Today, for the post here, I am going to do something a bit different than normal. Something that I am really excited about, (but also a bit nervous too…).
As most of you saw on the last post from a few days ago, we dug a bit deeper into some of the core of what “Creating Families” means to us by answering the top eleven most commonly asked questions that we get at the events on our tour here in America. We were excited to see the post was spreading well, as of today more than 1500 people have read it. Yesterday though, I noticed a comment on that post that I wanted to come back and address here, the topic is simply to deep to answer within a comment, and so I am making a whole post out of it.
I have to warn you though, this is a topic near and dear to my heart, it is the “everything” to us and why we do what we do. My hands were shaking as I wrote this, not because I was scared what you would think, but rather I want this to be something that stirs you on the inside. I believe God is moving, and good things will come. But oh-man does my voice start shaking when I stand up like this.
First off I want to share the comment with you, it came from a woman named Laura.
Laura, I hope this is not too much spotlight for you to see your comment here on the blog like this… I don’t mean to call you out, I just really want to address this question head on, we feel it is important not to have any grey areas when it comes to the gospel and our beliefs.
Ok? Does that sound good to everyone? Can we open up and have a discussion here? (You are more than welcome to jump in the comments here and share your voice as well.)
So let’s start with Laura’s comment:
Hi Levi and Jessie ~
I read your book and really enjoyed it. Thank you. I do have one concern though. You never say what you believe the Gospel IS. To some people sharing the Gospel is just telling others that God loves them and died for them. Are you just teaching that or are you teaching the kids about their sin and how they need a Savior? This is extremely important to me to be able to support Bring Love In. If sin and repentance are not part of your Gospel that does concern me. The kids should be able to SEE their sin by showing them the law (e.g. ~ Have you ever told a lie? Then what does that make you?, Have you ever stolen anything? Then what does that make you? ) If they actually can see their own sin and how it’s sending them to hell then they’ll be able to see their need for a Saviour. I’m not meaning to sound difficult. I just would really love to support you but don’t feel like I should if it’s not as strong of a Gospel message. Thank so much for all that you do. Your family is truly amazing and I’m proud of you. Please don’t feel as if I’m attacking you. That part of the work is just so important to me. Thanks!
First off, I want to say thank you! Laura, this is a great question, and given the broad spectrum of beliefs out there, and the plethora of purely humanitarian driven motives that drive so many to work with orphans, you are right to ask. You should know who you are supporting, and what it is they believe, and are teaching, before signing up. And so let me tell you that I applaud you for stepping up and asking the question, I hope that more people take your lead and make sure they know who it is that they are supporting and what they believe.
Now, in regards to who we are, and what we believe/teach/live-out in our work.
We believe that the Bible is whole, true, and accurate, and that it is God’s word for us here on earth, we believe that Jesus came to this earth to save us, and that He died on the cross for our sins, and because of His death we are able to live in Christ.
Personally we are sent out by a non-denominational Christian Church in Roseville, California called Redeemer Christian Church. The pastor and his wife also serve on the Bring Love In board of directors along with other Bible believing Christians. All of whom are directly involved in the planning and direction of the work we do.
On the Ethiopian side all of our staff are Christian, many come from several different local Protestant Churches, but the bulk of our staff attend a wonderful church called The Anointed Word of God, a thriving Christian Church in Addis Ababa that places a strong emphasis on discipleship through small groups, and Bible study. The pastor is a good friend of ours, and has proven an excellent resource for the work that we do in Ethiopia. We believe that this church shares our beliefs on what the bible teaches, what the gospel is, and how we are to live it out in our lives today. And we hope to continue to find our key leaders from within this congregation as they getting a biblical education through their church that is aligned with what we believe.
Now, to get a little more specific on your questions about sin, the gospel, and hell.
We believe that the determining factor in our relationship with God is not our past or present, but rather his past and present. Meaning, that although we are sinners, we believe that our sin is not what defines us, or our relationship with God, or our access to heaven (or salvation).
2 Corinthians 5:21 Says something that I believe to be key to this point here.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We are counted as righteous not because of our works, or the absence of sin in our lives, but because Christ transferred our sin onto Himself.
Think of it this way, if you take your family out to a nice dinner, one where everyone gets a big plate of food, and you even sport for the sodas and dessert for the kids, then, when it comes time to pay you ask for the bill and your server tells you. “Oh, your bill has already been taken care of by the older couple who just left that table behind you”
Your debt, the one that was owed from your meal was taken care of by someone else, just in the same way, our debt, the one that was owed because of our sin, was taken care of by someone else, in this case Jesus.
Thus the gospel is not about what we do or don’t do, but rather about what Jesus already did.
He died, and we get to live.
Now, you might ask, are you saying that we can just keep on sinning then? By no means! I am just saying that none of what you earn in Jesus has to do with that sin, he loves you anyway, and fully expects that you are going to mess up sometimes. But because of that great love, that feeling of being given a gift that we don’t deserve, we are then compelled to try and stop sinning, and use our lives for something greater than ourselves.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 2:24
To us, “Healed” means we are no longer driven to sin, but rather driven to worship Him with our lives because of what He did for us.
To answer your question as to our teaching our kids that they are sinners, I would have to say yes, we tell them they are sinners, and so are we, but in that same sentence we keep going and explain the rest of the story, the beauty of how we have been rescued from that sin, and the payment that was due because of it.
We are free!
Yet we understand that we still live in a fallen world, and that being “free” does not mean we will never mess up again, but rather Jesus will always be standing there ready to forgive us when we do.
I recently read this in a wonderful book by Tullian Tchividjian called Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
“So often we fall into the trap of believing that our salvation was first attained by God’s grace, but then we must keep that salvation by our works.”
Works never got us anything! We need the same grace that bought our salvation every day of our walk with Christ. And we will no more be able to buy our way into heaven today, than when we said the sinners prayer on the first day we came to Him.
The truth is performance based Christianity is no better than living one’s life in blatant sin, one just happens to look a little better, and make us feel a little more justified in that we are earning something. Either way you are taking one thing or another and putting it in that space inside us that Jesus was meant to fill.
When Jesus died for our sins, it was a finished work-done once and for all! And only when we are able to put our faith in that completed work will we be able to free ourselves from the torturous grip of sin, (or legalism).
I love how Romans 5:6-8 puts it.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The gospel is about Jesus, the work He did for us in freeing us from our sin, despite what we deserved. When we teach our kids, we teach them about this gift they have received, and how this changes everything!
No longer are we underneath the sin, but through Him we are free!
To quote Tullian again to help illustrate what happens next after we have received this gift of salvation.
“Real spiritual growth happens when we look up to Christ and what He has already done, out to our neighbors and what they need, not into ourselves and how we are doing.”
This we believe is the second step that comes naturally after we have the forgiveness that Jesus gave us when we accept Him into our lives, we then want to go out and show that same love to others.
We want to give because we have been given to.
We become people who are glowing with the love that He shows us, and we start showing it to others.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
The Bible teaches us to be driven by faith and gratefulness, not by fear and guilt. We are here to show His love to the kids who come into our families, and to bring them a first a practical version of God’s incredible grace, then we teach them about the gift that is theirs from Him. The gift of forgiveness, and grace, the gift of getting what we don’t deserve, and will never be able to earn.
Lastly, when it comes to hell. Yes, hell is a very real place (sorry Rob Bell, I have to disagree with you here), and we are not going to pretend that it does not exist, yet at the same time we are never going to preach that it is our works that keeps us out of hell.
Because it is not.
It is God’s grace for those who have put their hope and trust in Him, that brings us into eternity with Him, despite what we deserve.
All are sinners, all have fallen short, and deserve hell, yet for those who believe, for those who have faith in Him, we are able to spend our time here on earth sharing His love with others, and looking forward to forever with Him.
And that is what we believe, and teach at Bring Love In, the core of who we are, and why we do what we do.
If you don’t agree, that is fine! We are not here to shove our beliefs down your throat because no one ever came to trust in God by having faith crammed on them, but we do want you to know what we believe, and why we do what we do.
If anyone out there wants to put their faith in Jesus because of the beautiful forgiveness that He offers, I would be more than happy to talk with you. (I know, sounds kind of funny to end a post this way) But I am serious! I want you to know that Jesus does love you, and He will accept you no matter what you have done, or what hurt you have in your heart.
Just the same way that these children who are coming into these new families we are creating are getting a second chance, we do are being given a chance to truly live despite what we may have done, or have had done to us.
My email address is Levi@bringlove.in Feel free to write if you want to talk.
And just like I said at the beginning of this post, the comments are open here if you want to join the discussion.