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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Where Do We Start?

It can be an almost knee jerk reaction among Christians when bad things happen. AIDS? It is God's judgment on the homosexual. Hurricane Katrina? That was God's judgment on the Gulf coast for their burgeoning gambling and increasing embrace of homosexuality, and their drug and alcohol trade. (Seriously, folks, I don't make this stuff up. Someone actually made the claim.) Then there was the 9/11 attack and the subsequent Benghazi attack. Judgment from God on America. Like some who came to Christ with a similar question.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
Clearly Jesus is saying that such events do not mark out God's judgment on the worst of sinners. As in the case of the man born blind (John 9:1-5), we don't know the reason for unpleasant events. We do know that we can't always assume it is God's judgment.

Notice Jesus's response to those who thought such things. "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Perhaps, then, we ought to ... you know, as followers of Christ ... do what He says. He said, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt 7:5) Maybe we ought to examine ourselves first.

Of course, the root problem has always been present. "I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom 7:22-23) As believers, made alive and indwelt by the Spirit, we don't want to sin, but we do. The danger is that we can end up searing our consciences (1 Tim 4:2) and become unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

So how did America, what we used to consider a "Christian nation", end up a hotbed for sexual immorality and licentiousness? Well, we're considering our own contributions here, so let's see what we can find. With the basic problem of the sin nature, American Christians have suffered from a long string of what is known as syncretism. Syncretism is the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, especially in philosophy or religion. Or, to put it in biblical terms, in the name of "reaching the world for Christ", we have often opted to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15).

So when the world offered up a method whereby we could engage in sex without the problem of children (yes, we have often thought of children as a "problem") by the use of contraception, well, we embraced it. Today, suggesting otherwise is considered ludicrous. So we happily split sexual relations and reproduction and made sex into a pleasure source rather than the union of two people. Children became an option, not an expectation, let alone a blessing. We -- even we Christians -- were redefining "family".

The world taught us, "If it feels good, do it", and we have. Why not? What's wrong with pleasure? So while the world was packing on the "It's all about me" mentality, we tagged along. The notion of the "two-income family" was originally abhorrent, a "necessary evil", until we made it expected, then glorious. Today a "stay-at-home mom" is pitied or belittled. Why? Because "It's all about me" and she can't possibly be fulfilled if she is forced to stay at home with kids and housework. But, hey, how can we "give our kids a better living standard" if both of us don't work? As if "a better living standard" is somehow Christian.

We let the world split marriage. On one hand, "no-fault divorce" became acceptable. On the other, we -- we Christians -- bought the cohabitation argument. "It would be unwise to marry someone you've never lived with." So people calling themselves Christians today consider it no serious issue to live together without marriage and believe it to be wise, right in line with the world around them even if it is in direct opposition to God's Word.

Once we redefined sex as recreation rather than union and pleasure as a viable aim, sexual immorality came home to roost in the church. Pornography is not a problem the church does not encounter. It's a problem that reaches to every corner of the Christian realm. Many of us don't see it as sin. "Hey, I'm not actually having sex with any of them." Or so we tell ourselves. So if the guys at work are happy to share their latest porn discoveries (It used to be a shame to do that.), why not participate? And we so far obscure the purpose and meaning of sex from God's stated purposes that when someone trots it out to see, we consider it a foreign language or something.

Our list of failures is not short, fellow believers. We've seen in our world the decline of personal integrity. Consider, for instance, the vast numbers of complicated methods and tools put into place to protect your identity and bank account alone. That is not because of the prevalence of "basically good" people. It's because of the ubiquity of people without integrity. But, from a time when "a Christian business" used to be viewed as a reasonably good assurance of a business with integrity, we've arrived at the place where many people are skeptical if it declares itself a Christian business because they are not likely to be reliable.

Some Christians have used biblical texts to argue in favor of parental and spousal abuse. As if that makes any sense at all. But that's in our laps, too. We've turned Christianity into our own self-centered pleasure palace, finding ways in the church to focus on income, career, self-fulfillment, personal, momentary excitement and pleasure, a "What can I get out of it?" mindset, and the always-present "If it feels good, do it." Do you doubt it? Try asking the worship team why they play the songs they play rather than other traditional ones. I think you'll find that their primary reason is because their songs "feel better".

Worst of all, we seem to have taken our eyes off the ball. We appear to have missed the point. The prize is Christ. Not more people in the seats at church or more money in our wallets or more pleasure in life. Not a better marriage or sex life or social standing. We've been looking for something else, something better. When our churches are spending thousands on missions and millions (billions?) on church buildings, there's a problem. You know, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:34) So we Christians campaign against the spread of Islam in America or the "gay agenda" or the evils in our schools and cities when what we ought to be doing is 1) living Christ (Matt 5:16) and 2) sharing Christ (Mark 16:15). Instead of investing in stuff -- our personal pleasures and preferences -- we ought to be investing in people. You know, making disciples (Matt 28:19-20) and building one another up (Rom 15:2; Eph 4:11-16).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we do indeed face difficult times in America. Sin is not only rampant, but embraced, encouraged, and appreciated. That's a problem. But our problem is us. We need to remember Jesus's words. "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Oh, maybe not eternally, but it's not like we're not deserving of the temporal judgment God might give to a society that we have helped to embrace sin in a grand scale. I don't believe that 2 Chron 7:14 -- "[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." -- is a promise from God for American Christians. On the other hand, I think we can be absolutely certain that any of God's people who are not humbling themselves, praying, seeking His face and turning from their wicked ways ought to do just that. Let there be repentance on earth and let it begin with me.


Bob said...

what if we changed our emphasis from trying to save the world? some how the great commission went from preaching the Gospel to all the world, to changing the world and making is a better place. there is a big difference in the methodology between calling out the elect, and playing nice with the world. in the one case we simply preach the gospel, and let the Lord sort them out. in the other case, we attempt to win souls by morphing into a world like counterfeit. the evangelical modal of today rejects the concept of Calling and Election. as a result they have to pander to the concept of Free will. as a result their message is modified to reflect the view that we must help men make better choices. the result is large buildings filled with people that are not saved, but operate under the banner of Christ. if you want to be kicked out of these places just talk about the following :
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints.

Stan said...

Are you suggesting that the purpose of Christianity on the planet is not to make it a better place to live?

Bob said...

the correlation to cause dictates that the gospel causes men to be rejuvenated to life, with changed hearts, then as a consequence there is changed lives. from those lives comes mercy, love and truth. but if our belief is that we are to change the gospel so we may be more palatable to the world. we are in error. it still begs the question, as long as sin is in the world can it ever be a better place? the world is enemy territory, we are not of this world but we are in it. there is a better place for the children of God, its called home. we are so busy trying to change this world that we lose focus on the world to come. again the tyranny of the Nobel sentiment. we threw out the gospel of Christ, and now we are left with the Gospel of social justice. the unbelievers can keep this dying place, just give me my brothers and sisters and lets go home...

Stan said...

Well, of course, you've put your finger on the heart of the problem. "as long as sin is in the world can it ever be a better place?" The answer is obviously that we cannot make the world all well again.

My concern in this post is that we Christians 1) tend to think we can do just that and 2) tend to overlook our own syncretism -- our own aligning of beliefs with the world's beliefs -- which is error and results in sin and, in so doing, we miss our own sin.

Bob said...

exp. when the church abandoned the concept of total depravity, they had to substitute it with free will. thinking that they exonerated God from being accountable for not saving all, they diminished God's sovereignty. and rendered God impotent to save at all.
exp. when the church abandoned the concept of unconditional election, they thought they were exonerating God from being selective and mean spirited. the result God has the potential to save all, but doesn't save anyone in particular. all of this just to appear more pleasing to a lost world. our shame. we have exchanged the truth for appeasement. there can be no peace in this world for true believers of Christ. i believe that we are called to suffer for the sake of Christ, by sharing the truth in love.