from a "famous" modern hymn:

You are the Lord
The famous one, famous one
Great is Your name in all the earth
The heavens declare
You're glorious, glorious
Great is Your fame beyond the earth
For all You've done and yet to do

With every breath I'm praising You
Desire of the nations and every heart
You alone are God
(Chris Thomlin)

2009 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]