Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

 

The Jewish scriptures of the bible always bring attention to the cry of the oppressed. As a pastor of a local church, and a pastor of the city, what connections do you make between the cry of the oppressed in the scriptures and the cry of injustice taking place in our city and our nation today?

The cry of injustice is something that I wrestle with on so many levels. It’s hard because I naturally want to cling to the hope we have in Jesus, however, it’s not that easy. I live in a world and world of systems that weren’t created for folks like me to really thrive and be true to who I am.

Oppression looks very different. Am I enslaved and beaten? No. Am I poor and hungry? No. Am I free to be myself and valued for that? No. Am I known for being Sanchez, or have I learned the game and art of being what my surroundings dictate? Yes. Have I learned to say the right things and use the correct language in order to be heard and accredited? Yes. Do I still feel like African Americans have to give 200% to Caucasians 100%? Yes. Do I feel like this is reflected in the church and government? Absolutely. The church and government, during the reformation particularly, paved it to be this way. It’s unfortunate that the two most influential and powerful entities paved the way for this chaos.

From what you can tell, how has the local church responded to the racial tensions and social crisis? How can we improve/change our response moving forward?

I think that for the first time some churches realize that it’s an issue. The local church has responded better, but if I’m honest, it’s not been a great response. Have we focused so much on “reaching the lost” and becoming “seeker sensitive” that we have ignored the voice of those hurting in our care? Do we truly get discipleship? Do we get the simple things, like loving your neighbor as yourself? Do we get what it means to be a “mother and father” to those who have no home? Have we chosen us for them? Have we made what was once a conviction our comforts?

It’s easy to share the gospel, but to mean that and exercise that on a practical level is another thing. It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. I don’t see many churches giving up their program to walk the streets or get in the trenches. It’s time to wake up and get dirty!

It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. It’s time to wake up and get dirty.

Looking at the scriptures again, the Gospel of Jesus Christ affirms the equality of all humanity and the power to rise from the grave of struggle and suffering with hope and courage. How does the Gospel influence your current outlook and future dreams for the city?

The gospel is everything and the only thing keeping me in this fight. It keeps me loving the poor, homeless, and broken well, while tolerating and loving church people. I know that’s harsh but the gospel points me to the brokenness in myself and it motivates me to fix my attitude. I have to allow love to be unconditional and let it lead me. Love is the only answer to mending the hurt and pain that runs deep.

What are some simple actions steps we can take as individuals and churches and neighborhoods for healing and wholeness?

We have to display unity to this world. How will they know what it’s supposed to look like if we don’t lead them? It starts with us uniting with other churches locally. Challenging our people to build authentic relationships with people different than them. It doesn’t have to start with skin color. When we address the pattern and fix that, then will we see change. We, as the Church, need to be the voice that changes some of the systematic racism, meaning we get it out of our institutions that are supposed to be churches. Church should be a safe place where ALL people are welcomed, not just the ones that look and act like us.

Unity is the key that unlocks healing and blessing for our community.

-Anonymous

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Sanchez is one of the pastors at Center City Church in Charlotte, NC. Visit their website at centercity.church or their new location at 2225 Freedom Dr. Charlotte, NC 28208.

Bonus Plug: Sanchez just dropped a new EP, One Voice, a couple months ago and you should check it out. It can be purchased wherever good music is sold. Here’s the title track, a powerful vision for a people and city unified with God and one another:

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If I Wrote the Bible

If I wrote the Bible this is what a couple well known references would sound like:

“For Todd loved those who liked him, and laughed at his jokes, and were attractive, and had lot of money, and who were popular so he gave them an invitation to his birthday party.” {John 3:16}

“In the beginning Todd hit the snooze button and brushed off creation until another day.” {Genesis 1:1}

“If Todd was the good shepherd, we all would be lost…” {Psalm 23}

“Our Father in heaven, slip a rolex under the tree, for me. I’ve been a awful good guy. A ’65 Convertible too, steel blue. I want a yacht, and really that’s no a lot. I’ve been a sweetie all year. One thing I really do need, the deed to a platinum mine. Sorry, I forgot to mention one thing, cha-ching. Oh yeah, and help people too.” {The Lord’s Prayer via Michael Buble}

“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female–except for dogs and cats, or any animal for that matter that could be made a household pet–came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. {Genesis 7:6-10}

“For it is by good works, and approval ratings, and opinion polls, and reputation, and bank account, and accomplishments, and trophies, and the number of prefixes before your name, and how much you can bench, and the kind of car you drive, and the brand of clothes that you wear, and if you have an iPhone that you are saved. A little faith never hurt anybody, I guess. God is impressed with impressive people. The rest of yous will be overlooked.” {Ephesians 2:8-9}

“Therefore I tell you, worry about your life–what others think of you, how you look, what people might be saying about you at this very moment, petty stuff too–seriously, freak out about everything, including what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” {Matthew 6:25}

If I wrote the Bible if would be wildly self-centered, uninteresting, and of no use to anyone’s life, relationships, or eternal consequence. If any of us were to write the Bible it would result in a work worth tossing up there with the rest of the self help titles. Men did write the Bible, but not from their own motivated imagination. It didn’t come from within but from another dimension. There were over 40 authors who were simply pencils in the hand of God inscribing His words for mankind to live by. God used men to make Himself known. 

The Bible is alive. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. {Hebrews 4:12}

The Bible is practical. “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” {Proverbs 3:1}

The Bible is powerful. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” {Romans 1:16}

The Bible is true. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” {1 John 4:10}

Think about it, who could make up a story about a God would didn’t require His subjects to earn His favor or work to gain His approval? Only we could make up a story like that. It’s how we operate. From classroom achievement to playing time on the field. We are loved if we make others look good. We’re discarded if we don’t. 

The Bible tells of a God who was discarded on a cross so we could receive His approval that we could never attain. There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make Him love us less. As one person said, “His love is counter-conditional.” He offers love for opposition, acceptance for rejection, and approval in the face of sin. 

Many are good. Many are bad. No one is perfect. That makes all equal. And desperate. For love. Forgiveness. Salvation. Healing. And resurrection.

All we can do is believe it to be true and receive it as the gift it was given to be.

 

 

The Gospel Leaks (Explicit)

[I’m going to take a break from blogging to give “writing a book” another go. I’ll keep you updated. So this is temporarily a final post. Enjoy.]

There’s a business principle out there that says, “Vision leaks.” Basically, people need to be continually reminded of an organization’s vision to keep them invested, involved, and moving. Once the vision begins to dissipate confusion sets in and personal preferences or values can begin to override and even corrupt the vision. Employees and members need to be continually reminded.

In a similar and more important, manner the Gospel of Jesus Christ leaks. The truth of the Gospel doesn’t change but we’re clueless and forgetful people. This goes for all everyone everywhere. We must be constantly reminded of the Gospel or we will forget the Gospel — God’s love, truth, forgiveness, and freedom revealed and offered by grace to everyone through faith in Jesus Christ. This is crucial for non Christians who don’t know and haven’t accepted the Gospel.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? [Romans 10:14]

And it’s vital for Christians, who even though they have accepted it and given their lives to it forget about it continually. This is one of the main reasons I try to read the Bible routinely. I read regularly to remember what I forget daily. I read to be reminded of the Gospel. For I have to fight my sin nature hour by hour and the realities, disappointments, and tragedies of life cause me to forget the love, truth, forgiveness, and freedom of God over and over. And my life demonstrates my forgetfulness. This is also why attending a Gospel-centered chuch is necessary as well. We need to join with others in community weekly to be reminded of what we forget collectively. Our lives expose something about understanding of and dependency on the Gospel.

What is your life telling us about the Gospel?

What are our churches telling our cities about the Gospel?

We may have a memory problem.

The more I watch the classic sitcom Seinfeld I realize that without the grace of God I am George Costanza. Apart from the Gospel I am just like the shallow, insecure, and disingenuous character from Seinfeld. Wikipedia describes him like this, “George exhibits a number of negative character traits, among them stinginess, selfishness, dishonesty, insecurity, and neurosis.” These characteristic occur regularly but in one episode entitled, “The Voice,” George’s character shines as he enjoys the perks of faking a disability.

His plotting is eventually exposed and he loses all privileges. But to George it’s always worth the shaddy scheming.

The Gospel is all about exposing this and repairing it.

During the 2009 MTV VMA’s Taylor Swift received the award for best female music video. During her acceptance speech Kanye West famously crashes the stage and Taylor’s moment spewing his opinion all over the crowd and the media headlines. A year later, just before the 2010 VMA’s in an attempt to “make up” Kanye used more than 140 characters to tweet an apology to Taylor. And then he opened the awards show with a musical confession of sorts entitled Runaway (beware of explicit content and gaudy jewelry).

Kanye is giving a toast to himself, the George Costanzas of the world, and me. Frankly he’s giving a toast to everyone — the self-righteous and the unrighteous.

Let’s have a toast for the d*******,
Let’s have a toast for the a******,
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags,
Every one of them that I know
Let’s have a toast to the j******
That’ll never take work off
Baby, I got a plan
Run away fast as you can

The song celebrates and warns everyone for being how and who we are.

In one degree the Bible, in Titus 3 shares the sentiment,  At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. And Ephesians 2 reveals, As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. What I hide, what George epitomizes, and what Kanye cheers the Bible uses to describe all of us. And apart from the Gospel we are and will always be these things.

And these things cause us to doubt, deny, and forget God’s love and redemption.

Our sin has turned us away from God, against each other, and toward ourselves for protection and salvation. George uses his friends. I’m better than my friends. And Kanye alerts his friends to run away.

Has God run away too?

The Gospel answers, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. [Ephesians 2:4-5]

The Gospel tells us that God created us out of love. It confronts us in love with the truth about our sin and separation from God. And then through love offers us forgiveness of these sins and freedom from them. So through faith in Jesus so we can say, “No,” to sin, “Yes,” to God, and follow Jesus forever.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:4-7]

God didn’t run away from us because of our sin, but ran to us by coming to earth and dying on a cross to reveal that our sin hasn’t scared Him off and that we’re worth saving.

Which is worthy of giving our lives to.

Which makes it worth remembering.

And we must remember regularly to replenish what leaks.

So read it.
Share it.
Memorize it.
Live it.
Tag it.
Teach it.
Ponder it.
Record it.
Paint it.
Breathe it.
Tattoo it.
Sing it.
Preach it.
Blog it.

Because many, like you and me, don’t know the message and power of the Gospel.

Or just constantly forget it.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]

Clothe (Part 7 of ?)

[We are but a post or two away from the end…]

When we turn to Jesus and begin worshiping His as God we will begin to see certain attitudes, characteristics, and qualities die while others begin to form, grow, and thrive.

Part of worshiping God involves killing – ripping, tearing, removing – the character produced from worshiping ourselves and following our sinful nature.

(Turn to Jesus and Hulk Hogan your sin )

Worshiping God doesn’t just involve killing. It also enables, expects, and requires us to clothe ourselves with God’s character as we follow and obey Jesus.

This may be the most surprising and challenging aspect of the Christian life. I have come to believe that a number of people who claim Christianity as their religion of choice only hold to that identity at a surface level. A friend of mine compares this type of person to a Tar Heel fan who boasts about them as their favorite but couldn’t tell you who made up their starting five. I’m not sure who is to blame but many people who decide to become Christians do so with the misconception that the choice only entails and extends them forgiveness of sins in the present and eternal life in heaven in the future. These things are true and offered freely to those who turn to Jesus, but there’s more and much expected.

At the moment someone turns to Jesus confessing that He’s God and they’re not they become sanctified unto God. They become set apart to Him alone. Their heart becomes holy. When God looks at someone who has set their faith and affections on Him He sees Jesus holiness shining through.

After someone is converted God the Holy Spirit will continually sanctify their character and behavior – their thoughts, word, and actions – for the rest of their life. As long as they’re alive God will perform spiritual surgery to remove sinfulness and replace it with godliness.

The holy are becoming holy.

In Hebrews 12 the author describes Jesus as “the author and perfecter” of those who put their faith in Him. Through His death and His choosing He enables us to turn to Him for salvation. And through His resurrection He sets us free to be transformed by Him. Pastor Matt Chandler calls the process of continual transformation “progressive sanctification.” The Christian, who has turned to Jesus, should gradually take on His character and quality.

This is expected of those who follow Jesus according to the Bible, but is it always the case among Christian today?

We want the body but we don’t want the workout.

We want the knowledge but we don’t want the education.

We want the benefits but we don’t want the commitment.

We want to go to heaven but we don’t want to die.

We want transformation but we don’t want the sanctification.

The reason may be as simple as the lyrics to Fall Out Boys America’ Suitehearts, “Let’s hear it for America’s suitehearts. I must confess, I’m in love with my own sins.” This chorus describes our problem but if we look closer it may actually be pointing us in the right direction if we’re keen enough to follow.

Puritan pastor, John Owen, would say to obtain glorification we must experience mortification. We discussed this in the last post, but for the sake of remembrance, Colossians 3 says Christians must “put to death,” and “rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Hebrews 12:1 gives the instructions to “throw of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” We read this but resist it. Because as the author of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, wrote, “The natural life knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness is going to be killed.” Those who follow Jesus must, as an act of worship, allow God to kill their godlessness.

And they must partake in the killing as well.

But worshiping Jesus as God does not only involve killing our sins of thought, word, and deed. To reiterate, worship is less about singing songs and raising our hands but it’s all about turning to Jesus confessing who we aren’t so we can reflect who He is. Colossians goes on to explain that Christians worship by clothing themselves with God’s character.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

The Bible is full of material that tells us that God is the one at work in the life of the believer, conforming him or her to the image and likeness of Jesus (Philippians 2:13; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 12:2). So many just sit back and continue to permit sin to dictate their lives and then blame God for not changing them or even worse accuse God of allowing it to remain. But we can’t separate the content of verses like Philippians 2:13, Galatians 5:22-23, and Hebrews 12:2 from their context. Let’s look at each of these briefly (as I am already 738 words into this post).

Philippians 2:12-13 reads like this, “Therefore, my dear friends…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Galatians 5:17, 22-23 says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

And Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus’ death on the cross enables us to be transformed by God along with or alongside of God. Christians must proactively join God in His progressive sanctification. The Gospel tells us that God is extremely opposed to earning salvation by trying to transform our lives and hearts ourselves. But the Gospel is in favor of our effort as a response to Jesus’ salvation and in line with God to kill our sin and clothe ourselves with His character.

Bible reading, prayer, confession and repentance, church community, godly marriage, suffering, obedience, solitude, service, and sacrifice won’t do anything to save you, but they do help to transform you as God works in you. These things assist us to grow in godliness.

Our culture picks out the outfits – attitudes, behaviors, and language – it accepts and values. Religion corners us into believing God won’t save us until we kill our bad habits and transform ourselves. The Gospel is all about God transforming us when we turn to Jesus and walk with Him.