Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged. HUH?

I was critical of the attention (every major network) that was poured out on the Michael Jackson Memorial Service. I received the much used warning "Judge not lest ye be judged!"

Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged" is a verse so often torn from context and used by folks to try and shame or humiliate believers for drawing a line between right and wrong behavior or good and bad morals. This sentiment actually attacks our Lords teaching to be discerning.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 "2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!"

John 7:24 24 "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Philippians 1:9-10 "9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ..."

Proverbs 3:21 "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight"

Jeremiah 22:3 "This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right.

We are called on daily and even hourly to make judgments about good and bad, right and wrong, healthy and destructive behavior. We would be lousy parents if we did not judge behavior by what God values and not teach our children to do the same.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 7 that we cannot know who will and who will not have eternal life in Him and he clearly taught us that none of us are without sin. I quickly admit that I am chief of sinners and apart from Christ I am deservedly lost and that God would be perfectly just in sending me to Hell for eternity. I fall on His mercy and trust that Christ took my sins upon himself and 'clothed' me in His own righteousness.

Now, as a believer and a father, I have a duty to be discerning; I have the right and authority, based on God's Word,and in order that I might honor God's Word, to judge wrong, bad and destructive behavior.

Seven of America's finest and bravest died in Afganistan the day before Michael Jackson's memorial service yet we had to endure wall to wall coverage of the adoration, glorification and worship of a self professed "Peter Pan" of low moral public character.

A grown man who shares his bed with young children, grabs his crotch for all the world to see, hates himself so much he would mutilate his body and face is NOT a good role model. That is a no brainer. I don't care how well he moon walked or if a hundred little girls sob that he was the greatest dad in the world, he practiced destructive behavior that must be discouraged in our young people. The glorification of this man/boy was way over the top.

The sad question is, in the culture of enabling that he lived in, among all those tearful mourners on stage and in the spotlights, was there not one discerning friend or family member who would say, "Michael, you can't live this way... you are going to kill yourself?"

Lord, give us good judgment and help us to honor You with discerning minds and loving hearts.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part Four

The Devil
The third hindrance to repentance is the devil. I don’t believe I need to tell you of all the ways the devil tempts us. He is a liar, a deceiver, he wants us defeated, depressed and dead. I want to let you in on what has been a secret to most. It’s Satan’s most powerful and commonly used scheme and yet many of the churched fall easily into it. Entire ministries may be serving this scheme and that’s downright frightening.

This scheme was working perfectly on this rich young ruler. It was revealed in these words - “All these I have kept from my youth.” This was a good man, he was really trying hard to be good. Satan is evil, Satan is cruel and he’s a liar but many miss the most important attribute of Satan. He is an expert in goodness. If he can’t get you to fall morally then he will use moral goodness to set you on the wrong path.

It may very well be that Satan’s scheme for you is to be a good as you possibly can in the flesh. Do you commit adultery? No, that’s good, your a good person. Do you murder or steal? No, that’s great. Surely you will go to heaven. Do you lie? No! Do you honor your father and mother? Yes, very good, what more do you need to do. You’ve got the bases covered. You are winning!

You won’t hear this very often but Satan wants you to be good. In fact he wants you to think you are good enough to have eternal life apart from Christ. He wants you to think that because you prayed a prayer when you were younger that you are going to heaven. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t opened his Word since, or that you live for yourself - you prayed that prayer, that was your ticket.

Examine yourselves, do not measure your self against the world and do not trust in your flesh to be good. Certainly do not trust Satan when he tells you there is a way to heaven that goes around the cross. Measure yourselves against the Word.

What does the Word say? it is clear and don’t let anyone confuse you. Ephesians 2 -
2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

That is good news, that is THE good news.

So should we strive to do good. Yes, of course. But never work to do good thinking that you can improve your standing before God. We strive to do good because of what has already been done for us. If someone walked up to you and paid off all your financial debt do you think you might express some form of appreciation. “Thanks for paying off my 750,000 dollar debt, here are some brownies my wife made”. I don’t think that would be your response.

How would you express your appreciation to one who brought you from death to life - from eternal damnation to eternal blessing? It’s not complicated. Jesus said simply, ‘If you love me, obey my commandments’. Don’t tell your Lord and Savior that you love him and continue in your sin. That’s not love, that’s lip service.’

We obey out of love and appreciation for what God has done. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit lives inside us. If that is true than sin no longer has mastery over us and we should see a change in our attitude toward the world, the flesh and the devil and a longing to be like Christ.

Now you may say but I am human, I can’t be perfect. That’s right so listen carefully. The goal of the Christian life is not perfection, the goal of the Christian life is CHANGE! We are being transformed, the Christian walk is transformational. Are you being changed?

Examine yourself. Are you being changed? Change should be what characterizes you life. Yes, you will struggle with sin but will you change? Will you confess your sin, repent of your sin and turn to Jesus in faith? The assurance of your salvation is not that you prayed a prayer, go to church, read your bible or give your money to the poor. The assurance of your salvation is based on what is happening in your life right now. Are you changing? Are you becoming more like the image of Christ. Peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Are these attributes part of your character and are they changing and increasing as you grow older? Do you find yourself more and more dependant on God’s Word and not the world’s philosophy? If not, there’s something wrong. If you are not changing than go to Jesus and ask for mercy on you, a sinner.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

All scriptures have been taken from the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part Three

The Flesh
The next hindrance is the flesh. This rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man answered, “This I have done, from my youth.” Jesus’ answer here has also perplexed scholars for we all know that man is not saved by keeping the commandments. But what Jesus is doing here is not so hard to understand.

Do you remember in the book of Genesis, after man had sinned he went and hid, thinking that he could hide from God. When God came to them he asked a strange question. “Adam, where are you?” Why would God ask such a question. God knew where Adam was, there is no place we can go and be away from the presence of God. God knew exactly where Adam was, not just his location but the workings of his mind and the thinking process that drove Adam to think he could hide. God was really asking Adam “What do you think you are doing? Who do you think I am? What has happened to your love for me and your dependence on me?”

Jesus knows where this rich young man is at. He knows exactly what is going on in this man’s life and in his mind and he will bring this man right to the core of his problem in a very few words. Jesus even lists some of the commandments, all commandments from what’s called the ‘second table’, those that have to do with how we treat others.

This is a very decent young man, he really has been trying hard. Everyone knows him to be morally good and if you don’t believe it, just ask HIM. He’ll tell you. But Jesus can clearly see in this man’s heart that he has avoided the first table, the commandments regarding how we treat God. “You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength.”

“One thing you still lack, go and sell all that you have, distribute your money to the poor and come and follow me.” Ouch, nobody knew that he loved possessions more than God - but Jesus knew it. I don’t even think the young man knew that he didn’t love the Father more than his goods but Jesus just demonstrated it to him. Don’t think you can hide from God.

This man’s heart deceived him. The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things. If this young man hadn’t struggled with the flesh before, he was about to start. The flesh is our fallen sinful nature. The believer has two natures, a sinful nature and a new nature empowered by the Spirit of God. It is part of our transforming process to struggle against that old nature and subdue it. We will not escape the struggle until we stand before our Lord’s throne. This is God’s plan, but as believers we need not be ruled by sin. It need not control us.

Examine yourselves and see if you are being controlled by sin. The truth is we want to be free from the consequences of sin but we don’t want to stop loving our sin. Repent of your sins and turn to Christ.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part Two

The World
Let’s see how the world has affected this wealthy young fellow. First off, we know that he is wealthy and wealth was and still is considered by many to be evidence of God’s approval. This young man was accustomed to be treated as one who has been abundantly blessed by God, he has made it in this life and is a shoo in for the life to come.

He is greatly respected. Luke tells us he was a ruler. Now that term could mean he was a member of the Sanhedrin or a civic leader but it most likely means he was a member of the upper class. He would be treated accordingly. In the musical, Fiddler On A Roof, Reb Tevye explains this treatment perfectly in the song “If I Were A Rich Man”.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Reb Tevye...”
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye...”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

This young man had the respect and honor and the approval of the world. He knew well how the system of the world worked. He loved the world and the world loved him. He ran up to Jesus and Luke tells us he got down on his knees and he said ‘good teacher’.

“Good teacher” was not a common greeting to a rabbi. This young man was going over the top in addressing Jesus. He was trying to flatter Jesus. He knew how it worked. People flattered this young man all the time. Jesus was drawing a crowd and this young man new the economy of popularity. “Good teacher!”

“Why do you call me good? Only God is good” This response has bewildered bible scholars for centuries because as a matter of fact the bible does speak of good men. So I believe the best explanation for our Lord’s response was to knock down the obvious empty flattery of this fellow. Jesus is letting him know that he does not march to the drummings of this fallen, pride-filled world.

There was another young man watching this scene play out who had given up everything for Jesus. He watched this rich young man, who the world had made great, putting on airs before the Christ and many years later the apostle John would write-

Do not love the world or the things in the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

At the time this was happening however, John’s response was bewilderment thinking ‘if it’s difficult for the wealthy to be saved then who can be saved.”

Now remember, when we speak of the ‘world’ we are speaking of that whole value-system which dominates society and it is contrary to the ways of God. The world puts very different price tags on things and thoughts than God’s Word does. Popularity, wealth, selfish ambition - these are the values of the world. If you want it, take it. If it feels good, do it. I’ve gotta be me. I don’t need to parade out examples of worldliness. We have TV and billboards that do that. Some of us will react in sadness and resoluteness against such worldliness but most of us won’t even notice, because we have been desensitized by the constant glut to our senses. Examine yourselves to see if you have been polluted by the world’s value system and repent of your love for this world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part One

The door to the local Christian bookstore was pushed open with such violence and drama that some of the books near the door tumbled to the floor. The creases in her forehead, the frightened rabbit look in her eyes telegraphed a message that this lady was in some trouble. She moved straight-way to the counter taking long strides and shallow breaths. The clerk behind the counter was trying to get a read of what was going on in life of this tormented soul. Had she suffered a the loss of a loved one or a house to fire? Had she received horrifying news from her doctor? Had she been in an accident? The expression on this poor woman’s face seemed to indicate that all these things had happened... and more. Perhaps she was a modern female version of poor Job. The clerk remained calm but took a quick glance at the phone and mentally practiced dialing to 9-1-1.

“May I help you find something?” asked the clerk. The lady spoke with the same breathless urgency with which she had pushed open the door.
“Yes, I hope so. You’ve got to help me. You’ve go to get me something... a book, yes, a book or a tape to get me through this.
“Get you through what ma’am?”
“Get me through the next forty days! Today is the first day of lent and I’ve given up chocolate and I’m going crazy.!”

Now this is a slight embellishment of a true story and when I heard it I laughed to think that someone could get so worked up over chocolate.

Let me set your minds at ease, chocolate is not a sin. Not usually anyway. If you were to put chocolate before your love for God then yes it would be a sin as would be anything we put before God. But in this little story it was not the giving up of chocolate that was difficult, it is change. Change is difficult.

The word the Bible uses for change is ‘repentance’. Repentance means ‘a turning from sin and self’. Repentance is the negative side of conversion. In conversion we turn in faith TO Christ but we cannot turn TO Christ unless we also turn AWAY FROM sin and self. This happens the first time when God regenerates us but for the believer, it must continue happening as we are sanctified, changed or transformed into the image of Christ. Repentance carries the action of ‘turning around and going the other way’.

This article attempts to address the things that hinder us from turning around, from changing.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:16-22

This is a familiar story, it’s a sad story and it’s a puzzling story.

The Bible summarizes our hindrances to repentance into three categories and we see all three of these categories coming into play in this short story of the rich young man. Our three enemies to repentance are - the world, the flesh and the devil.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Christians should STOP bothering people!

Today's media is filled with debates on topics that touch the Christian worldview, for the Bible has much to say regarding:

•Financial Debt
•Same Sex Unions
•The Problem of Evil
•Assisted Suicide
•Fetal Stem Cells

The Bible is relevant because THIS proclamation is true -
Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

If this is not true, then Christians are wasting their Sabbaths in church and should stop bothering people!

But if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He is Lord and all authority rests in Him. If Jesus rose from the dead then in Him there is truth, life, love, transformation, purpose, destiny and real hope.

He has risen.... he has risen indeed!