A False Dichotomy

“If you love me…”

Has anyone said that to you? It’s usually followed by an ultimatum. “If you love me, you’ll let me do…” And if you don’t comply with the person’s request, then you are apparently a loveless monster who only wants to bring pain to others. But God’s people cannot be limited by such narrow-mindedness. Love will at times require difficult things to be said and won’t always come as apparent comfort to the one demanding that love. Those who desire love but don’t want truth are creating a false dichotomy that the Creator of all things would not approve of.

The truth of the Gospel

God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin so that we (all people everywhere who believe) would become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5.21). This is the beautiful truth that is at the very heart of the gospel message. And what does it mean to be God’s righteousness? God has done great things for us; if we believe in His power and Name and trust in His work (not ours) for salvation, then He gives us His righteousness and makes us a part of His Kingdom. No good work can make us more deserving, and no sin can separate Him from those who are truly His.

What message do we preach?

This truth is difficult in light of our immediate context to proclaim this message to those outside the Church. More often than not, a message of sin to be atoned for is seen as judgment and hatred; the message of love and grace is lost on the dying world that needs it the most.

I once had a conversation with a man who, upon finding out that I was in Bible College, defended his reasons for not going to Church and then proceeded to explain how he thought that good churches are ones that let you come and worship no matter what but then let you live your life the way you want the rest of the week. Sadly, this is what many would consider to be “good religion” (despite what James 1.26-27 says about it).

When I think of the message that we proclaim to the dying world, I always think of this:

So I agree that good churches are ones that let you come and worship with them no matter what your background is, but at the same time, Jesus wants to purify the rose. He wants us to be His Righteousness. “Come Just as you are,” cries the King, “but I will make you what you’re meant to be.”

Jesus saves us from separation from the Father, but not because of the good we have done (Eph. 2.8-9).

Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit as a promise of His faithfulness to us (Rom. 8.15-17).

Jesus convicts us of our sin and lovingly calls us to repentance (1 John 1.9).

Jesus gives us the Church for the sake of encouraging our fight against sin (Matt. 18.15-20).

And why does He do this? He wants more and more people to come to Him and be a part of His Kingdom– a Kingdom which will never end!

So yes, to those who would condemn the adulteress woman (John 8.1-11), Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin… throw the first stone…” But He also said to her, “…go, and from now on, sin no more.” Such is our call: bring Christ’s gospel to the lost and remember God’s demand for holiness while we do it.

What’s been done?

When dealing with conflict within the Church we wonder what the opposing parties are doing or have done to work out their problems. So Jack offended Jill by not picking up after himself in the Church kitchen and Jill got mad at him. Tempers flare, and communion plates fly as they start working through the deep seeded problems that they each have with each other. When the pastor steps in to sort it out, he may give them something like, “Five Steps to Working Through Conflict Among Believers”, but they need something deeper than the practical, at least at the onset.

What have you done to fix this? is a question we might ask. But there is a more important one that needs to be answered first: What has God done to fix this? God is a God of order and peace, especially among His people. So what has He done? Does He even care about your conflicts? Yes:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

God cares about your conflicts so much that He sent Jesus to reconcile us to Himself. And what does that do for us? It makes it possible to be reconciled towards others. So next time you’re enraged towards others in your family or the Church or anyone (!), remember what Jesus has already done about your conflict. He cared enough to die and raise again that we might have victory.

I’m good

I have become good at attacking sin in the lives of other people. Send me towards a vile sinner, and I will set them straight. The power of the Gospel is working so much in me that I am able to point out even the smallest trajectory away from God and bring you into repentance. Yup! If you need some one to confront a sinner in your life with the truth of Jesus, I am the one to call.

What about my own sin, you ask? Well, a mistake every once in a while doesn’t really count as a sin. I slip up here and there, but who doesn’t? No, I’m talking about the sin in the lives of others. When they are dishonoring their parents, being proud of their accomplishments, or lusting after power, women and possessions, they need a punch in the throat. My sins are never that grievous. I am not that bad.

And then I read things like this

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, You should be holy, for I am holy.”- 1 Peter 1.13-16

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his own body.”- James 3.2

And I remember that I am not perfect

Actually, I am far from it. Just last week I was working on confronting (more like obnoxiously complaining to and about) another person’s sin when I became increasingly aware of the sin in my life. This person is controlling, rude, and a liar. But that doesn’t mean they are worse than me. By Friday I was able to point out specific occurrences of my laziness, lust and pride. I am daily in need of truths that songs like this portray:

I need to sing this everyday… to me. I am guilty of the same thing. I am a sinner. I need Jesus daily.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost. But i received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”- 1 Timothy 1.15-16

I’m good at this

So I went to the Dentist yesterday. Leading up to it, and while I was there, I couldn’t get this out of my head (the first minute or so):

That’s our attitude

If you think about it, our attitude about sin is much like Brian’s attitude about the doctor’s office (and mine with the dentist). We know how God feels about certain things, we say we won’t do what He doesn’t like, and will do what He wants us to, but then have a total disregard for our promises and fall back into it again.

God isn’t a doctor

Fortunately for us, God isn’t like that doctor. He doesn’t condemn those who are his people for not doing what they’re told. Through the shed blood of Christ, God forgives our sin and enables us to do good. So when we do sin, he will convict us and call us to repentance. It wont be out of religious guilt (Look what happened to you because you didn’t obey me). It will be out of love for his people and his glory. We serve a gracious God who is always willing to take us back, even with the negative effects of our sin.

The Weight

“And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Romans 7.16-19

My mouth always feels dry after reading that passage, as if someone spoon fed me a bowl full of cotton. It truly is a frustrating concept though, not wanting to do what you should want to do. The idea has plagued my walk for quite some time. Creating a quandary in my heart that I am sure others have experienced.

If I can’t choose to do good, why won’t God just make me choose it?

As a younger believer, with this thought came the assumption that I could lose my salvation. (Which is thankfully refuted by John 10:28)  And as I matured and learned of assurance, the question evolved into ‘do I really have salvation at all?’  So you see the difficulty in dealing with sin. It has truly affected all aspects of humanity, even down to the rendering of our theological beliefs and reasonings.

The weight we bear for our sins, at first, seems incomprehensible, unfathomable. It seems as though, at times, doubt is really the only option. Doubt in our stalwart savior, Jesus Christ. Doubt that we may actually be forgiven of our sins. Its that thought which reminds me of another Matt Chandler quote.

“How many of our sins had we committed when Christ died on the cross?”

The answer is obviously none. Yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5.8) So if Christ died while we were still sinners, and His resurrection completes the free gift of salvation, why do I, or anyone for that matter, still struggle with certain sins?

In simple terms, God allows sin so He can forgive it, to better glorify Himself and show a love that would not be properly displayed to a bunch of automatons. This isn’t to say we are justified in sin, in fact we are still held individually accountable for our affronts. But Christ paid our way out.

So in essence, the weight we bear, isn’t actually borne by us at all, but by Christ.  And its only through sanctification (process by which a Christian believer is made holy through the action of the Holy Spirit.) that we grow.

So take heart, our sanctification is not complete, and won’t be until Jesus returns.

Rev. 21:4  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[rez-uh-rek-shuhn]

First off I must admit, I was struggling on how to present Christ’s resurrection here because, as a society, we seem to secularize a lot of things…

I take that back, we secularize everything.

For most of us, this means that Christ’s resurrection is one of those concepts we accede to, but it doesn’t really mean anything to us. The idea is just chillin’ in the back of our minds playing cards with Santa (and probably losing). We don’t seem to understand the true gravity of what it actually means. Let me put it into perspective.

Jesus died.

There really is no simpler way to put it.  But, because of his death, it was made possible for us to be reconciled to our Creator.

I stress the word, possible, because His vicarious sufferings mean absolutely nothing without the resurrection. In fact, if Christ had not risen, it would make Him a liar worthy of His punishment. We would be wasting our time on a worthless Word, and we would all be boned, screwed, doomed, star-crossed, whichever adjective you prefer. There is no way to communicate how bad it would be for us. (unless of course you Google image search epic fail).

In all seriousness, Just imagine what it would be like if Jesus was still in the tomb. There would be quite a few empty seats in heaven. But He did rise from the dead, despite what some people believe, and what we fail to completely comprehend. And it is only because of Christ being alive, that we are reconciled. There would be no forgiveness otherwise.  Again I stress, Jesus is alive, no other religious figure can boast in this. Not Buddha, not Muhammad, not one.

This video of Matt Chandler preaching through Luke 24, does a lot to help solidify how real and true it is that Jesus is alive.

So instead of a day of nice clothes, free candy, and egg laying bunnies (seriously, what the heck is up with that?) In place of that lets focus on the risen Christ, the lover, the conquerer, the King.

In Mourning

“Pastor wins round with Supreme Court”

That’s how the article began in the newspaper this morning. So, as I do whenever I see something regarding pastors or Christianity in the paper, I read on- and was very disturbed.

The article (originally from a St. Louis newspaper) was about Fred Phelps. If you haven’t heard of him, he is the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas that leads his congregation into protests against the nation at the funerals of soldiers. You don’t have to be a mature believer to realize this is wrong.

The Enemy According to Phelps

In short: everyone. Reading further into the article, one stumbles accross this paragraph:

Since then (refering to his 1998 picketing of a homosexual man’s funeral), Phelps has extended his message of “God’s hatred” to Jews, blacks, Catholics, Lutherans, Canadians, Swedes and numerous other groups including the U.S. government.

Why? Why does a man who claims Christ as his savior act with such hatred? This is evidence of a man who has not been changed by Christ. Based off of his actions, one is to (according to Scripture) assume that he is not actually a follower of Christ. True, he can read the Bible, translate it to his people, and believe in God. But as James says, so can the demons and they shudder. I wonder if the thought of god stirs up fear in this man.

The true response

So how should one respond to things such as the death of a homosexual? Perhaps the same as one should feel in light of someone like Michael Jackson? I know that this has been covered numerous times before, but I feel it needs to be stated again and again. As God is not rejoicing like some psychotic killer over the fact that a homosexual man has died, we should react similarly. So I can safely say that God is not pleased with Phelps and his congregation picketing funerals. We are supposed to mourn with those who mourn. Phelps is not doing so.

One could argue (although it would be a poor, groundless argument) that we are supposed to act in this way in regards to other people based off of passages in Scripture that command us to remove people from our fellowship if they are in sin or teach different doctrines. But that is Paul talking about Churches dealing with supposed Christians, not those who never made claims to believe in Christ. No matter what, we are to love everyone. What else was the point of Luke 10? Love your neighbor as yourself. Or as Pastor Mark Gedicks of Windham Baptist would put it- make sure that you put as much joy, pleasure, persistence, and impatience in serving others as you do yourself.

That is the best response. We love. We disagree with people, the Bible teaches against their sin, but that does not remove the need to lovingly share the gospel through living and preaching the true message of repentance.