For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. – Hebrews 4:12 NLT
I’ve been thinking a lot about the different camps that divide the church… and while there is a need to stand up for the truths that are in the scriptures… and there is a need for us to highlight messages that aren’t true… we all would agree with most of that… HOWEVER I believe that the camps we have found ourselves in are just making us lazy.
There used to be a time that people used to turn to the Bible when challenged… they used to check translations… they used to put it into context of the whole story of the Gospel message that had been threaded through the dozens of books of the old and new testament.
These days… we listen to the pod casts of those that we like… we talk about the Gospel with only those who share our views… we read books by people we know will challenge us a little bit without making us have to think too hard about the logical conclusion…
And we have become lazy…
We have become slack on the gospel story…
We are missing out huge chunks of the message of God.
It’s good to like good writers… it’s good to talk about gospel things with people who share our same view and it’s good to read books that cement our way of thinking… However… we need to get outside out nice little insulated Christian bubbles and look beyond what other people within our circles are thinking… we need to really get back into the Bible.
There seems to be more and more people who assume what they believe is right but it’s not based on personal study… it’s based on simply what they were told… that’s why you are seeing large crowds of presumable smart sophisticated Christians following people who’s message just doesn’t stack up biblically.
I love the book of Acts and I have most likely read that book of the Bible more than any book of the Bible… but this scripture caught my attention… I love how scripture is like that… you can read the same story 4 or 5 time and then one day this amazing realization hits you.
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. – Acts 17:11 NLT
These guys are just cool… they didn’t just take what Paul and Silas had to say… they were challenged and they went back and read the scriptures… not just read the scriptures in this version it says they SEARCHED the scriptures… and not just once or twice but “day after day”
So are you just believing what is being told?
Or are you being challenged and then going and checking it out in light of The Truth…
One of the elders at my church a fantastic guy called Colin Price spoke about the importance about reading the Bible… he did a great job. During his sermon he told the famous story about Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.
The story goes like this… Billy and Charles worked together doing evangelical crusades together in the mid 1940′s, thousands of people came and gave their lives over to God… and committed Christ as their personal saviour in their lives. Charles was offered the opportunity to go to Princeton Theological seminary and study. During the time there Charles tried to convince Billy to come along… at the time Billy decided it wasn’t the best decision for him so he didn’t go. As time went on Billy kept in touch with Charles, and it seems that Charles was becoming more and more liberal in his teaching… to the point where Charles said to Billy that Billys message was “too simple”, as Charles studied more and more liberal views.
In the end Billy Graham became noted in history as preaching the Gospel message (in person) than anyone else… ever. He spoke in the ear of Presidents… world Leaders… he was awarded many awards inculding an honourary knighthood in the UK.
While Charles Templeton struggled with doubt and ended up calling himself an agnostic.
So why did this story stand out for me?
Because I like history… I like to study the patterns that happen in history for those who don’t take note of historic moments. For instance if Adolf Hitler had taken a look into history at Napoleon Bonaparte he wouldn’t have tried to invade Russia in Winter… and his war story could have been so different.
But if we look at the pattern with Billy and Charles you can see it happening again… but maybe in a bigger scale.
The simple Gospel message verse intellectual liberalism.
We have some church leaders and evangelists who are becoming more and more liberal… and they are trying to make the Gospel message into something that they can intellectualize it… box it… make it easy for them to understand… to explain… to make palatable.
However the Gospel message is not these things… it is simple… it is unappologetic… it’s not P.C.
And I find myself drawn more and more to church leaders, speakers and evangelists who lay the Gospel message on a plate and say simply “here is what the Bible actually says let God speak this into your heart… into your very soul”… and I find people who are trying to twist the Gospel to say something else more and more unpalatable.
I don’t think it’s right to ask “does the Bible really say….?” – that’s the equvelent of the Devil saying to Adam and Eve… “did God REALLY say….?” – in John 1:1 it says “In the Beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the word WAS God”
The word WAS God… so when we are starting to twist the Bible or to cast doubt into the Bible teaching… then it simply isn’t the Gospel message… it’s not the truth that the Bible gives.
The truth is so simple… it hurts… it heals… it opens us… it saves us.
IT SAVES US.
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi
“You say it best when you say nothing at all” – Ronan Keating.
In this day and age it seems that it it far too easy to get Christians all fired up… and all it does is add to the media baiting.
The media puts out to the public a story that it knows will get people who have strong morals upset… and they just wait for someone to bite… they can’t help themselves.
I did a social experiment at work one time when I pinned a whole lot of pictures of meat on the ceiling… people couldn’t help but ask “why have you a whole lot of pictures of meat on the ceiling” to which I replied “They’re high steaks” … and when asked to have them taken down I replied “I can’t the steaks are too high”…
People can’t help but being part of the conversation…
So what happens is this…
The media puts a ‘shocking’ story in front of us -> we jump on it -> and we’re part of the conversation ->Or are we?
It seems more like we’re only adding to the noise and we’re only adding to keeping the story in the media longer… but WE feel good about it because we have made a stand… and we feel good about it because we’re about to chuck a couple of scriptures into the mix.
But here’s the problem (and I’ll use the lyrics of an old Petra song lyric)
“They’ve heard the stories, they’ve heard the lines
But talk is too cheap to change their minds
They want to see some vital signs.
You see we’re happy to make a stand and we’re happy to prove a point… however if we’re not doing it ALL the time, then people only see it as cheap talk.
My brother Jay is currently reading through the book of Romans in the Bible and he reminded me of this verse.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
And it’s correct… we should be making a stand in society…
However we need to be careful in doing this because if we are doing this through social media… all we are OFTEN doing is fueling the fire of the debate and conforming to how the world is doing it, the sad part of this is the media then portraits Christians as people who are against everything.
A comment made on a recent debate online from someone who may be on the fringes of faith was this:
“I take it as an affront for zealots to suggest that my and everyone else’s moral compass is somehow broken if we don’t conform to the Christian ideal. Amazing how they always believe everyone else needs saved in some form. Its this attitude that drives people away from religion.”
And to a point he’s right… we as Christians seem to play the “everyone else’s moral compass” too well… and it’s far easier to make a comment or critique than it is to make a change.
So my question is… if we have this amazing story that can save people for ALL eternity… why are we so keen to be the moral police?
It seems to be that we have become the pharisee rather than the salt and light that the world is yearning for.
Lets get into our communities and get our hands dirty… so when we make comments about these things we can actually say “I’m among it changing it… what are you doing?”
Or “that’s not ok… I’m going to push forward and help change that…”
and most importantly in this media focused society… DON’T FOLLOW THE MEDIA BREADCRUMBS…
Christians don’t conform by following the media… THINK about it….
To BE part of the CHANGE… you actually need to CHANGE… the way we do things.
We need to have a voice and there is times when we will need to… but we need to be seen doing these things FIRST.
In closing: I guess the heart of it all is that Christians need to choose their battles… there are things to fight against - poverty, pornography, human rights, community etc… however when we’re just commenting on every ad campaign or dig at the church we’re only gonna look like bigots.
I’ll leave you with these question… what is a BETTER way for Christians to use the social media?
What can we do different in a world that is built around media?
It dawned on me recently that because Jesus dies for me… and rose again… and paid a ransom for my sin.
I am no better than anyone else… I’m only saved… not because I’ve done anything… but because of what God has done through his son Jesus.
Yeah… “so what?”, you may ask…
You see every other religion (except Christianity) you have to preform… you have to do a certain amount of tasks, pray a certain amount of times, do certain rituals etc… and the upshot of that is that people in other religions become superior in their thinking… after all – they are doing things that they believe will get them to heaven… they look down on people, and it can create oppression… in fact we can see that in many countries overseas where Christianity has been pushed away.
Well lets move away from religion you say… but I have bad new the secular world isn’t much different… you have the secularist who also think they are superior looking down at the moralists saying “we’re enlightened… you’re holding on to primitive religion” – and the moralitsts are saying “You are too secular”… both think that they are ruining society…
the gospel is the only faith system that I know that leads you to believe that people who don’t have the same belief system as you will be better than you…
Yes… the gospel says you’re not saved because you’re wise, or influential or good, or because you’re doing good things or doing relious things. You’re saved because Jesus is the way the truth and the life… and no one is saved but by what Jesus has done. You have to admit you’re no better than anyone else… and you are a bottom rung scum of the earth sinner…
In fact, people from other religions may very well be better than you… wiser, kinder, more generous, more disciplined, have more self control, and too be honest more often than not… they are all those things!
Timothy Keller says:
Every other system of thought would lead you to believe that you are better off than the people who don’t believe the right things.
BUT… when you believe the Gospel, you are humbled to the people who don’t believe what you believe… the Gospel HUMBLES you…
What other system does that?
What other belief frees you to just be YOU… You’re not better than anyone else… you are just saved.
Because to God you are just as important as a King or a child or even the most devout person to ever live…
Because of this it makes the Gospel the MOST INCLUSIVE religious system… but it’s more than a religious system… more than a faith system… isn’t it?
- “Absolutely different” by Timothy Keller (tollelege.wordpress.com)
It seems to me that there are 3 types of Christians… there may be more, and if you can think of any I’d love to know.
So what are they?
1: Believe in God and the Gospel… but that’s where it ends
This is a dangerous place to be. Why? Because you KNOW that God is there and you KNOW that Jesus is the only way… but you have chosen not to follow to him. You might even go to church… but you haven’t really made a decision to follow him. You like the benefits of being a Christian, the friendship, the community… the good teaching, but it’s all just at face value.
Lots of people believe that Jesus existed… some even like the teaching. The problem is even demons believe in Christ.
Unfortunately it doesn’t make you saved!!
2: Believe in God and the Gospel… as long as it doesn’t get in my way
These people have taken a step closer to actually relying on Christ the way that he requires for us to live our live to the fullest. And to be honest this is the place that I find the hardest to move from. I had given my life to Christ, but I hadn’t given MY LIFE to Christ. It was a case of “I will do anything for you… as long as it doesn’t cost ME to much” or “I will go where you want me to go… but not there” or maybe even “I’ll work for you… but it will have to be a well paid job”
You see we have made the step to follow Christ… but we’re not willing to trust him. So instead of having him at the steering wheel… you’ve still in the drivers seat.
The question you need to ask is… is are you actually still a Christian if you haven’t given your WHOLE life to him… and HIS plans?
Because he requires your WHOLE life.
3: Believe in God and the Gospel… enough to give your life for it.
The Bible is full of promises that say that God wants the best for us… but we need to trust him – FULLY.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matt 16:25-26)
Are you willing to lose your life, so that you can live your life to it’s fullest?
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
You see the more we are worried about what we could loose… we can look what Christ gave… he gave HIS ALL. And it’s all he asks of us too.
It’s SIMPLE – but not EASY
It recently dawned (or more accurately re-dawned) on me how in our quest to make Christianity more attractive we have totally forgotten the Gospel. We have tried to put God into a bullion cube, and dressed him up in lights and decoration, we have made his sayings into bumper stickers… God is more than an epic book that you can make into a movie, there is no real way that you could cut it that could truly show the immensity of just who God is… the Bible gives over 200 descriptions of different characters of who God is… and I have a feeling that it is not even a scratch on the surface…. but it seems we have neglected to mention to people the other half the story about who God REALLY is. Yes God is all love and mercy and grace but he’s also holiness and justice to. I’ve made some points below that may sound familiar to some.
- We talk about God’s love, and mercy and grace, but we seem to neglect to mention the holiness and the justice that is all throughout the Bible
- We highlight the freedom we have as sons and daughters of God, as he is in us, but we avoid talking about the responsibility of right living in Christ.
- We seem to ‘hint’ at the fact that God will turn a blind eye to any wrong thing we do if we just come humbly before him, instead of focusing on the fact that we are UTTERLY TOTALLY accountable to God.
The problem with that is that it seems to be to much focus on the things we want God to be, but not on the things that we know that he is… and we wonder why church attendance is up but morality is down. We think we can do anything and God won’t care… or worse not do anything about it.
In 2 Peter 2:4-9 Peter made some very interesting facts, he basically says – If God didn’t spare the Angels when they sinned and send them to Hell… when Sodom & Gomorra went off the rails, he destroyed the cities… when the Earth was corrupt God sent a flood to destroy it all to start again…
Now the really cool thing about this is Peter could have gone on to say “and if you don’t sort your self out God will reign down fire on you all…. hell and brimstone!” but that’s not what Peter says, he starts to focus on Gods mercy and love and grace within that time, out of the Flood God was able to raise up a great righteous man in Noah, he was able to save Lots family from Sodom & Gomorra.
God is Judge: It’s uncomfortable to think of God in the end will judge ALL things . ALL things are naked and open to God and that is uncomfortable truth. I mean would you respect a God who couldn’t even keep his OWN rules?
Jesus came with TRUTH and GRACE and that is the way that God comes to…
Let me finish with this great description of how God works from Stuart Briscoe:
JUSTICE gives me what I deserve
MERCY doesn’t give me ALL I deserve
GRACE gives me what I don’t deserve
Recently ex-Singer Ronnie Dio of Metal band Black Sabbath died which must have been so sad for his family, and it’s sad enough for me knowing that someone could die not knowing that they are going to Heaven (now I don’t know the guy but based on his lyrics and other statements we can assume that he’s not a Christian)… But what is really frustrating is hear that a group of ‘so called’ Christians will be at his funeral picking “anti-devil” slogans.
Now to me this is so different to what the scriptures talk about… yes we are to speak in TRUTH but also in LOVE… picketing outside Ronnie’s funeral while his family mourn the loss of a loved one seems to me to show no love what so ever.
This is highlighted even more by Dio’s wife saying “Ronnie hates prejudice and violence! We need to turn the other cheek on these people that only know how to hate someone they didn’t know. We only know how to love someone we know!“… did you hear that… the non-Christians are doing a better job of showing love than those who actually call themselves Christians. now please hear me… I’m not saying I agree with the music of Black Sabbath or the Anti-christ focused lyrics but as Christians we need to show love… how can we picket about someone we don’t know, or haven’t even taken the time to know???
If we had issue with what he had to say… why didn’t we converse with him?
If we were so concerned about his music… why didn’t we ask him about his influences?
Picketing when he’s dead to annoy his family isn’t love, and holding pickets that have words based on hearsay isn’t really truth…
Interestingly the group Westboro Baptist Church also has a website called Godhatesgays.com…
For the record God doesn’t hate gays… in fact when he made man (and woman) he said that “it is good” it’s the gay practices God doesn’t like.
Sometimes in times like this it’s best to be reminded of the quote from Saint Francis of Assisi “preach the Gospel at all time – if necessary use words”