Salutations. This article piggybacks a bit off of my previous two about doctrine. You can check them out here and here. In those articles, I made an argument that as Christians, we live in a culture focused around ‘petty theologies’ instead of holy living. I illustrate the critical, core theologies we must have, and how the Bible steers us not to have perfect theology, but implores us to walk a holy life filled with love. Today, I focus on that topic.
Posts tagged ‘Jesus’
Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my friend about Christmas celebrations. I discussed how so many of us actually leave Christ out of Christmas. As a result, many have a festive, family filled, giving holiday, but, somehow, regulate God to a mere footnote on the whole thing. This should not surprise us. After all, most of us actually leave God out of our day to day living completely. My friend felt I might be overthinking the whole thing. After all, is it not possible for people just to come together and have an honest, good time without sinning (or worrying about sin?) The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, no it isn’t.” Here’s why.
In the Old Testament, as most people know, God gave Israelites a list of rules and regulations, summarized in the 10 commandments. Everyone understood that to break any of these commands would result in offending God and possible punishment. However, many Israelites came to an assumption based off of these rules. They incorrectly assumed that following these rules, in and of themselves, made God happy and/or lead to eternal life.
Jesus quickly corrected this during his ministry. He lashed out at the Pharisees who kept the letter of the law, but completely missed the spirit of the Law. These men missed the entire point of loving God, and loving their fellow man. They simply looked after their own self interests by acting as the rule keepers of the people.
Jesus took things one step further. He constantly challenged people to think about their motives. He showed that the thought behind something could be just as sinful as the action. He pointed out that if we express anger at a brother, that betrays the fact that, in our soul, we have committed murder. If we lust after a woman, we have committed adultery in our hearts. He basically took commandments, and showed the the heart of the matter, in each case, was a matter of the heart.
One of the largest commandments tells us that we must shun idol worship.
Ex 20.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5″You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God
When I think of the typical American family Christmas gathering, I often see a celebration of family, giving, traditions…but very little focus on God. We have replaced Him with things that have loose connections to Him and His Spirit, but miss the mark entirely. In some cases, these elements completely replace Him. In some other cases, as I mention above, we may mention God, but He is not central to the gathering. And, yes, I feel that we sin in doing so… as an extension of Exodus 20.3.
While the commandment warns us not to worship or serve those things that we create, I wonder if the natural, logical extension of this idea is that we sin whenever we fail to give God the praise and glory He deserves in all that we do. And, should we not take the time to discuss and think through that…especially during the Christmas season? I believe we should. And, by failing to do so, in our hearts and with our lips, we have missed a mark. It is something that I, myself, need to repent of.
Sometimes, I find myself accused of possibly overthinking things. I get it. Look, I know it can be challenging to ponder through this stuff. And, in doing so, one has to wonder if people like me must have too much time on their hands. I get it. The pot calling things black needs to be careful. No one lives a perfect life. I certainly do not. But, I believe that we must pursue the truth so that we can better serve the One who gave His life for us. Only when we truly know and understand truth can we take the first steps towards pursuing Him. If we stick our heads in the sand, not willing to pursue truth in fear that it may add to the guilt we already carry, we have missed the point.
For the point of doing exercises like this is not to find the magic step that leads us to immediate holy living and qualifies us for heaven. No… we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. Our fates, sealed, led to hell. However, Jesus died for us on the cross so that we might experience true forgiveness, through no righteous act of our own, and experience eternity with Him. For that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful. And, it is with this heart of love for the one who love me first…that I give everything I possibly can…including dedication of my mind and spirit, to follow and pursue His glory. I do not discuss this stuff and look for areas of my life that need repentance in order to earn my way into heaven… I do this because I want to as thanks for what He has given to me.
- 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.
This morning, I saw the following on the top of my twitter feed. “Andy Bannister @andygbannister The church needs to be a place that makes disciples and not consumers.” I replied ” That’s a significant challenge, given its design.” I would like to take a moment to explain better, and to offer an alternative. (more…)
Do you often wonder if you’re truly saved? You’re not the only one. My wife and I found a book that does an awesome job of answering this concern, and teaches what the Bible has to teach on this subject.
“If there were a Guinness Book of World Records entry for ‘amount of times having prayed the sinner’s prayer,’ I’m pretty sure I’d be a top contender,” says pastor and author J. D. Greear. He struggled for many years to gain an assurance of salvation and eventually learned he was not alone. “Lack of assurance” is epidemic among evangelical Christians.
In Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, J. D. shows that faulty ways of presenting the gospel are a leading source of the confusion. Our presentations may not be heretical, but they are sometimes misleading. The idea of “asking Jesus into your heart” or “giving your life to Jesus” often gives false assurance to those who are not saved—and keeps those who genuinely are saved from fully embracing that reality.
Greear unpacks the doctrine of assurance, showing that salvation is a posture we take to the promise of God in Christ, a posture that begins at a certain point and is maintained for the rest of our lives. He also answers the tough questions about assurance: What exactly is faith? What is repentance? Why are there so many warnings that seem to imply we can lose our salvation?
Such issues are handled with respect to the theological rigors they require, but Greear never loses his pastoral sensitivity or a communication technique that makes this message teachable to a wide audience from teens to adults.
You can find the book at Amazon here.
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?
A few months ago, I wrote an article providing logical support for why a loving God sends people to Hell. Ultimately, God does not want any to go to hell. After all, He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins in order that we might spend eternity at His side, our sin pardoned. However, when we shake our fists in the sky, say “I’ll do it my way, God,” we leave Him little choice. To allow such selfish, destructive children into Heaven would quickly turn it into a version of Hell.
Another friend brought up this very subject, and upon thinking on it overnight, I found a logical inconsistency with how we evaluate God and our own relationships. Now, my purpose in writing this is not to demonstrate another logical reason for judgment and Hell, though it might do just that. Rather, I wish to display how we use a different standard in evaluating Christ’s approach to relationships versus our own. (more…)