Dealing with it

So what do we do when we are corrected? Regardless of whether it is coming in a godly manner or not, there are multiple ways in which we sinfully respond to this others:

Blame

I’m pretty sure everyone present in the Garden of Eden tried this one. “You gave me this woman, God, and she led me astray” says Adam as he blames God and Eve. Eve replies: “Well, I wouldn’t have done it if the serpent had stayed away!” therefore blaming the serpent and God who created that being. In and odd twist of events, it seems that the only one not casting blame is Satan.

It is our nature to blame others for our actions. But as believers, we have been made new and no longer are bound to the sin that we once clung to.

Make Excuses

“It’s only this once”, “I won’t do it again”, “Staying pure is hard, everyone does it, so why not me?” Do we make these excuses for sin? Are our sins being deemed “mistakes that everyone deals with?” Or are we owning up to them and saying, “Yeah, it’s a sin and I need help. I need a savior”?

Disagree with God

You’ve been caught in sin, you don’t think you’ve been sinning, so God must be wrong. OK, maybe you aren’t that extreme. But the Bible has mistakes in it, right? I mean, it’s such an old book, it can’t possibly be accurate. Even if it bears the exact same message that it used to, it isn’t culturally relevant anymore, right? I mean, who can possibly follow the commands it lays out? This “sin”, as the Bible calls it, is way to fun to let go of. God wants me to have fun, right? Why are you being a killjoy?”

This is the most common thought on biblical correction. It’s the idea that the Bible is not God’s inspired Word. It’s the thought that the Gospel is shameful. But we need to understand the Bible means what it says. Sin is sin and needs to be dealt with no matter how fun it is or how great you appear to the world around you. If you are in sin and people are trying to correct you don’t automatically think they are being judgmental. Pray. Seek God’s face in the matter. Study the Word. He is mighty to save and will heal the sin.

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

Stop Worshiping Christmas

Tis the season for hyper-conservatives to get, well, hyper about cashiers and bankers not wishing them a Merry Christmas. I cannot in any respect do the justice to this topic that was done here, but I would like to point out some things in addition to it.

Why we care so much

Perhaps that should be a question instead. Why do we care if businesses are wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, or something else? As mentioned here, here, and here, our primary goal as believers is not to build an empire of moralistic people in an earthly kingdom. Jesus commanded us to go out and make disciples of him, not disciples of Christmas; not disciples of moralism.

Are WE even commanded to celebrate?

In short, no. We are told to remember what Christ has done for us and live in light of it. I know believers that choose not to celebrate Christmas because of the pagan roots that it has. That is their freedom to do so. But it is also our freedom in Christ to celebrate a holiday devoted to Christ’s birth. We should be glad about God becoming flesh, but not impose it upon those who don’t even believe that he came.

What now…?

What if you stopped asking the cashier to wish you a Merry Christmas and instead carried on a friendly conversation with them for a change? What if you asked them about their holiday and showed actually interest and, dare I say, care for what they are talking about? What if we, as the Church, spread the Gospel of Jesus instead of simply the “gospel of Christmas”?

Think about it.

A Pharisee named Jakob

You will be reading this in the morning- but these are just my thoughts at around 11:02 PM after a great night of worship at Atmosphere Park Ave.

As I played my bass through the worship set tonight, I began to look through the crowd that had gathered on this rainy night. There were more people then usual, perhaps due to the weather or school having just started or something like that. At any rate, our Worship Leader led us in The More I Seek You, Hungry, Sweetly Broken, and Your Grace Has Made Us New a song that I had written for our sermon series through the book of Galatians. He (Joel) was doing a fantastic job as usual, and I carried along in my playing. As I glanced through out the crowd, I began to pick out people I know. One girl (whom I know) was sitting alone with her head bowed in worship. How dare she? Thought I. She is far from being in the right place to worship God like that tonight.

Then I stopped. Not playing bass, but I stopped singing, watching, listening to myself- and I remembered what pastor Josh had just preached about. Then, I remembered what I had said just prior to offering, communion, and gathered worship- we are justified by grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus alone. I had let myself forget that and was instead focusing on this girl’s sin. How dare she? NO! How dare I!?!

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

I look back now and realize how Pharisaical I was being. You know, there is a Pharisee and a tax collector- they both start praying, the Pharisee thanks God that he isn’t as bad as the tax collector- and the tax collector begs our holy God for mercy (Luke 18.9-14). This girl (like the tax collector) wouldn’t even lift her head- maybe she couldn’t…

Here’s what I know. I know that her sin issues are grand indeed. But mine are worse. Perhaps they are worse because I know I am worse of a sinner. Think about it. I know I’m a dirty rotten sinner. I like to point out the sins of others. In doing so, I am proud. So in addition to my mind being free to wander off during the music- I am proud, arrogant, and just downright (dare I say) judgmental.

But here is my hope. Christ is faithful. He even saves the Pharisees like me. If I am humble and realize God’s great gift to me, I have no grounds for boasting. But I can’t do it on my own. “My grace is sufficient for you” God says, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Cor. 12.9).

Remember that as you worship with the family this morning- you are just as evil as everyone else in that room- but Jesus saved you unto good works (Eph. 2.10).

As an example

I can’t say enough how much I love the ministry of xxxchurch.com. The work that Christ has done through them to rescue souls from their sins is great!

So in light of that, and what I’ve said the past few days about Fred Phelps and his “ministry” I’d like to show you what happens when such hate is mixed with Jesus.

Here’s a video showing how Craig Gross (founder of xxxchurch) dealt with such a man.

http://xxxchurch.tv/episode20exxxoticamiami.html

Gross did fumble slightly in an interview where he said that Jesus didn’t come to judge. But the interviewer was also very closed minded in regards to his own sin and the true message of Jesus- here it is below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AtFCad8X_k

I applaud Gross for how he reacted with righteous anger- he may need to be a bit more careful though. As we all should be.

When it comes to Phelps

In light of Fred Phelps and his numerous issues with… everyone, I thought it be best to touch on just some of the groups of people he hates.

Homosexuals

John Piper has some great insight on this topic. In the second paragraph (and at other times) Piper has affirmed that God will not judge America for accepting homosexuality, instead- the rapant tolerance of homosexuality in America (and the West) is due to our leaving of God. It is a part of His judgment of this nation. However, I would put the blame on so much more than just the nation- the Christians in this nation must step up and speak against sin in love and live the message of the Gospel. We have yet to do so as we should and thus bear a large part of the blame. In short, we never cease to love others- and by loving others, we mean focus on truly showing care for the people around us.

Jews

I seem to remember Paul saying something about the Jews… Romans 11:28 tells us, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” To be honest, I don’t know the exact meaning of this verse (and would welcome help with it) but Paul says that the Jews are beloved for the sake of their fathers. So if they are enemies in regards to the gospel (as is everyone who is unsaved) and beloved at the same time, we again find ourselves in a delicate balance where the Bible (which should be our delight) tells us that everyone is our enemy- but also tells us to love that others may come to know Christ. So it is wrong to hate people just for being Jewish (I didn’t think we had to cover that again).

Blacks

This will be shorter as it is similar to the above statement. We once had slavery in America, and everyone used the Biblical commandments regarding slavery to support their ideals. However, virtually every theologian holds to the fact that American slavery is vastly different than Biblical slavery (in which case, I agree with slavery- according to the Biblical standards). However, this idea of slavery sticks with us to the point that we like to hate people who are different because they are supposedly lesser than us. But that is not the message of the Bible. The message of the Bible is that one day people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be glorifying Christ. This means man, woman, child, white, black, Native American, Jew, Gentile etc… will all be represented in the presence of Christ.

Catholics and Lutherans

Yes, we disagree with them (the Catholics more than the Lutherans). But to hate them and cause them pain is wrong. Instead, we should be showing Catholics that true salvation is only by grace and works are an outpouring of that grace. But I don’t know why he hates Lutherans- doesn’t he know that it was Luther who helped begin the very Reformation that allowed him to be Baptist?

Canadians, Swedes, Italians

That’s just silly. Regardless of what your stereotypes of these nations are- you should not neglect their needs. For instance, Phelps hates Italy because of the Mafia. But just because a notorious gang of criminals cam from that country, doesn’t mean that all Italians are Mob-bosses. I thought we had gotten away from ethnic stereotypes. But I guess if you don’t know the love of Christ, it’s easier to ignore loving people.

The U.S. Government

All I can do to speak against Phelps’ hatred of this group is quote Paul from Romans 13.1-7:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

If Paul can speak like that regarding the Romans, we can speak the same regarding our president.

Think about it- don’t hate- that doesn’t accomplish anything.

A message to Mr. Phelps- Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Don’t ruin the message of the Gospel for your benefit.

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.