Blog

by:
Ben Janssen

We kicked off a new study based on Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God. For this first session, Keller introduced us via DVD to the parable traditionally known as “The Prodigal Son.” He pointed out that this parable is told in two acts, the first dealing with the so-called “prodigal” and the second dealing with his elder brother.

The younger son gives us a traditional picture of sin, while the elder brother demonstrates that even those who appear to do everything “right” can also be alienated from God. In this parable, both sons want their father’s things rather than the father himself. The only difference between them is the strategy they use to get what they want. And one very important thing we learn from the two sons is that you can escape God as much through morality and religion as you can through immorality and irreligion./p pWhat stood out to you from our study this week? Go to our Facebook page and continue the conversation!

by:
Ben Janssen

Here’s an exercise for those of you who were at the Bible study this past Sunday evening (or for those of you who’d like to interact anyway). Read Tiger Woods’ comments from his website. What do you see as signs of true or false repentance?

This is not meant to be an exercise to make us judgmental, so please refrain from condemnatory comments against Mr. Woods and do not speculate. Rather, based on the wording of his comments and what we talked about Sunday night, what do you see? This will help us all grow in our awareness of the differences between true and false repentance.

Note: the comments section of this blog are still not operable, so make your comments on our Facebook page.

by:
Ben Janssen

THE FOLLOWING IS A FOLLOW-UP POST FROM OUR BIBLE STUDY LAST NIGHT. WE COVERED LESSON 5 IN THE GOSPEL-CENTERED LIFE.

If Martin Luther was correct in asserting that it was Jesus’ will for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance, then it is necessary for us to consider how repentance should be practiced regularly in our lives. The problem is that we are skilled practitioners of false repentance. We are accustomed to patterns of remorse and resolution in how we deal with our sin. And behind this pattern is our misunderstanding and unbelief about the depth of our sin and brokenness. We think that if we just try hard enough we can fix the problem.

True repentance moves us to realize and repent. We realize that the reason we sin is because we really are sinners! Sin runs deep within our hearts. In repentance we move toward Christ as our only hope for forgiveness and transformation. We end up magnifying the cross and our need for the gospel to bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

Repentance is hard work. So it is tempting to excuse our sin by justifying our actions. But if sin is a condition and not just a behavior, then true repentance is a lifestyle, not just an occasional practice. Rather than excusing our sin today, we need to let the gospel wash over our souls. Resolution is not sin-defeating; repentance is.

DID YOU ATTEND THE BIBLE STUDY LAST NIGHT (Nov 29)? FEEL FREE TO COMMENT BELOW.

Update: The comments section of our blog is not working at this time due to a coding error. We are working on this and apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you to those of you who have contacted us to let us know about this problem. We will update this post when the issue is resolved.

by:
Ben Janssen

Our last core value at Crosstown Church is unashamedly unAmerican. We value dependence. We believe that the Church will succeed in its mission only by relying on the power of Christ. Therefore we happily embrace every opportunity to express and to celebrate our total dependence on God and his power to carry out his mission in this world.

In a culture that rightly celebrates political independence, it is easy to overlook the reality of how dependent we already are on God. The Bible asserts that if God chose to “gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14-15). The next breath you take is on loan from God! Even those who adamantly declare their independence form everyone and from everything are, according to Romans 6:16, slaves to the sin they submit to.

If Crosstown—or any other church for that matter—succeeds in our mission, it will only be because of God’s power. We may think it was our effort or hard work or ingenuity that is to be credited, but God will jealously protect his own glory. When Christ established the Church, he made it clear why it would not fail: “I will build my church,” he said (Matt 16:18).

Therefore it is possible to “do our best” and still fail. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psa 127:1). While God is not telling us to lay down our hammers and nails, he is saying that all of the human effort in the world can do nothing if God is not empowering it. Even “good works” done in pride and apart from divine enablement are doomed to fail (see Mark 9:14-29).

by:
Ben Janssen

Crosstown Church exists for the glory of God and for the good of all people, so our fifth core value is the CITY. We believe that society benefits from a healthy Christian community living out the implications of their faith. In other words, communities in which there is a vibrant, healthy Christian witness will derive much good as that Christian witness lives out their faith. The reason why this is true is because Christian communities that are moved by the gospel will produced good deeds that are profitable for all. This is what the Bible clearly teaches. “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” (Titus 3:8)

One reason why the church is often not known for its good works in society is because our understanding of the gospel is too small. Our gospel is too small when we seem to only care about getting to heaven or when we have nothing to offer people now. Somehow we have communicated that the gospel message is other-worldly and that the only thing we care to know about this present life is how to escape its corruption.

Now it is true that the kingdom of God is distinct from the kingdom of man. Our goal is not to “take America for Christ” as if God’s kingdom could be had through political victories (see John 18:36). God is extending his kingdom today through the gospel whereby God’s reign over the hearts of people is extended through grace. But this does not mean we are to forfeit our citizenship in the kingdom of this age. Christians are in fact citizens of two kingdoms, and our primary role as citizens of the kingdom of man is to serve side by side with our neighbors—Christian and non-Christian alike—to seek the peace and prosperity of our city. This is exactly what God told his people to do while they were in captivity in Babylon for 70 years.

by:
Ben Janssen

I was stopped by a reporter from The Oklahoman yesterday as I was leaving the downtown post office and asked about my thoughts regarding President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. This morning’s paper quotes me as saying, “There’s been a lot of talk, but not much action thus far. I hope he ends up deserving the award he just got.”

I support Obama as the recipient of the award. Sure, I am just as uncertain as he is that he has already accomplished enough to deserve an award that usually goes to those who have a record of achievement for peace. But this is no reason to criticize our president for being awarded a peace prize, premature though it may be. He knows there is far more yet to be done in the quest for peace.

Disagreements over how peace can be achieved will always exist, but that should not prevent Christians from cheering on our political leaders in their efforts. More importantly, we who worship The Prince of Peace ought be quick to intercede on behalf of our elected officials. Those who work for peace need our prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-2) much more than our criticisms.

The psalmist sings out, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psa 122:6). Let us use our voices to join in that chorus of prayer rather than using them to question the president’s credentials for the award.

by:
Ben Janssen

Our fourth core value is mentoring. It is a word that describes the premier task that Jesus commanded his followers to attend to.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

When Jesus told his followers to “make disciples” he was telling them to do what he had done for them. Jesus had twelve guys he “discipled” for a few years. These twelve were to “be with him” so that “he might send them out to preach” the gospel. In other words, the key to discipleship is intentionally investing your life into the life of another. That’s what we mean by mentoring. We chose that word over “discipleship” because we want to stress the intentionality of investing your life into someone else rather than merely the idea of passing on information.

We see an example of this kind of intentionality in Paul’s command to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul wanted Timothy to leave Ephesus to be with him in his final days on earth (2 Timothy 4:9). But before Timothy left his post, Paul wanted to be sure that the Christian faith would continue there, so he explained the process for passing on the faith.

by:
Ben Janssen

In a previous post, I asked the question, “What would it mean to take the city for the sake of the gospel?” Another way of saying this might be, “What should be the Church’s strategy for the city, and how then should we measure success?”

PUSH BACK THE DARKNESS

Perhaps “taking the city” means invading areas of darkness in our city and pushing the darkness out (or back). This would mean going into the poorest and/or most dangerous neighborhoods, living missionally there, and seeing the community become cleaner, safer, and possibly even richer. Criminal activity such as drug dealing and gangs would be pushed out.

While this is a worthy goal, and one that Christians ought to strongly consider as their calling, I do not think this is the best way for us to phrase our strategy. I think it is idealistic (if not utopian) to believe that we can completely eliminate all the social ills of our cities. Push back (or out) the darkness and it will go somewhere else. Jesus even implied that poverty will not be completely eliminated in this life.

Let me clarify. I do think the gospel impacts society in a beneficial way, so that if the church sees some measure of success it might very well look like we are “pushing back the darkness” of our community. I am just saying that since the darkness will not be completely expelled until Christ returns, the Church continues to exist in the “already-not-yet” phase of God’s Kingdom. So while we can have real success in solving some of the social ills of our city, we must not make that the criterion by which we measure our effectiveness in this city.

MAJOR REVIVAL

by:
Ben Janssen

The third core value for Crosstown Church is community. No other passage of Scripture illustrates the kind of Christian community we value better than Acts 2:42-47. In verse 42 we read about the devotion these early Christians had for their new community.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

To be devoted to something means that you make time for it. When you are devoted to something you make it such a priority that other things are set aside if need be in order to attend to it. What was it the early Christians were devoted to?

  • The apostles’ teaching
  • The fellowship
  • The breaking of bread
  • The prayers

They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching because the apostles were teaching what they had learned directly from Christ. Today we have the writings of the apostles (the New Testament) so that we can learn from them as well. The fellowship may be a broad word that is further clarified by the next two. In other words, devotion to the fellowship meant participation in what the community of Christians did together, namely the breaking of bread and the prayers. The breaking of bread involves the sharing of a meal together followed by observance of the Lord’s Supper. And the fact that the early church was devoted to the prayers indicates that prayer was a central practice in the life of the community.

The fact that the early Christians devoted themselves to these things indicates that these were the important, non-negotiable aspects of church life. Accordingly, Crosstown Church endeavors to devote ourselves to these things even if at the expense of other “good” activities.

by:
Ben Janssen

The second core value at Crosstown is all about worship. But we don’t call this second core value worship because many people think of worship as the 30 minute musical aspect that typically begins a church service on Sunday morning. But that is not what we have in mind. What we have in mind is what is described in Romans 12:1.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The kind of worship described here is the only kind of worship that is acceptable to God. It is all-of-life worship, the offering up of one’s body as a living sacrifice. This is called our “spiritual worship,” but this does not refer to some sort of inner attitude toward God as if there is no external requirement. Notice it involves the offering up of our bodies. What is being described here is “true worship,” over against false worship. In other words, the only kind of worship that is acceptable to God is the kind that involves every area of our life and not a mere 30 minute song-sing on Sunday. This is what is later described in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

You can’t get much more basic than one’s eating or drinking and yet this Scripture says that even in these activities we are to worship God. This is a radical way of thinking. It involves a transformation in our thinking as the next verse in Romans 12 explains.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)