Christianity 201

May 13, 2020

Conversations Motivated by Love

We share devotional content here across a wide spectrum of Christian thought. Today’s thoughts are from Chad Reisig, an Adventist pastor to a absolutely beautiful high school in Milo, Oregon with its own farm, pond and covered bridge.  Because his posts are shorter, we’re giving you a double-feature today, but both are centered on the word talk. Click the individual headers below to read the articles at source.

Idle Talk

And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.

Matthew 12:36 (NLT)

As we discussed in our devotional a few days ago, the perception of the outside world when it comes to the majority of Christians is that they are all talk, but rarely do anything to benefit the community that surrounds them. To summarize that particular devotional, that’s bad.

However, there is a different type of idle talk. This idle talk happens in our churches, schools, workplaces and homes way too often as well. What is “idle talk?” Well, to put it simply, it is like a car at a stop sign. It may make noise, because the engine is running, but it doesn’t go anywhere or produce any forward momentum.

Here, Jesus is using the term idle talk as a synonym for two things: Saying we will do something, then not doing it; and complaining. It’s the latter one I want to address today.

Complainers make a lot of noise, but never seek to resolve the situation they are complaining about. They, therefore, remain at the stop sign. In our current day and age, we tend to call it “venting.” At the end of the tirade, we often say something like “Well, I feel better.” However, nothing is accomplished other than feelings are hurt, others are now upset, (usually at the target of the complaining) and the situation that caused the complaining is not resolved. It’s all idle talk.

So, what does Jesus say about such talk? “You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” That one stings a bit!

So, what must we do to get back on track with how God asks us to communicate? As we’ve seen previously, everything we do must be motivated by love. Therefore, we need to be able to have conversations with people within our schools, churches, homes, and workplace because we love those God has placed in our lives. We need to speak to those that we feel the need to vent about rather than complaining to others about them or questioning their motives, intellect, or wisdom. We need to have hard conversations – not shouting matches, but real conversations that lead to understanding, even if there is still disagreement.

Stop Talking

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

Romans 12:9 (NLT)

I was at a conference not too long ago. It was a gathering of teachers and pastors. The topic: how to get the churches and the school united in our mission, the Great Commission. It was a good conference, with good materials, and good presentations. But one thing really stood out to me.

One of the conference leaders put an ad out on Craigslist asking for people from the greater Portland area to come and speak to the conference attendees, on behalf of their peer group, about their perceptions of Christians. There were three that responded in earnest. One was a secular Jew with a radio show in Portland. Another came representing the LGBTQ community. The third was a young woman who grew up in a religious home where she was beaten over the head (figuratively speaking) with the Bible on a regular basis.

What they shared really impacted the entirety of the conference goers. But, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. They all stated generally the same thing: Christians are really good at talking about love, but horrible at actually demonstrating that love to their communities. Ouch!

I believe that Paul’s inspired verse for us today shows that the early church was wrestling with this same concept a couple of thousand years ago. We can’t just say we love others. We have to do it. There are enough fakers in the world. As Christians, it pains me to think that we’ve been lumped into that category.

So, what do we do? We follow what the Scriptures say. Get out and love people.

In a practical sense, it means leaving the safe confines of our church buildings and making friends with people where they are: in the alleyways, in our neighborhoods, in the part of town we never dare enter because things are “different” there. Get out and serve.

September 10, 2019

The Purpose for Preaching the Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Russell Young

Has the purpose for preaching the gospel been distorted?

Preaching is intended to convey a vital message to those who are listening, and Peter has presented its purpose. It is not primarily to present the salvation message, but to inform both the lost and those who consider themselves to be eternally saved concerning specific truths.

The purpose for preaching the gospel was to inform people about life in the Spirit and judgment for things done in the flesh. That is, all will face judgment for things done in the body and that they can live to please God through the Spirit. “But they (pagans) will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (1 Pet 4:5−6) This passage might be understood more clearly if the clauses were reversed. That is, ‘For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are dead so that they might live according to God in regard to the Spirit but be judged according to men in regard to the body.’

All will be judged, but all can also avoid its negative consequences by living in the Spirit. Preaching the gospel is intended to inform and to bring clarity concerning these issues. Peter does not present that the many attributes of God…his great mercy, love, and grace are not to be the main issues of preaching but the nature of a person’s living and the judgment that will follow are paramount. Of course, the Lord’s sacrificial offering and his mercy and grace are part of the gospel, but the real purpose of preaching is to inform all people of the means of averting God’s wrath. The reality of judgment is seldom preached and with it the “good news” of the gospel seldom heard or appreciated.

Pagan-ish behaviors are not acceptable to God and all will be judged according to their ungodly interests and practices. Confessors are not to live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but for the will of God. (v 2) They, along with all others, will be judged for things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) The truths about judgement and life in the Spirit need to be loudly proclaimed since their proclamation is the purpose of gospel preaching.

Understanding the practice of living in the Spirit is necessary for the kingdom-seeker. The flesh leads to all kinds of ungodly practices. In fact, Paul calls it the “body of death,” (Rom 7:24) and has stated that we are to be united with Christ in his death so that we can die to sin. The Spirit ministers to transform the heart that is not acceptable to God into one whose thoughts and practices are righteousness. God’s grace does not cover defiance of the Spirit by deliberately continuing to sin. Those who are led by the Spirit will become sons of God (Rom 8:14) since it is the Spirit who enables a person to meet God’s righteous requirements. (Rom 8:4) From Peter’s perspective, the gospel was preached so that people would know how to become an acceptable offering to God sanctified by the Spirit (Rom 15:16) and thereby to avoid judgment.

When “freedom” from the consequence of sins by God’s grace becomes the focus of gospel preaching, the warning is lost both for the wicked and those who have confessed Christ as their savior, and both remain vulnerable to God’s wrath for disobedience. The Biblical presentation of “freedom” from “past sins” (2 Pet 1:9) does not allow escape from personal judgment by God. (1 Pet 4:17; Heb 10:30; 2 Thess 1:7−8; Mt 12:36) All will come under judgment for their activities in the flesh. The gospel is to be preached to make people aware that all will be accountable to God and that they can avoid destruction through the guidance of the Spirit. Those who preach freedom from judgment and neglect the need to live according to God’s will through the Spirit must not be addressing the purpose of gospel preaching.

All confessors know of the wrath that will befall those outside of Christ, but many do not appreciate the fullness of their need. Although the confessor’s “past sins” may have been forgiven, the need remains for them to live in obedience to the Spirit if they are to be acceptable to him. Because the focus has been taken off the purpose of gospel preaching its intent has been lost and with it so will the imagined hope for many.

The sinful nature has been the guide and remains the guide of pagans. They know nothing of the Spirit. The natural spirit takes direction from the flesh which would seek comfort and pleasure without regard to God. Ungodliness in its various forms must be overcome and this truth is clear in God’s Word. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11−12) Paul has written, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13−14) According to Peter the gospel was preached that a person might know to avoid destruction through the judgment that will face people for the ungodly practices of their body and commit to Spirit-led living. The purpose of preaching the gospel must be honored for the eternal welfare of all people.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

 

November 12, 2014

When God Reads Your Report Card

After a two-week break, regular midweek contributor Clarke Dixon returns to the subject of generosity. Click the title below to read at source where you’ll find previous entries in this series.

Being Sheepish in Our Generosity

Offering PlateThe following is a very familiar passage, so familiar perhaps, that we might skip through it rather than read it carefully. So to help us slow down and read more carefully, let me ask you as you read it to identify what the sheep are and are not aware of:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:31-40 NRSV)

What are the sheep aware of? People in need and how to help. That was easy, now, what are the sheep not aware of? Easiest to spot is that they are not aware that in serving “the least of these” they are really serving the King. They are also not aware of the potential for a reward through their service. Finally, the sheep are not aware that not only are they serving the Son of Man, the King, through serving others, they are emulating Him. Being generous in a time of need is the kind of thing God does. Consider the exodus from Egypt:

7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10 NRSV)

God saw the need, he heard the distress of the people in need, and he helped. That rescue of God’s people in the Old Testament pointed to an even greater rescue to come for people facing the greatest need ever. In Biblical times, and today there is slavery, there is oppression, there is division and painful dividing. There is addiction, there is violence and violation. There is conflict, international, and interpersonal. What is at the heart of all that? Exactly that which God came to save us from: sin. There are many who are unaware of sin, who are unaware of needing a rescue, but before we are ever aware of our need for God’s love, God knew our need and had the rescue already planned out. Sin separates us from God and destroys our ability to be fully human and in full relationship with other humans, but God was moved to help: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NRSV)

As sheep, we are called to emulate the Son of Man, Jesus, and be gospel people. Yes, sometimes we will sense and know a specific call from God to “go here and do that” or better, “go there, and help them.” But whether we sense that specific call or not, we all have a call to be gospel people. What do gospel people do? Gospel people proclaim God’s gospel, the good news of God’s rescue of us from the penalty and power of sin in Christ. But Gospel people also live the gospel. Having been rescued, we seek to rescue. Having been helped in our need, we seek to help others in their need. How much of ourselves are we to give? How much generosity is enough? To answer that we do well to remember “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NRSV)

Being in the midst of a bathroom renovation I was interested in a recent tv show highlighting some really spiffy bathroom renovations. One such cost over $500,000. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to stand before the Lord someday and explain why I felt that was necessary. Nor do I want to stand before the millions living without running water and explain why I need a loo worth half-a-million American dollars. But are there financial decisions I will be ashamed of? Are you and I really aware of the need and our potential to help? What does generosity look like in your life?

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. ’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? ’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41-46 NRSV)

February 7, 2013

Should You Call Out the Sin of Those in Leadership?

In the life of the local church, stuff happens. As you continue to follow Christ, you will be exposed to things that will frustrate you or even cause you to question how certain people got into Christian leadership in the first place. Some will tell you that you shouldn’t interfere with people who have spiritual headship over you. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed;” is the most commonly quoted verse. But others will tell you that sin is sin and needs to be so identified.

What will you do? Well, this blog is called Christianity 201 and not Christianity 101 for a reason: It’s about digging a little deeper into the Word, and that sometimes involves digging a little deeper into issues. So I decided to include this article by Steve Scott at the blog From The Pew. I always tell you to click through to read; I especially recommend doing so here because there is going to be at least one other part to this. (We’ll add the link as soon as it’s available.)  Steve called this: Elders Behaving Badly: Speak Up or Hush Up? (1)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;”  Ephesians 5:3 NASV

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful to even speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”  Ephesians 5:11-12 NASV

In the debate that has taken place over the rise of so-called “spiritual abuse” or “survivor” websites and blogs, one argument that has been made is that such people ought not discuss any sins of spiritually abusive pastors due to the above verses.  But before I go any further, I want to note that there has been more than one way that this passage is interpreted.  And the interpretations I have come across can lead to opposing beliefs about speaking up.  They are…

Hush Up

I have heard this interpretation my entire Christian life.  People have been taught to interpret these verses so that we should be silent about sin.  This is not a rare interpretation, and I think it has led to comments like this one.  The commenter asserts that it is shameful to even talk about their misdeeds.  Here’s the thinking behind the interpretation.  “…for it is disgraceful to even speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” v12.  One grammatical possibility for this verse (and there are more than one) is this.  I emphasized the word “even” to show the point.  Not only is it disgraceful to speak of the things done openly, it is even disgraceful to do so in secret.  So we can’t discuss the sins in question among us, even in secret, for it is a disgrace.  So, in this interpretation, the speaking about sin is what is in view and it is disgraceful. 

The sin itself is not in view.

This is given support by the same type of interpretation of verse 3.  The two interpretations go together.  “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”  This interpretation puts forth the idea that the names given to various sins should not be used in our conversation.  The sins should not be named.  And this is proper among saints.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, or a coincidence, that some of the people speaking out against the abuse blogs are people influenced by John MacArthur.  I found a site that compares commentaries of scripture, and if you scroll down far enough here, you will see that he warns about describing sin in his Eph. 5:12 comments.

So what does this interpretation have to say about exposing sin, as in “but instead even expose them”?  As the commenter said in my first link, we expose sin by the light of our proper living before God.  The summary of this “hush up” view is, “we shouldn’t discuss or name the sin, but expose it by godly living.

Speak Up

A “speak up” interpretation might look something like the following.  Contrary to the “hush up” view, the disgrace mentioned in verse 12 lies not in speaking about the sin, but in merely speaking about it in secret.  Secrecy is not where the sin should be spoken about, but rather it should be exposed: “but instead even expose them.”

And the exhortation in v3 to not have immorality named among the saints does not mean that we should not name sin, but that none of us should commit those sins so that the name can be pinned on us.

This does appear to be a difficult passage to interpret and apply consistently.  I will attempt to speak more to it in another post.