Yes It Burns, But It Heals

nitrotanI mentioned in Sunday’s sermon that we Christians are really good at helping people when they are in a crisis (i.e. sickness, death, loss of job, disaster relief).  But when the crisis has to do with a Christian who is in rebellious, unrepentant, and biblically clear sin, we wring our hands, kick the dirt with our heads lowered, and remain strangely silent.

Some may have an issue with the use of the phrase “strangely silent.”  After all, many of us have grown up in churches where church discipline has been removed.  We’ve been indoctrinated into the misuse of “judge not lest ye be judged” so that holding fellow Christians accountable for their sin is tantamount to being labeled a Pharisee and forgetting that “but for the grace of God” go I.  “Who are you to judge?” is the cry, not only of the sinning Christian, but of others who are appalled that we would hold brothers and sisters in Christ to biblical standards of behavior.  Silence concerning the sins of our brothers and sisters isn’t really strange at all in our churches.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about sins that we make up as a checklist for holding others hostage…sins like dancin’, drinkin’, smokin’, dippin’, card playin’, and the like.  I’m talking about the sins that come from the Scriptures that are clear “thus says the Lord.”  When fellow Christians are caught in unrepentant sin, we’ve been given the responsibility by our Lord to lovingly confront these friends for their eternal good.

So why are we slow to hold fellow Christians accountable for their sin?

  1. We’ve bought into the idea that Christianity is primarily about the individual and not the community. You can’t read the New Testament without coming across the “one another” passages of the writers. We are the people of God, the body of Christ, and we pray to our Father.  We live this life together through both the good and the bad.  There are times for encouragement and times for correction.  Living the Christian life is what we do.
  1. We believe that the privacy of the individual is sacred. If you’re a Baptist, you grew up hearing about the priesthood of the believer. Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and God’s Word, we believe that in Christ there is no need for an intercessor between God and man, Jesus is our Intercessor.  But Jesus is also the One who gave us Matthew 18 in which He clearly gives the parameters for making public what was done in private.  Sin in the individual affects the body.  For Christians, unrepentant sin is never a private matter.
  1. We’ve so softened Christianity that an unrepentant sinning Christian has become somewhat of a norm within the church. If someone prays “the prayer,” gets baptized, and joins the church, we count that a win. And yet, our 21st century Christianity is weak compared to the robust passion for Jesus we see in the New Testament.  Church growth has become the goal instead of making disciples.  And so the Christian landscape is littered with those we’ve evangelized, but few we’ve seen grow into disciples.
  1. We’ve succumbed to the culture’s understanding that there are very few, if any, moral absolutes. The church tries to make peace with the culture by taking some of the sting out of the moral absolutes of the Scriptures. No one likes to be told that the things they love, the things that give them purpose, are sin.  And so to be more accommodating to the world, we lower the biblical standards of being a Christian.  Therefore, what might be wrong for me in my walk with Jesus may not necessarily be wrong for you as you walk with Him.  Instead of holding up the biblical absolutes, we dumb them down for everyone, including those who call Jesus Lord.
  1. We’ve wrongly believed that lowering the bar of Christianity will actually bring more converts. Some may believe that we’ve made Christianity so difficult that no one will want to be a Christian. Or maybe some believe we do a bait and switch by saying that everyone may come to the Lord but once you come, you’ve got to make radical changes in your life.  And that’s on we Christians.  Jesus said if anyone would come after Him he must deny himself and take up his cross.  Better to be upfront with the radical commitment required than to keep moving the line after conversion.  And one thing history has taught us, the radical call of Jesus to follow Him resonates with many people.  Their hearts long for a cause, for a Person, for whom they are willing to give their all.
  1. We’ve wrongly believed that biblical confrontation is unloving. In our current culture where we don’t want to upset anyone, confrontation is seen as unloving and unhelpful. When I played high school football, we would often get lots of scrapes.  One of the concerns in a locker room was that staff infection could spread through the players.  After practices and our showers, we had to line up in front of our lockers for our coach to inspect our wounds.  He carried around a can of Nitrotan, an aerosol germicide.  All I know is that when he sprayed it on our wounds, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth occurred.  It BURNED!  But it worked, also.  Nitrotan brought pain but promoted healing.

Confronting a brother or sister concerning their sin is one of the most difficult responsibilities of the Christian life.  And it’s also one of the most loving.  Better short-term confrontation leading to repentance than overlooking sin leading to condemnation.

Tomorrow, I want to look at the biblical benefits for confronting believers who are in unrepentant sin.

Grace to Persevere…The Notes

I wrapped up my sermon series from 2 Corinthians Grace in Real Life yesterday.  I preached from chapter 13.  You can listen to the sermon here.  The notes are below…

  1. The church is God’s gift of grace to help us persevere v. 1-4 
  2. Godly repentance & faith-driven obedience are God’s gift of grace to help us persevere v. 5-10
  3. Daily spiritual disciplines are God’s gifts of grace to help us persevere v. 11-12
  4. God Himself is the greatest gift who helps us persevere v. 13

Grace to Persevere

Today is the final sermon from the 2 Corinthians series: Grace in Real Life.  I’m preaching from 2 Corinthians 13…

2 Corinthians 13:1-13 (HCSB)
1  This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 2  I gave a warning when I was present the second time, and now I give a warning while I am absent to those who sinned before and to all the rest: If I come again, I will not be lenient, 3  since you seek proof of Christ speaking in me. He is not weak toward you, but powerful among you. 4  In fact, He was crucified in weakness, but He lives by God’s power. For we also are weak in Him, yet toward you we will live with Him by God’s power.

5  Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test. 6  And I hope you will recognize that we do not fail the test. 7  Now we pray to God that you do nothing wrong—not that we may appear to pass the test, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear to fail. 8  For we are not able to do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9  In fact, we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. We also pray that you become fully mature. 10  This is why I am writing these things while absent, that when I am there I will not use severity, in keeping with the authority the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down.

11  Finally, brothers, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

13  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Saturday Stuff, March 28, 2015

*Check out this Avengers: Age of Ultron featurette on the siblings Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

*Want to see a picture of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice?

*I was a casual fan of The X-Files but I’m looking forward to the 6-episode return of Scully and Mulder.

*And finally, Ryan Reynolds reveals the Deadpool costume for the Marvel movie coming in 2016.

6-String Salvo, March 27, 2015

bigstock-Guitar-9506791. Here are three really good posts dealing with marriage & dating:

2. This is a beautiful picture of what God is doing on a Sunday morning at church from Trevin Wax.

3. Steven Lee says we complain because we forget…and he’s right.

4. Sam Storms asks an important question, Jesus is necessary, but is He enough?

5. There’s a shift in our evangelism that we need if we’re going to reach our culture says Alvin Reid.

6. Jason Meyer shares ways we can fight pride and learn to think of ourselves less.

And here’s the Punch Brothers on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions with Magnet

Don’t Drift

I think it’s important that we all be reminded that we don’t drift toward God, but we easily drift away from Him.  The process of sanctification isn’t a static process.  We as believers must constantly work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  We must “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).”  We must run with endurance and keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As a warning, God has given us pictures of the danger of drifting all around us.  Look at institutions that originally began as teaching houses for pastors that are now liberal institutions.  Look at denominations and churches which once stood on the solid ground of God’s Word which now tear down the truths of those same Scriptures.  Think of people who once faithfully pursued Jesus Christ with all their heart but who now will have nothing to do with the Lord or His church.

That’s why the doctrine of the security of the believer is often, and maybe better, referred to as the perseverance of the saints.  While our salvation is secure in the finished work of Jesus, the Bible continuously warns us not to drift away from the Lord or His Word, to persevere in our faith for His glory.

Be aware of the danger of drifting away from the Lord.  Stay in His Word.  Make prayer a vital part of your day.  Surround yourself with godly believers who will hold you accountable.  Actively attend a local church where you can be encouraged and where you can serve.

None of these practices make you a Christian nor keep you a Christian.  However, God has given them to us as means by which, through the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we can bear fruit of our salvation and pursue Christ.

Be grateful today that you have a desire to pursue Jesus.  That desire is a great gift that your Lord has given you for His glory and for your good.

Is God Just a First Responder?

firstrespondersI’ve been blessed to be a part of a family that has many members who are public servants, primarily in law enforcement and as firefighters/E.M.T.s.  Firefighters/E.M.T.s gather at the station for shifts that last for a few days.  They eat there, sleep there, and work there.  That is until a call comes in and they really go to work.  These brave men and women are some of the first responders, those who receive the call to go to work when something terrible has happened.  A blazing fire, a horrible crash, or natural disaster will find them rushing into danger to help.

But notice what we call them, first responders.  These men and women respond to bad things.  They arrive, assess the situation, and begin to help in any way they can.  They may rush into a burning building or they may administer first aid.  Whatever the situation, when they are called, they come and do everything they can to make the best out of horrible and tragic events.

Is God a First Responder?

Some people wrongly see our God like a holy First Responder.  They believe that God may know the future, but that He’s powerless to stop the future from happening.  The best God can do is respond to these events and make the best out of them.  This kind of thinking renders God a concerned bystander who can only help once an event has occurred.  Yes, He has great wisdom and knowledge and will do a great job, but He is powerless until the event occurs.

What about the crucifixion?

The crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ paints a wonderfully different picture of our great God.  Check out these two Scriptures from Acts…

Acts 2:22-24 (HCSB) 22  “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. 23  Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24  God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.

Acts 4:27-28 (HCSB) 27  “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, 28  to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.

God was not powerless in the crucifixion of His Son so that He was only able to make the best of a horrible situation.  God was not flummoxed over how Jesus’s situation would turn out as He sat hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.  The Scriptures make clear that everything that was happening to Jesus was according to God’s “determined plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23).  And lest we camp out on foreknowledge Luke records the prayer of the church in Acts 4:28 where they pray “to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.”  Everything that happened in the crucifixion was God’s will so that Jesus might be our Substitute and Savior.

That’s Jesus, what about me?

So what does this say about us?  That’s Jesus, not us.  I want to point to an OT verse and a brief NT passage that give a good overview that God has plans for us as well and doesn’t just respond to our needs once they occur…

Psalm 139:16 (HCSB) 16  Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all ⌊my⌋ days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

Romans 8:28-30 (HCSB) 28  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30  And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Both of these passages affirm that God is as intimately involved in our lives as He was with Jesus, and that His plans for us are eternal and predestined.  My days are written in His book, a book that was written before those days even existed.  And according to Romans 8, what’s written in that book are those things that God is doing in my life (“all things”) so that I will be conformed to the image of Jesus.

There’s no hand-wringing in heaven!

God doesn’t sit up in heaven wringing His hands hoping that all will work out for good in my life.  God doesn’t sit up in heaven waiting to be called as a First Responder.  Because of His great love for me, God has a plan for me that involves my real choices and real decisions, but will all be for my good and for His glory.  I don’t have to hope everything is going to be okay.  I know it will be okay, even in the midst of tragedy, because God is working out His plan for me that is wonderful and glorious.

He’s the Potter, I’m the clay.  And He’s making me like Jesus.  And He’s doing this out of His love for me.  What could give me more peace and joy than that knowledge?