Musings on Christianity 34

Musings on Christianity 34

What Does The World Need Now?

In the very first chapter of this book, I addressed the fact that mankind as a whole isn’t good. I feel what’s going on in society today is a fair example.

I’m heartbroken that there are policemen in the country who feel they have the power, authority, and right to kill an innocent man. I’m heartbroken that there are people in the world who reserve hatred for people of a certain race, religion, ethnic group, or profession, or gender, or … anything.

I’m seeing a lot of debate online about protests and black lives and presidents and policemen. I’m seeing a lot of debate over who is “doing” anything and who isn’t “doing” anything. I’m seeing a lot of debate over who is “talking” about a thing and who isn’t “talking” about a thing. 

People who’ve known each other for years are suddenly at each others throats.

All I can think is, “Jesus, please come now.”

I’m powerless to change the hearts of evil men. I have to acknowledge this powerlessness because if I say I have the power to change the hearts of men, I then must change the hearts of all people. I’m terrified of that side of the coin. If an individual man truly had the power to change the hearts of others, couldn’t someone smarter or more charismatic than I simply change hearts to an even more evil state?

Therefore, I hold fast to the truth that God is the only one who can change hearts. Perhaps you’re asking, “Why would God allow these things to happen?”

I don’t truly know the answer; I’m not Him, but I feel as though these events could show us how much we need Him. We need Him to change our hearts. We need Him to sanctify us and make us holy. We need His Spirit to lead us and guide our actions just as we need to accept His Son, who came down to earth to pay the price for our sins.

These terrible days of murder, theft, destruction, and pain make me cry out for Him more than I’ve ever done so in my life.

Of course I want an end to racism! So I need for those who are blind to see the light of Christ, whether by evangelism and salvation or by Christ’s return and sovereign judgment. Of course I want an end to strife and conflict. That again requires a turning to Christ.

However, it’s not for us to know the time and the season (Acts 1:7), so what does a Christian do other than pray for the salvation of the lost and the return of Christ? To me, the answer to that question will solve a lot of the demand I’m hearing for action. And to me, the answer is salvation and sanctification.

We’d all like if others did this or stopped doing that. But again, we lack the power to change the hearts of others. We frankly lack the power to change ourselves. The change comes when the Holy Spirit enters us. Then we submit to Christ’s authority and do as he did. If we have the Holy Spirit, we have citizenship in Heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) and redemption through Christ.

I ask all those out there as outraged as I am by these dark, current events to think carefully on what they want.

And end to racism: Those who follow Christ’s teaching will remember what he said about the most important law: “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).’”

Imagine a world where people only treated others as they wanted to be treated? Oh to see that day! Imagine a day where people love God so much they couldn’t fathom breaking his commands, and therefore his heart. Imagine a world where people not only refused to kill one another (Exodus 20:13) but loved their fellow man so much that they wouldn’t even feel anger at a brother, for this is also worthy of judgement. They wouldn’t insult one another or call one another fools (Matthew 5:21-22).

I beg you please to read those words and think about what the world would be like if they simply followed that simple teaching.

This wouldn’t just stop racism; it would stop brutality and violence all together. But where does anger come from? Where do evil thoughts and acts of hatred originate from? It comes from our hearts (Matthew 15:19), which were born in sin and iniquity (Psalm 51:5).

Therefore our hearts need to change, and the only one who can change the hearts of man is God, through Christ’s death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit, who dwells in those who accept Christ and submit to His authority.

I don’t speak of the God, Christ, and Spirit some use to justify the violation of the commands written above. Please go back and look at the commands. None who say, “I follow Christ” and bears anger in his heart are speaking true. None who say, “I honor God,” and continue in sin speak true (1 John).

Those who follow Christ and honor God bear righteous fruit: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

If you’re not reflecting these qualities, then I urge you please consider the nature of your soul and salvation. I’m horrified when I turn this list upon myself and see my impatience and frustration, my lack of control and anger. I don’t use these words as a sword to swing at others. I instead use them as a measurement to see myself, and God forgive me for how lacking I am.

So again, I need to change! I don’t do the things I want to do! I do the things I hate (Romans 7:19). So I pray, asking God to work in me. These thorns in my side cause me such agony I can’t stand it! So I ask God to give me eyes to see that I might take the exit He provides for all those who face temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I’ve heard so many people talk about how they should take action to change others, and I do pray that others change, but if I call for others to change, and I remain the same, I am a hypocrite and a liar. So I can’t. I can’t get on social media and tell this world it needs to change because I’m a part of the problem. I can’t get on social media and tell people they should support this group and not that group or respect that man or that man. I can’t because any time we judge one man by a group, be it a group of people based on color or based on occupation, we are guilty.

So instead, let me judge myself (Matthew 7:1-5). Let me see the sin in my life, for I do, and I’m filled with mourning.  Let me not look on others with a haughty eye, but instead humble myself and pray that I change.

I’m convinced that if all man were to do this, all the things we’re crying out for at this time would either be granted or no longer necessary.

For that to happen, we need to all cry out for God, the only one who can change hearts. We need to turn to Christ, the only one who can was us clean, and confess our sins. We need to let the Spirit, the only one who can lead us in a righteous life, dwell in us.

For our panel: How do we do this? How do we spread the message of Christ in a world that only wants to hear its own beliefs echoed back to it? How do we find comfort when it feels as though we’ve been seeking a change in our lives but don’t feel as though we’ve changed at all? How do we spread the love of God when people use His name as a weapon of hate or a tool of propaganda? Why does the world continue to look for man to change when we’re so clearly incapable of changing ourselves?

Musings on Christianity 19

Musings on Christianity 19

Does God Accept Me For Who I Am?

The short answer is no. It sounds brutal and cruel, but that’s just the way it is. Neither is it true to think that Christ doesn’t turn people away. We want to think that He wouldn’t. We want to believe that we can do whatever we want (no matter how sinful) and Christ will just be “cool with it.” But, I say again, that just isn’t true.

There are many who might be outraged by this fact. They will talk about how Christ loved us and Christ died for us. Indeed He did. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to Heaven. I want to put a pin on that last clause long enough to finish this first, and most important, thought.

The words of Christ Himself:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Readers, if you are under any sort of impression that the simple lip service of “Christ is king,” or “I believe in Christ” is in and of itself enough, you are under the incorrect belief. Those of who you think Christ “doesn’t turn anyone away,” needs to read that entire chapter of the Bible much more closely. 

Who then will he not turn away? Christ gave the answer in the above passage: “ … the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.”

Sin is not in any way a part of God’s will.

Why then do we want to pretend otherwise? The answer is in the sin that you love. As a Christian, I want to seek out those sins I’m coveting. Those sins I love more than God. They exist. All people sin. The Christian seeks sanctification. The lost live in their sin.

“No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6)

I’m of the opinion that we live in a world where we want to be able to sin and still get to Heaven. We want to pervert the love of Christ to mean, “He’ll let me do whatever I want and still take me.” 

It’s a very terrifying moment to realize that’s not true. It was for me. So the next thing people tend to do is try to minimize sin. They try to make some sins more terrible than others, and there are indeed sins God hates more than others, but that doesn’t make the other sins acceptable.

Our human rationalization is, “My sin isn’t all that bad, so I should be OK.”

Sin is bad. You’re not OK. If you live in sin, whatever it is, you don’t know Him, and you haven’t seen Him (see the above verse).

So, let’s go back up to that statement I mentioned above.

Assertion: Not everyone is going to Heaven. I think most would agree. I think if I talked to 1 million people, not one of them would claim everyone is going to Heaven.

But if you’re willing to acknowledge that not everyone is going, you have to then also acknowledge that Christ does indeed turn people away. Who then does He turn away? Refer back to the first passage I quoted in this chapter. Any who doesn’t do the will of the Father, will be turned away.

I’ve said several times that sin is sin. I even tend to not focus on any one sin. It’s just too volatile. Why? Because there are people who love their sin more than their brother (which is actually another sin). There are people who love their sin more than God (yet another sin).

So what happens is mortals rationalize. They say sin is sin from one side of their mouth, and then live in their sin as if that’s justification. Such actions then imply that one can do whatever he wants because sin is sin, but no rational person believes this.

To allow this mental debate to have a resting place, let’s pick a sin that no one fights for the right to do: murder. I’m not even talking about how Christ further defined murder in Matthew 5:21-48. For the sake of this mental experiment, I’m talking about the actual, physical murder of one person by another. I’m fairly confident no one is going to try and justify this act to me in any way. (Of course now some one is going to try some round about manner of justification such as the death penalty or self defense. Please just acknowledge then that all you’re doing is arguing for the sake of dissension and move along.)

I’ve never once seen a social media post or campaign topic that tries in any way to make it OK for people to kill, so I’m sticking with that to avoid more common, more politically acceptable sins.

  If saying, “I believe in Christ,” is enough to get into Heaven in and of itself, then do you believe that a man, a serial killer, could claim such and then continue to kill whomever the thrill of it called him to kill? Of course not! I’d venture to assert that even if a man had killed a hundred people and genuinely repented, falling down on his knees to beg Christ for forgiveness, paying for his crimes by turning himself in and accepting his punishment (You see, punishment by a court of law isn’t murder, those dissenters referenced above), never killing again, you would still want to condemn that man to Hell.

This is because killing is wrong. It is. It’s a sin, but so is the sin you’re holding on to. So too is the sin you want to keep and justify in doing so because that sin is more socially acceptable.

The truth of the matter is the angels rejoice over that murderer who repented and turned away from his sin. They do so more over him than the (self) righteous person who’s never killed a person, but committed several “lesser” sins, believing he is above the need to repent and turn away.  (This is a personal paraphrase of Luke 15:7.)

In my life, I’ve thought about people I wanted to go to Hell. They’d done things no one would argue are evil. I wanted wrath for that sinner and that sin. Then, I wanted grace and forgiveness for my own sin. Am I God that I should choose who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t? No, and neither are you.

Just as man can not condemn another man for their sin, neither can man declare another man righteous. We are not the way to Heaven; Christ is. (John 14:6) 

We only have the written word to guide us, but we need to pay attention to it. We can’t fall into the belief that lip service is enough. We can’t say we believe in Christ and continue to do all the things he said are wrong. We can’t do that any more than an abusive husband can claim to love his wife and continue to beat her. We can’t do that any more than an addict can claim to love her child and then lose him while drugged out of her mind. Even if those people mean what they say, and those statements have some immeasurable truth to them, they can’t argue they love their loved ones more than the sins they commit. No one in Heaven or Earth would believe them.

So then where is this leading to? I beg you to remember the two most important commandments given to us by Christ Himself:

“And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27. See also Matthew 22:36-40 and Mark 12:28-31)

Therefore, anyone who puts any sin above God, whatever that sin is, is in violation of what Christ says are the most important two laws. We have to cast aside our sin for the God we claim to love just as we have to do for our neighbors.

This explicitly tells us we do in fact have to change for those we love. If we refuse to change, we are in fact, showing how little we love them. How contrary to popular philosophy and self-help books that statement is! 

But don’t we do that? Don’t we break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend who wont’ give up smoking or some other undesirable habit? Don’t we leave the relationship where the person is selfish? 

So if we on Earth know to turn away those who refuse to love us enough to turn from the wrong they do, so don’t we also realize Christ will do to us?

And now for those who feel this truth is a little on the “unloving” side. All the cases I used above were clearly things anyone would accept as reasonable. But what about that guy who never, ever, puts the lid to the toilet down. What about that wife who works a bit more than you’d like and doesn’t have time to help around the house or even just offer time for affection that you’d like?

Well, this is where forgiveness and Christ’s infinite love comes into play. We mortals have all sorts of deal breakers. Think about this. We have several (sometimes difficult to understand and/or explain) things we will immediately end a relationship over. We want to do that, but imagine a God who would be OK with anything? How does that even make sense?

However, where we would summarily end any relationship over any number of deal breakers, God, through Christ, is much better than all of us. You see, Christ is forgiving. For those who repent and turn away, there is no deal breaker. There’s no crime so great one can commit that Christ’s blood can’t wash away. This, is how glorious he is. And in that grace and mercy, Christ understands us. He advocates for us. (1 John 2:1)

That means that murderer is indeed forgiven, even if you don’t like it. That means anyone can be forgiven, if he but accepts Christ into his heart and repents of his sins. He did this for a thief on a cross who minutes before was ridiculing Christ. (Luke 23:43)

Sin is sin. There is not greater or lesser sin you could choose to live in and do continually that Christ, in his perfect, righteous glory as king of kings, would ever accept.

However; Sin is sin. There is no sin Christ’s blood can’t wash way. We may stumble, but Christ knows our hearts. He knows our desire to change and be more like Him. Those who accept Him and obey Him are among his elect. Those who strive to live as He lives and do as He does will be welcomed.

Consider this as you look at your life and the sins you carry. I’m not beyond this scrutiny. I look at the sin in my life and it horrifies me. Some sins fell away, but it seems like sin is some sort of hydra, popping up with two heads more each time I turn from one sin. The goal is the keep growing. The goal is to aspire and live to be more like Christ. Then His grace and mercy will be with you, and nothing will take you from God’s hands when you are His. (Romans 8:39)

For our panel: How does one turn from sin? What does it mean if I repent of a sin (whatever it is) and then succumb to it? Is backsliding a real thing? Does being a Christian mean being perfect?

Musings on Christianity 8

Musings on Christianity 8

Why Would God Allow This World to be Broken?

In an earlier chapter, we discussed the idea of bad things happening. Some see a distinction between humans and the world. This question may be phrased more like, “If God made everything, why would he allow us to … ” or “ … why would he let the world be like this.”

I actually see less distinction in this than some, but there are insights Christianity can offer. God made this wold perfectly. When he formed it, it was all good (Genesis 1). The fall of humanity brought about the fall of the world as well (Genesis 3).

So one would think, why would God let this happen? I actually have a mentor, teacher, and parental perspective. Parents, when you watch your children, do you follow them around with a pillow to make sure they don’t fall? When you buy them an X-Box or other expensive or fragile toy, do you sit there and watch them play to be sure they don’t break it? Teachers, do you constantly stand over the shoulder of your students and tell them what to do as they need to do it?

Sure, teachers, you teach. You show them the way. You explain what they need to do, but any teacher who gives homework can’t possibly answer yes to the question above. At some point, you leave the student alone to see if learning has occurred. Neither can any teacher who has ever administered a test ever say yes to the question above. Part of being in one of the roles listed above means eventually leaving the person alone and letting them make mistakes.

Why do we think God should do something even our own mortal minds knows we must eventually stop doing?

The truth is, God gave us a perfect world, and one rule, one symbolic rule of obedience to follow. Humanity chose disobedience (Romans 5:12-21, compare Genesis Chapter 3). Our action brought consequence.   

My thought (and I’ve spoken frequently on how I’m not an expert) is that those consequences themselves are an opportunity. Think about it. Parents, when your child has done something irresponsible in the best of circumstances, didn’t you eventually have to give them your trust in even the lest ideal circumstances? In a perfect world, with one, and only one, rule to follow, humanity still messed that up.

In a broken world, God gave us several covenants (Mosaic to name one, see Exodus 19), which eventually led to the New Covenant in Christ. But now, in this broken world, we have endless ways in which we can glorify God, which is what we were made to do. In a world full of sin, pain, and harsh environments, each time we choose to put our faith in Christ and do as he would have us do, we glorify him and bear fruit of our salvation, not as a work of justification, but as evidence of the gift of salvation through faith we have already been given through Christ (Romans).

This all builds to a much more interesting question. If God wanted us to be obedient beings who never turned from him, why didn’t he make us incapable of such? Why not make us essentially robots who couldn’t deny him and couldn’t fall to temptation? Now that’s a really great question, and it’s one I don’t necessarily have a Biblical answer for.

I do, however, have a thought to consider. If I make a robot, I know it will do as I’ve designed it because the programming prevents it. But that robot is heartless. It doesn’t do what I say because it loves me; it does what I say because it can’t do anything else.

My sons could easily do whatever I tell them. Observably, this world might think me a great parent, but am I? Stay with me here. My sons can have a number of reasons to do what I say. They could do it out of resentment, a sense of obligation, fear, or love. Some parents don’t even care why a kid goes to bed on time or does his homework after school. Isn’t that dangerous? If we don’t speak to the motivations of our children, how do we know their hearts are true? Can’t any one, no matter how horrible, act contrary to their personality for a time? So I want my children to do what they do out of love. I’ll deal with fear of the Lord in another chapter, but our first commandment is to love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our strength and all of our souls (Deuteronomy 6:5, cross-reference Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27)

  We can’t love if we aren’t given hearts. Robotic slaves who are only capable of doing what they’re programmed to do is something man as a species has already proven they can do, but only an all-powerful God, can make man, who has a heart born of evil, and change that heart, in this broken world we live in, and lead it to Himself. That glorifies Him. 

For our panel: If God wanted us to be obedient beings who never turned from him, why didn’t he make us incapable of such? Why is the world broken? If we couldn’t obey God’s one rule in a perfect place, why give us many rules in a broken world? What are things Christians can do to remain strong in a world this broken? Do our hearts matter if we’re doing the right things? Could we or should we try to fix this world? If so, how?