Christianity 201

November 29, 2019

Bad Behavior: An Embarrassing Fashion Choice

This is our sixth time with a writer who we haven’t included in several years: Blake Coffee at Church Whisperer (churchwhisperer.com). Click the header below to read at source.

Christians Behaving Badly

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:8-10

Another week and lots of new opportunities to see social media lit up with examples of Christians behaving badly, saying hateful things…about other Christians. You know what’s sad? This blog post can stay up for years and that opening sentence will still be perfectly timely and relevant. Oh, how we make embarrassing choices over and over again. And social media seems perfectly designed to help us shine the brightest of lights on those embarrassing choices. Is it just me, or has social media become the newest highway for our road rage? The temptation to make embarrassing choices is just too great for many of us.

Embarrassing Fashion Choices

I’ve lost track of how many reality TV shows there are about fashion makeovers. Well, that’s not true. I’m certain I never did have any handle on that count. But you know the formula for them: some unsuspecting soul is suddenly put into what amounts to a fashion intervention by well-meaning friends or family. The fashion “experts” come in and go through the person’s closet and ridicule them for all the horrible fashions represented there. A miraculous transformation ensues, and that person is a new person as a result. May it never happen to you or to me.

But the truth is, we all have worn things in the past which we would be thoroughly embarrassed to wear today (e.g., take a look at the wedding pictures of anyone married in the 70s or 80s). To put those things on today and be seen in them would be, well, pretty horrible. I’m not going to admit anything here, but let’s just say that, in matters of fashion choices, I’m familiar with sentiments like: “Dad! No! We’ve talked about this!”

This, I believe, is a near-perfect illustration for the discipline of living “in the Spirit”.

Life in the Spirit

In his writing, the Apostle Paul talks often about the discipline of living in the Spirit. He sometimes compares it to what we might call making embarrassing fashion choices. In his letter to the Colossians, he takes a stroll through our spiritual closets filled with “old stuff” and says, “throw this away”, “get rid of that”, and “never wear that again”. He is talking about Christians behaving badly. Paul recognizes that there are some old ways about us, some things that fit our old nature just fine but that look completely ridiculous on us now, and we need to just get rid of them. In their place, we need to don the clothes that fit our new nature. We need to “wear” things that allow the Spirit Who lives in us to shine through. It is not changing our behavior in order to be a Christ follower, it is changing our behavior because we are a Christ follower. It is simply putting away our old ways and taking on the look that the Spirit of God portrays through us.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

A Better Look, a Better Way of Being

In typical Paul fashion, he moves from the big theological picture down to the blatantly practical pretty quickly. He hits Christians behaving badly right between the eyes. Paul, in a few words, writes the Christian’s social media policy for us. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. In a typically grueling way, God’s Word peeks into our closets and calls us out. As embarrassing as the process can be sometimes, you have to admit, the new look is worth pursuing. It suits you. It is a great look for you and for me…and for Christians everywhere.

© Christian Unity Ministries; used by permission

 

 

June 14, 2019

Faith Enough to Trust

We’re back again with David Kitz at I Love the Psalms. David has served as an ordained minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada. For several years now, he has toured across Canada and into the United States with a variety of one man plays for both children and adults. For further information visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/

Grown-up Faith or Childlike Faith?

Reading: Psalm 78
(Verses 17-22)
But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really
spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
his fire broke out against Jacob,
and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance
(NIV).

Reflection
Psalm 78 is largely an indictment against the people of Israel for their lack of faith and their rebellious ways. As the psalmist says, They willfully put God to the test.

As a child I recall reading the entire book of Exodus and thinking to myself, “Wow, these people sure are dumb. How could they see God’s amazing miracles and then a few days later grumble, complain and doubt that the LORD would help them? These people are real losers!”

Then I grew up and had a family of my own. At times I saw amazing miracles and God’s supernatural provision. But guess what? When the next big difficulty arose, I found myself doubting that God would come through. I complained about the difficulty I was in and acted just like the people of Israel in the wilderness.

Oops! I thought I was different. I thought I was smarter than those spiritual dullards in the Old Testament. In reality my grownup faith was much weaker than my childhood faith. When real testing and temptation came, I was and still am, as susceptible to unbelief as any of the wandering Israelites in the wilderness. Faith is a gift from God—a wonder-filled gift that carries us through the hard times.

The indictment against Israel is that they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. Do I truly believe in God and trust in his deliverance? Is my faith more than a creedal statement? Does it have legs and wings to carry me through the toughest situation? Often I am more like the rebellious children of Israel than I would like to admit. How about you?

Response: LORD God, I humbly ask you for the gift of faith—faith to sustain me through the tough times ahead. You are my help, my salvation and my deliverer. I praise you for your faithfulness. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you have grown-up faith or childlike faith? Which is better?

 

June 5, 2016

The Destruction of Faith

Note: This article is a companion to last Sunday’s article on Building Faith, and presents the reverse or opposite case of what can take place in a person’s life.

•••by Russell Young

The destruction of faith is not a topic that that brings joy to a person’s heart although it is an issue that needs consideration.  How many people do we know that have walked away from their faith or have left the church?  People come to faith because they have been persuaded of the gospel message.  Something must have happened to convince them that faith has no place in their lives, that their persuasion was false.  Of course there can be a lot of reasons for this.  The parable of the sower reveals some.  Faith, or commitment to faith, can be lost for lack of understanding (Mt 13:19), persecution and trials (Mt 13:21), and the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth (Mt 13:22).

The church can do something about these issues but in many instances has lost its way.  If teaching presents that a believer was designated (elected) to enjoy God’s heavenly kingdom from before time, this parable lacks sense as does falling away.  If the church teaches that a person’s initial commitment of faith brought about his eternal salvation (eternal security), again, the issue of falling away has no relevance.  The problem is that false teaching is destroying the faith and the hope of many.  Although this writing will not speak directly to either the issues of election or of eternal security, the broader issue of false teaching and its impact on faith will be addressed to some extent.

There are many promises that are presented in the gospel but they are not for all people in all circumstances.  When a person mistakenly believes that they apply to him or her and they do not see their evidence in their lives, the whole gospel message becomes suspect.

Promises directed to committed saints and to the apostles do not apply to all who have confessed belief.  A person who is seeking the “pleasures” of the world and who is interested in appeasing his own flesh should not expect the same blessings as the believer who has “died to self,” and may even be giving his or her life in difficult and meager circumstances.  Revelation 21:7 reveals the promise of entrance into the New Jerusalem for those who “overcome”, not to all who have confessed belief.  The apostles presented many promises in epistles to their readers.  They did not mean to suggest that everyone who read their letters would enjoy the same hope.  Their promises applied to those who are purposefully or committedly walking in the light.  Yet, the need for the righteous living that is in accordance with the will of God is seldom mentioned or at least with any conviction.  Even the Lord addressed his disciples by using the all inclusive pronoun “you” and he was not including Judas in many of these instances.

Passages such as John 16:23 present real challenges to faith for many people. “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (NIV) The immature and uninformed believer may accept that he or she will have any request answered.  When it is not, the truth of God’s Word will be questioned.  How many times have you heard, “I tried Christ but it did not work”?  The key to the above passage rests in the phrase “in my name.”  That is, if you ask something in the manner and for the purpose that Christ would have asked, it will be answered.  Christ came to do his Father’s will, to build his kingdom.

When something is done “in the name of Christ,” it is really being presented as being offered according to the character or authority of Christ.  Christ was really saying that if you make a request in his name, you are making it as if it was coming from him and with his authority.    Those whose motivations are the same as the Lord’s will have their prayers answered.  Those who do not appreciate the character and mission of Christ cannot speak in His name; to offer a petition that would be contrary to His moral make-up or ministry purpose would besmirch his holy name.

To encourage his readers Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NIV) Accordingly, Paul’s promise was that a person’s heart will be “guarded.” Although any petition might be made, the petitioner must accept at the same time that Christ is going to guard his or her heart and so the request may not be answered if it would prevent the petitioner’s development or taint his or her heart.  It is probably fair to accept that prayers that do not hinder the proper development of a person’s heart according to Christ’s goal or workmanship (Ep 2:10) will be answered.

The problem is that much of current teaching is leaving out the need of a transformed heart and the manner in which that is accomplished.  Instead doctrines that deal with pre-creation election and eternal security have left no purpose for the Spirit’s ministry.  Paul wrote, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us -not for our earthly enjoyment, but in order to develop the product or heart through God’s working) with groans that words cannot express. And he [God] who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26-27) God’s purpose is to create a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

The church has become weak and ineffectual concerning its mission because the ministry of Christ has been lost.  Some have gathered hope and are either consciously or unconsciously being led by the Spirit.  However, current ministry teaching is most amenable to those who in their affluence have few worries in life and are not subject to great persecution and trials.  What needs to be given to the church is the truthful establishment of a person’s hope of glory and the believer’s cost or faith commitment in accomplishing it apart from what he or she considers their due blessings in this life.  Faith is hard to build but easy to destroy.  Commitment brings discomfort and even pain.