Posted: December 3rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, divisions, faith, grace, judgment, love wins, sin, spiritual abuse |
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“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?”
I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.
What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?
Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?
Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV
Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.
God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.
In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.
Use this scripture to guide your thought process:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
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Posted: July 16th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, change, divisions, faith, forgive, grace, hope, love wins, sin |
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So many have been hurt by people who call themselves Christians. Whatever the reason, or circumstance, wrong was done to repay wrong done and the cycle goes on and on and on. Slander follows slander. Lies fuel bitter retribution. Don’t you want the cycle to stop?
They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. -Ecclesiastes 8:10
How is it that the prideful and self-righteous can sit through a time of worship and not hear the call to love and forgive and restore? How can they preach the Gospel to some and withhold it from others? You see them unbothered by losing you. You hear of them using you and your failure in messages while not including your salvation. You are always lost to them and that fuels their pride. They get pats on the back for their message at your expense. Where is God, to them, while He is holding you? How can God be with them and you at the same time? That is the type of question that can fuel your pride, too.
It’s a trap.
The slow hand of God to right the wrongs can send you in one of two directions. You know who your God is by where this injustice sends you. Are you patient, putting your trust in God? Do you believe that you’re forgiven and loved in spite of their opinions? Or do you fight to show them their wrongs and refuse to move forward on your own? Are you stuck in the filth they refuse to wash off? When someone gets honor for bearing your sin and you get slandered for being a sinner, does it set your pride on fire?
You have to watch out.
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. -Ecclesiastes 8:11
God was patient with you while you were making your terrible choices. He didn’t give up on you while you turned your back to Him. Jesus didn’t come back while you were in the wrong bed.
Don’t wish that, which you were spared, to be poured over another.
God gave you time to come around. And here you are. God is giving them time to do the same. Have the same patience with them that He had with you. It may take a long time. Much longer than you took, in some cases. Hope for their day like you had yours. Hope and don’t give up. Move forward with your new life and let them go at their own pace. Nothing they say can put a price on your head. You are not the hunted. Your “WANTED” posters are out of date and faded. You have been pardoned. Sentence served by Jesus.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. -2 Peter 3:8-9
Look at your own failure and what it taught you: A lesson in grace you could have learned no other way. Give them the time to learn the same lesson. Pride is a hidden sin that is hard to nail down on their own. They may not see it for a long time. Your sin was easier to see. It was messy and blatant.
It’s easy to see where you are and where others are not, but it wasn’t that long ago that you were where they are. You learned your lesson and learned it hard. Don’t be so quick to forget what it was like to not know how wrong you were.
“Someone will say what is lost can never be saved. Despite all my rage…” -Smashing Pumpkins, “Rat in a Cage”
Let the cycle stop with you. Until then, you’re just a rat in their cage.
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Posted: June 7th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: divisions, faith, love wins, spiritual abuse |
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A friend asked me to explain the phrase, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I think people say that for a few reasons. Sometimes it’s to get religious people off of their back and sometimes they mean that they are believers, but not like what is typically seen.
Saying that someone is a Christian can mean different things to different people. Some are drawn to them, like they’re family. Some want to avoid them, like they’re a former abuser.
The type of Christian you are and how you come across to others depends on your personality. That’s no brain buster, but there is something interesting about the way personalities work: they don’t change. You can’t teach yourself a new personality. Different environments can bring out different behaviors, but as we age, we gravitate to who we really are and that is unavoidable.
I think that sometimes people want God to make them into somebody else because they would feel more worthy of love that way.
The thousands of personality characteristics can be organized into five different categories. Two of them are consistent predictors as to whether or not a person will be a believer, and a third is a consistent predictor of what kind of believer. This is strong evidence that backs up scripture saying God chose us from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16)), but that’s a different subject.
The two personality traits that believers rank high in are agreeableness and conscientiousness. Agreeableness is characterized by empathy, helpfulness, and ability to trust. Conscientiousness people are systematic, self-controlled, and goal oriented. I find it interesting that in decades of studies, the relationship between belief and personality is consistent. Religion does not give people these qualities, it’s these qualities that turn a person toward religion.
In a study done last year by Vassilis Saroglou at the Center for Psychology and Religion, they were looking deeper into the type of believer a person becomes. They took a look at the other three personality categories to see what makes a person ‘spiritual’ and what makes a person ‘religious’. ‘Spiritual’ is less structural (legalistic) than ‘religious’. The study found that those who are higher in ‘openness’ are more spiritual than those who scored lower. The level of a person’s ‘openness’ determines how much they enjoy challenging and complex ideas, and how far they will travel out of their comfort zone.
They set people up in a scenario where they had to catch a train, but were stalled when someone’s suitcase flew open. They were observed for their response. Did they help the other person or just walk by? These people were tested twice. In the one test, they had a social or familial relationship with the other person, in the other test, they didn’t know the person at all. The more legalistic the person was, the less likely they were to help a stranger. The less legalistic they were, the less preference they showed between someone in their inner circle and a stranger.
Outsiders are less likely to receive help or kindness from more conservative believers. Conservative (religious, legalistic) believers show strong preference to people who believe like they do. They are more likely to ignore those who do not.
I suppose this could be a more defined way of understanding what people mean when they say they are spiritual, but not religious.
Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” -Matthew 9:10-13 MSG
The point is, those who have a hard time being challenged by the depth of the Truth and being outside of their comfort zone are going to have a hard time with Jesus and who Jesus chooses to lift up. It’s not impossible for conservative Christians to love people who aren’t like them, it just completely goes against their personality and requires a lot of self-denial.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that some of my phrasing may be confusing and for that, I apologize. Instead of rewriting this, I have posted clarifications in the comments. Feel free to add your thoughts.
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Posted: December 1st, 2011 |
Filed under: life | Tags: divisions, faith, grace |
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Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,… -Revelation 12:7
We know the war, we feel it in our bellies. Some will say, “Go easy, you’re treading dangerous ground.’ I say, “I will not go easy because I know the ground on which I tread.”
Some want things to be less controversial. The Gospel is controversial. They want the message to be easier to take. The Gospel wears a person out. It’s hard for the brain to stretch for the fit.
The war doesn’t rest. Coddling the status quo is a win for the other team.
Peace between good and evil is an impossibility; the very pretence of it would, in fact, be the triumph of the powers of darkness. -Charles Spurgeon
These things aren’t said to echo for no end. These things are said to wake them up, those who want to nurse at a breast instead of pick up a sword. If it hits home, then do something about it. It’s uncomfortable because it makes religious busy work look like kindergarten finger paintings. Countless broken people are out there and they need to know what has been done on their behalf.
The mother bird pushes her babies out of the comfortable nest to make them fly, not to kill them.
What would you say to the baby bird who clings to the nest and curses the mother? What kind of world would we live in if birds did not fly? They would be trampled by their predator.
What kind of people use His name, but do not know His voice?
“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ’Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ’I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ’We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ -Luke 13:24-27
The ‘narrow door’ is Jesus. It’s so narrow that you cannot fit through it. You can do a lot of work in His name. You can eat and drink in His presence. You can hear His teaching your whole life. You can do all of these things and still not know Him. He’ll say that He doesn’t know from where you come. “Workers of evil.”
Softening this message is like censoring the Cross. Too many people are in their own personal hell and a censored message can’t compare.
A few years ago I was driving home from a Bible Study I taught at my church. A woman in attendance took issue with some things that I taught. I was praying and asked God, “How do I explain you to them?” I was having a hard time because I know what the message sounds like. His response was, “Don’t apologize for me.”
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” -Jesus, Matthew 10:34
A storm rages around an off-course ship. Are you a ‘beacon’ on the shore or are you the storm? A traveler chased a mirage into a scorching desert. Are you a well-keeper or are you a vulture waiting for your next meal? A soldier is wounded on the battle field. Are you going to drag him to the Healer or are you going to finish the enemy’s work with your bayonet?
The sailor finds the beacon only to not be dry enough for the lighthouse keeper’s fancy rug. The parched traveler finds the well only to be too thirsty for the stingy well-keeper. The soldier is too hurt to get out of the way while the others march past him.
Teach the sailor to be a lighthouse keeper, he knows the storm better than anyone. Teach the traveler how to draw from the well. Living Water never runs dry. Help those who fall on your path. They’ll be there to help you when you fall later.
The Gospel is divisive and can’t be divided. It’s divisive in the way the Sword divides flesh from Spirit. It can’t be divided because if you water it down, no one will recognize it. It becomes religious fluff.
“…when we preach the Gospel to every creature, the Gospel makes its own division and Christ’s sheep hear His voice and follow Him.”-Charles Spurgeon, Too Little for the Lamb
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Posted: October 21st, 2011 |
Filed under: life | Tags: divisions |
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Cornelius was a commander in the Roman army that killed Jesus. Even so, he was a man with his heart bent toward God. He prayed constantly and one day, not long after Jesus rose from the dead, God answered him. I’m not sure what Cornelius was praying for, but my perspective is that when a heart is praying, they want to see God. When I am praying, more often than specifics, I pray for perspective. I want to see Him beyond the distractions of what I can naturally see.
God sent an angel who told Cornelius to go find Peter.
Meanwhile, Peter was on his roof praying and he got hungry. While he was preparing his food, he had a vision. A white sheet came down from heaven and covered the earth. Animals of all different kinds were on the sheet and God told Peter to kill an animal and eat it. Peter refused, saying that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean. God told Peter never to call common what He has made clean.
Peter was trying to figure out what the vision meant when Cornelius was approaching his house. These two men didn’t know each other. Cornelius represented the enemy and Peter was at the beginning of his Jesus ministry. God told Peter that three men were looking for him and he was to go with them.
The next day, Peter went home with Cornelius. When he entered the room where all of these men were, Peter said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.” (Acts 10:28-29)
Cornelius explained about the angel and that whatever Peter had to say was the reason he was brought.
So, Peter shared the Gospel. He told them that “anyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43)
The message is that no person is unclean or common. Not anymore. Because of Jesus, we are in a new legacy built by Him and all are included. It’s a sweeping net, gathering everything in its path. It’s a sheet that covers the earth. There are no divisions between what was once clean and unclean. They are all redeemed by God through Jesus.
While Peter was explaining this, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard him. Everyone who heard this truth was saved.
This story tells me four things:
- There are no longer any divisions.
- If you want to know the truth, He’ll bring it to you.
- The message that God has for people is the truth about what Jesus accomplished.
- If you are there, they are ready to hear it.
If there are no longer any divisions, then there is no place, no person, nothing that God has not included in His salvation. Any division that you see is only caused by unbelief and you have a message that the Holy Spirit can clarify within them.
I love what Peter says: “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”
It takes the wind out of the sails in the sea of judgment.
Keep your heart open to God revealing something about your walk of faith that you may have, at one time, rejected. God is not bound by human tradition and if you’re really after the truth, no matter what it is, He’ll show you.
There is no other message for you to be sending. Jesus is it. If what God is showing you feels too risky to share, then it is your own fear of rejection that is hindering you. Have you ever shared insight, especially concerning God’s sweeping love for those who the rest of the world deem unclean, and were rejected by people who used to be on your side? Did you back down to save face? The Gospel is simple, but the implications are hard for the human mind to grasp. Your life is a journey deeper and deeper into those implications and if you remain true to them, you will lose ‘followers’. Jesus did and anybody else who is not afraid to speak up will, too. Your ministry is not your creation. It’s God’s.
Where ever you are is where you are supposed to be. Whoever is listening to you is ready to hear it. It doesn’t matter if they strike out at you, walk away from you, or tell you that you’re heading in a dangerous direction. You have to be strong in your private time to be able to take the rejection in the public time. Don’t back away from the Holy Spirit injected insight. Don’t be weak in the faith. This is hard work. Who are you trying to please?
The story about Cornelius and Peter shows that God is not going to speak through you a message that He has not already built a home for in another. Don’t be afraid, just tell the Truth.
You can read all of Acts 10 to get more insight than I have shared here.
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