Musings on Christianity 46

Musings on Christianity 46

If We Shouldn’t Do Something, We Shouldn’t Risk Doing Anything Close To It, Should We?

For the last few chapters, we’ve been trying to take away the the gray areas people pretend are there. We established that a person can either believe in Christ or not. After that, professed believers must submit to Christ’s rule. If we must submit to His rule, we must also submit to the teachings of those He chose to lead the church after His ascension.

For these previous questions, there are no gray areas, but that does not mean that there are not gray areas in a Christian life. The pharisees, whom Christ condemned as hypocrites are important to study. What was it they did that was so bad?

As I read the Bible and I read about Christ’s life, the things He most often rebuked weren’t violations of commandments. That doesn’t mean they weren’t wrong, for the record. However, why debate right and wrong? If a thing is wrong, it is wrong per se, and there is no need to invest time on discussing its wrongness.  But the two rebukes I recall seeing most from Christ were, “Oh ye of little faith!” and “You hypocrites!”

The pharisees took the Holy law of God and tried to add to it, placing a burden on the backs of believers that was more then they even tried to bear and more than anyone could. The pastor at my church said something like, “You can’t be more holy than God!”

Before we try to truly understand what is wrong in the eyes of God, before we try to understand what we should and shouldn’t do, we should make sure to understand that there are indeed judgements to be made in our lives.

As an example, Ephesians 5:18-29 plainly says “do don’t get drunk with wine.” There are some who seek to add to that command and turn it into saying, “do not drink.” That’s not the same thing. A man drinking a beer with his dinner isn’t sinning. Even in the Christian faith the celebration of the Lord’s Supper may include a small cup of wine.  The hard and fast line is. “don’t get drunk.”

So what about getting a solid buzz? What about drinking here or there?  I imagine if we ask 100 self-identified Christians, we’ll get a pretty diverse range of answers.

First, we fall back to the greatest commandment. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 23:37).’” 

Readers, when in doubt, refer to rule number one. If everything you do is done to honor and love God, then it is well. We say this because we already understand we can’t sin and love God any more than a boy can say he honors his father and then steal from his father. So if you’re drinking for you, there may be a problem there. If you’re drinking because God blessed you with fermented drink, and you’re enjoying the gift he gave you, you might be OK, so long as you don’t get drunk. Remember, that’s the hard and fast line.

Why am I using this? Because I use to drink. I’d maybe go out on the town for a special occasion here and there, but I didn’t just get drunk. I got hammered. On a human level, I always made sure I wasn’t driving. I told friends where I was going, and I always had someone around to make sure I didn’t do anything too stupid. I won’t go into a tangent about how unkind and irresponsible any of that was. It’s not the point. What happened is I eventually came to realize two things. First, I got hammered so that I could dampen my judgment enough to do things I knew God didn’t want me to do. I wanted to drown the Holy Spirit. Second, even if I began innocently (which didn’t happen very often), I realized I lacked control. I’m an impulsive person.

So after too many days realizing I was humiliated and ashamed by whatever I’d done the night before, I realized that I, as an individual person, don’t have any business drinking. Since then, I’ve maybe had a beer here or a beer there. By this I mean I’ve probably consumed a total of five alcoholic beverages in the last, oh, three years, maybe four. I steer clear of it in most situations.

But this extra restriction I placed on myself was an effort of discipline to ensure I never drifted into that particular sin. I made this choice to control myself, and no one else.

The problem comes when people place themselves on God’s throne, adding restrictions because they could, maybe, at some point, lead one to an actual sin.

Assertion: Placing an extra restriction on yourself to avoid temptation is just fine, but that does not allow one to then mentally assign those restrictions to others.

That assertion, I think, is supported by Paul’s letter in Romans 14:1-8. 

  There are certain areas where my faith is weak, and so I work harder to avoid temptation. There are other areas where my faith is strong, so I can confidently steer clear of violating expressed commandments. Our journeys are unique in that regard.

What happens though is sometimes people become misguided. The transfer their own weaknesses of faith to others and then judge according to that weakness of faith rather than the expressed command of God.

No one of us is God.

Just as I put so much effort into explaining that one can not follow Christ and sin, so too will I speak against the idea that one can follow Christ and then judge others wrongly, thus placing themselves on Christ’s throne. Note the critical adverb in the previous sentence. There is wrong judgment, and there is good judgement. My church is doing a study on that as I type this. Most of this chapter summarizes the critical points of those sermons. If a member of my church commits adultery, and I find out about it, I’m Biblically directed to rebuke him in person (in person, not in public).

If I drift into sin because I’m blinded by my flesh, I would want someone to tell me just as I’d want someone to tell me if I break a rule in a game or do something at work I shouldn’t do. We make mistakes, and when were are lovingly corrected, we have the opportunity to grow.

So when we correct someone, even this we do to glorify God. We shouldn’t call someone out on their sin so we feel better about ourselves. That’s not the function of a rebuke. Instead, we seek to inform a person of their sin, hoping they will realize they’ve committed the sin and stop doing it. The goal isn’t to elevate yourself above anyone; it’s to ensure all eyes are fixed on God.

There are indeed areas in the Bible, wisdoms and proverbs, that are great and useful, but they are not actually commands. The work is studying to ensure you know the difference. Even in violations of commands, there are some which are far more severe and were punished much more firmly than others. So we can look at God’s example and know which sins we might be more patient with and which should be punished severely by those with the authority to exact that punishment. This doesn’t mean that those sins God is more patient with aren’t bad and won’t absolutely lead to eternity in Hell if the person never stops. For instance, I might be able to wait awhile before I change the oil in my car, but if I never do it, my car is doomed. The same is true for these lesser sins.

Even in my own walk of faith, I know I have far more sin in me than I want. The very existence of any sin in me is enough to drive me mad sometimes, but among those sins are things I think are far more concerning to me than others. I’m far more concerned with the pride in my heart than I am about most of the other things I do at the moment. I’m far more concerned with adopting a humble approach than I am fixing other things. I absolutely want to exercise all the sin from my life, but my pride is the one I currently have the most concern with.

As we work to sanctify ourselves, we may need to take measures to avoid temptation. That would be wise. However, we should be careful no to elevate precautions to commandments.

For our panel: What are some common precautions you’ve seen elevated to commandments? Is there ever a point where one might reduce his personal restrictions?  How does one distinguish the difference between personal restriction and God’s commandments? What should one do if he’s rebuked for something that isn’t actually sinful? Why does Paul call some weak of faith and others strong of faith?

Musings on Christianity 42

Musings on Christianity 42

The Choice That Ultimately Determines Other Choices

We’re approaching a discussion on what is expressly forbidden by the word of God. That is where the rubber essentially meets the road. One can not truly discuss Christianity without eventually discussing those things that are expressly forbidden.

Before I begin considering this matter, I must first take a step back and ask why any organization would need rules. It seems silly for me to have to do this, but it is actually necessary.  You see, when a college star joins the NFL, he agrees to follow the NFL Code of Conduct. No one blinks.  When a young person decides to join the military, they swear to uphold the Constitution and obey the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No one blinks. My point is that people freely join groups, and they accept the boundaries that group places on them. When one decides to work somewhere, there are rules and policies in place that everyone at that place of business is required to follow. No one blinks.

But ask a Christian what is right in accordance to their faith, and suddenly people climb out of the wood work to talk about how right or wrong these rules are. I won’t deny that some people who claim to be Christian make this situation more difficult. This is because the Bible doesn’t exactly have a long list of expressed sins. It really doesn’t! I’m not even talking about those sins that are currently hot debates in today’s society. I’m currently talking about people adding to faith, which ironically is a sin in and of itself. That’s right. Adding to the word of God is a sin, so anyone who adds a burden to the faith that isn’t expressly forbidden by the word of God is actually a violation of the word of God.

It frustrates me when people try to use my faith as a platform to push their own agenda. It’s ugly. A Christian’s primary duty is to love God. Then there are those who seek to be God’s avenger. God doesn’t need an avenger. Vengeance belongs to him. He’s perfectly capable of meting out justice, and He’s even ordained the day when he will separate the saved from the damned. I don’t have any business punishing people for what they do. However, those God places in authority are responsible for upholding the law. God granted them full authority to judge and prosecute offenders. He ordained this in Exodus and confirmed this ordinance in Romans (among other sections of the Bible).

I’m just a guy, so it’s not my job to judge anyone—except myself and my family. This is because I am the head of my family, and I am responsible for my own actions. No, I won’t attempt to punish anyone who violates an expressed Biblical command unless that person is a member of my family, and even then, just as God has granted me mercy through Christ, I too may be merciful if I deem it appropriate. Any parent can punish a child for, say, not doing homework. Or a parent could simply rebuke the child and leave it there. This is an example of my point.

When I sin, sometimes my wife (or another brother or sister in Christ) lovingly rebukes my sin. It’s never fun, but I respect those rebukes because I respect the faith. People sometimes balk, and rightly so, at some of the “rules” churches put on their congregation. For me, the rules a church has should be based on the word of God and nothing else. This is one reason I love my church so much. It takes Biblical discipline very seriously. It’s also very careful what rules it enforces.

What might scare some people is that some organizations have rules and forces others to follow them. They’re called cults. But there is a difference between a cult, which seeks to dominate and possess people, and any other sane organization. A cult seeks to possess and own. I can leave my church tomorrow, and nothing would change except the place in which I choose to worship. Even Christ gave people the choice. They could choose to follow Him or not.

What happens, however, is that even non Christians understand the implication of those words. Christians, as I mentioned in an earlier chapter, believe that Christ is the only way to Heaven. Therefore, those who don’t follow Christ aren’t going. It’s as simple as that.

If I’m wrong, I’m doomed anyway, and what does it do to anyone else? I’ve mentioned this several times, so it’s time to look at it from another perspective.

Ultimately every person must decide what he or she believes. Is Christianity right or wrong? One must choose.

Those who choose Christianity is wrong can do whatever it is they want. They can choose another religion, but they must then submit to the rules of that religion. One day, we’ll die and figure out who was right. My point is, if one decides Christianity is wrong, they are completely at liberty to do whatever it is they decide to do within the confines of the civilization in which they live. Of course, no American is free to walk around murdering people. That’s against the laws of this nation. But they may choose to do things that violate Christian law so long as it doesn’t violate state or federal law. 

If they’re wrong, they’re doomed just as I am doomed if I am wrong.

Those people who choose Christianity is wrong may simply choose to follow no religion at all. They can do whatever is right in their own eyes. They’re still at the mercy of the state and federal laws of wherever they live, but the rest is a decision they hold the right to choose.

If they’re wrong, they’re doomed just as I am doomed if I am wrong.

Those who choose Christianity is right must then submit to the rules established by God’s word. How can one say, “I truly believe Christ is the only way into Heaven,” and then do things Christ expressly forbids? The one who makes this choice must realize and accept that following Him is a decision they’ve already made.

That creates a lot of pressure from one point of view, but we remember that Christ isn’t just our master. He’s also our advocate. When we sin, just as any sin must be paid for, we can realized that Christ has already paid for that sin. When we’re tempted, we can turn to Christ for strength because He also was tempted (see Matthew Chapter 4). Even when we fail, we can still turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness because He understands what it means to be tempted. We don’t sin without remorse because we want to be like Him, but we rejoice in his forgiveness because He has paid for our sins and speaks on our behalf with the Father.

All of this is only relevant if one chooses Christianity as their faith. That single choice demands the rest of these ideals also be accepted.

If Christianity is wrong, Christians are doomed just as others are doomed if they are wrong.

I have to establish this before I can discus other, more emotionally charged, topics. If you are one who passionately believes Christianity is wrong, then the rules of a Christian life are naturally going to be equally abhorrent to you. But if one takes a step back and says, “He’s a Christian, so he’s going to believe these things,” one can choose to either listen for understanding or walk away because they already know they disagree with the principle any Christian should stand on.

However, if one chooses Christianity is right, then those things Christ expressly forbids must be accepted and avoided.

I don’t know how many atheists really balk at Christian values. I really don’t. But I’ve seen plenty of Christians argue over Biblical law. That’s the thing I don’t understand. If you don’t want to follow Christian laws, then don’t be a Christian. I’m not casting anyone out of anything. I’m not “kicking you out” of the club or “turning my back” on you.

Two people sit down to a game of cards. The game goes on for a while until a man makes a play that’s illegal.

“You can’t do that,” the first man says.

“Why not?” the opponent asks.

“Because it’s against the rules,” the first man explains.

“That rule is stupid! I’m not playing anymore.”  The opponent gets up and leaves.

Anyone who chooses a way of life must then live in accordance to that way. In this, Christianity isn’t any different. No one is forcing anyone to be Christian, not even Christ. However, anyone who chooses to do anything must do so in accordance to the rules.

Just like that game of cards above, the rules to Christianity are in a very-easily located rule book, The Bible. You can read it and decide you want to do what it says (as well as any fleshly person can), or you can read it and decide you don’t want to do what it says.

Again, that is the first choice that determines every other choice. But if people can simply understand that is the most important choice, maybe they could at least accept those differences and live in peace.

I’m a Christian. I’m going to vote in accordance to my faith. I’m going to raise my children in accordance to my faith. I’m going to treat my wife in accordance to my faith. I’m going to work in accordance to my faith. I’m not perfect. I’m going to make mistakes. So I have fellow Christians who can guide and correct me when I make a mistake just as anyone I play cards with might remind me of a rule I have to follow. They don’t do this so that my game is less fun. They do this so that I can keep playing.

The guy at work who comes to me and reminds me I should be working isn’t trying to ruin my life. He’s trying to keep me from getting into trouble or even getting fired.

The same is true of Christianity. Discipline, which is training, not punishment, isn’t to hurt the individual, it’s to help them. The more we remember that, the more we appreciate those who keep us in line.

For our panel: Why is it people are so passionate about debating what Christians should and shouldn’t do? Why are some people so ready to claim to be Christians and yet still so unwilling to obey clearly-expressed laws of God? Can people have it both ways? Can people say they’re Christian and still do whatever the feel is right? Why not? Are Christian rules put in place to control us or make our lives miserable?

Musings on Christianity 10

Musings on Christianity 10

Should We Judge or Not?

The most persecution I think I witness Christianity receive is when they are being attacked for their beliefs. The sad thing is, they’re not being ridiculed because they believe in Christ per se. Many people can (and do) say “I’m Christian.” They’re scorned when they apply Christian doctrine to real world situations.

If I say to you, “I’m a Christian,” you might say to me, “That’s nice.” You may even say, “I’m not, but do you.” But if I say to you, “I believe abortion is wrong.” Now the divisiveness comes. Now the anger comes. I’m not talking about me standing on a street corner waving a sign or throwing animal blood on the window of an abortion clinic. I’m not talking about anything as demonstrative as that. I’m just talking about stating a personal belief and what I will teach my sons.

I state, “I’m pro life.” That’s when I’m suddenly bombarded with social media posts and dirty looks.

This is not a chapter on pro-life vs pro-choice. The Bible is clear on murder, and even science has a distinct list on what it calls “life.” I’m not going to debate something that’s clear in my mind because that’s not the function of this book. The function of this book is to clarify things that might not be obvious to the new Christian or one who is seeking to understand Christianity.

A much more difficult question comes from this singular example. Should we judge or not? 

How many times have you heard or even said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1)?

Just a bit further down, we’re asked, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

That seems pretty clear so far. From this we know to make sure to look at ourselves closely and work on our own righteousness or sanctification.

The problem (the biggest problem when one wants to quote one part of the Bible without reading the whole) is that people only stop at those verses. Paul wrote much about judgement.  “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Looking around that verse, we learn that he is speaking on a few things. First, he is telling believers not to go to the court instead of the church (1 Corinthians 6:1). But once more, don’t stop there. Look at Paul’s justification. “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?” (1 Corinthians 6:2)

Paul’s justification for judging cases between brothers is that the saints (Christians) are indeed to judge the entire world.

And then come those who buck at the inspired word of God. “That’s Paul talking, not Christ.”  Doctrinally, we know that Paul was the human means by which God spoke to us. His words, sent to him by God. 

So let’s go to Christ to see if we can find him speaking more about Judgement. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement” (John 7:24).  The context of this verse is that Jesus had just finished teaching and healing on the Sabbath.

As to appearances and right judgment, how does one judge? Let’s go back to Matthew for some clarification. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). 

How will we judge who is speaking falsely or not? Jesus was nice enough to give us that measurement too. “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:16-17).

If you put all of this context together, you get a clearer picture on what we are supposed to do. I’ve broken it down in my mind into three key parts.

1: Judge yourself first. Most of what Christ spoke about and against when speaking about judgement wasn’t about the act of judgement in and of itself. It was against hypocritical judgement. There is indeed a righteous type of judging (John 7:24) and a wrong sort, the censorious, self-righteous sort of judgements. So we can’t even begin to judge if we are not first aware of our motives. Judge yourself, and be sure you are defending God’s word, and not your own desires. Judge yourself and be sure you are glorifying God and his law rather than your self.

2: To judge yourself, look at the fruit you bear. Be sure you are living a Christian life, bearing fruit for Christ. It’s easy to recognize a hypocrite from a true believer. Just look at their life. No one is perfect, which people love to spout when speaking about righteousness and Christianity, but do they strive to be better, or do they live happily in their sin (1 John 3:6)? That verse I think, helps tie the above verses together in a beautiful way. Whatever you’re going to judge, if it’s something you yourself do, shut your mouth. Let that self-righteous fury go, and humbly turn to Christ to seek forgiveness for yourself. If you want mercy and forgiveness for your sins, repent; turn away and lay down that sinful nature and pick up the cross. Then you might just lovingly pull that other along side yourself and help him see that repentance and freedom from that sin (and all sin) is possible through Christ.

When you see someone self-righteously and aggressively acting out, understand that’s not the manner in which we are to judge. This doesn’t mean a Christian can’t make Christian decisions. A business might lawfully decide what clients it wants to serve or not. I’m not sure what the whole nation allows, but I know for a fact that the state of Arizona, where I grew up, has a perfectly legal right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Now, you as an individual may feel that law is wrong, but then you’re problem should start with the law, and not the person obeying or invoking it. I’d caution you though. Before you speak out against the laws you disagree with so much, remember that it is the law itself that grants you the right to speak out (the First Amendment).

A Christian is also completely fine making Christian decisions and stating Christian opinions. When one speaks calmly (countenance) and gently (meekness), he’s acting in perfect accordance to both our country’s laws and the word of God (so long as what he’s saying is indeed in accordance with the word of God). A man can’t be right if he’s speaking wrong in a righteous manner any more than a man can be right speaking right in an unrighteous matter.  This is the crux of the entire chapter, and it leads to my third key part of judgement.

3) If you are doing all you can to be righteous (seeking Christ likeness) and bearing the good fruit that can only be born of a life dedicated to Christ, then, you may judge, and judge rightly. You have the discernment and discipline one needs to be the judge we are meant to be.

Why then do we judge? Well, first we judge to ensure we’re living as we should (again it begins with you). Then we judge not to elevate ourselves or shame others, but to offer salvation. But we can’t appreciate salvation if we’re unclear just how in need of it we are. I’ve said several times that Romans is a beautiful book. It’s  so comforting. But (again as I’ve said several times) the first three chapters are very convicting. I find the comfort in my salvation because Paul does a marvelous job explaining just how lost we are without it.

But rather than judge to persecute, why not rather judge to offer salvation? Why not judge to determine who needs Christian fellowship or who needs evangelism? What if we used our judgement to determine not who should be punished, but instead who most needs to hear the gospel?

What would this world be like if we sought not to elevate ourselves, but instead to glorify God by identifying sin and seeking to eliminate sin? What would this world be like if we worked to purge sin from our midst instead of punish sin? For the punishment (wrath) belongs to God (Romans 12:19-21, quoted from Deuteronomy 32:35).

That wrath was coming to all Christians, and it is coming for any unrepentant sinner. It really doesn’t matter what the sin is. I’ve had people tell me one type of sinner goes to Hell or another type of sinner goes to Hell. Nope! Unrepentant sinners, sinners who don’t accept Christ as their savior, go to Hell. This is a truth, not a threat. If that statement makes you feel defensive, I’d simply, and calmly ask that you look at your life to identify what you’re doing that makes you feel threatened. If you’re repentant, if Christ is your savior and you’re working to grow in your sanctification, which is evident in the fruit you bear, then you truly have nothing to worry about. If you feel threatened because what you want is the sin you covet, then what do you want me to do? I’ve told you what the Bible says. You can have your sin if you want it. Both God and I will let you have it (Romans 1:24). Why then be shocked at the price? Just acknowledge that you’re not worried about it and go on about your way.

However, if that fear is strong, if you’re so defensive as to feel you need to retaliate against me, please realize that I’m not the enemy you need to fight. Neither is Christ. Fight instead the temptation. Fight instead the sin. Fight by praying to Christ for forgiveness and then put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17). 

If you feel no fear or worry, then why would my words bother you at all? For those of you who read this and feel anger or fear at these words, consider why they make you feel that way. If you are living the most Christian life you can, striving to be like Christ in all things and being thankful for his sacrifice when (as we all do) you fall short, live joyful in the knowledge that you are safe with him. If you who read this feel anger or fear at these words, consider why they make you feel that way. If you reject Christ and all he stands for, or if you reject Christ and his existence, then why not do as you wish? Like I said, I’m not stopping you. I don’t have that power.


 

For our panel: When we judge or speak out against sin, how can we be sure we’re doing so in a righteous way? How do we balance our call to judge rightly against the fact that it is to God that vengeance belongs? How do we ensure we’re doing all we can to remove the plank from our own eye? What verses do you recommend to those who are seeking to be wise in judgement?

Musings on Christianity 5

Musings on Christianity 5

Where is the line between Grace and Law, and fellowship and judgement

Growing up, the biggest stumbling block I faced in my walk with Christ was composed of groups of people who attended a church but didn’t act very Christian. You may have seen people like them. They’re the ones outside events screaming into bull horns. They’re the ones outside a soldier’s funeral proclaiming that man went to Hell.

Their actions and hostility all led me to a place where I thought that’s what Christianity was. I thought Christians were a group of self-entitled jerks who used God to snub their noses at others and proclaim how holy they were by comparison to others. I wanted no part of that. It got to the point to where I honestly feared walking into a church. My mom was told God demanded she remain married to a man who molested her daughter (a direct contradiction to Matthew 5:32). I was told it was sinful for me to go and use the bathroom during a pastor’s sermon.  So the story of how I came to be a member of Hope Bible Church is one longer than I can tell.

If I were to try and summarize, it started with invitations. They didn’t demand or say anything. They just offered. Then, as I told them my story, they were kind enough to refer me to the online sermons. This let me hear the word and listen. I didn’t like everything I heard, but I understood it. Even what I didn’t like wasn’t a statement of persecution; it was a statement on how the Bible clearly says those things are sinful. HBC didn’t expand on the law. They simply shared the word and what it means. That’s not to say there isn’t accountability in the church.

There in lies the root of this chapter’s question. Whenever I talk about the faith with people, even other professed Christians, I hear an interesting range of ideas.

I don’t need a church that judges me: I do. And the members of the church are supposed to judge (1 Corinthians 6:3).

But that thought quickly swings high and right with. Our church must punish sin. No it doesn’t. In fact, the most extreme thing Christ taught us to do if a person sins against us and refuses to repent is to let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. John MacArthur’s notes on Matthew  18:17 state, “If he still refuses to repent, step three requires that the matter be reported to the whole assembly — so that all may lovingly pursue the sinning brother’s reconciliation. But failing that, step four means that the offender must be excommunicated, regarded by the church as “a Gentile and a tax collector.” The idea is not merely to punish the offender, or to shun him completely, but to remove him as a detrimental influence from the fellowship of the church, and henceforth to regard him as an evangelistic prospect rather than as a brother.”

But this balance is a tough one to have, especially when a body seeks to increase the law. After all, this was exactly what happened to the Pharisees. No church should seek to elevate itself above God. However, it should absolutely serve as a place of worship  and prayer (Mark 11:17), loving discipline (1 Corinthians 6: 1-8) and fellowship (1 Corinthians 14:26). I’m also a fan of the summary of Churchly discipline found in 2 Timothy 4:2.

Personally, I fear a church without discipline every bit as much as a church that seeks to condemn and persecute. No, churches actually can’t let anyone come in and do what they want (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but neither should they seek vengeance because that belongs to God (Romans 12:19).  That doesn’t mean we don’t rebuke or discipline. (again see 2 Timothy 4:2)

Think of it like a true friend. Would you really let a drunk friend drive home? Is it loving to let a person put himself in danger? If you would do something to protect the life of one you love, how much more would you work to save his or her soul?

But I’m also confident we have those friends. Those friends who can’t wait to list out our faults and tell us how wrong we are. There have even been those friends who look at our misfortune and simply presume wrong (Job).

The same balance you’d have with a friendship should be the least you expect from a church in my opinion. From there, we need to seek churches that have a firm grasp on how to identify sin and lovingly correct it so we might grow together in sanctification.

For our panel: How does a church balance discipline? What should a church do (if anything) to help sinners repent? Should a church seek and speak against sin? If so, how? What does loving rebuke look like? How can one who’s experienced some of the misguided persecution of a church like I’ve mentioned above reconcile that against the loving grace of God and how a church should correct a brother? Is there ever a point at which a church should proclaim or deny a person’s salvation?

Sonnets For My Savior 30

Sonnets For My Savior 30

The Body

Where is the body you worked so hard to bury?

What happened to the guards you set to watch the grave?

Rejoice believers and be merry,

Look, there is no body in the cave!

Man has found the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Indeed the body John the Baptist lay in Syria.

But where is the body of the Son of Man?

The truth is those who would deny him lack the most basic criteria.

Some have claimed he was stolen in the night.

Doubters say the body was concealed.

Couldn’t Rome and the Pharisees find a body with all their power and might?

Instead the Faith grew with no body revealed.

If emperors and armies sought the body and could not see,

the only logical reason is that He is risen! He is risen indeed!


 

Lazarus

Lazarus sleeps while his sisters cry.

They send word, but the time has not come.

They fear Lazarus is doomed to die,

but this trail is for the will of God to be done.

Four days, Lazarus slept.

Jesus arrived, already knowing what had occurred.

He looked upon the sisters and wept,

but what happened next, would change all who saw and heard.

“Come out!” the Lord had said after they’d rolled the stone away,

and out Lazarus came, strips of linen around his hands and feet.

Many saw and believed that day,

From then on, the hypocrites plotted, blind in their conceit.

They never thought to ask themselves the meaning of the event,

that the world could look and see that Jesus was truly, truly God sent.


 

Reason For Suffering

True, some people suffer for the sins they commit.

The wickedness of the wicked is upon himself.

Relief is there for those who turn to Christ and submit,

but only death waits for those who relies on themself.

There are also those who suffer so that God may be glorified.

Observe Job and see how he endured.

Be patient and trust God will provide,

Do not turn to sin for comfort, but hear these words and be reassured.

Still those who are truly blessed are those who suffer simply for his sake.

Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled!

For the Kingdom of Heaven awaits!

Rejoice, for your rewards have been gathered and piled!

For whatever reason one thinks he may suffer,

Seek Christ; trust in him and no other.


 

To Control Ourselves

Some seek to use the Word to lift themselves up.

They use scripture to justify their own goals.

They have no interest in drinking from their own cup.

In seeking to condemn others, they only risk their own souls.

Some seek to use the Word to do as they wish.

They only seek the words that validate their own desire.

They treat the word like some sort of buffet dish,

but this path only leads to fire.

The saints are called to judge each other.

God judges those outside.

But consider also before you call out your brother,

what sins of your own are you trying to hide?

When we pull our Bibles from the shelves,

we should use it first to control ourselves.


 

The Greatest

He who would be first should be last.

Those who would be greatest should serve.

Let man’s pride be left in the past.

For we’ve already received more than we deserve.

Seek to be the servant of all.

Welcome the little children in his name.

Listen to hear His glorious call,

rather than seek your own fame.

A servant is not greater than his master.

A messenger is not greater than the one who sent it.

To serve the self is the path to disaster.

But blessed are those who serve and submit.

Care for the children and welcome them;

those who do receive Christ and the Father who sent him.


 

The Greatest Power

There is only the one creator.

He who made all.

There are none who can do more,

And all power is His to call.

No burning star,

Can shine as bright.

No crashing wave

Can match His might.

Other powers desire

What tiny spark he gives

But none can match the fire

Of the eternal God for which we live.

No other power can compare

Against the Lord, our God, who made the sea, land, and air.


 

Hold Me

Hold me tightly, Lord, in your mighty hands.

I know none can take me from you.

Your might is greater than anyone understands.

Whatever comes, You can carry me through.

Grip me more tightly, Lord, that I might be nearer

Nearer to you every day.

As You carry me, my eyes become clearer.

As I am with You, I see a better way.

Hold me, Lord, and let me take my rest in Your grace

Because I have none of my own.

I have no hope if I plead my own case;

I am forgiven through Christ alone.

Hold me tightly, Lord, that I might feel you with me.

Your embrace is comfort; Your love sets me free.