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Words of Life

Restoring His Image

By Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman May 22, 2011 Words of Life

Gabe Lyons joins LIFE Today this week to discuss The Next Christians. His message is somewhat provocative and may shake the ideas of a few viewers – and rightly so. Today’s culture overwhelmingly views people in the church negatively, even while a majority identify themselves as Christians.

“What beliefs have we held that have made us become self-righteous and made us look down on people who are different than us and treat them differently than how Jesus treated people?” Gabe asks. This is the crux of his self-examination of the church. If believers are the light of the world, why has this light become so dim?

“Sinners loved Jesus,” Gabe points out in his book. “They literally followed Jesus everywhere. They pursued Him from town to town. He spent days with them, meeting their friends, eating meals in their homes, accepting their gifts, and embracing their children. They were suspended in disbelief at encounters with someone who understood truth and beauty, healing and restoration, righteousness, justice, mercy, and grace – and He genuinely loved them.”

He goes on to point out that much of the church has lost sight of the fact that Jesus didn’t criticize the lost; He restored them. Most believers can quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NAS) But how many of us can quote the very next statement? “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17, NAS)

Gabe urges us to adopt a “grace first” mentality and focus on restoring people to God. “A mindset of grace over judgment defines how restorers engage with all people,” he writes. “They don’t exhibit this in word only – that’s what judgment does. Instead, grace is active; it seeks out, responds and loves deeply. The next Christians’ ‘grace first’ mentality allows them to get involved in the messy process of restoration with people and places most Christians avoid.”

He points out that Jesus completely disregarded the disapproval of the religious leaders – the Pharisees and Sadducees – as He associated with the “worst” people in society. “God’s holiness did not prevent Him from entering our messy depravity; it provoked Him to show up,” Gabe asserts.

Jesus exemplified this mindset of restoration over judgment with the woman caught in adultery. After confronting her accusers in a manner that sent them scurrying, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.” (John 8:10-11, NAS)

Jesus did not judge her, nor did He excuse her sin. Instead, He extended grace and sought to restore her. We don’t know what became of her. Perhaps we are not told because that is not the point. Gabe says, “We should be normal people who know how to get along and love people and meet them where they’re at and let the love of Christ show.”

An attitude of grace does not mean ignoring or compromising our core beliefs; it means living them out. “ [Christianity] shouldn’t just be a set of beliefs that we ascribe to,” Gabe says on LIFE Today, “but it should really impact the way we’re living in our neighborhoods, the way we participate in our school systems, the way we participate in the kind of business and entrepreneurial activity that God’s calling many people to do.”

This idea is further explored in Gabe’s book as he discusses the concept of “restorers” as the more effective approach to share our faith. “We’re called to be salt and light, but you know salt doesn’t work unless it is attached to meat. You know you’ve got to rub the salt in the steak to get the taste and the flavor out. We have to be in this world. We can’t run from it. We can’t try to separate and just hang out with our Christian friends. We’ve got to be comfortable spending time with people who haven’t decided to follow Jesus yet because truly our model of loving them might be the only way that they come to know Jesus.”

The mission of Jesus Christ drove him to spend time with lowly prostitutes, reviled tax collectors, dirty fishermen and other despised people. Ultimately, He gave up His life on the cross for them. This is the message of restoration; it is the message of the Gospel. It’s good news for all of us. And it’s the message we should convey to a lost and dying world.

Adapted from Gabe Lyons’ book The Next Christians and his appearances on LIFE Today with James Robison and the extended interview with Randy Robison at Compiled and edited by Randy Robison. Watch Gabe this Monday and Tuesday on LIFE Today.

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