By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

A Wake-up Call March 14, 2010

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing a very powerful testimony.  “J” and “E” were visiting my church from the mission field in Turkey.  E is a native of Turkey who is working with J, an American, to reach both Turks and Kurds living in Turkey.  Here’s what I’m sure will be an inadequate synopsis of E’s story:

E grew up in an influential family in Istanbul.  At the age of 12, he felt empty and started searching for truth in the holy books of major world religions.  He started with the Koran.  He then read the Old Testament and the New Testament separately, since he had been taught that Jews believed the Old Testament alone, and Christians believed only the New Testament.  He also explored Buddhism, but none if it seemed right.  Finally, he saw a book titled “The Holy Bible” at a bookstore.  The woman working at the bookstore explained to him that Christians believe the Old and New Testaments together.  So he read them again, this time taking note of all the connections between the two, the prophecies made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.  At the age of 14, E put his faith in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ.  At that point in his life, E had never met another Christian.

E was forced to make difficult choices and suffer for his faith.  He was kicked out of his parents’ house as a teenager because of his faith.  He has been imprisoned for telling others about Christ.  E and J are now ministering to the Kurds, a highly discriminated-against group in Turkey.  For awhile, it was illegal to write, speak or listen to anything in the Kurdish language, Kurmanji.  J and E are trying to provide a way for Kurdish Christians to worship in their own language.  They have held one worship service so far, in the storage room of a church whose pastor was willing to let them meet there.  There is no guarantee that they will continue to be able to meet in that storage room.  It is unusual and unexpected for them to receive any help from the Turks in this endeavor.

After E shared his testimony, he had some tough words for us as we sat comfortably in our pews.  He said the church in America is sleeping and needs to wake up.  He said he doesn’t want to have to send his grandchildren over here to evangelize our grandchildren someday.  And he is absolutely right.

In America, we have the awesome privilege of worshipping in our own language, at our choice of a church, and without fear.  We don’t have to watch the door anxiously, waiting for soldiers or the police to appear.  We have beautiful buildings that are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  We have facilities for Sunday school classes, youth group meetings, basketball games and yoga classes.  We have extensive children’s ministries, music ministries, Vacation Bible Schools, youth programs, college ministries, and on and on.  And yet the church in America is shrinking every day.  Children who are raised in the church are leaving in droves.

Thinking about E’s words, I am more firmly convinced that the American church at large has put its faith in all the wrong things.  We are trusting in our buildings and our programs.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  They can be used for good.  But that is not where our faith should lie, because on their own, they are powerless to change lives.  The power lies in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  E did not grow up in Sunday school.  No one outlined spiritual laws for him or loved him to Jesus.  Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these things.  But E’s testimony shows where the true power lies:  in the Gospel of Christ, given to us in the Word of God and made clear to us by the Holy Spirit.

I spend a lot of time worrying about who my kids spend time with now and who they might choose to spend time with when I’m no longer in control of their every waking minute.  I want them at Sunday school, children’s church, Bible study, and Christian schools and preschools.  And E’s testimony didn’t change my mind about that.  But it did remind me that these things are simply tools.  Without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, these things are powerless to change my children’s hearts.  My own Christian pursuits are also powerless unless I am digging into God’s Word and living by the Spirit.

What are you trusting in:  for yourself, your church, your kids?  Are you attending a church that preaches the Gospel of Christ?  Is His Word preached, or is it an accessory in the worship service?  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.

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Whose clothes are you wearing? March 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 12:48 pm
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In last week’s BSF lesson, we read Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast. In this parable, Jesus is comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. The king (God) invites many to this royal event, but they are too busy with other concerns to attend, and even kill the servants who came with the invitation. The king then invites others who fill the banquet hall. Then one man shows up without the proper wedding garment and is thrown into the outer darkness.

If you read this passage without the larger context of the rest of Scripture, it may sound as though God invites people to the wedding, and if you can’t manage to get the right clothes on, you will be cast out. However, our lesson pointed us to other relevant passages of Scripture:

Isaiah 64:6

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.

The first verse tells us that our best deeds are only like a polluted garment, or as the NIV says, like filthy rags. But the second verse shows us how we get the proper wedding garment–from God Himself, who clothes us with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

How do we get this garment of salvation from God? How can filthy rags be exchanged for a robe of righteousness? 1 Peter 2:24 tells us “He [Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” And Philippians 3:8b-9 says, “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Christ wore our filthy rags on the cross. And God takes Christ’s robe of righteousness and puts it on us. My own fanciest wedding garment cannot get me into the kingdom of heaven. God requires a robe of righteousness, and He supplies it in Christ. If you are in Christ, when God looks at you, He does not see your own record of good deeds and bad. He sees Christ’s perfection, Christ’s righteousness.

So the question is: Whose clothes are you wearing? It is a question I am asking myself and that I need to be asking my kids as they grow in faith. Are we living as though we have been given a garment of salvation, living in obedience out of gratitude to God? Or do we think we can keep wearing our own clothes, working as hard as we can to keep them clean and hoping it will be good enough? I think this distinction is crucial to my kids’ understanding of the Gospel. I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone on how to make sure our kids understand this important truth.

From one of my favorite hymns, “How Much I Owe,” words by Robert Murray McCheyne:

When I stand before the throne, dressed in beauty not my own,

when I see Thee as Thou art, love Thee with unsinning heart,

then, Lord shall I fully know, not ’til then how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me, wakened up from wrath to flee,

hidden in the Savior’s side, by the Spirit sanctified,

then, Lord shall I full know, not ’til then how much I owe.