This week we hear from Jerry Root, Associate Director of the Institute of Strategic Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center.
Fighting against Akrasia with the Power of the Gospel
In Ephesians 4:22, Paul instructs his readers to “lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” The Greek word for lust is epithumia and it is not merely used for purulent sexual interest, as is evident by this text.
The word speaks of a predatory approach to some activity. For instance, sexual desire isn’t lust anymore than hunger is gluttony.
Lust is intentional in its designs and set to action plans to make something happen. Paul uses the word in a positive way in Phillipians 1:23, saying he has a “desire [epithumia] to depart and be with Christ”; in other words, Paul is intentional about finishing well in his service of Christ. In light of this, we return to the Ephesians text and seek to understand what is meant by “the lust of deceit.”
Sin is intentional. As Augustine observed, a lie is not merely speaking a falsehood, it is a knowing deception. You never receive an exam paper from a teacher and next to every wrong answer read, in red pencil, “You liar!” You made a mistake.
But a lie is a knowing deception. In fact, all sin has something of intentionality about it, at least in the beginning. It sets its desire against God. Embedded in the idea of sin is the belief that we can manage our lives better than God will.
Consequently, sin does not end with the initial act. When guilt for our bad act begins to set in, we tend to respond to these bad feelings in some way. Often, there is sadness and repentance and deeper receptivity to the love and grace of God that will meet us in our brokenness. But, when repentance does not follow sin, the only way we can begin to live with ourselves is by means of rationalizing or justifying our bad choices. This desire to cover up our sin is what Paul calls “the lust of deceit.”
In time, a pattern of such lust and rationalized behavior leads to moral blindness. The philosophers called it Akrasia. The word means “without command” and implies that we sacrifice any kind of moral control of our lives to our bad behavior and the excuses that justify it. C. S. Lewis wrote that “continued disobedience to conscience makes conscience blind.” The Apostle Paul said, “We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
Our culture has become a culture of self-deception. At the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 4:10 that “the hands of compassionate women ate their own children.” This is a horrifying testimony to egregious wrong. How lamentable is it that a woman would eat her child for the sake of filling her own belly! We read the text and we are aghast.
And yet, in our day 50,000,000 babies are aborted worldwide, mostly for the sake of convenience. This is bad; but worse still is that it doesn’t even seem to upset the world cultures.
The American Civil war ended in 1865, but it didn’t end racial strife in America. Centuries of racial suppression cannot occur without mounds of rationalization and justification. The war might have ended the practice of slavery, but it did not end the rationalization of the ill treatment of others. Only brokenness of such egregious sin against fellow human beings followed by repentance can do that.
History is full of the exploitation of women and the justification of such activity. Giving women the vote as recently as 1920, and thus acknowledging the full humanity of women, did not erase the centuries of rationalized behavior toward women. In fact, the estimated 26,000,000 held captive to sex-slavery today would show that Akrasia still dominates our world and holds us in “the lust of deceit.” Governments may do as they will to try and address these matters. Parties set forth their candidates full of promises of a better world at the hands of their leadership, and elections come and go and still we remain cultures of self-deceit.
What can get us better?
Herein lies our only hope, it is to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus’ power to forgive our sins through his death and resurrection can set us free from evil in the world and its rationalized behaviors. God’s love is ontological. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). His love is not conditioned by our performance: it is not improved by our well doing; nor is it diminished by our bad acts. God is love!
When we begin to understand his love, we can acknowledge our sin and turn to him in humble admission of our guilt.
We can renounce our past practices and the patterns of denial.
We can receive his forgiveness and set out to build our lives anew upon the foundation of his love and grace.
We can begin to address lapses in our own hearts and in the society around us.
If it is God’s love that woos us to him, we can be ambassadors of that love by taking the message of grace to others in the culture of denial.
Politicians and elections may do what they can; all efforts toward goodness should be appreciated in whatever form it may take. But no serious Christian should ever expect that true change in a life, or of a culture, can come without the gospel. And all serious Christians can avoid some level of frustration if they would stop expecting politicians to do what they can do more effectively by sharing the gospel with family, friends, and neighbors.
Denying our role in God’s plan to make his good news known may be one more example of “the lust of deceit.” Repentance must begin with Christians as we confess our lackluster attempts to share the gospel and return to the conviction that Christ truly is the answer to the world’s ills. It does us no good to complain of the conditions around us if we are silent about the gospel. It is sloth on our part if we expect political solutions to the sin problem. Our hope is in the Lord and we must leave off of the lust of deceit that would believe anything less. The world is hungry for God’s good news in Christ and we have the privilege to tell them!
What else can we begin to do once we understand God's love for us? We would love to hear what you have experienced! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted July 30, 2012
This week we hear from Lonna Dickerson, Director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center.
Think You Don’t Have a Ministry? If You Speak English, You Do!
Have you paused recently to look at the people making their way through the aisles of your local grocery store? Have you listened to couples speaking to one another in Spanish, or mothers talking with their children in a language you can't identify? America is changing. Well, it has already changed, that is!
Large cities, small towns, and rural areas across our country are now home to thousands of immigrants and refugees. Some of the newcomers already speak English, but many others need to learn our language. They may need English in order to manage the tasks of everyday life, or they may want to improve their limited language skills so that they can get better jobs. Or they may want to simply help their children with their homework! Whatever their purposes for learning English, the demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction in the United States is on the up and up.
Unfortunately, due to our current budget crisis there have been severe cutbacks in many government-funded and grant-funded ESL programs. This means that existing ESL programs cannot begin to keep up with the need for instruction, and those needing our help are often turned away.
With the demand for ESL at an all-time high, this presents an excellent opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love of Jesus to our new neighbors. By serving as a volunteer in an ESL program, you have many opportunities to reach across cultural boundaries to show the love of Christ—even to those who understand little or no English.
Does that sound a little scary?
One ESL volunteer told me that at first she was quite nervous about tutoring, but after only one session she knew it was going to be a very special experience. After a few weeks she commented, “Tutoring my ESL student has been the most rewarding volunteer experience I've ever had. I think I have finally found the place where God wants me to serve!” Praise God!
So where do you start? How can you find out more about ESL as a ministry?
√ Begin by learning about ESL programs in your area. To do this, go to Literacy Directory >>, and also look in your local phone directory for "ESL", "literacy", "adult education", or "English language training."
√ Be sure to ask those in your church (especially those who are members of minority groups) and with other churches, your local library, community centers, and community colleges.
√ Then, visit a few of these programs and find one where you can volunteer to help out, perhaps as an assistant to the teacher or a conversation partner.
Learn more about ESL teaching and tutoring in the TESOL resources section of our Institute for Cross-Cultural Training website. While at our site, check out our Reach Out with English course for those who want to get a basic foundation in ESL teaching and tutoring. You can also email us with your questions. We’re here to help you have a more effective ESL ministry and we would be glad to hear from you.
Have you been involved in ESL ministry and seen God bless your time? We would love to hear about it! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted July 23, 2012
This week we hear from Laurie Nichols, Communications Coordinator at the Billy Graham Center.
Ordinary Conduits (Like Us!) Can Light Up the World
Nearly every day throughout the year we plug in a set of white lights, which brings character and brilliance to an otherwise boring, fake tree. Recently, these lights died. I purchased another set, more brilliant than the one before, strewn them over the leaves, and went to plug them in. They wouldn’t reach. I needed an extension cord.
That little cord, though quite nondescript, was essential to transforming our little tree into one that glows magnificently, even into the wee hours of the night. The power from our outlet cannot light our tree without that little brown cord.
So it is with us as we seek to be ambassadors that bring light to a dark world. In order for God to “…shine in [one’s] heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), he has chosen to make necessary nondescript, ordinary men and women like us.
Take away you and me and we have a major problem. The hope of salvation and the power of God, as absolutely extraordinary and wonderful as they are, cannot light up the world unless we are willing to be the conduits. We must be willing to have our hearts plugged into the Holy Spirit and our hands reached out to our friends and neighbors who have—like my little strand of lights—potential to shine brilliantly for Christ but lacking in knowledge of how to get plugged in.
Canon Andrew White, lovingly labeled “the vicar of Baghdad,” both shares why we are all needed and demonstrates how we each have the potential to light up our world for Christ. When he was 33, White was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which eventually led him away from Great Britain and into Iraq. “When the Church of England told me I was too ill to continue working because of my MS I went to Baghdad,” he explains.
Balancing receiving stem cell treatments and dealing with other consequences of having MS, White has also played a significant role in peace-building efforts in the Middle East and overseeing an ever-growing St. George’s Anglican congregation. With martyrdom a near-daily occurrence in Baghdad, White has faithfully served as God’s conduit in an area where most Christians wouldn’t dare darken the doorway.
White shares of two others who had a significant impact on Iraq’s Christian presence:
About 2,700 years ago a really miserable evangelist went to Iraq….He was called Jonah. Then about 2,000 years ago another miserable guy turned up on his way to India, called doubting Thomas. He said, “Are you aware that your Messiah has come?” They said, “No, nobody’s told us.” Then they all believed and to this day there has been a strong Christian presence in Iraq. Now what place do you know where they would still remain Christian 2,700 years after the evangelist turned up?
Jonah, the hesitant conduit, later preached God to the Ninevites and saw the entire city repent. Thomas, the doubting conduit, later became perhaps the only apostle to go outside the Roman Empire to preach the gospel. On his way to India, he transformed countless lives and communities. White, a least-likely conduit, has been used to strengthen and grow a fledgling and fearful Christian population which has lived through decades of persecution and violence.
The list of conduits over the course of history, like the list of miracles Jesus performed, is beyond number. Perhaps it could also be said of the people God has used that “…were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Some names are well-known: William Carey, Adoniram Judson, John Wycliffe. Some are lesser-know: Mary at the corner bakery, Bob in the print shop, Judy around the corner. Each a conduit. Each vital to the igniting of a heart for Jesus Christ. You and I are also encouraged and counted to be in that unsaid number of conduits God uses to move his Holy Spirit to dark and barren hearts. Plain and ordinary though we may seem, we are necessary in God’s hope to save all the world.
“Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.” – 1 Samuel 12:16
Who has inspired you to light up the world? How has the Holy Spirit plugged you into a lost world in need of our great God? We would LOVE to hear your stories! Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted July 16, 2012
This week we hear from Paul Ericksen, Director of Resources (Archives & Museum) at the Billy Graham Center.
A Serendipitous Moment
With all the guests, visitors, researchers, and conference attendees coming through the Billy Graham Center, it can sometimes feel like a crowded intersection. You never know who you will cross paths with on the way to the water fountain, in the stairwell, in someone’s office, or in the Museum (especially during the busy conference season here at Wheaton College!).
In my roles overseeing both the Archives and Museum (along with some added responsibilities while our executive director is away for his much-deserved sabbatical), I get to rub shoulders with various people, events, and activities. I am blessed to see the Center’s mission to “accelerate global evangelism” impact those who come off the street.
Let me share one example. Our Museum staff recently helped install the work of three Korean women artists for our Walking With the Creator exhibit that will run through Sunday, September 9.
Although challenging to install on our tallest wall, an enormous portrait of Jesus (13’ x 13’ but made up of 80 small canvases) is a gripping encounter for those coming through our front doors. We also have the Journey of Love on our widest wall. This developed over a number of days as the artist gave shape to her reflection.
For us, however, it’s not just having the pieces on display.
We were especially energized to have Korean American artist Sun Choi (see left) installing her work while 1,500 fellow Asian American Hmong students attended a conference on campus. Nearly 800 of them walked through the Museum as part of their conference experience, many while she was at work.
As they interacted with her and were dwarfed by the oversized Jesus painting, many were deeply inspired to see a fellow Asian American whose skills and creativity joined to express their love for Christ and Christ’s love for them.
We don’t get to plan these encounters. It’s just an example of the serendipity that the Holy Spirit seems to periodically or regularly engineer here at the BGC.
I don’t know what your visit to the BGC might include. Plan now to see these very distinct and engaging artistic reflections. You never know who else you might meet while you’re here.
Have you visited the BGC Museum lately? What has inspired you? Have you had any serendipitous moments? We would love to hear from you. Let's continue the discussion on our facebook page >>
Posted July 9, 2012