LifeWay Week focuses on basics of the gospel, turning from idols to living God

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By Lauren Crane

During LifeWay Week, two days of special chapel services, Southern Baptist denominational leaders exhorted Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to remember the basics of the Christian faith.

On March 15 and 16, Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and Ed Stetzer, who serves as the vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay, spoke at Southeastern during an annual time of hearing from the SBC entity’s leaders. On March 15, Rainer preached from Acts 11 and the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles, saying he needed to be reminded of the basics of the faith. Looking at the passage, Rainer said, “For the most part, Gentiles had not heard. They were not included. For the most part, the story had yet to unfold – and then it does.”

Rainer said in reading the passage about how Gentiles first came to hear the gospel message, he was reminded of the need to share the gospel with people who have yet to hear. “There’s a world dying and waiting to go to hell. The gospel is not merely a theological tool we share on occasion. It should be such a passion we cannot help but share it.”

The moment when the Gentiles are told the good news of the gospel is one that Rainer loves, he said. “I love the transition from doubt and anger to glorifying the Lord. At that time, history was made – man’s history, God’s history and all people’s history.”

Peter’s role in the unfolding of this narrative is one that all Christians can emulate. Looking back at Acts 10, Rainer said, “Here, we see cultural barriers beginning to fall. He invited a Gentile into his home, and he was undoubtedly totally uncomfortable.” However, Peter went obediently, even where he was uncomfortable. Furthermore, Rainer said, he shared with humility. Rainer said Peter did not have all the answers and admitted to not understanding everything. Likewise, he said believers should be humbled by what God is allowing them to do every time they share the gospel.

“The gospel transcends all the barriers we put forth,” Rainer said. “I wish I would see the lostness of humanity and respond obediently, courageously and humbly.”

When Stetzer spoke on Wednesday, he too addressed one of the basics of the Christian faith as he spoke about worship and turning from idols to the one true and living God. Preaching from 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, Stetzer said, “What we see here is a picture of the change that occurs in the life of a Christian – a life driven by the mission of God, for the kingdom of God.”

Stetzer reminded the Southeastern family, “The gospel is not ‘you do,’ the gospel is ‘Jesus did.’” Thus, the qualities of a Christian are in response to the new life found in Christ, specifically in turning to God from idols.

Stetzer said although idols are often thought of as carved images they are actually anything that replaces the true and living God in our hearts.

“The world in which we live has chosen to rebel against the rightful reign of God,” he said. “Idolatry is the replacement of the one, true God.”

Often, other people’s idols are easier to spot than their own, Stetzer said. In our current culture, we often worship money, security, fame and acceptance more than we worship the Lord. “When you take a good thing and turn it into a God thing, it becomes a bad thing,” he said. “When it’s something that pushes out the agenda of God, it becomes an idol.”

Rather than continuing to worship idols, believers have been delivered from that domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. Reminding the students of the core tenet of the faith, Stetzer said we have been given new life in Christ that involved a change in worship, moving to God from idols.

“We’re all, by nature, designed to worship. We are those who have turned to God from idols. There are idols with which we continue to struggle with, though, because the world we live in is still fallen,” Stetzer said. “He came to reconcile people and the world to himself so we might have a new loyalty.

“When our obedience and our joy is found in him, the loyalty is that which we will enjoy together forever as we live in him and through him and for him.”

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