Pastor Harry Reeder: Churches must stay on-mission as evangelists, not cultural acceptance-seekers
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Listen to the 10 min audio
Read the transcript:
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Today in Perspective, we deal with a number of different news stories.
Each of these stories that we deal with, obviously, we try to hit them head-on and we try to give a perspective through the lens of Scripture so that believers might be able to be salt and light in the public square and take with them some of God’s common grace as we apply his principles to the situations of life.
But, Harry, is there another answer? Is the ultimate answer something larger?
DR. REEDER: You know, Tom, that’s exactly right and this is something that is very important, I know, to you and it is to me. We work from a perspective that you are not an accident.
You know, when I pick up an iPhone, I know that that thing didn’t come together because unexplained parts, I don’t know how they came into existence – somehow got thrown into a place and then, all of a sudden, an iPhone came out. I know when I see that iPhone, somebody designed it, somebody made the parts, somebody put it together – I know that.
Well, when I look at this world, I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. I can’t look at everything and not believe that there is a God – it just doesn’t make any sense.
And that means, if there’s a God who made us with all that which is good and beautiful and true, then how did it get marred?
I believe God’s already told us, “It got marred because of your sin,” but this same God is a God of love and grace and mercy so that, while He cannot wink at sin, He has made a way for sinners to be saved and that way is His Son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world.
“A body has been prepared for me.” Why? So that He could defeat Satan, sin, our death, our sin – He could defeat all of it on the cross. And now He has risen, He is at the right hand of the Father, and He offers eternal life. That is what I believe the answer is.
It is God’s answer and it is good news. The bad news is we’re sinners, our sin is ever before us, our sin always takes us deeper into its clutches and there is no way out – our religion can’t save us, our sincerity can’t save us – only the grace of God can.
And that’s what we want to proclaim to people – that’s the ultimate news you just referred to – but we also go a step further.
As you and I work through these programs, we know that this God has created humanity and has established for humanity three institutions that are crucial: the state, the church and the family. They are interdependent, but they are not hierarchical – the state does not own the church or the family; the church does not own the state or the family; the family does not own the church and the state. They all exist under God.
For those who listen to us, you, personally, and your family need to know, “How do I Biblically – that is, in a way that God has revealed – how do I relate to the church and state and what do I expect the church and the state to do?”
The church’s mission, while consequentially it speaks to all kinds of issues, its mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. “You are to go evangelize. You are to baptize them, enfold the believer in this household into the body of Christ. You are to teach them, that is, to equip them to observe all that I have commanded you and I am with you always.”
Our mission is not only the message of the Gospel and the call to evangelism, enfolding and equipping of God’s people, to win, to train and to send people into the world to serve Jesus Christ in every sphere of society, but the second thing is we’re to do it by embracing the Great Commandment, which is “Love the Lord with all of your heart, your soul, and your mind and then, in light of that, to love your neighbor even as you would love yourself in loving God with heart, soul and mind.”
That then leads me into the public arena, not only with the message of the Gospel, but with the truth of God’s word because I love my neighbor.
I want my neighbor to know that, “While you might not have a Christian marriage, you certainly ought to embrace marriage because that’s how God created you.
You may not want to embrace sexuality for the sake of the Gospel the way God has said it, but I still want you to know that you cannot put sex outside of marriage without having terrible consequences in your life and in the culture.
I want you to love life because Jesus loves life and the power of the Gospel gives you the love of life but, even if you don’t, I want the sanctity of life to still rule in the public square because I don’t want the culture of death to destroy people, which I know is what has happened, and is happening, and will happen.”
Therefore, we will speak to those issues, but our mission and our message is to make disciples – evangelize, enfold, equip and send them into the world. Tom, until the church in the United States of America gets back to that, we’re not going to do the job.
Right now, the church is trying to be culture players. There is the left side, the progressive side, that refuses to speak to the issues of the sanctity of sexuality, the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctity of gender from a Christian world and life view because they want to be accepted and they want to be a player in the world of culture.
And then there’s the other side which says those things are wrong, but now the church has become a culture instrument, a shaper of the culture, instead of an entity fully committed to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment – which, when done, will affect the culture – but our mission is not to change the culture; our mission is to spread the Gospel of the kingdom of God to this nation and to all the other nations.
Now, if we do our job well, by the power of the Spirit of God, what will happen? A culture will be blessed. Tom, that’s what we bring. We are actually posted on a number of news programs, a number of stations and a number of websites and I am grateful for all of it, but we are not there to be political players.
We’re there to bring the world and life view that is buttressed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an insatiable appetite that you and I both enjoy together and that is to fulfill the Great Commission – to make disciples of all the nations – and we want to do that in our own nation, and, Tom, to love our neighbor as ourselves because we love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind.
The church doing that is exactly why our founding fathers put in place a Bill of Rights and, in that Bill of Rights, a First Amendment, and in that First Amendment, six Affirmations of Liberty and, of those, the very first one was the freedom of the practice of religion.
They knew, No. 1, the state’s job, from a Biblical world and life view, was not to pick and choose the religion to be accepted because we can’t trust the government to do that. They knew that they wouldn’t trust future governments to pick the right religion. And when that field of religion is opened up with freedom, they knew that Christianity would win the day.
A federal republic ruled by law can only exist when, in fact, you have a moral people, which is why they said America is only great if our churches are great. And, when the church of Jesus Christ did its job, Great Awakening No. 1, Great Awakening No. 2, the revivals that we experienced in the 50’s and 60’s that were of some benefit – whenever it does that, that’s what benefits the culture.
And it turns out people who know how to live with all of life under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ and bringing the benefit to that culture, all because of the power of sovereign grace of Jesus Christ who loves to take sinners right where they are, forgive them, rebuild them, transform them, and then send them into the world to serve Him in their business, in their neighborhood, in their family and among their friends and that begins to shape a culture.
We’re just on the other side of Thanksgiving – well, my wife and my sisters made that Thanksgiving meal that we all sat down to, those vegetables, oh, man, they’re good. I know a part of what made them good was the salt and it didn’t take much salt to change that whole bowl of vegetables if the salt was salty.
And that’s what we need to make sure that a clear salty message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of light that shines into darkness – salt and light – and watch the light dissipate the darkness and the salt penetrate, permeate, purify and preserve all that is around it.
And that’s why we’ve got to stay, dare I say it again, on-mission, on-message and in the ministry God has given to us believers which includes the declaration of truth and love to the public square.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.