Don’t Judge, God!

A few of my previous posts here have presented possible issues. I have claimed that everyone is religious in their hearts and always want to prove their own worth and deservedness through their actions. Then we saw that our views of God can be tainted by what we know about the fictional fat man of Christmas. The danger with us talking about God’s hatred of man’s religion is this: we can easily think that God is a big pushover sitting on a Lay-Z-Boy and eating chips while everyone does what ever they want on earth. And if we hear of his wrath against sinners, our response can easily be, “Don’t Judge!”

May it never be!

Is it true? Can we get away with anything we want because God is gracious and doesn’t want us to get religious? Of course not. Paul writes against this in Romans six and seven saying that we should not impose on the grace of God and slack off. God does command works. His Law is in place to be followed. Granted, we cannot follow it on our own, but just because we are unable to follow the law does not mean we give up! If Christ is in our lives, we are to be serving him out of our love and gratitude for him.

If Christ isn’t in your life

Having heard this, it becomes easy to think that god won’t judge you if you don’t follow his law. For the unbeliever, the Bible is full of references to the torment the ungodly evil doers (all of us apart from Christ) will face in Hell apart from Jesus. But those who are in Christ are a new creation and have the ability to do good and follow God’s law as they are considered righteous. Let us not go into life thinking that we can be irreverent just because we want to hate religion. Yes, hate the work of aimless religion, but don’t stop believing in Christ for salvation and doing that which he has predestined you to do.

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The true and better… Santa?

“He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…”

You could probably finish the song, except this time, we’re talking about god. Not God as the Bible teaches though, this god is the one who acts very much like our favorite fat man dressed in red.

Religion, again

Maybe it’s because I have heard “Santa Claus is Coming to town” a lot lately, maybe I’m just becoming increasingly aware of my sin and Christ’s grace. Probably a mixture of both. But at any rate, we need to see the religion of man-kind in general and the true One who gives gifts to men. We all think we deserve good things for good deeds, and everyone who wrongs us deserves death and humiliation, or at least a time out. Right? Few could claim this isn’t how they were raised. If you are good, you get good things, if you are bad, you are punished– being good gets you toys, being bad gets you coal. I’m not knocking parenting here, I’m just trying to show us where we get our view of Jesus from. We think we are acceptable to God because we have always obeyed our parents, but that is far from true.

The Real Jesus?

We first need to not look at Jesus as though he is a skinny Santa. In other words, if you want to really connect with Jesus in  your prayers to him, stop giving him a list like a kid a Christmas time. Prayer is first about God and getting to know his will, and second about you. And even when it’s about you, the focus should be on repentance and a desire to follow him in everything. The real Jesus is kind and merciful- he forgives the repentant despite what he has done. Jesus is also just- he disciplines his people and corrects those he loves.

This is the real Jesus (not the image, rather, the description above). Given the choice between the two, who do you go for? Do you complain to God claiming that you deserve better than what he has given? Or are you content with what he has done in your life (namely, salvation through Christ). He won’t change the way he feels about his children based off of their works, so why would we live as though he does?

Everyone’s religious

It’s Sunday, and if you’re reading this, you may be getting religious soon. You may be headed to Church and hoping that no-one notices how bad your kids are being or how rude you are on your way in. Maybe you aren’t on your way to Church. Maybe you are sitting in your living room reading being happy about the fact that you aren’t like the religious ones out there scrambling to get to Church on time. If you think you’ve escaped the aim of this post, you may need to change your mind about what makes up religion.

Me and you, and you and me

No matter what you have been taught in school or learned from your parents, everyone has religious tendencies. No where do you see this more than in retail. I once had a customer come to me and ask for a discount because she deserved one for being such a loyal customer. That’s religion. Any time you think you are deserving of something because you have done something good and right, you are guilty of religion. Religious people don’t trust Jesus with their salvation, they like Jesus but hope they can make it far enough without him. And, as I said, we are all guilty of it. Look at your own life. When have you said something like, “I deserve better than this”, or even, “God, I have worked hard for you and you repay me like this?!”

A rose by any other name…

Call it karma, shout, “What goes around, comes around,” say it anyway you want, it is still religion and it will kill you. If you adhere to the false religion that says you deserve better, you follow a lie. This lie will tell you that you should be proud of yourself for doing such a great job. It will also work at your fear and get you to think that you aren’t good enough for anything and that God will hate you if you don’t obey him.

But praise God for Jesus, who accepts people on  the sole basis of his goodness and mercy. We no longer have to work for salvation nor must we fear that he will fail, because he is God! Nothing fails when he is in control. Jesus hates religion, and so must we.

Book Review: Forgotten God

Francis Chan is known to many Christians as a radical leader. His first book, Crazy Love, focused on the need for believers to be living in light of who they serve. He talks about who God is, what the Church should be, and how we are to respond to God’s loving kindness. This time, Chan writes on who the Holy Spirit is and what His role is in the life of the believer. It is a great sequel to Crazy Love as believers cannot live out what he wrote in there apart from the Spirit.

In his book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan investigates what we have done with the Holy Spirit. It appears that we all have our ways of misunderstanding this important member of the God-head. Some worship Him at the expense of the Father and Son, others put Him last in importance, and others don’t know what to think because they have heard mixed reviews. Chan does a great job explaining the Spirit’s role and helping us find some middle ground. I would encourage you to read this book and consider some of the following implications.

The Spirit

According to Jesus and the rest of the Scriptures, the Spirit is supposed to lead the Church and individual believers into a life of godliness and sanctification. Sadly, this doesn’t occur as often as it must. In our churches this means we replace His power with “Awesomeness” as Jared Willson puts it. But in our lives, it takes on another appearance.

They’re called idols

…but we call them savings accounts, 401k’s, and security deposits. Although most disagree, these things of comfort and safety detract from the power of the Spirit in our lives because they cause us to rely on Him less. When we are told in Romans 8.26 that the Spirit helps us in our time of need, but we so often think that everything else matters so much more. This fuels the idea that you need to get your life together and stabilized before you make any big life changes (like Josh Cousineau alluded to the other day and again today). But if we trust the Spirit to help and guide us, we can leave the hard things up to Him a fully rest in His counsel.

Jesus taught moralism

Now before you try to read through the whole Bible to find where he did such an awful thing, let me explain.

IF

…you forget about Jesus, then he taught moralism.You might ask, “How can I forget Jesus when he is the one saying something in the Scriptures?”

Very easily. Here is how it works.

Take a saying of Jesus, preferably a command. I have a few good ones here:

“…whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” -Matthew 5.22

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you might be sons of your Father who is heaven… You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5.44-45, 48

“…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5.20

See? Jesus gave us commands and rules to follow and if we complete them, we enter heaven!

But!

Jesus knows that we could NEVER fulfill the law or even the commands to love others that he gave us. How are we to be perfect, righteous, peaceable, et cetera? This is where forgetting who Jesus is leads to despair. Some how people are able to take these and many other commands an make them about themselves instead of Jesus. Jesus is the center of the whole Bible, even (or especially) His commands. We cannot be righteous on our own!

Why else would Jesus begin the Sermon on the Mount in this way:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)
Jesus didn’t bring us more laws, He fulfilled the Law. And now we are called to live in light of His life of perfection, His sacrificial death, and his Kingly ascension into Heaven. Worship Him with obedience.

Loving Happy Endings

The guy gets the girl, the baby survives the deadly disease, the kid makes the team and, against all odds, leads them to victory. This is the most predictable thing in the movies, yet we swoon over the padded endings like crazy. For some reason we love happy endings, but why? Why do we let this false reality discourage our real lives?

On one hand

Before you think I’m too much like Adam Sandler’s character in Bedtime Stories, think again. There are indeed happy endings in life. We as Christians have our hope in a story that has a very happy one. Our King, upon coming to earth, is beaten and killed for being who he was only to rise again on our behalf and send us a helper until his return where he will completely take over the world. If that isn’t a happy ending, then I don’t know what is.

On the other hand

Most stories don’t end that way. Most stories end in the main character dying. I understand that we want to escape reality through the method of media, but there comes a point where we don’t need more that will cause us to be frustrated because “that isn’t how it’s done in the movies!”

As believers, we should accept this very willingly. Paul was near his death when he wrote the letter to the Church in Philippi and he knew it. This led him to pen the following:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Phil. 1.21-26)

He still fought

Imagine the blood and tears that were poured out when Paul was writing this. He had endured the pain, suffering and punishment for being a believer, but was still willing to stay for the sake of the believers. And there was no happy ending in sight: Paul died a martyr’s death for following Jesus. That’s what we need to remember.

There are faithful believers in Christ suffering great things for Him who will never see a happy ending on earth. Others will die from terminal illnesses that will not be healed in their lifetimes but will hold on to Christ till the end. Those are the stories I want to hear. Those are the people I want to praise God for. Yes! Praise God for the healing and deliverance that he sends, but praise him as well for the faithful ones who suffer till the end.

The Gospel- The Musical

He was jacked. Seriously, he could rip my face off.

I sat at the shoulder press while he (we’ll call him “Bill”) was at the pulley system working every muscle possible in his torso and arms. Muscles I don’t think I have. But there was something that set this guy apart. For many of us, the gym means working out alone while listening to our iPods and not judging people. For Bill, the gym meant a dance session between each set.

Yes. Between each set that he did, Bill would stop, listen to the music, then do some dancing. It was pretty good dancing too (at one point there was an air-guitar involved). His dancing was so joyful, so happy, that I thought it must be worth listening to! So I nonchalantly took my ear buds out, and listened along. I have no idea what the song was, but Bill had succeeded in his mission: he had gotten me to listen.

What are we dancing to?

Jesus said that others would know we follow him by the love that we exude (Jn.12.35). Paul said anyone in Christ is a new creation and that the old has gone (2 Cor. 5.17). The Gospel changes the song we dance to, and as a result, the dance is changed. So if we are truly obeying the Gospel, it will show in our lives.

Are you letting the beauty of the Gospel be beautiful?

God’s message is offensive enough that his people don’t need to make it more so. But we do every day with how we live. We must let the Gospel be offensive to sin and death but beautiful to life and righteousness.

Are you generally bitter? Depressed? Do you overreact at the smallest statement? Are you ungrateful?

Why?

What right do we have to be any of those? Instead, we must be like Bill who danced with such joy that he made others wonder what song was playing. Let your life reflect the saving power, the beautiful music of the joy of the Gospel so that others might listen to it’s lyrics.