Thursday, August 2, 2012

If You're Only Going to Sing One Note, Make it the Right One!

It's not about "gay rights."

It's not about abortion.

It's not about religious liberty.

It's not about the Constitution.

Don't get me wrong.  All of those issues are very important, even extremely important.  But if we make them the focus, then we can lose the war even while winning battles.

So what is it about?

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Luke 6:10

He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9

That at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess 
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the father.
Php 2:10-11

Make no mistake about it, no matter how many arguments you can win, or how many people you can convince regarding hot-button topics, you will not lead a soul to Christ unless you take him or her to the heart of the matter.

And the heart of the matter is simply this:

Jesus Christ is Lord, and I am not. 
My sin separated me from God,
but Jesus died to save me from my sin,
bring me back to God,
and begin the lifelong process
of changing me into
the image of Christ,
and bringing me into
glad submission
to His will for my life.

All of humanity 
has the same problem
of alienation.
And all of humanity
is offered salvation
only through 
repentance and faith
in Christ.

If we seek to change people's minds about issues, and not change their mind about Christ, then we are not going to win any wars for the Kingdom.  Don't get me wrong...we may accomplish wonderful things that may matter for eternity.  Seeds may be planted that will bring someone to Christ later.  An unborn child may be saved and allowed to survive to birth, and may later find new birth.

I don't want to discourage anyone from pursuing Kingdom-related purposes regarding major issues, just because they're not able to witness to everyone they encounter.  But I do beg of you to remember what the biggest issue really is, and to prayerfully seek opportunities to reach people for Christ with the spoken Gospel wherever possible.

If people repent, confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and begin by His indwelling Spirit to bring all of their lives into glad submission to Him, the controversial issues will necessarily begin to look different to them.  When they see Him as Lord over everything...

  • Their sexuality (how it was created, how it may be expressed)
  • Their reproductive abilities
  • Their obligations to their Creator
  • Their obligations to their fellow man
  • Their eating
  • Their drinking
  • Their playing
  • Their working
  • Everything else could their lives not be changed?

Look at that list above.  Are you starting to squirm?  Am I stepping on toes?  I hope so, because mine are a bit sore.

If Christ's Lordship over ALL of life is really the issue, then we've got a lot more repenting and submitting to do, don't we?  We can't approach our neighbor with a haughty spirit when we look at that list.

And you can be sure, Jesus Christ does intend for His Lordship to extend over all of these intimate details of life, and more (1 Co 10:31, Col 3:17).

In my last entry, I pointed out that we often misinterpret what we see as "losing," even when it's not.  But is it possible that we've also misinterpreted "winning?"

Did we think we were winning when sexual perversion, pornography, etc were in the closet and we could ignore them?  Jesus didn't.  He looked at us ignoring our lost neighbors, and He grieved angrily over the fact that we were content to see neighbors go to hell as long as they kept their lifestyle out of our faces.  Maybe one reason He has allowed the homosexual agenda to gain such power, and to be so "in our face," is because we've been such losers.  We've failed to genuinely love.  

God forgive us!  Now we can see our neighbors more clearly. 
Help us to love them to You.

What about our lost "straight" neighbors?  Are we content with their lostness because their particular brand of sinfulness doesn't offend us as much?  Do we care for our neighbors with eternity always in view?  Do we see their sin as no better or worse than our own?

Will we consider the abortion battle "won" if we get Roe v Wade repealed?  It won't be won that way.  Even if we get the law changed, the battle is still lost in every heart that insists on abusing God's good gift of procreation.  It will also be lost as long as we love "winning the war" more than we love those who oppose us in it.

Will we kid ourselves that the battles are won "out there" if they haven't been won in our hearts?  What if the morality battles, the abortion battles, and the Constitutional battles INCLUDE the battle to love our enemies in the face of these issues?  

What do we expect to hear when we stand before the One who died for sinners?  "Congratulations, you hated all the right people?"  I think not.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  

If Christ is your greatest good, then Christ is your neighbors' greatest good, too.  Love Him, and love them.  Serve Him, and serve them.  Speak the truth about Him to them.  

Let me sing my one note again.  DON'T MAJOR on the other issues, because you will never save a soul by changing a behavior.  Lead people to Christ, and the behaviors will take care of themselves.

Photo by Kristina R

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Fear, Anger, and Loving our Neighbor

Fear is infuriating.  I hate it.

Nothing makes me angrier.

I don't want to live with you if I'm afraid of you.  I don't want to live in your neighborhood, or in your country.

I cannot love you if I fear you.  To the extent that I fear you, I can only hate you.  Any love I may be able to muster will stop at the boundary of fear and go no further.

Jesus has commanded me to love my neighbor, even if he's my enemy.  If I cannot love what I fear, then I have to work on my fear, don't I?

Jesus, in fact, commanded me to do just that.

“I tell you, my friends, 

do not fear those who kill the body,

and after that have nothing more that they can do.  

Luke 12:4 (ESV)

"Do not fear."  It is the most frequently written command in all of Scripture.  

And yet, at the same time, those same Scriptures never whitewash the horrific effects of sin and the damage it can do.  At no time does He say, "Do not fear, because they're really not so bad."  Look again at how He defines those whom we are not to fear in the verse above.

"Those who kill the body."  

He doesn't say, "Don't worry, they won't really kill you."  They will.  At least in some situations, they will.  So why and how are we not to fear them?

The first and most obvious answer to "Why" is, of course, the reason found in the end of the verse above.  "...and after that have nothing more that they can do."  They can only touch our bodies, not our souls.  But that's not our focus here.

The first and most obvious answer to "How" is also not the one I'm going to focus on, though I will tell you that it's based on the verse that follows the one above.

But I will warn you whom to fear:
fear him who, after he has killed,
has authority to cast into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Luke 12:5 (ESV)

As I said, I'm not going to focus on that reason.  But suffice it to say, a proper fear of God can help deliver us from the fear of lesser things.

My goal here is also not to focus on deliverance from fear as an end in itself.  We all want to be free from fear, and there's nothing particularly praiseworthy about that fact. We've all seen fearless jerks who don't mind standing bravely and screaming their hatred with an attitude of, "I ain't afraid of you, cause you're gonna burn in hell, you scum!"  I trust that that's not who you want to be.

What I want is to be delivered from fear, to love.  And the verse that pushed this whole train of thought out of the depot this morning was this one:

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?  
Luke 9:25

Few things scare me more than the sight of an "enemy victory."  I suspect that most Christians are the same way, because I see that fear propelling a lot of words and actions right now.  "They" look poised to win, and frankly, any honest assessment of the times can see that "they" will.  They will get what they want, and we will lose something precious, and things will never be the same.

And not only are we not to fear, but we are to love.  

If we say we believe in Jesus, then we'd better be straight on this.  No arguments.  Yes, hate the sin.  Yes, acknowledge all of the verses that speak of God's holy hatred, and those that speak of a believer's natural hatred.  But don't let any of those confuse you with regard to what Christ has clearly commanded you to do.

But I say to you,
Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you
Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

Even when they're "winning."  

In fact, if we're tempted to hate "them" more when they're winning, then we've proven that we don't even know what victory is.

Why?  Because there is no real victory outside of the Gospel of Christ.  It is through His death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf that we have our only victory over sin and death.  And those are the only victories that ultimately matter.

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?  
Luke 9:25

We fear our enemies' temporary victories because we fear suffering, we fear having to live with the evil that we loathe, and we fear how a culture that worships evil will drag many souls to ultimate doom.  All perfectly understandable fears.

But darkness has never been able to extinguish light.  In fact, a tiny candle that will be unnoticeable in a bright room will look like a veritable star in a dark one.  If God has seen fit to withdraw His hand a bit and allow sin to flourish, it is so that sin may reveal its true ugliness, and so that His people may shine more brightly.  He's not losing here, folks.  Not at all.  Even if "they win."

If we are with Him, we cannot lose.  We know that, but what do we do with it?  Do we hold up a big "L" with our fingers over our foreheads and cop an attitude toward "Them," gloating that they're losers?  If so, we're losers too, because we've walked away from the Savior who loves His enemies and died to save them.

Who died to save us.  When we were his enemies.

Our enemies are losing.  Losing terribly.  Not just in spite of their victories, but because of them.  They are gaining the world at the cost of their souls. 

So we must not hate or fear them because of their "victories."  We must love them as Christ did...with a willingness to suffer as we love them, serve them, and speak the Gospel to them so that they might be saved.

NOT so that they might go back in the closet.  NOT so that they might agree with us on the definition of marriage, or on our right to Free Speech and Freedom of Religion.  So that they might be saved!

No one ever got saved by being a heterosexual.  No one ever got saved by being an anything except a repentant, blood-bought believer in Jesus Christ.  

No one will ever become a repentant believer in Jesus Christ unless the church shows the saving love of Christ to them.  

And no one will believe in His saving love if they see His people's neighboring hate.

As one who knows the victory of His love, you are commanded to share it with your enemies.  And as one who is guaranteed to win no matter what happens to you, you are free to share it without fear.

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