Mark of Jesus: Loving in a Way the World Can See

Overview

How do we, as Christians, unknowingly block the spread of the Gospel? Timothy George and John Woodbridge unpack the 'blockers' that get in the way. Ultimately, they teach that we must rely on the mark of Jesus - genuine, sacrificial love - to further the good news. A fresh new approach to evangelism.

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The Mark of Jesus: Loving in a Way the World Can See

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Overview

How do we, as Christians, unknowingly block the spread of the Gospel? Timothy George and John Woodbridge unpack the 'blockers' that get in the way. Ultimately, they teach that we must rely on the mark of Jesus - genuine, sacrificial love - to further the good news. A fresh new approach to evangelism.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802481238
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/15/2005
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

TIMOTHY GEORGE is the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School and a professor of Divinity. He is the author of numerous books including Baptists: A Brief History, God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice, and Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?. He is co-author of For All the Saints and The Mark of Jesus. He is currently serving as executive editor for Christianity Today and on the editorial advisory boards of The Harvard Theological Review, Christian History and Books & Culture. Tim resides in Birmingham, Alabama.

JOHN D. WOODBRIDGE (Wheaton College; Michigan State University; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; University of Toulouse, France) is research professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has taught at Trinity since 1970. He previously served as a senior editor of Christianity Today. He is author of a number of books including The Mark of Jesus: Loving in a Way the World Can See, Ambassadors for Christ, and Great Leaders of the Christian Church. Dr. Woodbridge and his wife, Susan, reside in Lake Forest, Illinois, and have three children.

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Read an Excerpt

In a way difficult for us to fathom, how we as Christians relate to one another has a direct bearing upon whether the world will know that Jesus comes from the Father. When this incredibly important point is grasped, we begin to understand that we ignore this neglected "apologetic" to our great loss. Neither our evangelistic efforts, nor our social action, nor our apologetic efforts will receive God's full blessing if we do not evidence the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our relations with each other as believers. The mark of Jesus in us is crucial, and it is compelling.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Imagine: A World Without God

1. The Christian's Mark

2. Loving Your Neighbor When It Seems Impossible

3. Evangelical Unity Drawing Boundaries and Crossing Barriers

4. When the World Calls Us Hypocrites How Should We Respond?

5. What's in a Name?
Are We All Fundamentalists?

6. But What About People of Other Religions?

Conclusion Bearing the Mark of Jesus In "Anxious Times"

Notes

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First Chapter

THE MARK OF JESUS

LOVING IN A WAY THE WORLD CAN SEE
By TIMOTHY GEORGE JOHN WOODBRIDGE

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2005 Timothy George and John Woodbridge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8024-8123-X


Chapter One

The Christian's Mark

Contrary to what you might have been told, the Bible reaches that we should care about what other people think of us. We should not "repay anyone evil for evil," but "do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Romans 12:17, italics added). Writing to the Philippians from prison, Paul declared that his difficult circumstances were really serving the advance of the Gospel because it had "become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ" (Philippians 1:13).

The early Christians were concerned, and rightly so, about the impressions unbelievers-"outsiders"-might carry away from a visit to their worship service (1 Corinthians 14:23-24). And, among the pastoral qualifications set forth in the New Testament, is this one: "He must also have a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Timothy 3:7). Jesus Himself said that we are to let our light shine before others so that they can see our good works (Matthew 5:16).

This does not mean that we should trim our convictions or shape our behavior in order to curry favor with the world around us. But we should never forget that Jesus does give the world the right to decide whether we are true Christians based upon our observable love for one another. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). How else could they know? They cannot peer into our hearts. But they can read our lips, see our lives, and observe the way we relate to one another. Above all else, Jesus said, this is the telling mark of a Christian.

In the next two chapters, we are going to look at some of the common charges and misperceptions often leveled against Christians by a watching world. In this chapter, however, we want to begin by looking at ourselves.

Why are Christians so often at each other's throats? Wily are so many church splits centered around personalities and petty politics? Why is Christian unity so seldom preached about in Bible-believing churches? We shall answer these questions by looking at Paul's interaction with the dynamic but fractious congregation at Corinth.

In the course of his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul had a sudden change of itinerary. Instead of continuing east, as he had originally planned, he responded to his vision of a Macedonian man begging him, "Come over and help us" (see Acts 16:9). Crossing the Aegean Sea, he began to preach the Gospel on European soil. First to Philippi, then to Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and finally to Corinth, Paul brought the message of Jesus Christ.

The Mess at Corinth

Corinth was a bustling seaport at the crossroads of the shipping lanes between East and West. Here Roman power met Greek culture mingled with Oriental mysticism and gnostic spirituality. In Corinth, the drinking was hard, the economy was corrupt, the sex was sizzling, and the politics was cutthroat. Everything was up for grabs. Corinth was a postmodern city before postmodern was cool.

Here in this caldron of sensuality and syncretism, a church was born; "the church of God in Corinth," Paul called it. Paul was not only the evangelist who planted this church; he was also its founding pastor. For eighteen months, he stayed with its members, sharing their joys and sorrows, their heartaches and struggles as only a pastor can share such things. How else are we to understand a verse like this: "I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you" (2 Corinthians 2:4)? Again, he wrote, "I speak as to my children.... Make room for us in your hearts" (2 Corinthians 6:13; 7:2).

Paul's heart was broken because he had received a report that the church in Corinth, the church he had planted and nurtured and fathered in God, was hopelessly divided. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians bristles with conflict. Many of the issues that troubled that New Testament congregation are with us still. Beginning at the end of First Corinthians and working our way back to the opening chapters, we can identify at least fourteen major sources of quarreling, bickering, and dissension in this church:

Chapter 16 Chapter 16 opens with a word about money. Paul is taking a collection to send to the beleaguered Christians in Jerusalem, and he wants the brothers and sisters at Corinth to contribute to this missionary offering. Some people in this church had pledged to support the mission offering but had now gone back on their promise. Others were contributing begrudgingly, out of a sense of mere duty, rather than from generosity and joy. So Paul writes back to remind them that "God loves a cheerful giver" and that God Himself is the greatest giver of all, for He has blessed us with the "inexpressible gift" of His own Son (2 Corinthians 9:7, 15 ESV).

Chapter 15 First Corinthians 15 is about eschatology, the second coming of Christ. Many Christians in our day are divided over these same issues. Should we interpret the millennium as a literal one-thousand-year reign of Christ on earth or as a figurative term referring to the age of the church or to God's sovereign rule over history? When will the Antichrist be revealed? How does the state of Israel relate to God's prophetic timetable? In Corinth, the arguments were about whether there would be a resurrection in the future, the nature of our glorified bodies, and baptism for the dead.

Chapter 14 Chapter 14 is about worship wars. What about speaking in tongues? Raucous business meetings? Women preachers? "When you come together," Paul declares, "each one of you has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (verse 26 ESV). Confusion and chaos was the order of the day.

Chapter 12 Chapter 12 is about spiritual gifts: healing, miracles, and prophecy.

Chapter 11 Chapter 11 is about clothing, specifically, feminine fashions: What should women wear to church?

Chapters 10-11 Chapter 10-and 11 too (verses 17-33)-deal with the Lord's Supper. This was not just a liturgical dispute over the proper eucharistic ritual. It concerned the very nature of the fellowship the believers at Corinth shared with one another around the Lord's Table. Some of the richer members were gorging themselves at a sumptuous dinner, while the poor members, including slaves, went home hungry. This disparity made a mockery of their participation in the body and blood of Christ symbolized in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper.

Chapters 8-9 Chapters 8 and 9 deal with a controverted issue of food offered to idols. At the heart of this dispute was a deeper issue: How sensitive should Christians be to one another? How careful should they be not to give offense?

Chapter 7 Chapter 7 takes up family issues: divorce, marriage, sexuality, and celibacy.

Chapter 6 Chapter 6 deals with how Christians are to settle disputes with one another in a litigious society. Should Christians sue one another in the secular law courts?

Chapter 5 Chapter 5 is about sexual immorality and the need for church discipline within the congregation.

Chapter 4 Chapter 4 refers to pride and arrogance among leaders in the church.

Chapter 3 Chapter 3 is about spiritual immaturity.

Chapter 2 Chapter 2 warns against the danger of intellectualizing, the Gospel.

Chapter 1 Chapter 1 is about party strife and cliques within the congregation.

Paul wanted the church in Corinth to "be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV). But, in fact, a four-way split had developed within the church. "One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ'" (1 Corinthians 1:12). The Paul party, the Peter party, and the Apollos party had all made celebrities out of their favorite preachers. The church at Corinth was in danger of being seduced by the pagan culture around it, and ministers of the Gospel turned into glamorous heroes-"jocks in the pulpit." God had given these leaders to the church to be "servants" (3:5), but instead they had become a source of enmity and division.

The results are no different with a fourth group, the Christ party, who claimed that they were the ones who really belonged to Christ, unlike the others. But their confidence wasn't really in Christ; it was in themselves-their orthodoxy, their uprightness, their special status. With reference to this group, Paul later wrote: "If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he" (2 Corinthians 10:7). In other words, Paul said to them: "The fact that you 'belong to Christ' is wonderful. This makes grace more immeasurable; it does not make you more memorable!"

The Overarching Sin: Pride

At the heart of all these divisions was the sin of pride. In the name of purity, tradition, correctness, and spirituality, the church at Corinth became puffed up. In their pride, they sniped at each other and walked around on stilts above their Christian brothers. During the Reformation, Martin Luther reminded those who wanted to exalt him above measure: "The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?"

When the world looks at us, as it did at the Christians in Corinth, what does it see? Do we come across as genuine servants of Christ, those willing to put the interests of others ahead of our own? Or are we better known for our partisan competitions, personal rivalries, and cliquish exclusivism? What does Jesus think when He looks down on all of this?

What does Paul say to the warring factions in Corinth? We might expect him to say something like this: "You folks need to back the party that bears my name. I am the founding pastor of your church! These other people, followers of Peter, Apollos, and the so-called Christ party, they're all newcomers, interlopers. When the next church business meeting comes around, we need to get out all of the Pauline folk to vote the right way!" But, instead, Paul says to all of these groups: "Come down from your wisdom, your arrogance, pride, and condescension toward your brothers and sisters. Come down to the cross, where all of our human pretensions are shown to be folly, where God alone is great, and Jesus alone is Lord."

Three Questions

In this context, Paul asks three crucial questions in 1 Corinthians 1:13.

1. "Is Christ divided?" Eugene Peterson translates this text: "Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?" (THE MESSAGE). You're acting, Paul says, as though Christ was a chunk of meat, a commodity you can buy down at the butcher shop, something to be hacked and diced up and passed around like hors d'oeuvres at a party! The Greek word here is memeristai, which means to divide into parties or sects. We could translate Paul's question this way: Is Christ a partisan? Is Christ sectarian? The very idea, of course, is ludicrous. Christ is not divisible.

The church of the New Testament is the church of the undivided Christ. This fact alone separated Christianity from the pagan religions of the ancient Mediterranean world. Wherever one looked in Corinth, there loomed polytheism. On top of the nearby mountain stood the great temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The cult of the Roman emperor also flourished there, as did many of the mystery religions imported from Egypt and the East. No wonder Paul could say that in the world there are many "gods" and many "lords." Yet for us, he insisted, "there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (8:6 ESV). Jesus Christ cannot be divided, because there is only one God, and Jesus is divine not in the sense of the Greek gods, whose divinity was mutable and contingent, but rather as the One who has come from "the bosom of the Father" to disclose the one eternal God who has forever known Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Here is Paul's point: There is a direct correlation between ecclesiology and Christology, between the church and its heavenly head, Jesus Christ. And when we live in rancor, bitterness, and enmity with one another, we are sinning not only against our brother and sister, but also against Christ. This is a lesson Paul learned on the first day he became a Christian. On his way to persecute believers in Damascus, he was suddenly halted by the risen Christ, who asked him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4 ESV). He might well have responded, "I am not persecuting You. I'm on my way to arrest these miserable Christians!" But Jesus' question to Saul implies that it is not possible to hurt those who belong to Him, those who have been redeemed by His blood, without also hurting Him. "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40). This perspective elevates the question of disunity and conflict among believers to an entirely new level. Would we say about Jesus what we have said about some of our colleagues, friends, and fellow church members? Would we direct our anger at Him the way we have held grudges or harbored bitter thoughts against them? How would we act at the next elders' meeting if Jesus showed up?

2. "Was Paul crucified for you?" Here Paul reminds the Corinthian believers that their lives in Christ are inextricably bound up with what happened one Friday afternoon in Jerusalem outside the gates of the city when Jesus was impaled on a Roman cross. Why does he mention the cross at this point? Because the cross is where all the bragging stops. Behind all the side-choosing and sloganeering-"I am of Paul," "I am of Apollos," etc.-

Continues...


Excerpted from THE MARK OF JESUS by TIMOTHY GEORGE JOHN WOODBRIDGE Copyright © 2005 by Timothy George and John Woodbridge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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