I read a blog today entitled, When He Became a She- Walking in Love. It tells the story of a couple entering a store, where the writer meets an old friend who is different. The theme of the piece is how the writer was able to act normal when seeing this acquaintance and enter into conversation with them, thus loving them like Christ, because we all sin… And it talked a lot about how Jesus interacted with sinners in a loving way.
After reading this post, I was bothered throughout the day with the way the author portrayed Jesus. Tonight, I began to wonder if there was ever a time that we see Jesus in the Gospels, hanging out with sinners, but not confronting sin. So I perused through the first ten chapters of Matthew to see. I didn’t read all four gospels, or get through all of Matthew, because I was struck by the 9th chapter, verses 35-36:
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” ESV – Matthew 9:35-36
This text basically summarizes the first 9 chapters and Jesus’ public ministry. We are told here that Jesus: taught, healed diseases & afflictions, he looked upon numbers and numbers of people and had compassion on them due to their harassed, helpless state. AND, he proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom. Biblical, Christlike compassionate acts require kind conversation and love in the heart toward the sinner. Yes. A thousand times yes. But kind conversation without the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom might be socially acceptable, common courtesy. It is not, however, fully walking in love LIKE Jesus.
In love, Jesus always calls people to deny themselves and follow Him. Why? Because such a call is for the sinner’s (all kinds) greatest joy, good, and pleasure and ultimately, for God’s glory.
Verse 37, immediately following describes how Jesus tells his disciples to therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest, because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. My prayer is that Jesus would burn it on our hearts that we are most like Him when we have a compassion that calls people to repentance and faith in the only One that can make them whole, because, like He said . . . the harvest is plentiful.
Our youth class tomorrow at church will be talking about God’s sovereignty and I am the stand in’s stand in to lead the discussion. 🙂 I had to dust off my copy of Grudem and here are a few notes on his chapter regarding providence. It greatly encouraged me, so I thought I would share the brief little bit I have jotted down from such an expansive topic. If you are interested in delving further, I highgly recommend Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem as a starter. He explains difficult topics in a very consise, easy to follow manner.
Sovereignty over creation (Heb. 1:3), over weather (Ps. 148:8), over seemingly random or chance events (Prov 16:33), over nations (Ps 22:28) & peoples (Acts 17:26), every day of our lives (Ps 139:16).
No event in creation falls outside his will (Eph 1:11)!
God’s freedom (Ps 135:6)
Sovereignty over man’s evil choices – Joseph’s brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, sold him into slavery but Joseph proclaims Gen. 50:20!
Sovereignty over salvation (Romans 9:13-18)
Are we free? Mysteriously, God is sovereign over free choices and actions we make. But morally, we are not free; we are enslaved in sin. We cannot choose to please God because we are fallen in Adam (Rom. 5), and we need the grace of God, the gospel, and the Spirit to quicken our hearts to see/understand/place faith in Christ (Eph. 2:1-10).
On his blog on TGC today, Ray Ortland posted this timely quote-
“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever]. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.” Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Wheaton, 2003), page 66.
It fits perfectly with the conviction I came under earlier this week regarding my own ideas about church. A few days ago, I had the privilege to hear Dr. John Snyder preach. His sermon pointed the listeners to the thought that we can be seeking to do everything right in church (theologically and doctrinally) but if we aren’t seeking God – His Son and His presence – through the Spirit, then we are displeasing to God.
Tomorrow, may it not be business as usual at my church or yours, or in our hearts. May we seek a manifestation of the glory of God, through the exaltation of Christ, through Spirit anointed praying, preaching, and singing! Will you pray with me that God would be so pleased to do this work? The nearness of God is our good!
Yesterday, our nation proved its great ignorance regarding the character of God.
In social media posts in the last 24 hours, I have witnessed well meaning people promote the idea that love won the day and that because God is love, He is not concerned with homosexuality. This type of theology is a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Who God has revealed Himself to be. We need to be taught the Scriptures if minds and hearts will be changed regarding same-sex marriage. I propose a reflection on three specific attributes of God:
1) God is immutable (unchanging). Unlike humans, who can change on a whim, God never changes and if He were to change, He would be like us and would cease to be God. Of this attribute, God Himself has said, “I am the Lord; I change not” (Malachi 3:6). Spurgeon uses this text as a basis for his sermon entitled, “The Immutability of God” and notes for us there that God is unchanging in His essence, His attributes, His plans, His promises, and His threatenings. If you profess Christ and hold the Scriptures to be the rule of faith and practice, and yet hold that persistence in homosexuality (or any other sin) is perfectly fine, you have misunderstood God’s unchanging character. The God of the Old Testament, Who said in Leviticus 18, ”You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” has not decided that His command of old is no longer valid. God does not sit in heaven today, happy about yesterday and regretting His vengeance upon the people in the days of Noah and on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is unchanging.
2) God is judge. Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” and therefore, the Bible teaches that every single person is being propelled to a certain end, mainly to face judgement by Christ Himself – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The only distinction on judgement day is some will be sent to an eternal hell to pay for the sins they have not repented of, while redeemed sinners will be received into heaven, having had their sins already judged by God on Good Friday, as Christ died in their place.
3) God is joy. God is love and mercy and kindness, and in these attributes, He is joy. Psalm 16:11 says “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Satan tricks us into thinking that joy is in doing what we want (His tricks are the same since the Garden), and we begin to think of God as hateful, unloving, boring, and a hard task master. We pursue whatever we think will make us happy, so much so that we pass laws proving such. But to quote a by-gone preacher, “When God says, ‘don’t!’ He is saying, ‘help yourself to happiness!'” The psalmist reflects this idea, saying “if (God’s law) had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” Forsaking sin and pursuing joy in God is the only path to true happiness.
What I want for you, for me, for churches, for our nation, is an understanding of God’s unchanging nature, specifically, that He will judge sin because He has promised to do so. But before you die or Christ returns in judgement, there is still time to seek joy in Him and Him alone.
Martin Luther King developed a philosophy from Josiah Royce (a philosopher and theologian) called the Beloved Community. This viewpoint is centered upon instituting an ideal society (through means of nonviolence and love), wherein conflict is settled in a nonviolent, peaceful manner, and where, according to the King Center, “all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”
While the King Center notes that the Beloved Community isn’t the same as the Christian end-time view of a millennial kingdom, they do convey that it “was for [King] a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.” This begs the question: on what basis did Dr. King believe his methods of nonviolence were realistic and achievable? HIs answer: through agape love.
Agape love, as MLK defined it, is “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” And yet, here we are . . . forty-seven years, 47 YEARS . . . removed from the teachings of Dr. King and what can we observe this year alone in the United States in regards to our relationships with one another? Do we see an expression of more God-like love for one another? Clearly, the answer is a resounding no.
The answer is not the six steps of kingian nonviolence. Those steps haven’t changed our society. They have had an impact to some degree and may have made our culture appear to be peaceable and loving, but have the hearts of Americans changed for the better? You cannot tell someone simply to love others in a god-like way when they do not possess the power to do so. The power to love like God comes from God Himself and we must be united to God through Christ the Son if we ever wish to love in a manner described by the Apostle Paul in the famous love chapter:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Yet, I read this list of what real, godly love is and see that I am marked from time to time of all the opposites of Paul’s definition of love. I am impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, resentful, and full of worry. Only by repentance of those sins and faith in the righteousness of Jesus (Who is Himself the very representation of the love of God incarnate), and by the filling of the Holy Spirit can I walk in agape love. And therefore, Christian, whether we are African American, Indian, Asian, or Caucasian, we don’t have to place hope in a beloved community that will never be. First, we are a part of the community of Christ – the church – where we are reconciled and Christ has broken down the barrier of the dividing wall (Eph. 2:14-16). And secondly, we have a stronger, better hope in the coming kingdom of Christ! Yes, He is reigning now, but ONE GLORIOUS DAY, that reign will be fully inaugurated and it will be one where we sing “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24) because “according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Maranatha!
Over the past two days, since Bruce Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, I have seen a few Christians I know respond in a manner that has bothered me. They have called for a loving, compassionate response, (also condoning calling Jenner by his new name and female pronouns). Yet in this call for compassion, a key element was missing – calling wrong action for what it is: sin.
Compassion is confrontation; the two are not divorced. Take for instance, Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. Five husbands, five divorces, and one extra man later, this woman found herself engaged in conversation with Jesus. He asked a simple question that drove home her sinful lifestyle and then He explained to her how God desires to be worshipped, mainly through the fact that He was the Messiah. He did not say, well I don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings today so I’ll just let you remain in a situation that is painful for you now and will be even more painful in eternity. To react that way would be to encourage behavior that is detrimental for the person, and therefore is the least caring thing you could do.
Christian, please don’t be afraid to take a stand just because you’re going to be viewed as unloving! I think we have forgotten the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Christ can save and change an adulterous, lying, gambling, drunk, gossiping, hateful, selfish person and He can also save and change the gender confused. Am I unloving for calling out those sins or am I offering hope and compassion? When we alter the Christian message and leave out a conversation on sin, that message ceases to be distinctly Christian.
Our job is to be ambassadors of this and this alone: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:20-23