- Revelation 3:14-16 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Posts tagged ‘faith’
I have numerous brothers who come to me with heavy hearts. They have placed their faith in Jesus for their justification. However, they cannot seem to shake the issue of sin in their lives. With verses like Galatians 5:16-25 and John 8:36, it would seem we should live with a life free from sin and filled with love, kindness and other characteristics of the Spirit. However, as they dig deeper, they find instruction from their leaders saying either that we cannot be free from sin, or that we simply need to take steps to try harder.
The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.
Over the next few weeks, I shall write a series of posts about what I learned from from A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. You can find the book relatively inexpensively (my Kindle version was $0.99) on Amazon and other book outlets.
This is a follow up to my last post.
Recently, I contacted a local pastor to discuss evangelicalism and challenges in the Salt Lake Valley area. The time we spent together over a meal went rather well. We lost track of time talking about numerous topics, despite our dramatically different backgrounds. Later, I sent a follow up email asking him if we could get together again, as brothers, and discuss the Word of God further and become friends.
The letter, politely worded, indicated that while he did not question my heart (for God?), he could not consider me a brother. (more…)
For the most part, I plan to avoid lengthy studies into the finer details of theology. They not only do little to move a post modern mindset so prevalent in our world today, but I believe scripture teaches us that God desires we focus our time and energy serving Him faithfully, primarily by loving one another. With that said, occasionally I receive a question, or concern, which I do like to address. (more…)
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Kevin Max
“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.” ― Billy Graham
After I accepted Christ, I spent must time studying Christian theology. I wanted to know God better, experience Him as best as possible, and live a victorious life in Christ like the apostles. I read numerous books, listened to many pastors and took any and all opportunities to learn from other siblings in the faith. I learned quite a bit. However, it took me decades to notice a concerning trend. As a group and culture, we Christians seem more concerned having the correct ‘theology’ than actually living the life.
For some reason, I see 90% of my readers closing this page after reading that last line…but, please, hold on tight.
To properly lead others to Christ, we need both love, communicated through actions, and truth, communicated through words. Love without actions, or actions without love, becomes meaningless. And without truth, neither of these matter. Timothy Keller said,
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
Few Christians would argue with this. Most preachers would teach upon the above. However, in our evangelical culture, we spend a lot more time talking and teaching theology than we do living out the life of truthful love and action. Such an approach comes off as prideful boasting, and the world sees it. A recent poll by Barna shows that over half of Americans think evangelical Christians act more like Pharisees, than Jesus. ( https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/611-christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees#.VKgRzSvF_D8 ) . In the comic book industry, we have a saying… show, do not tell. Some comic creators, myself included, have a tendency to add a lot of exposition to our story, when showing those same details through actions would get the point across much more effectively (and memorably).
Now, I do not mean to imply that Christians do not love, take action or give. Many do show their devotion to Christ through action on a regular basis. However, if one measure the amount of time, money and talent wrapped up in teaching theology versus the time, money and talent dedicated to giving and serving as Jesus did, we would find a huge variance. And the world notices.
A pastor I listen to spent nearly a dozen weeks (three months), discussing preterism… the belief that Jesus already returned after his resurrection, fulfilling those prophesies regarding his second coming. My wife and I listened, somewhat interested. However, I could not help but notice, what if the entire group of listeners took those 18 hours, and, as a group, worked to make a difference in someone’s life…or in each other? What if, instead of talking about the love of Jesus, we showed it?
I do not advocate a complete 180. We do need preaches and teachers. The Bible explains that to us numerous times. Jesus, himself, preached. However, I advocate a better balance between how we spend our time, talent and money as the body of Christ. To show the world the love of Christ, which He commands us to do, will require a massive change in how we gather, think and walk in our daily lives. I pray that you will join me in asking God to challenge our hearts to shine His light in front of man.
Mat 5.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
John 13.34 A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
James 2.14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The challenge of sin and how one may obtain forgiveness overshadows nearly every other theme in our lives. While some have learned to ignore it, guilt eats many from the inside out. More than any other motivating factor, most people seek out religion to answer the question of guilt as we have all committed wrongs that have pained others. More seriously, we have offended our Holy creator, who sets the standard of holiness.
When you compare many of the world’s religions side by side, you can find any number of answers to this challenge. Buddhism asks you to empty yourself of all desire and negativity to reach nirvana. Eastern philosophy asks you to do enough good deeds to outweigh the bad. Catholicism and Mormonism churches theoretically hold the keys to heaven. To enter, you will need to join and follow various rules and sacramental ordnances . I have noticed that nearly religions have you do a multitude of things to either earn or qualify for forgiveness needed for salvation.
On the surface, this almost seems logical. After all, if one presumes that we create some sort of spiritually based debt when we commit an act of iniquity, than certainly enough selfless or holy acts that benefits mankind could, theoretically, pay it back. As children, we would try to get away from punishment by promising better behavior in the future.
Yet, if we ponder how justice works, we see the shortcoming in this logic. When we commit a civil offense, we cannot trade in our good actions, past or future, to get away from the penalty. Recently, I police officer gave me a ticket for a traffic violation. Despite my nearly flawless driving record through two decades, and promise to learn from my error, the officer still issued the citation. An appeal to the judge to waive the requisite penalty based on future promise would fall on deaf ears. I broke the law, and I must pay the penalty.
The Bible makes it clear that the wages of sin are death, not promised (or actualized) good behavior. Once we’ve committed even one selfish act, we bring ourselves under the terrible penalty of sin. And, most of us have committed not one, but a multitude of sin. Interestingly enough, when asked, most reply that they believe they are ‘good’ people…as if we’ll all be graded on a curve. Unfortunately, the holiness of God demands that He judge us based on His Holy scale, not our understanding of it.
Back to the topic of hand, as I studied world faiths, I saw one, clear contrast as I read the Bible. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In Acts 16 a keeper of the prison “29 …called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Christianity provides the only method of salvation whereby God has already done all of the work. In just about every other faith, you have to jump through hoops, prove yourself worthy, and hope it is enough. The Bible, on the other hand, says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2.8-9) Jesus paid the price, in full, on the cross.
Occasionally, some friends of different faiths will point out that such a message implies that the sinner may continue to go on sinning. In fact, he probably will knowing that he’s forgiven of all sin, past, present and future. To make such a statement shows an ignorance of the New Testament message. When one puts their faith in God, Jesus says they become ‘born again.’ God takes the old nature of that sinner, and replaces it with a new heart. Where, before, the sinner cared mostly to satisfy his own desires (selfishness), he finds he loves his God and fellow man more. The Bible states that God grants repentance, or a desire to turn away from sin, as well. The sinner no longer finds sin captivating or compelling. While he or she may still struggle and fall from time to time, the characteristics of the Christian life, over time, will include a surrendering of their sinful way to the Lord, and a new heart filled with love for God and fellow man.
The Bible goes so far to state that a life void of love and holiness characterizes a dead faith (and, therefore, not a saving faith). James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” A child born of parents will have the characteristics of both. If he does not have any, people suspect that he is born of different parents. This applies to spiritual birth, as well. If one claims to have been re-born by the spirit of God, but lives like the devil, one would logically question if that person ever game to a saving faith in Christ. For the Bible states that “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Are you born again? Do you have heart that truly desires the Holiness of God? Do you delight in His ways?