Pushed Out

The events which transpired according to John 9 leave us laughing or crying–usually both. What a silly, backwards, upside-down situation!

Wealthy theology-professors lorded it over the synagogues in first-century Jerusalem. Legend records around 400 synagogues in Jerusalem at the time of it’s destruction in 70 A.D. Talk about the opportunity to join the church of your choice! But the leaders of the synagogues were steeped in the traditions of the elders, which had been handed down and compounded over the generations, and Jesus stood strongly against those man-made traditions.

Under a cloud of controversy, Jesus performed an act of kindness and compassion, healing a man who had been born blind. What was Jesus’ sin? He performed the healing on a Sabbath Day, which (according to the tradition of the elders) broke the Sabbath because He performed “work” on the day of rest. The Jews already hated Jesus and had put out an APB: “If anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he [is] to be put out of the synagogue” (John 9.22). So the Jewish leaders already had their guns trained on Jesus, and this event triggered a battle.

Interrogations ensued. The synagogue officials interviewed witnesses, the blind man’s parents, and the blind man himself, all of whom confirmed he was, indeed, the same blind man who had begged for years around the city. All the officials had probably seen him around–but probably had pretended they didn’t. They certainly weren’t showing him any compassion now that he was healed. They told the poor guy, “You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us?” (John 9.34).

While being questioned, the formerly-blind man enjoyed a rare opportunity to confess Jesus publicly before the authorities of his day, and he took full advantage. The tables turned. The great theologians became the ones who knew nothing, and the poor beggar became the bearer of earth’s greatest truth. Instead of agreeing with obvious truth, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, His teaching, and His disciples, basically spitting in the face of a man in whom a wonderful healing had just been worked. Jesus had freed this man!

Not only were the man’s physical eyes opened, but also his spiritual. “He is a prophet,” he confidently asserted to his inquisitors. “Lord, I believe,” he boldly declared to Jesus when he met Him again, and he worshiped Jesus (John 9.35-38).

On the other hand, the grand interpreters of the law, the self-proclaimed defenders of truth called Jesus a man “not from God” (John 9.16), “a sinner” (John 9.24), and a nobody as far as they were concerned (John 9.29). What did they do with the formerly-blind man? Did they embrace him as a newly-healed brother? Did they congratulate him on his fresh life? No, “they cast him out” (John 9.34).

How excellent for this poor beggar–to be cast out by these men. With his new spiritual eyes, I imagine he felt little emotional pain from their mistreatment. I doubt the Jewish leaders had ever cared for him, loved him, or helped him. Now they revealed real animosity and hatred! Jesus, on the other hand, showed pity and deep love, sharing the power of God with him. I imagine this man felt perfectly content to remain a disciple of Jesus and leave the hateful synagogue officials behind.

Who needs the blessing of hateful men? Who needs great theologians if they don’t have the love of Christ? Who needs elders who refuse to open their eyes to such obvious truth?

Have you been there, friend? Have you unsuccessfully attempted to win the favor of men who turned out to be missing the truth? Have you been marginalized or pushed out? Don’t fear! Don’t hate the haters. But love the One who opens your eyes to the real truth.

On the other hand, as Jesus said, we should learn to judge with righteous judgment, and we will find men and women who truly do know Jesus and actually love Him, follow Him, and live for Him. They will love you as Jesus loves you.

If men push you out of their midst, just go–shake the dust off your feet and move on. It’s not important to stay with those who push you away; it’s important to stay with Him who opened your eyes!

Habits for Every Christian: Walk in Love

“Walk in love…” (Ephesians 5.2)

How, Paul? What does that mean, to walk in love? Does it mean I should have gushy feelings for everyone as I plod through my day? Should I attempt to warmly hug everyone I meet? I’m a tad uncomfortable with that thought.

The whole verse says:

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5.2b)

So JESUS is our standard of love! On the one hand, He had compassion for individuals, touched lepers from time to time, took little girls by the hand, reclined at the table with His disciples in close sharing. On the other hand, He overturned table in the Temple, seared the Pharisees and Lawyers with condemnation and judgment, and preached in such a way that many of His followers deserted Him. He’s our picture of love.

We’re not talking about FEELING love. We’re talking about GIVING love. This kind of love (ἀγάπη agape in the Greek) concerns a selfless giving of yourself to others. It’s doing for others what you’d like them to do for you, loving them like you’d love yourself, doing what is best for them, regardless of how you actually feel about them at the time.

Imagine Jesus on the cross, experiencing some of the most excruciating pain a human can endure and having been deserted by all His disciples. Lonely. Shamed. Being murdered by lawless men. Can you imagine the human feelings He must have experienced? Surely He was not wishing He could hug those at the foot of the cross. He was holding back His awesome power in order not to annihilate them all! He spoke words of forgiveness. He cared for one of the thieves beside Him and for His mother below Him.

Now imagine your family. It’s late, everyone’s tired, and you’re trying to cobble together a quick supper before bedtime. Children complain. Your spouse grumpily pokes around, getting in the way more than helping. What words slip your tongue at times like this? What thoughts run through your head? What complaints of your own do you mumble to yourself?

Are you truly thinking about your family, how you can bless and serve them? Do you pray for God to forgive your children for their complaining…”for they don’t know what they’re saying”? Do you speak kindly and gently to your spouse even when the words coming your way are less than gentle? A soft answer…a soft answer…

Brothers and sisters, “we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15.1). “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” How, exactly, has Christ welcomed you? Would Jesus say, “You need to learn to speak more respectfully before I love you.” Or “You got yourself into this mess; you can get yourself out”? Or “I’ll only help you when you start to help yourself”?

Or did Jesus die for us WHILE WE WERE STILL WEAK (Romans 5.6), WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS (Romans 5.8), and WHILE WE WERE HIS ENEMIES (Romans 5.10)? And does He continue to put up with us despite our severe weaknesses and stark flaws?

God expects you to walk in love and has shown you how to do it. May God give you opportunities today to show the love of Christ to your child and to your neighbor and to your boss and to your waitress. Keep the cross forever in mind–the absolute love Jesus showed for you–and let Him be your motivation.

God, teach us to walk in love!

Habits Every Christian Should Have: Speaking Truth

Just as Satan is the father of lies and liars, so God is the Father of truth-tellers and truth-seekers.

No place for a deceiver exists among the people of God. It is said of Jesus, “No deception was found in His mouth,” and that’s exactly what the Father wants from His children.

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to Him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feed that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6.16-19)

Part of growing up in Christ is learning to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15).

It’s one thing to speak truth with a neighbor and another to temper that truth with love. I’d love to tell everyone what their glaring faults are and how to fix them–isn’t that truthful? Perhaps. But it probably misses the mark of love by a wide margin. When I’m so focused on others’ faults and foibles, I tend to also miss my own, pride creeps in, and I end up looking down upon my brothers and sisters. So love must temper truth.

However, we must always speak the truth with one another.

Have you ever seen an adult lie to a child? This kills me. A father didn’t want his child to know he kept guns in the case, so he told the child the case held his fishing rods. What happens when the child finds out what’s really in the case? Perhaps he doesn’t explicitly connect the dots (“Dad’s a liar!”), but at least subconsciously he learns it is okay to lie to cover things up.

What’s worse is when a parent outright lies to another adult in front of the child–“No, my husband’s not home right now; you’ll have to call back later,” while said husband sits in the living room watching TV. The child learns lying is okay in order to avoid inconvenience.

Lying kills trust. If you lie to me even about a small matter, it then makes me wonder about anything you say in the future. If you’re okay twisting, tweaking, or otherwise adjusting the truth, I lose confidence in your word overall.

Is there a path to redemption after you lie? Can trust be rebuilt? Yes, it can. But trust is earned over a long period of time, and once trust is betrayed, rebuilding it requires another long road of consistent truthfulness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4.25).

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight (Proverbs 12.22).

Speak the Truth with Your Spouse

GossipLet’s talk spousal abuse.

No, don’t picture hitting or shouting.

Picture this: your spouse is not even in the room. You’re with some friends, chatting about life, and suddenly the conversation turns to spouses. One lady says her husband never considers her feelings any more–he just does whatever he wants. You commiserate because your husband has been getting on your last nerve, and several recent episodes tumble from your mouth as you vent your frustration. There! It’s been said. You feel better. You can go on with life.

Wrong!

You have just engaged in a bit of character assassination. Against the one person who should be closest and dearest to you!

God embedded this into the ten commandments: you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“But what I said wasn’t false!” you protest.

Wasn’t it? Think back on the language used. Did you grumble, complain, and resignedly huff, “That’s just how he is!” Did you say “he never…” or “he always…“? Did you allow your frustration to color your language a little? Did you remember all the good he has done to you and for you, or were you only thinking of the recent trouble? When we use words like never and always, we lie, because it’s almost never true! Test it out…

frustrated woman“He never considers my feelings first.” That’s an animal and not a man you’ve just described.

“He always throws his dirty socks on the floor.” That’s quite a track record. Has he never once hit the laundry basket even by mistake?

“She never wants to do what I want to do.” Was that what attracted you to her in the first place?

“She always says just the thing to get on my nerves.” You must be just on the verge of exploding! And I’m sure you always respond with a gentle answer in order to turn away her wrath.

Husbands and wives, will you agree with me that we sometimes do bear false witness against our spouses? We really need to quit. It’s not healthy, it’s lying, and it’s sinful.

We ought to remember that our moods change. Murder is committed when people act in the throws of anger. Paul commanded,

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4.25-27)

All these commandments work together. Anger often prompts us to falsehood as we modify and reshape the truth to serve our own purposes. The best thing to do in our anger is usually BE STILL! Don’t act! Wait. Take a breath and count to 10. Or 100. Or 1000. Whatever it takes to cool off. If we speak in our anger and frustration we are apt to sin.

UpsetNext time you feel frustrated with your spouse try this:

  1. Don’t talk to him / her about it immediately. And certainly don’t talk about him / her to others.
  2. Pray about it and ask yourself why you feel so bad about it. Was she intentionally trying to hurt you? Does he even know how what he did or said affects you? Be honest.
  3. Maybe even wait a day or two before you address the problem, and in the meantime do something nice for him / her — just because.

I’ll be curious to know how it turns out 🙂 I have found most “issues” all but vanish given a little time and breathing room. I’d love to know how this technique works in your relationship.

Always speak the truth about your spouse!

Remember: Anger and lies give the devil a foothold in your life.

Why Did God Choose You, Dear Christian?

Picking CherriesWhy did God choose Israel? Was it because they were smarter than other nations? Were they better looking? Were they a nation of mighty warriors, stronger than others? Did they exhibit a stronger faith in the One True God? Was it something inside them, a strength of character or virtue?

God obviously chose the nation of Israel above other nations of the world to be in a special relationship with Him. Does that sound unfair? I would agree. Notice what God says in Isaiah:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43.1)

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
         And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43.5-7)

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43.10)

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43.20-21)

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44.1-2)

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
   I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44.21-22)

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45.3-4)

I ask again, based on the above Scriptures, “Why did God choose Israel?” What a swelling of pride the Israelites must have had when they heard Isaiah preach those words. Or would they have? The wild thing is, Israel had departed from following God as their only God; Yahweh was no longer “the Holy One of Israel” as Isaiah reiterates. In most of these last chapters of Isaiah, God declares “I am Yahweh; there is no one like Me.” He defends Himself this way because His chosen people had departed from Him to serve idols–or at least include idols alongside Him. But God will share the stage with no one, for the greatest of all commandments is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. No room remains for other gods, other loves, or other desires.

Notice the last verse listed above (Isaiah 45.4) ends with “though you have not known Me.” What a slap in Israel’s face! God had lavished grace upon them, but they still didn’t know Him.

Why did God choose them? He chose them NOT because of who they were but in order to show His grace, His love, His redemptive power in them! He chose them despite who they were. He chose them, as Isaiah 43.10 says, “that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.”

God stated similar sentiments concerning Abraham in Genesis 18.19:

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice, so that Yahweh may bring Abraham what he has promised him.”

He didn’t choose Abraham because he commanded his children in righteousness but that he would command his children in righteousness. Do you see the difference? God chooses NOT because of who the we are but in order to change and bless us despite who we are. He hammers this point home in Deuteronomy:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7.6-8)

Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9.4-6)

Why, then, dear Christian, did God choose you? What can we say about God’s chosen today (“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION” — 2 Peter 2.9)? Have you been chosen because you are good or despite the fact that you are a sinner? Have you been chosen because you somehow deserve it or because God wishes to show His glory in and through you? We often define grace as “unmerited favor,” but do we really believe that definition? Nothing in me deserves God’s blessing–nothing at all! Yet He has seen fit to save me through the blood of His Son Jesus the Christ. He showed me the gospel and drew me to Himself, despite who I am.

All I can do is praise and glory in the wonderful work of God!

Narrow-Minded Christians

One WayIn the way the world defines narrow-mindedness, Christians fit the bill!

As long as you don’t say Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation…as long as you don’t insist in a ONE TRUE GOD who revealed Himself only through the Bible…as long as you don’t stand against sin ABSOLUTELY…then the world will accept you as an open-minded Christian. And the world loves open-minded Christians.

We have a tiny problem, however, and that is–or, rather, He is–Jesus.

Yes, Jesus claimed to be the ONLY way by which to access the Father: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14.6). Jesus taught there is only ONE GOD (Mark 12.29). Jesus preached ABSOLUTELY against sin (see Matthew 5.21-48, which ends with “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”). Jesus traced sin to the recesses of the human heart:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7.20-23)

Love your neighborHowever, He taught us not to be narrow in choosing who we love. In fact, we should liberally love all those around us, no matter their sins and no matter their station in life. Didn’t Jesus present the story of the good Samaritan in order to show us love crosses all ethnic, social, and whatever other boundaries?

So, dear neighbor, I cannot condone your sinful habits, but I attempt to love you like Jesus loves you. I cannot amiably accept your god, but I can still do what is right towards you. Because I love you, I’ll tell you about the One True God comprising the Holy Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

This world hates that kind of narrow-mindedness, but God loves it because it’s the truth. I’ll stick with Him, not the world.

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4.18-20)

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5.29)

Humility, Grace, and Restoration: Job 42

Why?After saturating ourselves in the book of Job for four wonderful weeks, our church enjoyed a final study last Wednesday. However, we failed to finish the last chapter, where some of the juicy “so-what” information lies. In the last chapter we see Job’s humility, God’s grace, and God’s heart to restore back to Job what had been taken.

Humility

Job’s final response (Job 42.1-6) is a picture of extreme humility. Many recoil at the thought of God allowing Satan to commit those terrible atrocities against Job (see chapters 1 & 2), and they cannot fathom remaining silent. But Job laid a hand on his mouth, realizing he held no authority before God. He had no answer to God’s questions in chapters 38-41, and he had no right to demand an explanation from God.

HumiltyCan you and I be so over-awed by God’s power, majesty, and authority that we humbly accept every insult, every pain, every trouble which comes our way without complaint? Extreme humility engenders extreme contentment. If I can realize, “I don’t deserve anything,” I will also say, “Thank You, God, for what I have.” If I can realize, “God doesn’t owe me anything, yet He has blessed me,” I can also say, “Naked I came into this world, and naked I shall return; the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21).

Grace

Besides the grace towards Job (God chastened His child into beautiful, humble submission and also blessed him again after the test), God also extended grace to Job’s three friends. In anger, God insisted, “You have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42.7-8).

Apparently, to not speak correctly about God greatly offends Him. This should give us great pause and make us extremely careful (and perhaps uncomfortable) with how we speak concerning the awesome Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth. Let us speak only what He has revealed to us–no more and no less.

RebuildDespite their grave sin, however, God commissioned Job to offer a burnt offering of seven bulls and seven rams, “and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer” (Job 42.9). God forgave those three friends who had spoken rashly and incorrectly about Him! That’s grace.

Restoration

Though God does not owe us anything, He delights in restoring to His servants what we lose. This is wonderful! What a blessing to have a Father who so loves us that He will help rebuild after the storm does its damage. God loves restoration.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2.24-25)

Have you wrestled with the deep things Job wrestled with? Have you wondered how a loving God can allow His servant to be treated so ruthlessly and aggressively? Perhaps you’re walking through a fire right now. Job is an extreme case, but we all endure periods of trying, testing, and tempering. Don’t become angry with God, though He did allow your situation to happen! Yes, He controls it; but, no, you don’t have a right to accuse Him of evil. God sometimes allows great pressure in order to shape His clay into something useful. Sometimes He allows fire in order to burn off the dross and leave pure gold. God loves us enough to humble us, He extends grace to us, and He delights to restore to us what is lost!

The Shack: Does It Accurately Describe God?

The ShackYou’ve probably heard of (or possibly have read) The Shack, a best-selling novel which came out in 2007, written by Canadian author William P. Young. The book was published amidst a cloud of controversy, and the arguments continue because the movie (see the trailer) will be released early next year (March 3, 2017).

Many “main-stream Christian” groups are promoting The Shack as a wonderful and fresh portrayal of God’s nature and character.

Does The Shack accurately portray God? Is it helpful in understanding His character, purpose, and plan for us?

Belinda Elliott defends the book on the Christian Broadcasting Network:

“I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical…

“The author portrays the Trinity in a unique way. I understand that some readers will be uncomfortable with this portrayal, especially with God The Father as an African American woman and the Holy Spirit as a mysterious Asian woman named Sarayu. This depiction is one of the things that many critics have deemed heretical. Some have gone as far as to cite these two characters as the promotion of ‘goddess worship’ or a feminist God. But I found these to be not only interesting artistic choices, but actually enlightening in a spiritual sense as well.”

God's RevelationReally? Portraying God as a woman doesn’t smack at all of the heretical?

James B. De Young, ThD, wrote a challenge to The Shack entitled Burning Down “The Shack.” He claims The Shack is greatly deceptive and exposes William P. Young’s worldview as a universalist:

“I have known the author of The Shack, Paul Young, for more than a dozen years. In 2004, Paul Young wrote a lengthy document in which he rejected his evangelical faith and embraced universalism. I expose these in my book. He said then:

  • that evangelical faith and its teaching about judgment makes God “grossly unjust”;
  • that “Jesus is a million times more vicious and vindictive than Pharaoh, Nero, or Hitler put together”;
  • that Jesus Christ is “not the Savior from sins”;
  • that Jesus died “a failure and in vain and never saved anyone”;
  • thus Jesus “is not even a good man but a liar, a rogue, and a deceiving rascal”;
  • that “Calvary is a farce, a travesty, and a sham.”

“Young began work on a novel proclaiming universalism for his children. Then three years later Young rewrote the fiction and published it as The Shack, in part his autobiography. Since its publication I have sought to expose the aberrant theology on a web site, in various articles, and most recently, in my book Burning Down “The Shack” by WND Books. In my introduction I cite the many statements that Young wrote in 2004 and compare them with the claims made in his novel, The Shack. The parallels with 2004 are several:

  • “God puts himself on our human level and limits himself”;
  • “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human”;
  • “Although Jesus is fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything”;
  • “God cannot act apart from love”;
  • “I don’t need to punish people for sin”;
  • The Father and Jesus were crucified together;
  • “God cannot send any of his children to an eternity of hell just because they sin against him”;
  • “mercy triumphs over justice because of love”;
  • Jesus is “a path of reconciliation”;

“These are just some of the distortions of Christian truth that Young puts into the mouth of his characters speaking as the Trinity.”

Jesus the BabyI cringe and shudder whenever a human being (man or woman) attempts to play God in any way. The only human who has a right to show us God in the flesh is Jesus Christ, and He has already done it! ONLY GOD has a right to tell us who He is and what He is like, and He has told us in many passages.

Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34.5-7)

In the same context, God both extends mercy to His people and judges those who persist in sin. He does not universally save everyone despite what we do, as The Shack teaches. On the contrary, He judges, and Jesus assured unbelievers of an eternal punishment (Matt. 24.45-51; 25.30, 46). John wrote in his Apocalypse about the final judgment, a lake of fire (Rev. 20.11-15). The Bible gives no room for universalism but instead commands all men everywhere to repent because of the coming judgment (Acts 17.30-31).

The Bible depicts God as masculine. God is a Father, a Husband, a Shepherd, a King. Our post-modern, feminist world cannot accept a God depicted as a male, but neither can it accept the Bible’s clearly-defined roles between the sexes. They would have an androgynous god, but the God of the Bible does not speak of Himself that way. We do not pray to our mother, but to our Father. The church is not Jesus’ husband, but His bride. Any confusion on this aspect of God’s character IS blatant and terrible heresy, and woe to those who cannot see it and teach otherwise!

Be careful! Don’t accept man’s images of God, which are only idols; only settle for what God says about Himself. Once we start attempting to find “fresh” ways of communicating who God is, we have stepped outside of our rights. He created us; we have no right to create Him or attempt to modify / explain His character outside of what He has already given!

If you love the divine image from The Shack, my friend, you love a man-made and impotent god. She is most certainly not the real deal.

The Political Christian? World Says…Word Says

American PoliticsWORLD: “The worst possible thing that can happen is that a Democrat/Republican president is elected.”

WORD: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom. 13.1)

WORLD: “If my presidential candidate doesn’t win, I’ll take to the streets in protest. The other person won’t be MY president!”

WORD: “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Rom. 13.2-4)

WORLD: “I’m not going to pay taxes. Paying taxes is unconstitutional.”

WORD: “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13.5-7)

Helping HandWORLD: “I don’t like that person who is running for president. Therefore, I shall share every news story I find that tears him/her down. I like this other person, so I shall share every news story I find which builds him/her up.”

WORD: “You shall not bear false witness.” (Rom. 13.9) “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15).

WORLD: “If someone doesn’t agree that my presidential candidate is the right one for our country, I’ll let them have it with both barrels blazing!”

WORD: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4.29-32)

Taking Romans Personally

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12.1-2

Humility Quote C. S. LewisPaul connects Romans 12 (“therefore”) to the mountain of previous teaching from Romans 1-11. Before he presents what we should do, Paul deals with great theological truths about what God has already done and how we stand in relation to Him because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Beyond being merely an intellectual exercise, the renewing of our minds includes actually obeying God–doing that which is good and right–which Paul immediately outlines for us in Romans 12.3-15.7. Here’s a quick breakdown of what is covered:

  1. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought; evaluate yourself properly (12.3-8)
  2. Love genuinely (12.9-13)
  3. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep (12.14-21)
  4. Subject yourself to the government (13.1-7)
  5. Love your neighbor as yourself (13.8-10)
  6. Walk properly, as in the daytime (13.11-14)
  7. Welcome the weak in faith (14.1-15.7)

Just about all of this has to do with submitting ourselves to others. How do we actually present our lives as living sacrifices to God and renew our minds? We follow Christ’s footsteps (see 13.14; 15.1-13) by assuming the lowest place, subjecting ourselves to every ordinance of God, submitting to one another in love, yielding to our enemies, and welcoming brethren with whom we don’t see eye to eye.

Humility Quote by D. A. CarsonIn a conversation last night with a friend, something hit me. He asked (in light of the “bearing with the weak in faith” from Romans 14) how we decide who is stronger and who is weaker?

“How can you know who is the weak one?” he asked.

“Whoever the other guy is, that’s the weak one,” I jokingly replied.

But silliness aside, I’m pretty sure that is not the question God would have us ask, because if we use Romans 14 to start a big row over who is weak and who is strong, does that not tend to divide rather than unify, as Paul insisted upon?

As I read Romans 12-15, God speaks to me, personally. I know He didn’t write Romans directly to me, but I should read it as a message from God to me. In other words, I don’t read it to figure out how you ought to change in your actions towards me; rather I read to discover how I might repent and change in my actions towards you. I can only worry about and change myself, and God has only given me control over one person on this planet!

FlowerIf every Christian read the Bible this way, wouldn’t we make gigantic strides towards unity? If every husband only worried about being the right kind of husband and didn’t worry about forcing his wife to be the right kind of wife…if every wife only worried about respecting her husband properly…if every brother only worried about how he was treating his fellow siblings and not about what they did to him or didn’t do for him…how powerful would that be?!

Is that how you read God’s word?

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12.18)