Not Just Another Sample

 

Costco has become one of my favorite places. Especially on Tuesday mornings when I go with Ian (our three-year-old). The place is still pretty empty. So Ian can run around, climb on the furniture, and “help” push the cart without bothering anyone—most of the time.

The morning gets better if we arrive at just the right time to miss the crowds but still get the samples. Samples are seriously a grace of God. Often Ian will ask for something, try it, then hand it to me and say, “I don’t want it.” Great! More1280px-Costcostorehenderson samples for me.

It’s the nature of samples to fish for preferences. Samples aren’t made for anyone in particular. Instead they are put out for the masses. The hope is that someone will have a preference for the sample and want more. But sometimes, few people have a preference for the sample and the product just goes away.

I love samples. And it’s probably because I am the product of a “sample” culture. Everything from foods to ideas to lifestyles are put out for us to try, to see if we have a preference for it. To see if we like it. If we do, there’s always a way to get more. And if we don’t, that’s ok. It’s just not our preference. The sample just wasn’t made for us.

But some things in our world weren’t made to be samples. Some things weren’t made just for people’s preferences. Some things were meant to be served to everyone.

The Gospel is one of those things.

It often doesn’t feel this way, because a lot people seem fine without the good news of Jesus. Many people have good families, are nice neighbors, have nice jobs, and live decent moral lives – all without putting their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It can often seem like the Gospel message is just a sample. At some point people may or may not try it. And they may or may not decide it is for them. And even if they never try it, our sample culture says, “that’s ok, there are plenty of other things for you to enjoy.”

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul saw things differently. Specifically he didn’t see the Gospel as just another thing to be sampled. He says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…”

Paul didn’t see himself as one who passively stands in the marketplace of ideas offering one option among many for people to try. Rather, he saw himself as one called to go serve, to bring the Gospel to everyone. He knew that the Gospel was made for everyone. And that everyone needs the Gospel.

Despite what our lives look like on the outside. Despite the myriad of choices before us. Without the goodness of the Gospel, we’re always looking for good news somewhere else. We’re always in pursuit of the thing that will finally satisfy all our preferences. But sadly, in our attempt to satisfy ourselves we end up destroying ourselves and others.

Eugene Peterson describes this kind of life perfectly:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.” (Galatians 5:19-21 MSG)

These are the parts of our life that we don’t like to talk about. These are the parts our life that need more than a sample of something to satisfy our preferences. These are the parts of our life that need the power of God. They are the parts of our life that need the Gospel.

The Gospel was made for everyone. Because everyone needs the Gospel.

Every person, every household, every neighborhood, every people group, every culture, whether they recognize it or not is in need of the power of God. They are in need of God’s saving work. They are in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is why the Gospel will never be just another sample.

 

 

If we have been transformed by the Gospel, let us pray that God would empower us to move beyond our sample tables. In order that we, like Paul, might bring the Good News we have been given to everyone we meet.

 

Why Are There Martyrs?

Chris asked, “If God provides for all of our needs, why are there martyrs? How are their needs being met?”

I love good questions. And these are good questions.

For this post we’ll have to work our way backwards. I’ll answer the second question first, because that will in turn answer the first question.

So let’s begin with the answer to the second question by focusing on the notion of “need”. For example, when the Apostle Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs” (Phil 4:19a), what is he saying?

Paul, appears to be saying, “With God, you will never be needy.” But that can’t be accurate because, in Philippians 4:12 Paul writes,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

We see that for Paul there were times when he was clearly in need. So how can he write, “And my God will meet all your needs”?

The answer has to do with Paul’s “secret of being content in any and every situation”. What was Paul’s secret?  The answer is in the next verse,

I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)

Paul is saying that there have been times of need and times of abundance, but because he has Jesus, he has the strength to be content in all situations.

Now, understanding this is important because Paul uses the same logic in Philippians 4:19. The entire verse actually reads:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Similar to Philippians 4:12-13, Paul is saying two things:

  1. God promises to meet your needs
  2. But, God will meet your needs through Jesus Christ.

What does all this have to do with our original questions about martyrs?

Everything.

The Apostle Paul understood that Jesus Christ is the only thing you need. If you have Jesus you have everything. Because, as he writes in Colossians, “Christ… is your life” (Colossians 3:14).

Paul knew that Jesus gives you life (John 14:6; 17:3). Jesus sustains your life (Colossians 1:17). Jesus directs your life (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus provides purpose to your life (Colossians 1:16). And Jesus demands your life (Matthew 16:25). Thus to have Jesus is to have no other need. Or as Pastor Tullian Tchividjian famously put it, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”.

So now let’s apply this to Christian martyrs.

When Christians are killed for their faith (martyred), God actually supplies all their needs. Because God is giving them Jesus Christ. Paul knew this, when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(Phil 1:21). Paul looked forward to death because he knew that after death he would instantly enter into the full presence of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:8). Therefore, he would not lose anything, but instead gain everything.

There is no such thing as a needy martyr. Because Jesus Christ fulfills every need. When we die we get all of Christ. We therefore, lose nothing, and gain everything.

God allows Christians to be martyred, because their deaths proclaim one simple and glorious truth—to have Jesus Christ is to have everything.