Easter at Elgin Covenant

We might not be too sure if spring will ever come, but Easter is certainly on the way.  Please join us as we celebrate with the following events:

Palm Sunday, April 13, 10:30 AM worship: This will feature a palms procession with the children, and the music of our praise team Redeemed.

Palm Sunday, April 13, 4 PM: Family egg-decorating and egg hunt.

Thursday, April 17, 7 PM: Holy Week worship and communion.

Sunday, April 20, 10:30 AM: Easter worship service. The choir will be featured. We will not have Sunday School beforehand or coffee hour afterward.

A Renewed Vision

Between one-fifth and one-fourth of our church has been participating in a series of Monday evening work-shops to discuss vision and strategy for our ministry into the future. One priority and two  goals have been identified for the short-term  as part of laying the foundation on which to build.

The priority is to prepare the way for the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts and in the church as a whole by teaching and preaching on the Holy Spirit and revival. If this priority is confirmed in the discernment of the church it will likely become the focus of our next program year (September 2014 – May 2015) in the sermons and small groups. We understand that “unless the Lord build the house, the laborers work in vain” (Psalm 127:1).  We also understand that the calling of the Holy Spirit on the heart is the call to faithful action (Matthew 7:24-27).

For faithful action in the short-term we have two goals:

1) To deepen and enrich our ministry to  families with teens through cooperation with Elgin-based youth-oriented Christian organizations.

2) To expand our ministry schedule and space for families with infants and children.

Why these goals?

Elgin Covenant is located in an area of Elgin and County that is “thick” with ministry opportunities. Any number of goals would be deserving of our ministry efforts to be salt and light to our community. This is where we are on the map:1.5 miles west of the church is Elgin Community College, 2 miles north-east is Judson university.  We are the closest church to two nursing homes and to the national headquarters of a justice advocacy group, Administer Justice. We are glad to be sponsors and allies with Wayside Elgin for aiding the homeless, and TLC Life Choices, which promotes women’s health and family function in life-affirming pregnancy care. So as you can see our church is set in the midst of the young, the elderly, the infirm, the troubled, the poor, the at-risk, and those who serve them. So why goals about ministry partnership for youth and ministry expansion for children? What sets these needs above the others?

Elgin Covenant is located directly next to Larkin High School, a public high school. All that separates the two is an invisible line through a grass ditch.  Is this by chance? That’s not how believers think. Our faith is that we are put here by God’s plan. After all, the school was here first, before the church built on the corner of Larkin and Jane.

A thriving ministry to youth is an encouragement to families with young children, as for examples the families of the pastors at this church, that there are things in place for families all the way through high school graduation. However, families with young children who do come need to see that there are adequate spaces and staffing to provide the kind of enrichment in faith that they want for their children and for themselves. The good news is that right now our designated spaces for children’s ministry are getting tight, and we need to start reclaiming spaces for the priority of serving families right away, so that they are ready for the fall.

A renewed vision is going to mean that we see ourselves as a work in progress where change is normal, but change only as the faithful actions that spring from Biblical conviction and Spiritual revival.

 

The Jesus Strategy: The Cross

Our church is developing a strategic plan for a relevant and inspiring ministry into the middle of the 21st Century. Our boldest dreams see the congregation being salt and light for the entire Elgin community (Matthew 5:13-16). Yet the traditional season of Lent is a reminder to us that believers in Jesus Christ are not to pin our hopes on worldly approval, or worldly methods. The season of Lent points us to the Jesus Strategy, when he shared with his followers what he was about, as described in Matthew 16:21:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This does not sound like a strategy for success. Yet the greatest defeat in the world’s eyes is the greatest victory in God’s eyes,  who raised Jesus from the dead. Still, believers in Jesus are more likely to be afraid to suffer for our faith than to embrace the promise of rising from the dead.  We carry on in the attitude of the disciple, Peter, who did not understand that second part, the “rising from the dead” promise. Instead Peter was focused on the “must be killed” part and it sounded to him like defeat, as seen in verse 22:

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” Jesus replied to him, in verse 23: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but human things.”

A church’s strategy cannot have human things in mind and expect to be blessed. Rather, when the Church, the Rock of the Confession of Christ, devotes ourselves to human agendas, we end up on the wrong side of God. This has happened throughout the history of the Christian faith, as our critics so often point out. Any strategy must be focused on faithfulness to our Christ who calls us to bear the cross with him in order that we might share in the resurrection with him.

1. When Jesus “surrendered” himself to the worldly powers, he did not compromise with them or endorse their values. Instead his peaceful non-resistance showed just how wrong the world could be.

2. Jesus spoke the truth to power even though they did not have the capacity to understand that truth could be absolute. Pontius Pilate, a consummate politician and power-seeker, replied with the relativizing question that defines the world of today, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

3. Love for the world defines the witness, words, and actions of the church. This is the message of the cross, “For God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Church since that time, and Elgin Covenant in our time and place, is not called to judgment or condemnation (John 3:17) but to declare the message that those who are in the world can be saved from their sins through repentant faith in Jesus.  Those with whom the gospel is shared will be self-selecting in how they receive it, they are not to be “pushed” away (3:19-21).

4. Churches in western society, the richest nations in the world, are in decline, with few exceptions. This is not a great mystery. Jesus said, in Matthew 19:23-30, that it is hard for wealthy people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet he also stated, in the same passage, that what is impossible for humankind is still possible with God. There is hope for revival even in the West, the world’s wealthiest societies, such as our own. We, who are the world’s richest people, are called to discipleship in the way we use the things God has given us, with humility and generosity (I Timothy 6:17-20).

So then we at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Elgin are sensing God’s call to a strategy for a vital, relevant ministry that will communicate to our world that we are: 1) Authentic in our love and in obeying God’s priorities. 2) Faithful in our calling to seekers to repent of sins and faithful in our own repentance. 3) Hopeful in God’s plan and promise that what is impossible for humankind is possible in the power of the Spirit of Christ. 4) Joyful in our expectation of living in glory forever with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Long Epiphany in a Long Winter

Celebrating Jesus as the light of the world can be hard to do when the winter seems to stretch on, even reaching places that are used to much balmier temperatures by February. Still Jesus is the light of the world, our hope not only when things are tough outside, but when relationships are cold, job leads are cold, and souls are in the darkness and despair. Even if spring takes a little longer than usual arriving, Jesus can be light in your life and warmth in your heart starting today. Receive him, trust his promises, and find a new hope giving birth in your heart in a cold winter.

Like many others our church has been challenged by this winter, as we have discovered a need for some roof repair. So if you will pardon our dust, come and join us on Sunday for a worship experience that will warm your heart!

Christmas is Coming (but is not here yet)

In society today words and images are becoming loaded with meanings that signal a person’s political and cultural loyalties. In many cases the Church and Christians must stand apart from these partisan divides that hover over conversation. For example, the word “holiday” and the greeting “Happy Holidays.”

Because this greeting has begun to be used by some department store clerks and television commercial advertisers as an alternative to “Merry Christmas,” many evangelicals are told that to say “Happy Holidays” is a compromise to an anti-Christian spirit. We are told that we need to keep “Christ” in Christmas, and so we should boldly say “Merry Christmas” to everyone we meet in December.

This is a matter of opinion, and it is fair for you to know my opinion as the pastor of the church whose site you are visiting. In my opinion this is a non-issue born out of heightened political sensitivities. I believe that Christians should be taking back the term “Happy Holidays” for all that it truly means. ”Holiday” equals “Holy Days.” “Happy Holidays” is a greeting that encompasses, for the Christian, a blessing on the observances: 1) of the Advent Season including its saints days such as St. Nicholas Day on December 6 and Santa Lucia Day on December 13; 2) of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the 12 days of Christmastide, including the Feast of Stephen and New Year’s; 3) The celebration of Epiphany on January 6, the visit of the Wise Men to the child of Bethlehem.

Do not misunderstand this post. I am NOT encouraging an attitude of compromise with an agenda that wants to remove Christ from culture and from history.  I AM encouraging truthful, non-politicizing speech. If someone asks you why you, an evangelical, uses the term “Happy Holidays,” tell them that holiday means holy day. What a great window into a testimony! For more discussion, look for “Christmas and Culture” under this site’s “Hot Topics.”

We invite you to spend the holidays (holy days) with us this December, and a Merry Christmas with us too when the time comes, on Sunday mornings and in our special events scheduled throughout the month. The Praise Team “Redeemed” will be involved in the worship services Dec. 8 and 22nd. Communion will be shared Dec. 1 and 31 (see below for our New Year’s Eve event) and January 5, 2014, our celebration of Epiphany.

Santa Lucia Coffee Open House: Saturday, December 7, 2013

Come enjoy holiday breakfast treats and traditional Scandinavian foods from 9-11 AM on December 7. The open house will also feature music and appearances of Santa Lucia. It is true that we do not celebrate Santa Lucia on her actual holy day of December 13; our annual celebration is the first Saturday in December. Admission is free, free-will donations are welcome.

Christmas Choir Program

Set aside December 15th, the third Sunday in Advent, to join us as our choir will be featured in the morning service (10:30 AM).  As Pastor Jonathan (the author of this post) is in the choir’s bass section, Family Pastor Greg Johnson will preach. Our children’s church will also be featured in two numbers!

“Joyous Noel” Night of Christmas Music, 6 PM

On the evening of December 15th all are invited to “Joyous Noel: The Music of Christmas,” a concert with divas Dr. Rise Jones and Solange Sior, cellist Bob Weber, pianist Murna Hansemann, and caroling led by John LaBorn. Refreshments will follow.

Christmas Services:

Christmas Eve, December 24th, 7 PM, candlelight service.

Julotta, Christmas Morning, 6 AM. A breakfast fellowship will follow at Randall Pancake House.

December 29th, 10:30 AM, Christmastide. Family Pastor Greg will preach.

New Year’s Eve Gathering

6 PM, Potluck Dinner, Fellowship Hall.

7 PM, Worship and communion, Sanctuary. Child-care is planned in the pre-school room.

8 PM, Potluck desserts and snacks buffet, games for as long as people want to stay.

Within the schedule all are free to come and go from our New Year’s gathering as they please.

All month long we are keeping Christ at the center of our observances. He truly is the reason for the season,  the happy holidays of Advent and the Merry Christmas of Christmastide. We hope to see you here, and Happy Holidays!

The Walk

Come join Elgin Covenant Church on “The Walk.” This is our theme for 2013-2014, and it refers to following Jesus Christ as disciples. Each person is on a spiritual journey all one’s own, but in that journey as we walk with Christ, we also walk alongside each other and encourage one another. As we walk with Christ and one another we become a church of disciples that makes disciples. But don’t worry that you are somehow disqualified from walking with Christ, that only super-spiritual people need apply. The Walk is not cut out for super-spiritual people; discipleship, walking with Christ, is for sinners and doubters and people who feel unworthy in themselves to talk to others about God and beliefs.

On September 29th there will be opportunity to surrender our hearts in repentance to Jesus Christ, according to the words in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” We believe that our God who is Creator and Redeemer desires to erase our sins and create new faith within each one of us. This does not make us super-spiritual people who stand on our own, rather it makes us people who have a new Spirit that acknowledges our need for God, sometimes in “sighs too deep for words.”

Believers in Christ are called to share with others this gospel: that just as we need God so all sinners and doubters and people who feel unworthy need God. You are promised in the New Testament, in Ephesians 2:1-10, that God loves you, God forgives you, and God has a purpose for your life that becomes clearer the more you surrender yourself to God’s love and forgiveness . If those who claim to walk with Christ point to themselves as super-spiritual people, they are probably not walking as closely to Christ as they claim!

On October 6 we will have a special communion service. The table will be opened at the beginning of the worship hour, and there will be times for sharing and for silence, for open prayers and guided prayers. The theme of this service is that, just as individuals we will never become “super-spiritual” apart from acknowledging our need for God’s love, forgiveness, and purpose, so the same is true for our church. No particular blend of musical instruments, no schedule of programs, no amount of “doing,” will ever be able to “create” the works of God in our hearts. Rather, just as God will not despise an individual’s surrendered heart but will bless it, so God will not despise the surrendered heart of a church, but will bless it. Then we who are forgiven sinners will be able to share our faith with others, that we have a mighty, loving, kind and grace-filled God whom we serve!

For the next several months we are focusing our preaching on what it meant for various Biblical people to walk with God. We are finding out that even some famous Bible heroes, Moses and Joshua and David, were not super-spiritual people; what set them apart was that they realized they were far from being either super or spiritual and that they needed God.

Another feature of The Walk is a small groups training in sharing our faith with others. If you are interested in being equipped in this way, you may contact the church at 847-888-2302 for more information, or come on a Sunday morning. We worship at 10:30. See you in church! See you on The Walk!

School and Family Zone

The decision in U-46 to begin the school year a little earlier –two full weeks before Labor Day — might have some students pining away this last week of the summer break, but we are ready at Elgin Covenant for the start of a new season.  As students get back in to the groove we at the church will help families ease in to the fall with some late-season celebrations. Larkin students looking for parking privileges, see below under Student Parking.

On August 25th our church will hold its annual Picnic. Visitors are invited to come! Dress will be casual, and the main meat will be provided. Participants are asked to bring along their own table-ware and a dish to share. Service will begin at 10:30 with lunch following. Look for the tents on the property of the church, 1565 Larkin Avenue!

September 1 is Labor Day week-end and our September communion service.

September 8 is our Rally Day, the launch of the church’s program year. From this week through to the end of May Children’s Church will be provided for kids from pre-school (out of diapers) through fourth grade. Our nursery is staffed all year for infants and toddlers still in diapers. Adult programs also resume their regular Sunday morning and midweek schedule.

Larkin Student Donut Klub

That Rally week also marks the beginning of the Donut Klub: Wednesday, September 11. Larkin Students can come in for a free donut provided by generous donors in the community, and hot chocolate or coffee. Runs from 7 AM to 7:30 AM. Get your breakfast, grab a table and play a quick board-game with friends –and make new ones!

Safety

Elgin Covenant treasures the family. As we teach and preach Biblically-centered ethics that society today calls “traditional morality” (see related posts under “Hot Topics”), we also want to welcome  families into an environment that promotes trust. We have a two-adults policy for every program and environment which requires the supervision of minors. Independent background checks have been conducted on all supervisors and teachers of children.

Accessibility

At Elgin Covenant we have a wheel-chair accessible entrance with a button-operated door; we also have a wheel-chair friendly single-stall restroom, and a chair-lift to reach the fellowship hall. Only the basement classrooms for children are at this time inaccessible.

Listening devices for the hearing impaired during the worship service are available on request. Large-print Bibles are also available.

Student Parking

Students at Larkin High School can secure parking passes for school-day privileges. $85 covers the whole year, or $45 per semester. Call 847-888-2302. The week of August 12-16 please try to arrive before noon to fill out the application and pick up the sticker. Otherwise please call for an appointment or to make another arrangement. And tell your friends!

 

Vacation Bible School in Full Swing July 8 – 12.

Rain is not keeping us from holding our home-centered Vacation Bible School, being led for us this week by a team from Child Evangelism Fellowship. Pre-readers are being led by an Illinois certified early-childhood educator. Kids can jump in any day of the week this week, Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 11:30. For more details on where to bring your children, call the church at 847-888-2302 or 224-276-1889. In fair weather we meet in the back yard, and in bad weather in the basement. Either way the kids are singing, learning, praying, and playing. Adults may stay and observe or meet and greet each other, or drop off and come back. Whatever your decision, there is lots of adult supervision and back-up for your children.

Summer 2013 at Elgin Covenant Church

The summer of 2013 is filling up with exciting events for the whole family. Whether just visiting or looking for a place to plug in your heart’s connection to Christ, you are welcome to be part of us this summer.

Worship: 10:30 AM Sunday
We would love to see you worship with us each Sunday at 10:30. Communion is offered the first Sunday of each month. The praise team Redeemed is part of worship usually the second and fourth Sundays of the month including the summer. The nursery is supervised and there are children’s activity/coloring bulletins available for pre-readers and kids through age 10. Each Sunday also features a time for the children up through sixth grade to sit forward and receive a special message. Children’s Church will begin again in September.

Vacation Bible School

This will meet July 8th through 12th, 10-11:30 AM, at the home of Pastor Jonathan and Amy Wilson and family. Pre-readers through fourth grade are encouraged to attend. Parents are welcome to stay and fellowship or observe. The curriculum is brought by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and taught by two teen-aged coaches with CEF. This is our fourth year running the CEF Vacation Bible School Back-yard Club and we are excited to bring it again. Please come to 17 North Commonwealth in Elgin. To register call the church at 847-888-2302 or the Wilsons at 847-468-1799, however no advance RSVP or reservation is necessary.

The CEF VBS experience will then be celebrated at our church at 1565 Larkin Avenue with a special ice-cream social, Friday evening at 7 PM. Kids will present some of what they learned and receive tokens of our appreciation for participating. On Sunday July 14th there will be an emphasis during the children’s message.

Bible Study

At both the Sunday School for adults at 9:15 AM and the Wednesday Midweek starting at 7 PM the Bible Study “The Ten Markers of a Healthy Missional Church” is being presented. Each week is devoted to one marker. The material on Wednesday evening covers the same as the Sunday School for those who cannot come at 9:15. We also have a separate opportunity for women to join together in prayer and Bible study each Tuesday at 1:30 PM, weather permitting. (Please note: if a Tuesday is extraordinarily hot the meeting might be cancelled because of the risks involved in getting to the church.) All of these groups are open to your immediate participation in any week.

Special Sundays

June 23rd, Pastor Greg Johnson, associate pastor for youth and families, will preach.

June 30th, Gospel music will be featured with special guests Velma Sept and the Larkins Family Singers. Pastor Jonathan Wilson preaching.

July 7th, Pastor Henoch Fuentes, our pastor of outreach and missionary with Outreach Christian Fellowship, will preach.

July 14th, VBS recap. Pastor Jonathan preaching.

July 21st, Special Guest Dr. Phil Wood, Director of Wayside Elgin, will preach.

July 28th, Dr. Daryl Rahfeldt, chairman of Elgin Covenant, will preach.

August 4th, we seek to have as many as possible join us at Covenant Harbor Bible Camp in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for worship. Details available on this site (stay tuned) or at covenantharbor.org. Dr. Daryl Rahfeldt will also lead worship at Elgin Covenant for those unable to make the trip.

August 25th, Picnic Sunday. Pastor Greg preaching, followed by food and games. Stay tuned.

Construction Season

Among the axioms spoken by residents in the greater Chicago area there are three related to the weather: 1. That it is the “windy city” — although this was more in reference to its political grandstanding. 2. That if you don’t like the weather, wait twenty minutes. 3. That there are two seasons in Chicago: Winter, and Road Construction.
This summer and fall we are putting our corner of the information super-highway “under construction.” Hopefully you will see a redesigned website that will make the information you need even more front and center. Until then we will continue to update the information on this current template. At this time we do not anticipate an interuption to information accessibility during the reconstruction.

Holy Week and Easter

I hope you will join us this Holy Week! On Palm Sunday at 10:30 AM our resident New Testament scholar Dr. Daryl Rahfeldt will preach. On Thursday March 28th we will have a communion service at 7 PM, and on Easter Sunday March 31st our worship will feature our choir, brass, children’s choir and praise team. We will also be taking an offering for the support of our missionaries in Mexico and Colombia. Children’s Church will not meet as we desire our families to be together for worship on Easter during this special time. A nursery and comfort room will be open.

I am posting a reflection to help you prepare for a meaningful engagement with God this Easter. It is an essay with references to history and theology more than it is devotional, but I pray that it will be another way that God speaks to your heart.

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

Nearly three centuries ago a Puritan preacher named Jonathan Edwards preached the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It was one of the sparks of a spiritual “awakening” in that period, what we call “revival” today. For centuries before and after Edwards preached his sermon this has been the assumption at the center of Christian theology: that God is as much angry as joyful, that God is as much vengeful as kind.

Just a few decades following the awakening in the colonies and in England, however, “enlightenment” philosophy took root and flourished throughout the nineteenth century. In many ways when we speak of “modernism” and “post-modernism” we are using terms that cannot be understood apart from the enlightenment. The Bible, and with it the dogmas of various Christian denominations, was subjected to scientific study and philosophical analysis. The idea that God could be personally provoked by sin and vengeful in its punishment seemed primitive. Under the momentum of philosophies over the last 250 years, such long-held doctrines as original sin and the depravity of the human being have been questioned.

This has led to a loosening of moral codes and the deconstruction of definitions of sin itself, so that today the chief value upheld in the popular cultures of Euro-centric societies is “consent.” Provided the participants have not been compelled and are of majority age, any conduct should be both permissible in society and blessed by the Church.

We are all products of our times. The discoveries and perspectives engendered by the Enlightenment and carried through the discoveries of science have changed how Bible-believing Christians talk about God, history, and the world. While I am speaking only for myself and not representing denominational views (available at covchurch.org) I believe I can say with integrity that most of my colleagues in the Covenant would not frame the human being’s need for forgiveness and salvation in the same way as Jonathan Edwards. There has been some important corrections on the view of God and God’s emotions that philosophy has helped us to recognize.

These correctives, however, do not add to the self-revelation of God already decisively given in Jesus Christ and the Old and New Testaments.  Rather, these correctives have helped us recover truths that had been diminished in systematic theologies and denominational confessions, to the point that they were being forgotten.  In the medieval period through the 17th century’s “age of Kings” society had laid great emphasis on divine rights and honor in a hierarchical universe. Many of the Catholic dogmas that can be found in Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas, along with the Reformation confessions, reflect the influence of these societal assumptions. Hence God’s attitude towards sinners was akin to an absolute monarch’s attitude towards rebels and traitors– complete with dungeons and torture devices. Dante’s Inferno captures the imagination of the time regarding God’s severity and the torments of Hell.

This view needed correction! And in the correction many, many evangelical preachers, scholars and devotional authors today emphasize the priority of the LOVE of God, the MERCY of God, the GRACE of God, and the FORGIVENESS of sins. This is a recovery of the gospel and the heart of Jesus. But we are in a world where society’s influence is causing many churches and denominations to diminish and thus forget the very real, very Biblical truths of human sin and God’s punishment.

The Evangelical Covenant Church is one of the “evangelical” hold-outs in western society for the more traditional moral definitions and literal readings of the Old and New Testaments. We also have in our heritage a view of sin and God that comes across a little bit differently from how Jonathan Edwards put it. This view comes from the historical and grammatical anaylsis of Biblical texts by a Swedish scholar in the 19th Century — independent of the interpretations of denominational confessions and dogmas.  By asking the question “Where is it written,” Dr. Paul Waldenstrom was able to phrase the answer, “There it is written.”

John 3:16-18 (NIV) states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world in order to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because (that one) has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

The notion that Jesus Christ came into the world to be abused by God the Father in order to appease God the Father’s feelings of vengeance toward the world, is a medieval concept, it is not Biblical concept. God so LOVED the world that Jesus Christ came into it, in order that the death of a sinless life would break the power of death over humankind. No longer does death need to be our permanent condition; rather, by faith in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead, our deaths serve to part the curtain between ourselves and God so that we can gaze upon God and join Jesus Christ in eternal life. 

 This is God, this is gift, this is love. The reality of sin in our world was put on full display when humankind took the gift of love, God wrapped in flesh in Jesus Christ, and falsely accused him, beat him, spit on him, dragged him to his death and nailed him to the cross. The abuse of Jesus Christ is not “satisfying” to God, rather it is OUR sin, and shows us the depth of our depravity both as individuals and in society, as John 3:19 (NIV) states: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but (humankind) loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news of God’s love, that Christ came into the world NOT to condemn it but to save it. We have opportunity to participate in that salvation as we repent of our sins. And that means, also, agreeing with God’s revelation concerning sin, as the scriptures clearly state.

Allowing the scriptures to speak on their terms does have an impact on convictions about  moral questions. Many Christians are confused today on these moral questions because they are allowing themselves to be persuaded by society into questioning the reality of sin itself. This should not surprise us. We are all products of our times, and medieval society had once persuaded Christians to describe God as full of caprice and vengeance. 

Allowing the scriptures to speak, to answer the question “Where is it written?” with “There it is written!”  will convict believers in Jesus of other sins that are not polarizing, that are not political hot-buttons or considered “moral” issues. These are sins such as envy and gossip; our world practically depends on people being envious to fuel our consumer economy, and on gossip to keep feeding the media outlets. These are sins such as anger and divisiveness within the congregation, which so many evangelicals seem content to allow in themselves and their churches with no view toward accountability.

The truths of scripture are  timeless truths, decisively revealing the character of  God the Father as spoken by the Word of God who himself became embodied in Jesus Christ, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The forgotten truths and the confusing truths continue to stand as truth regardless of whether societies or governments or cultures find them convenient or even palatable.

The annual celebration of Resurrection Sunday, what society has called “Easter” for centuries, is the public proclamation that sinners can surrender themselves into the hands of a loving God. For God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and for His sake God will raise us from the dead. The empty tomb is a sign to us that Christ, in the power of an indestructible life, reverses the curse of sin and calls us back to Himself. Will you answer that call? Will you answer that invitation? Here is a prayer for assurance of your salvation in Jesus:

Father God in Heaven, I thank you for loving the world and for loving me so much you sent Jesus Christ to die and to rise again, to defeat the power of sin and death in my life, and to cleanse me of my sin by his blood. I ask you to forgive my sins for Jesus’ sake and to fill me with the Holy Spirit as my promise for eternal life. I ask Jesus to be Lord of my life and to help me to live for him. Amen.