Clearing up the Meaning of “Hell,” “Born Again,” and “Tithe” (Sermon Series)

Have you ever noticed that some words can be really unclear?  When it comes to certain words, each person brings their own meaning and baggage to how they understand those particular words or concepts.

Photo by CaronPhotography (Creative Commons)Photo by CaronPhotography (Creative Commons)

Getting clear

If I say the word “church,” for instance (how could “church” be misunderstood?!), one person thinks of a place where they feel loved, while another person immediately cringes because they’ve experienced church as a place of judgment.  One person thinks of a megachurch, while another person thinks of a small country church.  High energy, contemporary worship comes to mind for one person, while someone else immediately thinks of traditional liturgy.

In the sermon series, “Misunderstood,” I tried to unpack three words that are often misunderstood.  The three words are:  “hell,” “born again,” and “tithe.”  So much emotional baggage and preconception are attached to these words that when we use them we often lose our hearers before we can say anything meaningful.  People either shut down or make assumptions about what you’re going to say before you even say it.

“Misunderstood” Sermon Series

Here’s a quick summary of how I covered each of these topics, along with links to the actual sermons:

1.  Hell: What is hell?  Is it a place that bad people go to when they die?  Is it a lake of fire and sulfur?  Is it a place where people are eternally poked with sharp objects by demons with sharp teeth and bat wings?  Or is it something different?  What does the Bible really teach us about hell?  This sermon engages those questions.

2.  Born Again: The expression “born again” has a lot of baggage attached to it.  The culture at large is not fond of “born again” people.  The stereotype is that “born-agains” are white, conservative, Republican evangelicals who are against gay people, against abortion, and against… well, a bunch of other stuff.  But is that really what it means to be “born again”?  Is that what Jesus meant when he said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”?  Or does being “born again” mean something much deeper than a particular ideological, political, and theological mindset?

3.  Tithe: As followers of Jesus, are we commanded to tithe?  What does the Old Testament say about tithing?  A lot, actually.  What does Jesus say about tithing?  Very little.  What does the Apostle Paul say about tithing?  Not a word.  So what’s a person to do?  This sermon wrestles with that question.  (Unfortunately, this one didn't get recorded due to technical difficulties.  I'd be happy to send you my notes and outline if you're interested.  Just send me a message and let me know.)

What theological concepts have you found are sometimes—or even often—misunderstood?  How do you help clarify those concepts?

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