Monthly Archives: December 2014
Well, if nothing else – that title should have gotten your attention…
This blog may be a bit personal for us all – if we are honest – as most of us, I suspect, deal with the difficulty of reconciling when brothers & sisters in Christ hold tightly to views that are different that our own. I am not talking about preferences in worship style or dress or the color of the carpet – but things that range from doctrinal matters to matters of conscience.
Part 1: Matters of Conscience vs. Preferential Loving
I suspect for some, the struggle with matters of conscience is not really an issue – but for me it is, and I suspect for many of my readers it is as well. Fenelon says this: “You must never look down at someone who is not called to walk the way you are. God does what He wants with each one.” Now I see a couple of truths herein: 1) watch my attitude! And 2) embrace the truth that, as Paul said: “accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-2, 4b)
Paul later, however, tells us:
Vs 13b: “…determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
Vs 15: “if because of food [smoke, drink, language, or any permitted indulgence] your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” (My amplification in brackets)
Vs. 16: “Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Vs 20-22: “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have [j]as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
And in 1 Thess 5:22, this same Paul writes: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Lastly, on the matter of conscience – Paul writes, not once, but twice:
1 Cor 6:12: “All things are lawful unto me,” but all things are not expedient. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
1 Cor 10:23: “All things to me are lawful, but all things are not profitable; all things to me are lawful, but all things do not build up;”
So here, I see our Lord clearly teaching us that we MUST be sensitive, prudent, careful and loving, with regards to our “matters of conscience”, putting the well-being of the brethren, and the sake of the reputation of the Kingdom on God within us, ahead of our own personal pleasures.
So I guess I am not baffled by our indulging in our permitted pleasures, as much as I am by our seeming lack of concern for the “whomever” that might be hurt by our “practicing, indulging or even flaunting” those pleasures – for though it might be permissible to indulge pleasures according to our own faith – it is NEVER permissible to hurt, offend or cause a brother to stumble. (Remember, faith is not just “what you confidently choose to believe” – it is, in fact, “acting in obedience to the Rhema word that you have heard from the Lord. Romans 10:17)
Let’s chew on this together… please – if not only for your sake, but the sake of The Body of Christ.
Part 2 Coming Soon: Assurance vs Deception
“She considers herself a Christian, but…” This line from a recent Atlanta news station article brings to light the antithesis of one of the greatest problems with modern-day, western, CHRISTianity. Whenever you find it necessary to follow-up your statement declaring your Christian “affiliation” with the word “but”, I can assure you that you are NOT of the CHRISTian “faith”, rather you are only loosely associating yourself with the christian “religion”. And, a loose association is guaranteed to result in one of 2 responses from the Lord of CHRISTianity:
1) His words: “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23); or
2) You will be vomit from His mouth (Rev 3:16)
It is unfortunate indeed that we humans, particularly in the west, have both misused and abused the term: CHRISTian. And what we are to do about that varies in speculation – but all who are concerned and aware, agree, something must be done.
There is little that can be done about those who insist & persist in associating themselves with a the watered-down, man-made, powerless religion of “christian” as nothing more than an answer to a question on a survey “What is your religious affiliation?” They will always have “buts” to include in their religious claims, as they associate themselves only with the kindness and love for mankind that CHRISTianity teaches, but refuse to get to know any more about the other substantial aspects of the foundational Truths of CHRISTianity. These folk are not a real threat to true CHRISTianity, as they are simply misusing the term – and most folks will see that for what it is: “an answer on a survey”.
But, beyond that, what about those who are abusing the term – living a much closer association – likely deceived into believing that there is indeed substance to this self-affixed “Christian” label they wear? A brief word study will reveal that nowhere in Scripture (something that “misusers” know little about; and something abusers have only intellectual knowledge of) will you find a “CHRISTian” calling or labeling themselves, a “CHRISTian! No, in fact the very term is only in Scripture 3 times:
Acts 11:26 – “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage the simple point that must be noted, is that the disciples DID NOT call themselves “CHRISTian”, but rather THOSE WATCHING THEIR LIFE called them CHRISTian. Critical distinction for those who have ears to hear.
Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Here, Agrippa, not a disciple, nor follower of Christ, MAKES REFERENCE to others as CHRISTian.
Lastly, 1 Peter 4:16 – “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, instead, glorify God on this behalf..” Here the Apostle Peter lays out for us the deep Truth that the misusers and abusers don’t want to talk about – if, by your CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE, you SUFFER – then Praise God that others are mistreating you because THEY have LABELED you as a CHRISTian!
Had a survey been offered to the early Church regarding their religious affiliation, they would have likely been given the choices to answer: “Disciple of Christ” – “Follower of The Way” – “Believer in Messiah” – or possibly – in the Jewish arena that they were in: “Heretic”. If these were our choices today – I am afraid most would check “other” or “none of the above.” Or… write in “Christian” (as if it is somehow different from the choices provided) – How sad is that?
So, what do we do? I propose that there are 4 approaches to our response to the misuse and abuse of the term “CHRISTian”:
1) Disregard it all together. Maybe it’s not a problem. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe we need to just leave it alone. In the end we know that Matthew 13 teaches us in several different ways that the untrue among us will be separated from the true believers in the end.
2) Attempt to redeem it from our society. Maybe we should actively speak out about the misuse and abuse of the term CHRISTian (as I am doing in some ways herein), in an attempt to raise awareness to this problem. Or maybe, our redemption of the term should simply look like #4 below.
3) Call ourselves something else. In some ways this is a pretty radical approach – but John 6 teaches us (as does much else in Scripture) that those who the Father seeks – those that are His own – are Disciples who are True Believers. Not just fans. Not just followers. Not even merely disciples – nor just believers (there is another abused term) – but Disciples of Jesus, who Believe with a belief that has changed everything! Are you…. Am I… A “Believing Disciple of Jesus”?
4) Leave it as it was in the Bible. True Believers will not need to “call” or “label” themselves anything. If we are surrendering to the Life Of CHRIST in us – they will see it – they will know it – and THEY will “call us CHRISTian”!
Personally, I lean towards a whole lot of #4, with an emphasis on the principle truths of #3. May I live my life so surrendered to the Life of Christ – that I will be a Believing Disciple, active in both my belief and my discipleship – that those who watch my life, might say of me: “Now that, is a true CHRISTian” (Matt 5:16)
Spot on, by my brother & friend, and fellow-sojourner, Rob Streetman.
Let’s say you are a draftsman, and an aspiring architect. Let’s say an established and highly respected architect asks you to join his team; that he has seen your work and would like to train you to take over his firm. Without hesitation, you drop what you are doing and follow him; for this is your heart’s desire.
Time goes by. You spend three and one-half years with him, being made into the architect that he desire you to be. Then the day arrives for his retirement. With the authority vested in him as the owner of said firm, he commissions you to carry on his good work; work that he has promised will be greater than anything you have seen to date. What do you do next?
Do you go back to being a draftsman? Do you limit yourself to drawing preliminary or conceptual plans? Do you start creating…
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In a recent blog (“Believe!”), I made some bold statements in my closing paragraph:
“Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life? Is He nothing more than your “favorite motivational speaker”? Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close? Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really?”
Yes, that’s right – I believe from the passage of scripture referenced (John 6:53-69), that there were those among the crowds, follows and even the disciples themselves (a group much larger than “the 12”), who were “just waiting to be offended” and “give Jesus the straight-arm, and walk away”. I believe there are those among us today, and I believe they are many.
Folks, I am gonna say it as clear was I can – and if you are waiting to get offended with Jesus, here is your big chance. Being a true believer in Jesus is NOT a Golden Corral buffet, were you can pick and choose your favorite foods and ignore the rest. No, not at all. Being a true believer in Jesus means being seated at the table that He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies (Ps 23:5a), and devouring with gratitude, every morsel of food set before me! How dare we come to the King’s table, and pick and choose what we will and will not eat?!? Imagine it: “Thank you King Jesus for this beautiful spread of organic brussels sprouts, artichokes, nutritious tofu with avocado dip, and such carefully crafted Limburger cheese fondue – however, I was hoping for mac n’ cheese, bacon, McDonald’s fries and one of those molten lava chocolate cakes from Shoney’s.” Jesus shakes his head in disappointment, as we push back from the Kings table, and leave… to our shock, He doesn’t run after us, or offer to heat up a can of Chef-Boyardee ravioli… He just lets us leave, tears in His eyes… and an increasing disgust in ours.
During this advent season we frequently read passages such as: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Newsflash: baby Jesus born that day was NOT just Savior… no, no – the Holy Spirit clearly wrote for us, that He is both Christ and Lord, as well. Oh how we get excited and love to load up our plates with that Golden Corral sweet baby Jesus, come to save us from hell, as He lies in that adorable bed of straw! We might even carefully and curiously indulge is a small helping of “Christ” (the anointed one) – after all, it’s good to have connections with “the big man upstairs” in case we need something – but we make it clear: “don’t get carried away, Jesus; just mind your own business, and we will get along just fine!
As for being “Lord” – heaven’s no! I ain’t looking for a Lord, King or Master – I’ve got that covered myself. So, baby Jesus, you just serve up my all-I-care-to-eat buffet of starches and fast food burgers, and let me rest in the false assurance of “when I get to gloryland”, but don’t serve me up any of that nasty food I don’t like – cause I will straight-arm you and walk away disgusted. (And then act shocked when You one day say to me: “depart from me, I never knew you.”)
Whatever you consider yourself to be, as it relates to this man, Jesus – I ask you: will you lay down your rights, your wants, your likes, loves and desires, for this man Jesus? Will you be awakened to Christ as He calls you to His table – prepared for you – and surrender to believing that He – this Jesus – whom you have called Savior – is both Christ and Lord? And no matter your preconceived notions about the food He is serving up at His King’s Table – it is light-years better than the picking and choosing of the buffet life you have made for yourself – serving up peace, hope, joy and rest, both now, and for eternity!