Where is the hope?
The man at the coffee shop
A man in his early 50’s approached me and my friend at a coffee shop with his daughters at his side. He asked us what we were reading. He communicated how he was encouraged to see two young men reading the Bible in public, yet alone reading at all. The man continued to talk with us about how he attended church and had tried to follow the Lord most of his life. His tone changed as he probed deeper:
“I’ve searched all throughout the Bible and have yet to find where God shows us how we can have unwavering hope in this world. It’s so hard for me to stay positive when there is so much evil, weekly shootings, and other terrible tragedies.”
The two conclusions
On one hand, his comment delved deep into a vein that flows throughout all of us: the desire to have hope and be free – I’ll unpack more of this in a later post.
On the other hand, his comment also exposed something that pulses throughout the westernized church. People can attend their whole life, be immersed in its culture, believe they have been following the Lord and yet fail to scratch the surface of real Biblical Christianity. To encounter a man who had attended church for nearly 50 years but was unable to identify the single most common theme throughout all of Scripture – hope1 – was troubling to me. I had two conclusions:
He hadn’t actually been looking and falls into the majority of churchgoers that don’t study the book they claim to be the life of the world.2
He was looking, but wasn’t truly seeing what he was reading.3
Reading, but not seeing? What am I talking about? I’ll tell you.
I grew up attending church where families were deeply involved in its Christian culture. We could recite verses from within the Bible’s passages and knew many of its stories from an early age. But there was a crucial truth that I feel was often undervalued - possessing degrees of knowledge about what’s in the Bible is effectively useless without having first been transformed by it.
Everyone can open up the Bible and read it like any book. Everyone can go to church on a weekend and listen to a sermon. Everyone can sing a song about God in a room full of people. But not everyone truly sees, hears and worships with a heart that has been transformed by God. There is a huge difference. This transformation is the difference between the Bible being just an important book you might rarely read and it being your only source of life and hope – between just singing a song with your mouth and worshipping the Lord with your soul.
This difference is the very reason I’m writing this blog.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 4 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 5
In 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper titled “95 Theses” to the University of Wittenberg’s chapel door and started a reformation against the heretical Catholic Church led by Pope Leo X. This reformation was the beginning of Protestantism.
During Martin Luther’s life he translated the Bible into German. Before he had done this, there was no unified German language. It existed only as a collection of dialects. The German Bible became the single source from which the whole country would learn and posses a common written language and tongue. Not only did he establish a common Germanic written and spoken language through the Bible, but he also introduced the idea of congregational worship, writing countless hymns like “A Might Fortress Is Our God.” Luther’s impact on German culture was so huge that its culture had become inescapably Christian.6
Fast forward 400 years.
Germany was struggling after its terrible loss in World War I. The country was in unrecoverable debt and grasping for hope. It ended up embracing it in the form of Adolf Hitler. Hitler masqueraded himself as a Christ-type figure, but was deeply anti-Christian. He pretended to be the Christian savior Germany desperately needed by perverting the Bible to appeal to the theologically ignorant nation.7
Over those 400 years Germany had become religious, but not truly Christian. The majority belonged to the church, were as familiar with the Lutheran Bible as they were their own vernacular, and yet were spiritually blind and unable to see.8 How can I conclude this?
I can draw this conclusion the same way I processed the 50-year old ‘s question from the coffee shop. One’s love for the Lord is only as strong as their love for His Word. To live a life immersed in Christian culture, but unable to hear the disgusting misuse of truth by a political party for their own agenda points to one thing: A missing heart transformation that causes a person to see, hear and worship the glorious Gospel of God and not the Gospel of Man.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 9
The problem and the hope
The Gospel of Man is a paradigm. It’s a way of thinking that pulses at the core of our humanity. The Gospel Of Man is our pursuit to find freedom and hope from within ourselves and not from God.10 Under The Gospel Of Man we determine our own truth according to what we think and how we feel. By it we wield the authority to pursue what we believe will make us ultimately happy, which in turn gives us hope - for a moment.
This blog will unpack the difference between the Gospel of Man and the true Biblical Gospel of God. The latter doesn’t try and fix what’s broken. It replaces the decaying and evil heart within us all with one that causes a new life to begin. It’s not a problem to be fixed with a band-aid. It’s a root to be cut out, destroyed and replanted. In its place will grow a tree that will bear an abundance of fruit that gives life, restores hope and brings truth.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 11
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 12
The long-term purpose
My aim is to continue to unpack the emptiness of The Gospel of Man and how it affects today’s church culture using the truth of God’s Word as its foundation. The expectation is to do two things:
Fan into flame the faith of those who know Christ, might be involved in a church or familiar with its culture but have yet to honestly treasure him. Loving Christ more than anything, not merely knowing him, is at the center of Biblical Christianity. It’s this love that causes us to live and act like a disciple, not trying to choose to be one.
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.13
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.14
Redefine what Biblical Christianity should truly look like in our world today.
I’m not a pastor or a theologian. I’m just a man who sees a connective thread throughout culture that promotes self-indulgence, self-reliance, and self-created truth that is destined for emptiness, hopelessness and un-fulfillment. So in a way, I guess you could also think of the blog as “The Gospel Of Me.”
1 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3
3 “And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Mark 8:17-18
4 “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 2 Corinthians 2:13
5 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
6 Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, p. 20
7 Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, p. 94
8 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” 2 Corinthians 2:12
9 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” 2 Timothy 4:3
10 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7
11 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
12 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3
13 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8
14 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12