Category Archives: Christian Life
A few years ago I made the big decision to step away from a full-time job, where I was making more money than I ever had in my life, to pursue what God was calling me to – to “equip the saints” through my talent of writing and my spiritual gift of teaching.
Other than my wife’s job, I had no fall back plan because I was expecting God to reward my obedience.
Wait a minute, you might say, that sounds selfish. Was I really doing something for God with the expectation of a reward from Him? That doesn’t sound humble at all. It sounds as if I think I’m somehow so special that God will decide to reward me. Because when we do something for God we should do so only based on the gratitude of our heart without any expectations at all, right?
How can I say that? Because I’m only repeating what God Himself said through Jesus and the writers of the Bible. Consider Hebrews 11:6: Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. (Italics mine)
God Himself makes many promises of a reward when we follow and obey Him.
In fact, the Bible states many times that God rewards the righteous. God Himself makes many promises of a reward when we follow and obey Him. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we shouldn’t worry about seeking our own provision. Instead, in Matt. 6:33, he said, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing and other things we need] will be provided for you.”
That is a reward God promises when we seek Him above all else.
The Old Testament writers frequently wrote about how God will reward people for their righteousness. And sometimes God Himself is the reward, as in this promise in Jeremiah 29:12-13: You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Now, there is a difference between doing something simply to receive the reward and doing something out of gratitude and expecting the reward. Our obedience to God should always flow from our gratitude for His salvation and as a reciprocation of His great love for us. But then we can, and should, expect God to reward us – not because we’re so special but because God promised that He will.
It’s not faith to look at a promise God made of reward and then not expect Him to fulfill it.
It may seem pious to give to God without expectation of reward – but that’s not faith. It’s not faith to look at a promise God made of reward and then not expect Him to fulfill it. That’s actually the opposite of faith.
No, we show our faith in God when we obey and then expect Him to come through on the promise He made. Just like people should expect us to live up to our promises, we should also expect God to do as He said He would.
As I wrote in my previous blog, it is important that we do things in the right order. The reward comes as a result of our obedience; our obedience doesn’t follow after we get the reward.
This is not one of those health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it ideas that some preachers proclaim. Yes, sometimes God does reward with material blessings, such as money and possessions. Often, though, it is a peace that surpasses understanding, even in the midst of our struggles.
And we have to keep in mind that the reward may not be given in this earthly life. For example, in Matt. 5:11-12, Jesus speaks of a promised eternal reward.
“You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.”
In the two years since I have stepped away from my job to pursue what God has called me to, He has fulfilled His promise to provide. He has provided a part-time job that brings in about a third of what I’d made working full time. You would expect, then, that our personal finances have taken a big hit. Amazingly, though, we still have plenty to eat – so much so, in fact, that weight gain is our biggest struggle. Despite the reduced income, we’ve been able to pay down debt significantly so that now our money goes further than before. And we’re still giving our full tenth, plus some.
Doing what God has called us to do is obedience; expecting Him to fulfill His promises is faith.
That is a common question people ask when they or someone they love suffers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it comes through natural disaster, medical issues or a willful attack, people want to know why – why would God let them (or their loved one) suffer like this?
Asking why is a natural human response because we are, for better or worse, concerned first and foremost with ourselves. Even Jesus, as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, pleaded momentarily to avoid the suffering he knew he’d face.
But perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of asking why, we should first answer the question of who.
Who do we trust in this situation? Who is our rock, our anchor, our stronghold in this storm of life?
I know from personal experience it is true.
If the answer to who is anyone other than God, then we’ll never have any hope to answer the question why. This may sound like the Sunday school, correct Christianese thing to say but I know from personal experience it is true.
I was asking the question why while suffering through my first wife’s inexplicable mental illness that made her increasingly dependent on me and the children – and increasingly angry and abusive toward us. I asked why when she visited her parents for a vacation and called to say she was never coming back – and she never did, leaving me as a single dad to finish raising our children.
I asked why again when I remarried and soon discovered her infidelity. I asked why as relationship after relationship crashed and burned.
But eventually I realized that my question was wrong – or perhaps was one that didn’t really have an answer. I also realized that even if the question was answered, the answer probably wouldn’t satisfy me, and might leave me asking why even more vehemently.
The question was who. Who was the one who would get me through these situations? The answer, I discovered, is God.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 43:1-4. God is talking specifically about Israel, but I feel that God would say it no differently if He was speaking to me personally.
Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life.”
This is a great passage of God’s love, so great that He gave not just nations in exchange for us, but His son.
Notice, though, the second verse: “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
The assurance is that He’ll be with us during those times of suffering so we won’t be overwhelmed or burned.
I want to edit this verse to say “You will never have to pass through waters or fires.” But God doesn’t say that. Instead, the assurance is that He’ll be with us during those times of suffering so we won’t be overwhelmed or burned.
No matter how much we wish it wouldn’t happen, we will suffer in this life. It’s part of living in a fallen world. As Christians, we think it shouldn’t happen to us but our salvation provides us no special protection from those hard times. Depending on where you live, being a Christian will even be the cause of your suffering.
The advantage we have as Christians, though, is that when we go through those hard times, God is there. He holds our head above the water; He provides us with a flame-retardant suit. And, eventually, He sees us to the other side.
On the other side He may finally reveal the why to us. Or He may not, because the why is often so that we’ll ask the better question of who.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with a young man who escaped from Venezuela and is now living – legally – in the United States. I use the word “escaped” because Venezuela is going through not only the economic, social and political upheaval we read about in the news, but also significant spiritual warfare.
Even in a short conversation, it was easy to understand the horrors of socialism (no food, inflation at 46,000 percent and going up, crime and despair) and the need for a strong Second Amendment (with no way to protect themselves the citizens are at the mercy of the government militia and criminals). But those are topics for another day. What really struck me in talking with this young man was the spiritual warfare and the strength of Christians in other parts of the world.
Often when we hear about the problems in a country like Venezuela, we think that possibly God has withdrawn His blessings and presence from that place. But based on the stories I hear and read about, I think Christians in other countries often experience the power and presence of God in a way we seldom do as Americans.
This young man told me that in Venezuela the socialist regime introduced Santeria into the country from Cuba. Santeria is a mixture of a pagan African religion and Catholicism that often includes animal sacrifice, worship of saints and pagan gods, fortune-telling, curses, spells and spirit-possession.
As Santeria moved into the country, it forced those with religious affiliation to choose one of two paths: join Santeria or form a deeper spiritual commitment with God. Because Santeria had the blessing of the political leadership, it soon became a growing power in Venezuela. A large Santeria gathering was planned for one of the common areas in the nation’s capital, a gathering that would help the movement grow even stronger.
It was undoubtedly God answering those prayers of the faithful.
Christian churches held fasts and all-night prayer vigils, calling on God to prevail against those practicing Santeria. Then the night before the large Santeria gathering was scheduled, a violent storm hit the area, forcing the event to be canceled. It was undoubtedly God answering those prayers of the faithful, showing that even in the face of horrible circumstances, He is still present and more powerful than any force on earth.
So far, Christians in Venezuela are free to worship together. In many countries, though, Christian worship is not only banned but the killing of Christians is allowed – even encouraged. Yet despite that, in many of those oppressed countries, Christianity is growing and God’s presence and power is often manifested physically.
On the one hand, it seems as if Christians in the United States are the lucky ones because most of us live and thrive without any real government or negative spiritual interference. And yet, on the other hand, I wonder if it isn’t the Christians in Venezuela and other places who are the lucky ones. Yes, they’re being persecuted and even killed, but they also are experiencing God in a way we seldom do in the United States.
Our church holds two 21 Days of Prayer events, in January and August, where we gather for one hour each night for a short message, music and prayer. The actual time we spend in prayer ranges from 30-40 minutes. Yet we have trouble getting more than a dozen people to show up on a consistent basis. I can’t imagine what it would be like to call them to all-night prayer vigils.
Maybe we don’t recognize the threats we do face, like affluence.
It’s true that we aren’t dealing with a competing religion like Santeria, but maybe we don’t recognize the threats we do face, like affluence. I will write more about this later, but basically, Christians in the United States are so well off that we really don’t need God to survive. We can take care of not only our basic needs, but well beyond that. There seems to be little need to pray for God’s provision or protection when we’ve already got it taken care of ourselves.
But that is dangerous, because ultimately, we will crumble in the face of persecution if we rely only on our own power. And we’ll miss out on the glory of God’s presence if the only presence we need is ourselves.
It makes us soft in the middle like the Pillsbury Doughboy, just not as much giggly fun. Unlike the Pillsbury Doughboy, a poke in our soft bellies doesn’t make us giggle, it makes us whine. We would be wise to seek God’s presence and power now, while things are still relatively good for us, rather than wait until the world crumbles around us.
The United States Congress doesn’t always get things right, but one thing they got right a few months ago was outlawing the sale of child sex robots in our country.
If you’re like most normal Americans, at this point you are probably thinking, “What the…?” Sex robots sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, one set 50 years in the future.
But it isn’t the future: Sex robots already exist. They are generally modeled after females, with artificial intelligence that can simulate a highly satisfying sexual experience. And now some overseas manufacturers have launched a line of sex robots modeled in the likeness of children. As if that wasn’t stomach-churning enough, some even allow the buyer to personalize the dolls with faces of real children.
As abhorrent and nauseating as this is, it probably shouldn’t surprise us. In all likelihood, the next “sexual orientation” to be normalized is pedophilia.
People scoff when I say this, but I’m old enough to remember that back in the 1970s and even into the ‘80s, people scoffed at the idea of normalizing homosexuality. People scoffed at the idea of gay marriage into the 2000s, and even within the past 10 years prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, stated their opposition to allowing gay marriage.
And if people would have even considered the idea that transgender, cross gender and choosing some alternate gender would be a thing, they would have scoffed at that too. I mean, really, anyone who watched Bruce Jenner in the 1976 Olympics would have thought you were out of your mind to suggest that one day he’d be a girl.
But all of those things have now been normalized into the United States culture to such an extent that opposition to it brings comparison to antebellum slave owners or a former leader of Germany.
The Groundwork has been Laid
I hope I’m wrong. I hope no one ever normalizes pedophilia. But the groundwork has already been laid and there are already voices out there seeking to end the discrimination against people sexually attracted to children.
How in the world could we have reached this point in our history that this is even something to think about and guard against?
Well, a few pebbles rolling down hill may not seem like anything major but they can start a rockslide that can wipe out an entire village. And so it began with sexual orientation. The pebbles in this case, I believe, were the pro-abortion and the gay rights movements.
I don’t think that either of those movements inherently have anything to do with pedophilia, and I am sure the vast majority, 99-plus percent, of the people involved in them would be dead set against pedophilia. But the pedophilia movement has learned from those movements.
I first came to this realization in the early 1990s when I read about a court case in Florida. The scenario was that a 14-year-old girl had an abortion without her parents’ knowledge, which was allowable by state law. However, it turned out she’d been impregnated by her older boyfriend (I believe he was in his early 20s). There was never a question that it was consensual sex but he was charged with statutory rape because the girl was below the age of consent.
The man’s lawyer, however, argued that if the girl was old enough to consent on her own to an abortion, then she was old enough to consent to sex with someone older. I don’t recall if the argument was successful, but I remember thinking, wow, if they continue to allow young girls to decide on their own if they want an abortion, they will have to lower the age of consent, which will allow older men to prey on them.
Learning from Gay and Transgender Rights
Then when the gay rights movement convinced many people that they had a right to be attracted to the same sex because they were born that way – that it was their sexual orientation and perfectly normal – I realized that a pedophile could certainly make the same argument. He was born that way, so why was it wrong for him to accept that and act on it?
There was still the issue of it being consensual, and everyone agreed that children who are the age that pedophiles prefer were too young to consent to something as adult as sex.
Except then the transgender movement piggybacked onto the gay rights movement, earning people the right to decide not just which gender they would fall in love with, but which gender they would live as. And that right, they argued, extended to young kids. If an 8-year-old girl decided she was really a boy, or vice versa, no adult had the right to interfere. The young children, and they alone, could make the choice about their sexual orientation. California is even considering making it illegal for the child to voluntarily get counseling for this.
Here’s where the rocks really begin building up into a landslide.
If an elementary school child has the right to decide their sexual orientation on their own, how could they be denied the right to sexual activity, even if that sexual activity is with an older adult? If a 12-year-old is responsible enough to obtain birth control on her own, or to get an abortion without adult interference, who has the right to tell her she can’t have sex with a 30-year-old man? That is the argument the pedophiles and those supporting them will make.
The Epidemic of Fatherless Children
Let’s throw another rock onto the pile – fatherless children. This has reached almost epidemic proportions. In the black community 75 percent of children are born to single mothers; among whites it’s 26 percent. Regardless what some people claim, children need fathers or father figures in their lives.
So what happens if an 8-year-old growing up without a father meets an older man who gives them the love and support they need? Might they not feel the desire to return that love, even if that love involves sexual intimacy? Especially if the world continues to tell them that they have the perfectly legitimate right to choose other aspects about their sexuality?
That creates consent and love, and the gay and transgender movements have already “proven” to the world that no one has the right to deny them the consensual love they choose.
Are you scoffing yet, like we did about homosexuality in the 1970s and about gay marriage in the 1990s?
I know it sounds ridiculous, especially since only about 1 percent of the country has the “sexual orientation” of pedophilia – but in a country of 360 million, that’s over 3.5 million. (While the vast majority of pedophiles are men, in the past few years there has been an alarming increase in the number of older females, primarily working in schools, who have been caught having sex with underage boys – in one case, as young as 12.)
Why Should Christians Care About a Disgusting Subject?
I realize this is all very disturbing, and you may wonder why I, as a Christian, am writing about such an abhorrent subject. Or why you, as a Christian, should think about something so disgusting.
The reason is that we still have a legitimate chance to stop it. But if we ignore it like we did the abortion and homosexuality issues, it will happen while our heads are firmly buried in the sand.
In the past few years I’ve finally heard some Christians speaking up about the wrongness of homosexuality, about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the evils of killing the unborn. The problem is that everyone waited until these things had been firmly established as rights. Speaking against it now makes us sound like the ones who are wrong or are agents of hate.
We have probably already lost any voice we might have had in stopping the normalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Even some church leaders have acquiesced to this.
But we still have a say in normalizing transgenderization, especially in young children. That means we still have a voice against pedophilia, which is important now while the vast majority of the country still opposes it.
We Must Speak Out While We Still Can
We must speak out against the pseudo-science that says there are more than two genders and that gender identity is a matter of choice, not biology. We need to especially be active in showing that children, particularly those below teenage years, are not developed enough socially, emotionally or mentally to make decisions about sexuality – this is all well-documented science. We need to champion marriage fidelity and two-parent heterosexual families, with fathers who are present and active in the lives of their children.
We must, of course, do all of this with love. But love doesn’t mean not having a backbone to speak up – Jesus did. Yes, he did accept and forgive the woman at the well and the one caught in adultery, but he expected them to live a changed life as a result. Love doesn’t mean blind acceptance; it means not leaving people lost in their sin. We don’t condemn them but love doesn’t mean allowing lies to replace the truth.
Since I wrote the rough draft of this blog, a story has come out that some pedophiles are lobbying to be included under the LGBT umbrella. They want to go by the acronym MAP – Minor Attracted Persons. The normalizing is already beginning.
That means we need to act now, while we still have a voice, or before we know it, it won’t just be sex dolls we’re worrying about.
Abortion and the Christian: Given the Mood of the Country, We’ll be Called on to Defend What We Believe
With President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice, we’ll soon be hearing a lot more about abortion, the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and when life begins in the womb.
As Christians, we’ll be in the thick of things, whether we speak up or are merely linked by association. So here are a few key things to know as the debate about Kavanaugh heats up.
A Brief History of Birth and Abortion
First, let’s look backwards. Throughout most of the world’s known history, abortion has either been illegal or so rare as to go unmentioned. Even though abortions took place in clandestine areas, they were mostly sought by prostitutes or by those attempting to hide illicit affairs.
Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers.
A few historical societies have allowed abortion, but before modern scientific breakthroughs, the goal was to keep as many kids alive as possible. Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers, and childhood diseases that are now eradicated or easily treatable killed many other children in their first few years of life. Just 100 years ago, a flu epidemic swept the nation – and most of world – decimating the population. In one family I personally know of, three children died in a single week.
In agrarian societies, more children meant more workers for the farm, so there was no incentive to limit the number of children being born. If you had 10 and six or seven lived to adulthood it was great news.
So killing babies through abortion was a ridiculous idea for most of history.
The Roe v. Wade Decision
It wasn’t until the Free Sex Era of the 1960s and ‘70s that the easy access to abortion became a growing concern. In 1970, a Texas woman named Norma McCorvey – who became infamous under the pseudonym Jane Roe – became pregnant and sought to end her pregnancy. But the illegal abortion center she went to had been shut down. She then falsely claimed she’d been raped, thinking that would get her access to a legal abortion. It didn’t.
McCorvey sought the help of two female lawyers, who filed a lawsuit to declare the Texas law prohibiting legal abortions to be unconstitutional. It eventually reached the Supreme Court, and after being argued and reargued over more than a year, the Texas law was declared unconstitutional on Jan. 22, 1973.
While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time.
That ruling, in effect, struck down any state laws prohibiting abortions. The ruling was based on a somewhat liberal and convoluted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (That amendment deals primarily with voting rights and the selection and removal of state senators, but it does have a clause that says states cannot infringe on people’s individual rights. Because of this, Roe v. Wade is often cited as granting the right to abortion. While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time who no longer had to face either marrying the women they got pregnant or paying 18 years of child support.)
Roe v. Wade did allow states to prohibit abortions after a fetus is deemed to be “viable,” meaning that it can survive after birth. At the time this was considered to be the third trimester, meaning states could stop abortions only after the first two trimesters, at about 26 weeks or so.
A subsequent 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, acknowledged that modern science has pushed the viability date back, meaning that babies in the second trimester could be viable, but the decision left a rather vague guideline to follow in determining an exact date. Most states, to avoid drawn-out court battles, dropped most abortion laws for many years, although recently some conservative states have again brought them into play.
While people on the Left have raised the specter of Kavanaugh’s appointment leading to making abortion illegal in the United States, at best all it could mean is a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision. If that happened it would leave it up to individual states to decide on the legality of abortion. Probably even the most conservative states would allow some form of early abortion while liberal states like California could build a Planned Parenthood abortion facility on every block if they chose to.
Planned Parenthood and the Rise of the Abortion Industry
Which brings up the next part of our look backward: The prominent role of Planned Parenthood in the abortion debate.
The group’s name sounds like it’s a nice organization, helping parents make wise decisions about parenting. In reality, it is primarily an abortion facility with some very dark beginnings.
The roots of the organization are generally traced to Margaret Sanger, who was a birth control advocate in the early part of the 20th century. Her stated goal was to liberate women from the “slavery” of motherhood. But she was also in league with leaders of the eugenics movement.
Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.
Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific belief that some races – those primarily from Northern Europe – were superior to other races. Those “feeble-minded” inferior races, as Sanger called them, included Negroes and undesirable immigrants, especially South European Catholics. (Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.) Sanger was also said to have had ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
At least a part of the early idea behind eugenics was that undesirables like the black population could be controlled or even eliminated by birth control, abortion and forced sterilization. Although Sanger later disavowed her prejudice against people of color, it was from these roots that Planned Parenthood began.
Currently, Planned Parenthood claims it offers women a range of contraceptive services and even mammograms. But we know from former Planned Parenthood employees and pro-life research that most clinics only offer abortion services. A few offer contraceptives, but few if any offer more than that.
Medical Research and the Beginning of Life
Bringing things into the present, we can look at the medical research regarding a baby’s development in the womb. As the Supreme Court acknowledged in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the age of viability keeps changing as medical technology and research has increased the ability to keep babies alive at a younger age. Doctors now even have the ability to do surgery on babies in the womb.
The age that life begins varies depending on who you talk to. Those on the farthest conservative side say that it begins at fertilization, since everything is in place for the formation of a human at that point the sperm hits the egg. Those on the farthest liberal side generally believe that life doesn’t start until the baby is fully delivered (allowing for the controversial partial-birth abortion).
Even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half.
A baby’s heartbeat can be detected by about day 22 or 23 after fertilization. Brain waves can be detected at 40-43 days. So even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half. It is hard at that point to call it simply a mass of tissue or a part of a woman’s body, as pro-abortion advocates describe it.
The Question of Murder
The question then arises, is abortion murder? The answer is yes, no, maybe – again depending on who you ask. The pro-abortionist will say that it isn’t, that it’s simply removing an unwanted growth, as you would a wart. They claim it won’t be a baby until it is birthed.
For those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice.
Ah, but what happens if someone kills the mother and the baby dies in the womb? Or hurts the mother in a way that causes the baby to die inside the womb? Then it is considered murder, or in the first case, double murder. So it seems that for those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice. If she chooses to end the life of the child, it’s not murder. If someone else ends the life of the child at the same stage of pregnancy, then it is murder.
Staunch pro-lifers will say that killing the baby, whether by making a choice of abortion or at someone else’s hand, is always murder. But there are also the maybes – those who believe abortion is murder, except if the baby was conceived through rape or incest, or the mother’s life is in danger.
Statistics show (depending on the wording of the question on surveys) that the number of Americans who think abortion is wrong is growing, and is now more than 50 percent of the population.
The Christian Perspective on the Value of Life
So what does the Bible say about abortion? Surprisingly, the answer is: nothing.
But this hardly means the Bible condones it. As I mentioned at the beginning, in earlier times abortion was at such odds with the goal of keeping children alive that it hardly warranted a prohibition against it.
The Bible does, though, make frequent mention of the value of life, even in the womb. All life is created by God even when human means of conception are used (Jer. 1:5, Ps. 139:13-16).
Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life.
Murder is wrong by God’s standards, which He stated in the Ten Commandments and which Jesus re-emphasized. Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life. Nothing could be much more innocent than a baby in the womb.
Children are considered a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5, John 16:21). All human life is considered valuable and made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26).
Given the value of human life, in the womb and beyond, there hardly needs to be a specific prohibition on abortion to see that it is not part of God’s will. In other words, there is no doubt that abortion is wrong.
As Christians we must stand strong on this – in love, of course, not in condemnation (if you have had an abortion, please read this message of hope). When confronting other Christians who believe that a woman’s right to choose trumps the life of the baby, we can use the life-giving message of the Bible as our God.
Non-Christians, though, will put little trust in what the Bible says. Then we will get better traction by speaking of the medical science.
We mustn’t be afraid to speak up.
Many times, we as Christians try to avoid controversial subjects such as these. But when something is clearly so wrong as abortion, then we mustn’t be afraid to speak up. And, given the current emotional state of our country, Christians will become part of this narrative, whether we want to or not. Knowing the facts, and what we believe, is an important part of standing up for what we believe.
The Bible is full of promises for those who honor God and follow Christ. Christians are urged to cling to those promises – eternal life, an abundant life, peace, love and forgiveness are among the favorites.
Yet there is one promise that is now being fulfilled that few of us are eager to cling to – being hated.
All four Gospels record Jesus’ promise that the world will hate us for following him. Here are a few examples:
Matt. 24:9: “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.”
Mark 13:13: “And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”
John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”
We don’t cling to those promises because no one wants to be hated. It’s human nature to want to be loved and admired. And until the past few years, we as American Christians didn’t worry much about that.
For most of our country’s history, strong adherence to Christian beliefs was admired and pointed to as a positive example.
Sure, we knew hate and persecution were taking place in other countries – China, for example. Muslim nations. Most recently in Nigeria. But here in the USA, we could count on indifference as the worst consequence. In fact, for most of our country’s history, strong adherence to Christian beliefs was admired and pointed to as a positive example.
All that is changing, though. Hate has been the common theme of those on the left of the political spectrum the past two years, primarily directed at President Trump and those associated with him. But increasingly in the past year, Christians are becoming the targets.
Evangelical Christians (the world’s definition of evangelical is a bit murky, but generally means those who believe the Bible is true and that God is a part of daily life) are castigated if they voted for Trump, accused of lacking compassion if they support only legal immigration and vilified if they believe that killing unborn babies is wrong. We are accused of being a hate group when we don’t agree with and support ideologies that go against our beliefs.
It looks as if Jesus’ promise of 2,000 years ago is finally coming true here.
John, in 1 John 3:13, says we shouldn’t be surprised that the world hates us. As true followers of Christ, we shine light and the world loves darkness to hide its deeds.
So how are we to respond to all this hate? The knee-jerk reaction is first a vigorous defense or to give back as good as we get. After all, it’s easy to recognize the hypocrisy in the hateful actions and hateful words in those accusing us of hate.
Yes, the world’s hate is a blessing.
First of all, we need to recognize the blessing we’re receiving in the hate. Yes, I said the world’s hate is a blessing. I say that because Jesus said it first. At the end of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus utters this line: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So our first response is to be glad and rejoice in this persecution because we’ll receive great heavenly rewards.
A bit later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus adds this about those who persecute us. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44)
So our second response is to pray for those who are saying all these awful lies about us. While we’d much rather call for their destruction, as David frequently did in Psalms, Jesus calls on us to respond in love to them and pray for their salvation.
We don’t compromise our beliefs just to escape the persecution.
And thirdly, we endure. When Jesus said in Mark 13:13 and other places that the world would hate us, he also told us to endure to the end. That means we don’t compromise our beliefs just to escape the persecution.
Some Christian groups and denominations are already doing this. They are changing the gender of God, allowing gays and transsexuals to lead the congregation and even joining in on the hateful speech against those who don’t compromise their values.
Enduring the hate is harder than rejoicing in it or praying for our enemies. The hate wears us down emotionally and physically, and eventually spiritually. It not only doesn’t stop, it often gets worse. But Jesus promises deliverance and, in Revelation 2 and 3, promises great eternal rewards for those who endure to the end.
Fortunately, Jesus gives us another promise that we can cling to in these hate-filled times: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
This is how we rejoice, how we pray and how we endure – resting in the peace that Jesus has already conquered the world. Enduring the world’s hate cannot compare to the abundance of Christ’s love for us, a love so great that he endured the horrible fate of our sins so that we can have eternal life and eternal peace.
The world hates us and will express that hate even more strenuously in the days to come. But for those who follow Christ that only means more blessing and peace. Those are promises worth clinging to.
If you were creating a brochure to attract people to your church, which of the following phrases would you include?
“Join our church and …
… you will endure suffering.”
… people will hate you.”
… your family may become your enemy.”
… gruesome death is a real possibility.”
… your life will no longer be your own.”
It’s doubtful that you’d include any of those phrases in a church brochure, and even more doubtful that you’d visit a church that featured any of those sentences on their brochure. It would seem like an awful place to attend.
This, you may think, is why you leave the advertising to the professionals. What you want to emphasize when following Jesus is the cool worship music (an amazing lead singer, a killer drummer and two bass guitars), the amazing children’s department (filled with crafts, games and a tender, loving staff), the amazing facilities (complete with shuttle service from the parking lot and a coffee bar that would make Starbucks envious) and, of course, a dynamic preacher (when he’s not out speaking at some event with exciting names like Catalyst or Passion or Momentum). Above all, we love everyone – everyone is welcome to come and be whoever they are.
That’s what a church brochure should be about, not crazy phrases like suffering and hate and enemies. Certainly nothing about giving up your life or dying a gruesome death.
You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.
It’s true that Jesus didn’t use one of those phrases as an advertisement for following him – he used all of them!
Surely that can’t be true, can it? You might be thinking, that’s not the brochure I read. That’s not the Jesus I signed up for.
Let’s take a look at just a few examples of what Jesus told his disciples and followers.
Matt. 10:34-36: “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
Mark 10:34-35: “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.
John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.”
John 16:33: “You will have suffering in the world.”
Matt. 5:11-12: “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.”
In all likelihood, if you’re part a large nondenominational evangelical church or a denominational mainstream church, the only time you’ve ever heard words like hate, suffering, enemies, persecution and gruesome death were during Easter services – and they only applied to what Jesus went through.
Those just aren’t good selling points for a church, so why would Jesus include them in his “brochure?”
Well, for starters, Jesus told the truth and he knew this would happen. And he knew that people who truly followed him, who chose to live in the kingdom of God, would no longer be subject to the whims and desires of the world – the world run by the Prince of Darkness. Satan will do whatever he can to stop Christ followers in their tracks, and suffering, persecution and the threat of a horrible death are good ways to do that.
He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things.
And finally, Jesus isn’t messing around. He wants people who are totally sold out to his way of doing things, who will follow him no matter where he takes them, who love him above everything – and everyone – else in the world.
Fortunately, Jesus also added plenty of positive phrases to his brochure for those who repent and follow him. He says we’ll be blessed when we endure these things. In John 16:33 he tells us, “Take courage! I have overcome the world.” He says that no one can snatch us out of his hands. He promises us eternal life, starting now. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” he said in John 10:10. He promises that his Holy Spirit will live in us, to guide and comfort us. We will have 24/7 instant access to the Father.
The negative and positive thoughts meet up in Jesus’ illustration of the kingdom of God being like a priceless treasure in a field, or a priceless pearl in the market. The kingdom of God, he said, is a treasure worth giving up everything we own, including our lives, to obtain.
Priceless treasure. Peace. Abundant life. Comfort and guidance. Now that sounds more like it.
But we can’t separate those words from the others. Christ promises that we’ll have both.
The question for most of us is, Am I willing to endure the negatives in order to gain the positives?
Watch What You ‘Drink’: You Can’t Trust Everything That’s Preached, Even When it’s by Famous Megachurch Pastors
Suppose you’re at your favorite health food café to grab a healthy yet delicious smoothie. You watch as they toss in some kale, some acai berries, pineapple and mango chunks, maybe a few chia seeds – and half-a-dozen rat droppings. Then they turn on the blender and whip up your smoothie.
Do you still drink it? I mean, most of that stuff is still really healthy, right? Or do those six rat droppings pretty much ruin the whole thing?
I thought of this illustration after watching a recent three-part sermon series called Aftermath by megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Stanley, the son of renowned preacher Charles Stanley, leads North Point Church near Atlanta. With about 30,000 attending weekly services, it is one of the largest churches in the country.
As a person with the gift of teaching, I know that teaching God’s word is a weighty responsibility. In his epistle, James tells us that teachers will receive a stricter judgment – Jesus’ principle that to whom much is given much is expected. So I don’t take it lightly when I find myself in disagreement with someone eminently more famous than myself, especially when much of what Stanley says in the series is very healthy and needs to be taught in the church. It just feels like a few twisted bits of thinking could ruin the whole drink.
I don’t believe that Stanley is deliberately trying to mislead people. In fact, his intention is to bring more people to Jesus. But some of things he says don’t match up with scripture. This could be a case of “what I meant to say is not what I said, and what you heard is not what I thought I said.” Communication is difficult. Still, I think some of these issues need to be addressed.
So let me dissect.
The healthy components
New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant – Stanley’s main point is that as Christians, we are now under the New Covenant of Jesus’ resurrection rather than the Old Covenant – the Sinai Covenant, the Law of Moses. This is absolutely correct. Jesus said he came to fulfill the Old Covenant, which means we no longer have to try to do so. Paul tells us often, but especially in Romans, that we are no longer under the Law.
The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under.
Goodbye Ten Commandments – Like kale, the least appealing ingredient here may be the healthiest. I have said for years that the debate about whether the Ten Commandments should be in schools or government buildings is silly. The Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and that we are no longer under. I’ve referred to them as the preface to the Law; Stanley calls them the table of contents to the Law.
By that I don’t mean that it is suddenly OK to murder people and commit adultery. It’s that we are under a New Covenant that more succinctly sums up what the Law said – Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor like you love yourself.
No mixing and matching – Stanley correctly says that we can’t try to keep part of the Old Covenant, like the Ten Commandments, and meld it into the New Covenant. Nor can you “fix” the Old Covenant by adding pieces of the New Covenant – this was the point of Jesus’ illustration of cutting a piece out of a new garment to patch up an old garment. We must leave the Old Covenant behind and begin living by the New Covenant.
Our faith is not based on the Bible – This one may be a little trickier to digest, like chia seeds. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the Bible. It means that our faith is based on God, not a thing. However, the Bible is vital. It is our means of discovering God and deepening our faith.
Chocolate chips or rat droppings?
There are a few murky areas in his sermon series that make me a bit unsure whether he’s saying what it sounds like he’s saying.
Old Covenant = Old Testament – At times, Stanley seems to equate the Old Covenant with the Old Testament writings. He states that we need to spend more time reading the New Testament and less reading the Old Testament – although in my experience, most Christians already spend little time in the Old. In fact, if you moved Psalms and Proverbs to the New Testament, many Christians would never read anything to the left of Matthew.
I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament.
The entire Old Covenant is contained in the Old Testament, but the Old Testament contains far more than the Old Covenant. All 39 books, in some way, point to the coming savior. I would go so far as to say that it’s impossible to fully understand and appreciate Jesus’ redeeming work without reading and understanding the Old Testament. In fact, without the Old Testament, we wouldn’t know about our need for a Messiah, and would have no way to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Angry God vs. Loving God – Stanley seems to resurrect the old idea that the God of the Old Testament was different from the one in the New Testament. That was the old, angry God who didn’t offer any grace so we want the new God who loves everybody.
What I believe he was saying is that God had a different agenda in the Old Testament – establishing the Jewish nation above others in His love and care, while in the New Testament, his love and grace is for all the nations. But I think it’s easy for someone to hear in his message that the Old Testament God was different – angry, vindictive, morally imperfect – than the all-loving New Testament God.
And now, the rat droppings
Grace didn’t exist in the Old Testament – Stanley, while pointing to the word Grace on a video screen, said, “See, when you read the Old Testament, when you read the Old covenant, when you read the story of Israel, when you read the prophets of Israel, you don’t see much of this. It’s ‘I will if you will,’ that’s God’s contract with the nation.”
If you don’t see God’s grace and unfailing love oozing from the Old Testament pages, you’re not trying. Starting when He made clothes for Adam and Eve right after they sinned and ruined His creation to His repeated rescuing of Israel from the hands of their enemies to the promise of a Messiah, God’s grace has been at work since the beginning of time and up to the start of the New Testament. The grace found in the New Testament isn’t something new, it’s a continuation of His grace, just now extended to everyone.
The first century Christians didn’t have a Bible – Stanley says, repeatedly, “The first century believers didn’t have a Bible and couldn’t have read it because most of them couldn’t read, and they couldn’t have because there was no Bible as we know it until the fourth century.” He goes so far as to say that the first century Christians were just making up things as they went along because they didn’t have any Scripture or writings.
Yes, it’s true that the biblical canon, containing the books we know today as the Bible, wasn’t created until after Constantine’s conversion in 312 A.D. But the Old Testament books were already in place by the time of Jesus. And it’s true the disciples couldn’t order a Bible and have it delivered the next day through Amazon Prime. But the Scriptures were well known to them, read in the synagogues and repeated frequently.
About 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament.
Scripture certainly was important to all of the New Testament writers – about 10 percent of the words in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament. When Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that all Scripture is inspired by God and equips everyone, he was referring to the Old Testament. Jesus frequently quoted Old Testament Scriptures.
In fact, one of Stanley’s examples of why we can focus on the New Testament instead of the Old Testament is Peter’s first two sermons in Acts 2 and 3. He completely ignores the parts of those sermons where Peter quotes extensively from the prophet Joel, David and Moses. He never mentions Stephen’s lengthy sermon on his deathbed in Acts 7 that tells the Old Testament story with many verbatim quotes from the Old Testament.
So to say that the first century believers didn’t have scriptural backing is wrong. They knew Scripture and relied heavily on it.
The Old Testament is not infallible – Stanley calls this the Achilles heel of our faith that will make us vulnerable to the attacks of atheists. With one click on the computer, he says, we can find those attacks on whether the Old Testament is true and whether it is moral. And it’ll be our children and grandchildren who will discover this horrible secret and quit believing.
“As Bible goes, so goes our faith. And if all of it’s not true then none of it can be trusted. It’s a house of cards.”
He states that the new atheists “have attacked persuasively and effectively the credibility and the morality of our Bibles,” then adds later, “If the foundation for your faith is an absolutely true book, good luck with that against this kind of onslaught.” And then he adds, “But I have some great news: The foundation of our faith is not a cleverly cobbled together group of manuscripts.”
He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.
While he never quite comes out and says that he thinks parts of the Old Testament aren’t true or credible, he doesn’t offer one argument in favor of it all being true. He doesn’t refute any of the arguments of the atheists. This isn’t just in this sermon series, either; he has hedged against this in a number of other sermons and interviews. He implies that it isn’t important to believe in the Old Testament stories because all that’s important is the resurrection of Jesus.
Ironically, he then goes on to say that the reason we can base our faith on the resurrection of Jesus is because of Jesus’ own words and the eyewitness accounts – which, of course, are found in the Bible. But if the Old Testament isn’t to be believed, why would we believe the New Testament?
No more requirements – Stanley argues, correctly, that circumcision is no longer a requirement among males to belong in the Christian church. This was decided almost 2,000 years ago, so that’s hardly new news. But he then goes on to say that basically God requires nothing from us anymore except to just believe in Him.
“Your covenant (the New Covenant) is practically irresistible because it’s this simple: God loves you so much that he spent hundreds and hundreds of years getting the world ready to send one person into this world that could pay for your sins. And all he requires from you, it’s not even ten things, it’s one thing, that you would acknowledge what he’s done for you and that you would live this out.”
True, God no longer requires a foreskin to show our faith – but now He wants much more. He wants our whole life. In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.”
Jesus sounds like it requires much more than just acknowledging what he’s done.
Everything is easy – By far the most troubling part of Stanley’s message is this: That he wants “to make it easier and easier for people to embrace faith.” He repeatedly says things like this, even says that this is painted on his church’s walls. His contention is we shouldn’t make it difficult to follow Christ.
But you know who said it is difficult to follow Christ? Jesus.
Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” The easy road? That leads to destruction.
Jesus said, in Matt. 24:9, “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” Doesn’t sound too easy, does it?
Jesus said, in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
His faithful followers in the early church were beaten and killed in horrible ways. In many countries even today his followers are beaten and killed in horrible ways.
Is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy.
Difficult? Absolutely. Easy? Not at all. But Jesus, Peter and Paul all said the response we should have to all of this difficulty is to rejoice. It is in and through these difficulties that we truly begin to live in God’s power.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was killed by Adolph Hitler because of his faith in Christ, warned that we must never settle for cheap grace – a grace that costs us very little. Cheap grace doesn’t change people’s lives. Instead, he said, we must strive for costly grace.
Bonhoeffer wrote, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has….Costly grace is the gospel that must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Is it simple to become a Christian? Absolutely. It is a free gift of grace. But is it easy to follow Christ? Not at all. And we should quit trying to make it easy. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s wrong and just because something is easy doesn’t make it right. Quitting school is easy, finishing a degree is difficult. Living on welfare is easy, working for a living is difficult. Getting a girl pregnant is easy, being a real father is difficult.
Yes, as Stanley says, we need to quit trying to make people live by Old Covenant Law. Yes, we should stop judging non-Christians by Christian standards. Yes, we should reach out in love to everyone. Yes, we should stop imposing man-made traditions and regulations on believers. And yes, we should stop trying to live the Christian life on our own strength.
But we cannot fall for the heresy that the Christian life is easy because Jesus said it won’t be. Easy never changed the world. Only people who commit their whole lives to Christ, as the apostles and early believers did – and many others throughout history did – have and will change the world.
To believe anything else, no matter how healthy the rest of the ingredients, is rat droppings that poison the whole drink.
A long time ago, in a beautiful land, a man and woman both had clearly defined jobs to do. Both failed in their roles, and chaos resulted.
This isn’t the beginning of some tale told by Aesop or the Brothers Grimm, or even Marvel, but the story of Adam and Eve. And a retelling of the tale seems to be taking place in America today.
Back in the beginning of the world, God had created both man and woman with clearly defined roles to play in His creation – Adam was to be the caretaker and leader, Eve was to be his helper. Neither was designed to be independent of the other. Adam may have been the engine but Eve was the gasoline that kept the engine running.
One day, though, those roles broke down. A slick-talking snake (Disney didn’t invent talking animals; the Bible had them from the beginning) sidled up to Eve and hissed, “Did God really tell you that you can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” What ensued was everybody twisting God’s words to suit themselves, Eve ate from the forbidden tree, gave Adam some and he ate, and everyone has suffered from sin nature ever since.
Both Adam and Eve failed in their God-defined roles.
One of the most significant parts of the story, though, is how both Adam and Eve failed in their God-defined roles.
Eve, instead of calling on Adam to deal with the snake (as she should have, since God had given the instructions about the forbidden tree to him before Eve was created), decided to take the leadership in the situation.
Well, perhaps Adam was out of town on a business trip and she had to. But no. The scriptures say that after Eve took a bite, she handed the fruit to her husband who was with her.
Adam stood there and heard both the devil and Eve twist God’s words without saying anything, without stepping into his leadership and caretaker/protector role, and killing the snake. He didn’t even take on Eve’s role – he simply didn’t take any role.
So how does that relate to today?
For the past 30 or more years, American culture has been bent on making men superfluous – not only can women do everything a man can do and probably better, they don’t even need men to live happy, successful lives. Thanks to sperm donors, they don’t even need more than a miniscule bit of maleness in their lives, ever.
And for the past decade or more, that attitude has been increasingly creeping into the church. While not as overt a takeover as is seen in culture, there is still a shift in thinking about the roles of men and women.
Husbands are being told to “man up” and take the leadership-caretaker role that he was created for.
Thankfully, there are some Christian leaders who have recognized this and are pushing back in trying to return to the roles God created. Husbands are being told to “man up” and take the leadership-caretaker role that he was created for, especially in the home.
This is indeed an important role. Research shows that the greatest predictor of a child’s success in America has nothing to do with skin color or financial resources, but having an intact two-parent (male and female) family. Other research shows that the biggest predictor of children following Christ and being involved in the church is whether they saw their father’s involvement in the church.
In light of today’s American culture, though, many men have found it is far easier to sit back and do nothing. Leading is a hard task, one that requires constant vigilance and assessment. When criticized for doing that, as culture often does, it becomes hard to stay motivated to continue in that role. But since it so important, and a role that God clearly expects Christian men to hold, then it is vital that Christian men “man up.”
It is also important for Christian women to “woman up.”
At the same time, though, it is also important for Christian women to “woman up” (doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but the idea is the same). But too often women’s ministries focus on “empowering” women with instruction on how to be bold, dynamic and to be all they can be. There is nothing wrong with this in itself – all Christians, male and female, should be bold and strive to be everything God desires of them – but this empowerment can sometimes degenerate into little more than Christianese for some of the world’s principles.
Within a marriage, God’s role for husbands and wives is clear – the husband is to take leadership and be a caretaker/protector and the wife is to protect the integrity of his leadership with support, encouragement and prayer. Culture has falsely declared the wife’s role as inferior or not valuable, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
As the husband seeks to discern and follow God’s will, it is critical that the wife support and pray for him in that pursuit. It is the fuel for the engine – an engine can’t do anything without fuel; it is an absolutely essential ingredient. The wife’s role requires boldness and is dynamic.
As both husband and wife work together symbiotically in their roles, they will discover God’s direction for their lives. When the husband leads according to God’s will, then it will be the will of God for the wife, too. If that isn’t true then why is the devil working so hard to reverse it? He’s wanted to do this since the beginning of time because his express purpose is to turn people away from following God’s plan. Using culture to disrupt the roles of men and women is a key piece of his strategy.
The design of God cannot be changed because of the whims of the culture. The Bible is consistent on these roles from Genesis to Revelation. They were created by God for a purpose – His purpose. To change them in any way can have devastating results. Just ask Adam and Eve.
When my wife and I decided to purchase life insurance policies, we filled out the basic paperwork and had some bloodwork done to prove that we didn’t already have one foot in the grave. After a few days of waiting, we were approved to have insurance policies.
Since then, we’ve given it little thought: The policies renew automatically and the premiums are deducted electronically from our bank account. We know we’re covered if we die and nothing else is required of us.
Unfortunately, many Christians live this way in regard to their salvation. They made a salvation commitment to God. Now, they’re covered when they die and nothing else is required of them.
Except God does require more from them – much more. He expects them to do the work he created them for.
Oh no, you might protest, grace is free. We don’t have to earn it. Works are dead. And you’d be absolutely right. There is indeed absolutely nothing we can do to earn salvation. The grace that saves us is only a free gift from God. Eph. 2:8-9 makes this very clear: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” (HCSB)
But the discourse about this salvation doesn’t end at verse 9. We also have to read verse 10.
“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (HCSB)
Salvation isn’t only to keep us out of the flames of hell.
God has extended His grace to us for more than just after-life insurance. Salvation isn’t only to keep us out of the flames of hell. God’s grace is for a purpose, and that is for us to do good works. As Paul says, God prepared these good works ahead of time for us. We have been saved for a purpose.
The good works, then, aren’t to achieve salvation, but come as a result of salvation. And they aren’t our works – God prepared them for us, so we are only fulfilling the works He wants us to accomplish.
The “grace is free, works are dead” mantra of the past several decades has had the unfortunate effect of allowing many Christians to lead uneventful, unfulfilling Christian lives. They aren’t lazy, and they aren’t intentionally disobeying God’s word. They’ve just been allowed to live under the false assumption that salvation is basically in the same category as my life insurance policy – it renews automatically and the premiums are withdrawn in the form of church attendance. Nothing else is required.
The good news is that God has created so much more for the Christian life and desires so much more from us. The works he has created for us aren’t contained in a do’s and don’ts rulebook and aren’t grim tasks that can only be accomplished through gritted teeth. Instead, since he created you specifically for the works, you will be uniquely equipped to not only accomplish those works, but to do so with a joyful heart.
The vital thing is that it’s the work God created for you.
This doesn’t mean you’ll land your dream job, or that the work will be something grandiose. In fact, it may be something small and almost unnoticeable. It’s not the type of work or the size of that’s important; the vital thing is that it’s the work God created for you.
It’s also not work to be undertaken grudgingly, with an “I guess if I have to” attitude. Remember, when you were dating and fell in love, how you did the things your loved one liked – even if it inconvenienced you – with an attitude of joy because of your love for them? That’s the attitude we approach our appointed work – with an attitude of pure joy and pure love for God.
One of the great benefits of our salvation is that we have a fantastic after-life insurance policy with an eternal renewal. But it is also a great benefit that our eternal life doesn’t start when we die – it begins at the moment of salvation and allows us to do great things for God.