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Heed Jesus’ question, Hawkins exhorts

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Every major period of Christianity is characterized by a probing question from Jesus, O.S. Hawkins said, and this era’s question is, “Who do you say that I am?”

“Virtually every epoch of Christian church history has had a question from the lips of our Lord, for whom and to which it was particularly applicable. So much so … that it became, for them, the question of their time,” Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said Oct. 4 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We also have a question for our time.”

Hawkins began by saying the era of the apostles was characterized by the question Jesus asked in John 13:38, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” Hawkins said the question characterized the early church, as men such as Paul, John, Polycarp and Ignatius died martyr’s deaths, laying down their lives for the sake of the Lord.

“Hundreds of thousands of that first epoch of Christian history … thousands upon thousands of them met their martyr’s deaths with that question of their time burning in their ears, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake?’ Because they did is part of the reason we’re here today,” Hawkins said.

The second era, he said, was characterized by the question, “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” That question, he said, was answered by the Council of Nicaea.

“There in that council at Nicaea the church settled, once and for all, that yes, Jesus was coequal and coexistent with the Father,” Hawkins said.

Other questions that followed for other eras were the questions of “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) and “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The latter question is used in reference to a period of great Gospel growth led by William Carey, Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone, Hawkins said.

“The great modern missionary movement was launched and began and has been followed by hundreds and hundreds of thousands of others who have gone to the ends of the earth, facing the question of that time, ‘When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?'”

Hawkins mentioned the most recently-completed era as one in which the critical question was, “Will you also go away?” which is found in John 6:61.

“We watched as one mainline denomination after another and another and another went away from the doctrinal truths of their founding fathers and the foundational doctrinal truths of the living God and to follow after liberalism and her twin children of pluralism and inclusivism,” Hawkins said. “Thank God, we who are called Southern Baptists answered the question of our time and decided we would not go away from those truths and stood firm upon the word of God.”

But the “twin children of pluralism and inclusivism” is an issue Hawkins said the church is still dealing with in the current epoch. This period, Hawkins said, is characterized by the question Jesus asked in Matthew 16:15, “But who do you say that I am?”

These two approaches are seen in how the new generation views Jesus, he said. Some people see Him as one way of many to heaven, thus falling into pluralism. Others believe there is no reason to be “born again or saved,” classifying themselves as inclusivists and believing that all people will get into heaven, Hawkins said.

“Who is He? Is He just one of another way to spirituality and to heaven? Or is He who He said he was — the Way, the Truth and the Life? … This is the question of your time,” Hawkins said.

There are two kinds of leaders, he said, those who lead by public consensus and those who lead by personal conviction. The latter, he said, have convictions “in the very core and fiber of their being. They have some convictions about what is right and wrong, and they lead that way, come what may.”

Hawkins said when people lead by public consensus, the result is a rise in pluralistic compromise, political correctness and inclusivism. He said pluralism affects doctrine and what the church believes, and inclusivism affects people’s view of their duty to humanity — to spread the Gospel.

“There is an alternative to pluralism and inclusivism,” Hawkins said. “It’s what we call the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ. … It smacks in the face of a culture that has gone awry.”

When the Gospel is presented as the only way to heaven and to Christ, people call Christians narrow-minded, he noted. In today’s culture, people accept that mathematical truth is narrow, scientific truth is narrow, geographical truth is narrow and historical truth is narrow, he said.

“So why should we be surprised that theological truth is narrow?” Hawkins asked. “We have the question for our time: ‘Who do you say that I am?'”
Lauren Crane is a writer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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