The Love of Sinners

I got to speak tonight on a radio program that was totally impromptu. I had no idea it was coming, but my friends say that I handled it well. The topic of homosexuality came up. This post is not going to be about homosexuality though. This post is going to be about how Christ responds to sinners.

The other speaker on this program came from the non-Christian point of view. He was asking how we can have such discrimination and hatred towards homosexuals in not allowing them to marry. This was taken as a main objection against Christianity and some things must be said.

First off, this is not the point. The claim of Christianity that is the bedrock is that Jesus Christ came and died and rose again. If that is not true, then who cares about the other point? The other point could still be true of course, but you will not destroy Christianity by proving it false.

However, there is something that must be said. Christ came for sinners. He did not come to destroy them, but to save them. He came to seek and save that which was lost. When Christ came, he did speak red-hot scorching words against sin, but he showed the greatest of love to sinners.

Who did Christ have a problem with? It was those who thought they had no sin. Because they know the truth though, their guilt remains. It was the righteous people of the time who troubled Christ. Those who come and admit they are sinners he loved unconditionally and said were in the kingdom of heaven.

We should be the same, especially since we are to be Jesus to them. We are to love sinners and hate their sins, and there is no contradiction in this. We all love ourselves, but we don’t love everything about ourselves. Christ called us to be his body on Earth. While he was on Earth, he showed love. So should we.

That is brief and short but just my thoughts. If we believe Christ can change the sinner, then let us live that out in our love.

Friendly Fire

Philo once said “Be kind, because everyone you know is fighting a harder battle.”

I like that saying.

If you don’t know, Philo was a Jewish philosopher during the time of Christ who tried to unite Plato with Moses. He even referred to Plato as the most holy Plato. I would say that this is certainly a great quote from him, and it is sadly one that the modern-day church needs to learn.

James Stewart once said about the uniqueness of Christ that no one ever said such red hot words about sin, but no one was ever so kind to sinners. Unfortunately, we seem to have those reversed at times. We love to condemn sinners relentlessly at times and show how righteous we are.

Here’s something to consider. If a Christian is living in sin and seeking to change, they already hate what they are doing. You don’t need to pour salt on their wounds. Now if they are saying “I’m living in sin and I don’t care” then I would say that is a time of tough love. The person who is contrite though is already shamed and doesn’t need more.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t just with sin per se. There are several in the church, and many times I’ve been one of them and chances are you as well, who will not tell what is going on in my personal life to the church. Why? Because you’re not sure if you can trust them. The altar can seem like an intimidating place when you realize people will start “prying” instead of praying when you go up there.

Friends. My concern is that if we cannot go to one another with what is going on in our lives, then who are we to tell the lost that they should do the same. Why should the lost believe in a church community that loves one another as Christ loved us if we do not share that love to one another?

Instead, we are told to encourage one another. Jude tells us to be gracious to those who are suffering.  We encourage one another as long as it is called today and build one another up for righteousness. Are we really doing this today? If we’re not, how can we say we’re practicing Christianity? How can we say that we are living as Christ called us to live?

We more often act like Job’s friends. When someone has suffering in their lives, we start trying to find out what sin is going on in their lives. When someone comes forward with doubt, they are told that they are not being spiritual or Christian. What nonsense! The Job idea is one idea in the Bible that God personally says is wrong and yet, we still live with it!

The church is our family. They are our friends. If we cannot unite amongst ourselves, we cannot unite for the good of the world.

Applying Truth

I’ve spoken before about how Sunday School lessons can pretty much be summed up today with “Obey God” and not much else. I do believe that the conquest of Canaan in Joshua teaches us more than “We ought to obey God.” However, a problem does occur when we have no personal application.

If we just have floating out there a command to “obey God”, then we don’t have much really. Someone can ask “Why?” “Well, you’re supposed to?” “Why?” It could go on and on from here. The claim will have to be rooted in who God is and how he has revealed himself.

If we are going to study any doctrine of God, it should change how we live our life. Let’s suppose that we are arguing with a JW on the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity should not be seen as this little doctrine that only matters on theological aspects but the world would be the same if God was a monad. Instead, we should realize there are implications.

We cannot say any aspect of our doctrine of God doesn’t matter. If you think God is immutable and someone else doesn’t, that should change how you view the world. I should view the world differently than I do an OVT. Because I know that God knows the future, it should change my outlook on it.

This is a problem in the church in that while we do have application, it often has no basis. When we finally teach doctrine, we don’t talk about what a difference it makes. If doctrine makes no difference in how you live your life, then I would say why bother even studying it?

Now let us consider some things we believe about God.

We believe he loves us perfectly and unconditionally.

We believe he is sovereign over the world.

We believe he is Lord of Heaven and Earth.

We believe he sent his Son to die for us.

We believe that he can do all that can possibly be done.

Draw some applications?

Are you living like you believe that God exists or some weaker God exists? If you could for just one second grasp how true your faith is and the ramifications of that, would you live your life differently? You say you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he died and rose again. Are you living like that?

Of course, this will require something else. You will have to know what you believe. However, I believe that once you have that, you will have to have the virtue to live accordingly. I contend that we have separated knowledge from virtue. We do not need knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Knowledge is not an end in itself. It is a means to living the right life.

Friends. Be assured of this as well. I’m in the same boat. As I preach this message to you in this blog, I am preaching it to me as well. My own friends could and have called me on this many times. However, that is one purpose of the church isn’t it? To exhort to righteousness and encourage one another.

Friends. Know the truth. Believe the truth. Love the truth. Live the truth.

Return to Scripture

With our increasing emphasis on emotions today, which are quite temporary and subject to change easily, we have drifted away from the true focus of the church for doctrine. Emotionalism has led us away from Scripture. We no longer read it to find out what the will of God is. Why should we? We have emotions.

Yet friends, how many of you have been to the Ink and Blood exhibit? It came to my city and I definitely went to see the history of the Bible. Are you aware of how many people died just so you and I could have the right to have a Bible? Do you know there are Christians in other nations of the world who would give most anything just to have that Bible that’s gathering dust on your bookshelf?

What does the Scripture say? Paul said in Romans 3 that the advantage in being a Jew was in having the Old Testament. Peter in 2 Peter 1 described the transfiguration but then emphasized the Word of God. The writers of the NT and Christ himself were not hesitant to use Scripture. It was the final authority.

For those of us who are Sola Scriptura, this needs to be understood. We are not saying Scripture is the only source that matters. There is much that can be learned  from the Early Church Fathers, from philosophy, from science, from archaeology, etc. However, the claim is that if Scripture clearly says one thing and something else clearly says another, then we go with Scripture.

Note this though. Interpretations can disagree with Scripture. Facts cannot. I do not believe for a second that true science, philosophy, psychology, etc. will ever contradict Scripture. It might contradict our interpretations of Scripture and when it reaches that point we might have to look and say “Were we reading this wrong? Is there another way to read it that won’t do violence to the text and still treat it as authoritative?”

The point friends though is that we have to return to that place of Scripture. When we are arguing a biblical point, our emphasis needs to be on what the Bible says. Too often, I have been in debates where what happens is what Francis Beckwith calls “Trumping with Spirituality.” As soon as some Christians start losing an argument, they immediately talk spiritual.

I have heard everything from how much someone reads their Bible, (Who cares if they don’t bother understanding it?) to how much someone is listening to the Holy Spirit, (Which we have dealt with already.) to the character of one’s life. (As much as we should live a moral life, a moral life does not mean that your arguments are entirely correct. Also, doesn’t that imply that you automatically think I’m living an immoral one?)

When the debate goes there, I’d like to suggest a novel idea. How about we actually go to the text and read it together? We can then try to understand the text itself. Then we look in the context of the chapter, then of the book, and then of the testament, and then of all of Scripture. Will we solve everything? I doubt it. I bet though that we’d get a deeper understanding of Scripture.

In fact, when you start exegeting a text, it’s quite enjoyable. I recently blogged about a youth pastor preaching a sermon on Proverbs 3:5-6. I began exegeting it from the pew and found that his interpretation contradicted the theme of the text. Today, I read that text in my morning Bible reading and it was unbelievable how real it was.

Friends. If we are going to have the church be the force it’s meant to be, we will have to be stronger in Scripture. All Christians need an education in it. I have seen many young apologists who are quite good but have one fundamental flaw I have seen. They have not yet read Scripture.

It is God’s gift to you, a treasure trove of knowledge, wisdom, and truth. Learn it and use it well.

Christian Ambition

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for awhile. I’m very hesitant to do so as I do not have my thoughts down entirely on it yet, but I figure that if I wait until I have them entirely figured out, that it’ll never come. Thus, I’m going to go on and share what I have and hope that it’s a blessing to some.

I have a book in my library by Hugh Hewitt called “In, But Not Of.” I recommend this book. This book is a guide to Christian ambition. He talks in the beginning about a man who wanted to be a general but never reached his goal and said that if his life was researched, one thing could be found. He did not want to be a general. Had he wanted to be one enough at least, he would have reached his goal.

I find it odd when Christians talk about this area. It seems that if I wanted to go out and become, say, an olympic runner and win the gold, that people would be cheering me on as I practiced. “Don’t give up! You can do it!” If I wanted to be a great novelist, they would tell me to write that great story in me. If I wanted to be a champion baseball player, they would tell me to be at the batting cages everyday.

When you want to be great in ministry though, step back. That’s pride!

Why?

If there is any area we should want to succeed in, it would be service to Christ.  What happened to the days when we encouraged people to change the world for Christ? Moody began his evangelistic career after hearing a preacher say that the world has not seen what one man on fire for God can do. (Actually though, I think they have. They saw it in Israel 2,000 years ago.)

Moody went out and performed much evangelism and today we have Moody Magazine and Moody Bible Institute. You can draw a line of evangelism from Moody to Billy Graham. Why? Because one person wanted to get out there and make a difference. They wanted to do the best that they could do.

My area is in apologetics. I’ll be blunt with you. I love reading Case for Christ and other books like that and thinking “I could do that someday.” When I watched the Case for Christ DVD with some friends, they asked me if I was going to be in Case for Christ 2. Is that a goal? Then what do I do? I be sure to hit the books and study!

If you wanted to be an Olympic runner, you would watch the world champion and learn to imitate him. If you want to be a great debater, you watch and listen to the great debaters. You read their books and listen to their material and watch their programs and you learn how to argue and you learn the facts well.

That has been a chief factor for me in ministry. I have heroes and I do try to imitate them. In fact, I think we all should. We all should have some role models we look up to. Friends who know me know that if I consider anyone my personal hero, it’s Ravi Zacharias. My preaching style is even similar to his as I speak with what I call a “silent passion.” My voice is not emphatic, but there is a passion behind it even if it’s a low tone.

When I was in High School, Pokemon was the big thing. Now I did watch the show a lot and when I saw the soundtrack, I thought I’d buy it to bring back some old memories. What are the themes about? About working hard and succeeding. About a kid with a dream who goes out to change the world.

I hear that and think, “What are we supposed to say in the church? I want to be mediocre for Christ! I want to be somewhat skilled at counseling!” No my friends. If we are going to do anything, is it not up to us to give it our best? Does Christ deserve anything less than the best of what we have to offer?

I have a quote that I’ve used from Nelson Mandela about how we are afraid to shine. We shouldn’t be. It is not our smallness that scares us but our greatness. Friends. We are great. We bear God’s image after all. Look at what Scripture says about us. Paul says we should judge cases for instance because we will judge angels. We are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Scripture says some awesome things about our identity in Christ.

And imagine if we all had this? Imagine if we all had this drive to help each other out to be the best that we can be? Imagine how it would be if every time I was down, I had my friends coming alongside of me to help me and I did the same for them. (And I know they have helped me in the past and I hope I’ve helped them.)

I have recently had this come up more as I have a roommate now. I’d be going through my library and find a book I no longer needed or had a better version of or a copy of and I’d just go to him and give it to him. I’ve also told him my library is open to him any time. Why? His success is mine as well. I want him to be the best he can be and I’m sure he wants the same for me.

Friends. We can change the world. We just need to reclaim our identity. I fear too long the church has put a damper on ambition. The problem in our church though is not that our dreams are too big. They are too small. We need to have the attitude that we are the image-bearers of God and we are to live that way.

The Church and Evangelism

We’ve been talking lately about the modern day church and why it is not the way it should be. One problem that I’ve lately been considering that I honestly hadn’t before this year is that the church is seen often as the place of evangelism. If you want to get someone saved, you get them to church.

Now if someone gets saved in church, as I did and as do several others, great. However, this is not the main purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to build up and equip the saints so that they can go out with the gospel and be the ones to do the evangelism in the world outside of the church.

The problem is that this means the rest of us take our responsibility lightly. Why do I need to learn the fine points of the faith? The pastor knows that. Why do I need to know what the main point of Leviticus is? The pastor knows that. Give someone the gospel? Nah. Let’s just get them to church.

The problem is that you are called to do that. You are instructed to go out and make disciples. You do not see church invitations being given in the New Testament. In fact, when Paul talks about churches in 1 Cor. 14, the thought of someone coming in who is an unbeliever is seen as a “What if?” It’s not even seen as something common.

It’s also unfair on your pastor. Your pastor cannot take all the responsibility. I am in an apologetics ministry. I do enjoy what I do, but I also know it can be taxing when you are to answer every question and I do love it when I see other people being willing to learn how to answer those questions.

Your pastor should be glad to help you out, but what would probably please him the most would be if you learned how to help yourself out, and he’d be glad to get you started with some good teaching. If he isn’t, then you might want to consider finding yourself another pastor.

When we all take our responsibilities as Christians lightly, none of us win in the end. Church is a place for building up the saints and that is not done enough. Now I do know that unbelievers do come to church today so I always give an opportunity when I preach, but my main emphasis is not to the unbeliever. My main emphasis is to the believer. They are the ones here to be equipped.

We need sermons for believers today. We need them for people who need to know more of the truth. We also need them to go beyond just the applicational level. As I said in a Sunday School class, there is a lot more to the books of Joshua and Judges than just “obey God”, but for all you hear in a class today, you’d think that was it.

Such is a rant for another day. Today though, remember making disciples happens outside the church. Where? Go to the marketplace of ideas. Chat at work. Get on the internet. Talk to a classmate. Anything. You are to go out and make disciples. You are not to bring the people to you and then make them disciples.

The Problem of Conversion

I said yesterday that we would be looking more at the situation of the modern-day church. As I consider it, I think one of the main problems is with the concept of conversion. We are so excited in the church about going out and converting people to the truth. However, there is a problem I see with this.

Jesus did not call us to make converts. He called us to make disciples.

My accepting Christ as Lord and Savior as is usually termed took place when I was 11 and a half. I just heard the message for the first time in a Baptist church. In all my years in church, I had never heard about accepting Christ as Lord and Savior like that. It sounded like a good deal to me, so I took it immediately.

So what happened then?

Well, nothing.

Now I do believe I was saved then. However, the church didn’t do anything. I didn’t really tell anyone to be sure, but I don’t remember being asked to tell. In fact, I wasn’t even baptized until years later. (I’m hydrophobic, but I decided to face my fear despite in that time after my conversion I had had a steel rod strapped on my spine. I was baptized in a Methodist church that had a baptistry and went under far enough for it to count at least.)

I basically taught myself though. I read the Bible and the first time I read it all the way through, I think I was in 7th grade. Study though wasn’t really what I was doing at the time. It was just something I was doing. I did attend some Bible Study groups and I attended one for young men especially that really helped me in High School. As soon as I got the internet, instead of video games and other such things, I wanted to chat about Christianity.

Yet it wasn’t until I got to Bible College that I even learned about apologetics.

Sometimes I look back and wonder “Lord. Why did you let me go through all that time that I could have been training myself but instead, I wasn’t. Why couldn’t I have been told about this by someone in the church earlier?”

Then I think, maybe it was so I could get a passion for this.

We are not told to make converts. We are told to make disciples. Too often today in the church, we think we get them to cross the line and accept Christ as savior and lo and behold, our work is done.

Sadly, I’ll confess, I’ve been guilty of that.

This is why so many young people get excited about Christ in church but when they go off to college, they’re not ready and become atheists. Why? Because they only got emotion. I saw it happen several times even before my interest in apologetics. For personal reasons, I avoided overnight trips with the youth group, but I would see them go to these big weekend getaways and come back all excited about Christ. What happens one week later?

Nothing. They’re back to “normal.”

These kids had an emotional high and when the emotion was gone, so was the commitment to Christ. Friends. If my commitment to Christ was based on my emotion, I would be in a lot of trouble. Now I am not anti-emotion. I do have emotions. I just don’t have strong emotions about matters of faith. I think I have passion, but not emotion.

Friends. Christ is not just Lord when we are feeling good and the world is great. Christ is Lord even when we are not. We are not called to serve Christ when we feel like it. We are called to serve Christ irregardless. If our destiny and our purpose in life changes constantly with our emotions, we are in for a world of trouble.

So thus, it could be that being one who was not discipled, I now see the importance of it.

We cannot get people to convert and then leave them there. They must be trained. If we don’t, we have the situation of the burned-over district. That was when Charles Finney came through with mass revivals and “altar calls.” Thousands of people came forward, but they had no root. In this district, there was high spiritual excitement, but no knowledge to go with it. Any shock that the Mormons and JWs both came from that area? Where were the people of knowledge then?!

Friends. Be ready to disciple. When new people come up and join the church, offer to teach them. There are sheep stealers posing at times in your church that belong to cults and are waiting to get new converts. Don’t you let them. In the Mormon church and the Kingdom Halls, I assure you they are training new members! While we should argue against the cults, we can learn a lot from their techniques! Dr. Walter Martin once said that the average JW can turn the average Christian into a doctrinal pretzel in 90 seconds or less. Sadly, I agree.

Why is this again? Because that Christian does not have knowledge. He only has emotion. Friends. When someone from the other side comes against you with hard arguments, it will not work to just develop a happy feeling. You should feel what is in accordance with reality. Not what denies reality. That also does not help the other person or surrounding people. It is only about you. That person is to be given an answer, not a feeling.

In fact, you need more than a feeling when you face the biggest critic you will meet. It is not going to be Frank Zindler or Richard Dawkins or any of these others out there that have been answered time and time again. The biggest critic you will usually face will be yourself. When that time comes, an emotion cannot win the day. Truth will.

Friends. Let us not neglect discipleship. It is what Christ called us to make. It requires hard work and dedication and sticking with some people, but it needs to be done. Find some people you can disciple. In many places I have been to, I have tried to find at least one or two that have a strong interest and train them up. Hopefully, they will train up others.

Readers of my blog know I have moved recently. Before I left though, a good friend of mine there was talking about doing a book study on Case for Christ. That is what I am talking about. You train one and it just spreads. The gospel is something to get excited about and it is something to train people up on.

And besides, Christ said to do it. It’s hard, but he’s your Lord, and you are to obey.

The Retreat of the Church

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the church today. If you’re like me, you look at the modern church and you realize that something’s wrong. We’re not living our faith the way our forefathers did. The early church fathers died because they affirmed the Trinity. Most churchgoers don’t know the basics about i. You can find Phillips, Craig, and Dean selling in Christian music stores. You can find Tommy Tenney and T.D. Jakes. All of these are Oneness Pentecostals that deny the Trinity. I’ve even seen John Shelby Spong on sale. Ever read any of his stuff?

What has happened? Our church has become filled with emotionalism and people being moved entirely by feelings. Now I’m not against emotions and feelings, but too often today, we have the tail wagging the dog instead of the other way around. We are to be people of the truth. Not people that have the truth change based on our feelings.

Also, do we really live it? Do the teachings of Christ really play a key role in our lives? Do we bother to understand what is going on in a biblical text? I’ve spoken much about the concept of feeling led because I believe this is a key role. In fact, this kind of attitude is drawing us away from Scripture and focusing us on our experiences.

I think that unfortunately, the church retreated. My roommate here used the term just now when we were discussing this of non-overlapping Magisteria. It’d been one I’d thought of as well. If you don’t know, it comes from Stephen Jay Gould. He said that science would deal with facts of the real world, and religion would deal with emotions and feelings and that “less real” stuff.

In fact, we seem to have often divorced the life of the mind and the life of the heart. I know of a number of Christians who think that we shouldn’t think about our faith and that our minds are evil and need to be bypassed. Friends. This is not a Christian view of the intellect. Especially since God is the God of all truth and truth is an endeavor of the mind.

Around the 1800’s, we had Charles Finney coming through with mass revivals. People got an emotional charge, but unfortunately, they had no root. There will be more about this as we go on of course. However, I see this as an indication that emotionalism has taken a hold of the church.

One such area hit was the Burned-Over District of New York. There were several people who had a spiritual interest in things then, but they had no root. Two groups rose out of that area. One of them was the Mormons and the other was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where were the people there doing the discipling and training the people in truth?

When we read the great confession in Matthews 16, we read that the gates of Hell will not stand up against the church. Friends. Be sure that you know this. Gates are defensive tools. Hell is not to be taking the offensive in this fight. We are. We are to go out into battle with our weapons ready to fight the good fight and we are assured of victory!

So why aren’t we fighting?

I suppose we’ll get to discuss that together.

It’s A Whole New World

Greetings Readers! Have you missed me?! I really hope you have! I’ve missed getting to do the blog! I’ve got so many thoughts going on in my head I really don’t know necessarily how to begin. There are times that there are a thousand ideas and then there are none. For anyone reading this wondering what I’m talking about, I’ve just moved to a new city and a new state with an awesome friend of mine who is my roommate.

Things are going well. We just today got internet and basic cable and hallelujah, we have the CW. That means I get to watch Smallville tomorrow! Readers of my blog know that this is my TV obsession. Fortunately, I get off from work in time in order to watch it. (Yeah. I transferred from one location to another in my job so it was a simple process.)

My job has me in a position where from time to time I have to look at Driver’s Licenses and I see all these new places and roads mentioned on them that I haven’t seen here and it makes me think that there’s so much to explore. I also find it interesting that I’m sure most people assume that I have lived here a long time and I’m not the new person in town. Isn’t it amazing the assumptions we make at times?

I have been in awe when I stop to think about it. There is still some system shock. I haven’t slept in past 9 yet I don’t think, but I’m getting used to things here. I still find it amazing when I wake up in the morning and can see a little bit out of the window and after a few seconds my mind recollects and remembers, “Yes. That’s where you are.”

It’s just that this is a whole new world, but I realize my goal must remain the same. I must keep in mind why I am here. There are so many new experiences and things to go through.  It’s quite exciting to drive down the streets and realize that you are so far away from everything and this time, the battle is more dependent on you than ever.

Of course, my roommate helps out a lot with that. My roommate is an excellent friend of mine and we’ve already had a number of interesting adventures here unpacking. Ever tried to get a sofa up a very small staircase? It is nothing easy to do, and while we still had some help at the time, it took us about an hour to do it.

He’s a great guy though, and I think it’s been a real calming influence. The first time I moved out, I was a bit nervous for awhile, but I haven’t gone into any kind of, what I call, “panic state” at all. Now some of that might be because I’ve grown some over the years which I’m sure is true, but I think part of it is also the power of friendship.

My own stretching at this point has been interesting. My roommate is good at basic work involving tools around the house. I’m the type that would make Tim Taylor on Home Improvement look like a professional. I’ve been learning how to put things together though and use basic tools and been enjoying it. I took great delight in helping put together a new bookcase I got and then hanging up Smallville pictures. I was also the one who actually hooked up our TV and game systems. My roommate did the computer systems and did an excellent job of them.

I have been to the Seminary I plan to attend and I really hope to rock at Seminary. I understand I’m already well-familiar with the course material so as the admissions guy said, “I’m ahead of the game.” I suppose that’s the benefit of studying for years. It’s going to be a grand adventure though and I have a dream of walking across that stage and getting my Master’s. I think it’s been a long time since anyone in my family has.

Friends who read this blog. I see that several of you have been coming faithfully and that pleases me greatly. Before I left, I even found out about one of my secret readers who I didn’t even realize read the blog everyday. It was a great joy to hear such a thing. I know this blog isn’t really apologetics stuff tonight entirely, but I want you all to know where I’m at.

Pray for me please in this adventure. Pray for my roommate also. We’re both in this together after all. Pray that he and I both succeed on the paths we have chosen. Thank you for your continued prayers and reading the DeeperWaters blog.

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