Monday, December 22, 2008

A stumbling block and foolishness.

1Co 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
The first century church was used in some incredible ways by God, on one occasion God used street preachers to save over three thousand people on one day, other times He used miracles and signs and wonders Men of God preached the truth regardless of their surrounding conditions and God used them for the conversion of souls and the glorifying of Himself. However Paul knew that God uses means and tools to bring about His will, and he knew that there was a great difference between the Jews and the Greeks. When Paul preached to his own people, the Jews, he was preaching to a group of people that understood the creation of the world, the fall of man, the universality of sin, the truths of God's interaction with men, and the inerrancy of the scriptures. So then when he preached Christ, and Him crucified to the Jews, they understood everything he was saying; the problem was they did not want to believe it because that would mess up their idea of getting to heaven through good works and personal sacrifices. On the other hand, when Paul preached to the Greeks he was preaching to a culture that was completely humanistic. The Greeks believed in many gods, none of them all powerful, in fact they believed that most of their gods were simply highly evolved men. So when the gospel was preached to the Greeks, it could not simply be said, "believe on Jesus, the son of God, to save you from your sins." The Greeks would throw this off as the empty babbling of unlearned men because they had no idea what the true meaning of "believe" was, they had no idea what was meant by a singular God and His son, they didn't understand what "sin" was. So Paul rightly classified the Jews as those who didn't want to believe, and the Greeks as those who could not believe.
Now what is the point of all this? How does it apply to us today? It has a great application in how we, as Christians, present the gospel. Most of us are too frightened or ashamed to ever present the gospel at all, but if and when we do, I'm afraid we go about it all wrong. We have to identify which culture we live in, not in order to pamper to it and become more like it, but so we know how to approach it with the gospel. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the bible belt is a christian and further more not everyone in the bible belt even understands some of the most foundational truths about the bible. This used to be a largely "Jewish" culture (meaning that the majority of people understood the fundamentals of the scriptures). There was prayer not only in school but at almost every public event, the bible was taken seriously and taught as fact, most people attended church at least sporadically if not frequently. The make up of this country has changed drastically over the past 100 years. There is now no mention of anything remotely christian allowed in any public place, evolution is taught as fact in our education system, the scripture is ridiculed and quickly disposed of by anyone with any aspirations of national acclaim and recognition. We are living today in the picture of a Greek culture. If the gospel is to be heard and accepted by our culture, we must start relaying the foundations, reteaching the authority of scripture, reinforcing the truth of man's depravity and God holiness, rebuilding the fortress of salvation through Christ alone. Otherwise, our preaching will continue to be rejected as foolishness and we will be found as unwise stewards of what God has given us, holding the truth in unrighteousness.

A righteous ruler.

Prov. 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Sept. 14, 2008
It hardly seems possible that the presidential elections are only two short months away, and yet the most common sentiment I hear, from Republicans and Democrats both, is discontentment. I do not deny that Obama's camp remains as enthusiastic as ever, nor that McCain's choice of Palin seems to have energized his supporters, but the populace as a whole seems to think that this year most of us will have to choose the lesser of two evils. It seems as though we must choose between fighting terrorism or growing our economy, between good stewardship of our environment and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. It seems as though there is not a candidate who has a balanced plan to do what is best in all of these areas, or at least that is the way it is being presented to us. Unfortunately, I think our priorities have become confused concerning which issues we look at and how we view them. We have fallen so in love with our money, that our pocket book begins to decide which candidate we support; both camps are spending the majority of their time and effort trying to convince us their plans are better for your wallet. I have yet to hear an honest evaluation as to which candidate is more righteous, no media source has taken the lifestyles and credentials of the candidates and matched them up against scripture. You see how far we have come from scripture and how far we have fallen in step with the world, because even now you are probably thinking that what I'm suggesting is ludicrous. You have bought into the mantra of the unconverted that we are not supposed to allow religion to play a role in who we vote for. I have heard the phrase "We are not electing a pastor, we're voting for a president." Whenever someone says that, they are failing to remember that the scripture says that whether a ruler is righteous or wicked has a direct affect on the well being of a country.
I too am having a hard time deciding who to vote for, but I know this, I am not letting my bank account decide! I am going to have to stand before God one day and give an account for who I put into a position of authority in my country, so I must vote for the man that my conscience allows. I must take into consideration his view of God and his word, I must look at his view of the sanctity of life, I must consider his opinion of the family and the structure of a home, and I promise you it will not be an easy decision to make. I beg you as well, whether you vote for McCain, Obama, an independent, or exercise your right to write a name in, vote for a righteous man. The result will lead to the entire nation rejoicing or mourning.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Faithful Stewards

I Cor. 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
As Christians we understand that we are nothing more than stewards here on this earth, we know that our bodies are not our own since we have been bought with a price. (I Cor. 6:20) All our possessions and faculties are only good gifts which come from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17) Therefore this verse is a direct admonition to every Christian concerning how we are to live our lives, and according to this verse the primary thing is that we be found faithful. This is a truth that is found in almost every walk of life, an employer would rather have a consistent, trustworthy employee, than an employee that works hard, but is inconsistent or untrustworthy. We see it all the time in sports, there may be someone who can hit the odd home run or catch a long touchdown or two each season, but the best players are the ones that are consistently hitting RBI or consistently catching the first down passes and moving the chains.
Christianity is no different, it is not required of stewards that we be martyred, or that we sacrifice all on the foreign mission field, our job description does not include being able to write a best selling book or pastor an enormous church. Every Christian though is required to be faithful, we are all commanded to not become weary in well doing and often times that takes more faith than a martyr. I have long said that I think it is easier to die for Christ than to live for him, death is a short, one time action, a devoted life requires re-commitment every morning. This means that when our reputation is attacked we keep doing right, when our family rejects us we keep doing right, when our finances suffer we keep doing right, when we feel betrayed by those closest to us we keep doing right.
There is a song I sang as a child, that contains theology that isn't too deep and yet we rarely follow it's words, it goes "Do right 'till the stars fall, do right 'till the last call, do right when there's no one else to stand by you. Do right when you're all alone, do right though it's never known, do right since you love the Lord, do right."
On the day that I enter through the gates of the celestial city I want to hear my Father say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord." The scriptures ask the question in Luke 18:8 "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" I do not know the day or hour of his return, but if he should return during my lifetime, I hope that I might be found holding fast to the profession of faith. If instead Christ should tarry, at the point of death I want to be able to say with Paul "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (II Tim. 4:7)
All of this starts with how I conduct myself today, this week, and this year. Let us commit to being faithful to the things of God where ever we are at; we may never be a
C. H. Spurgeon or a John Owen, we may not be martyred by a reverse crucifixion the way Peter was or give our all in the heathen lands the way Adoniram Judson did, but we can fulfill the requirement of stewards, that we be found faithful.

Be not conformed

Rom. 12:2a And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
Paul's epistle to the church at Rome is an extraordinary book and one of the easiest to categorize. Rom. 1:1 - 3:20 is showing us the necessity of salvation for all men everywhere, 3:21 - 4:25 tells us that God provides righteousness to those who trust Jesus Christ as Lord, we see in chapters 5 - 8 that salvation produces a new life, 9 - 11 teaches us that God is faithful to perform all his word, and then chapters 12 - 16 call all regenerated hearts to a completely changed way of life. Paul basically summarizes these final four chapters in 12:1, 2, verse two being our focus this week.
There has been a question that has been bugging me for quite a while now and it is, why do so many, so-called christians, look so much like the rest of the world around them? If you pulled the average church goer out of their pew and examined every aspect of their life during the week, what would be the distinctive factors about their life that would show us clearly that their entire world view has been turned up-side down? With this thought in mind I have been examining my own life, do I listen to music other than that which directly glorifies the Lord and if I do, then why? What about my dress, is it always chosen with the thought of modesty, moderation and presentability in mind, so that I might be the best witness possible to the greatest number of people? Or do I choose it to draw attention to myself or for the purpose of looking "cool"? What about my choice of the video games I play and movies and TV shows I choose to spend my time watching, is there a purpose in any of them higher than pure entertainment, (which is complete selfishness and self-absorption)? Going deeper than things, I must also examine my speech, do I speak many vain and empty words just to hear myself talking? Or perhaps filled with pride I speak with the intent of being quick, sharp and witty instead of being complimentary, encouraging and teachable.
You see, it is not just about being different for differences sake, I don't stop driving a car because the rest of the world drives a car. My main purpose in life is not to be different, my highest goal is to be like Christ and if I'm acting like Christ than I most certainly will be different; because our culture is at enmity with God and therefore the things that pertain to God and godliness. I have not yet worked out all the kinks in my life, but I assure you that I am working on it and will continue to work on it for as long as I'm alive. I often wonder though, am I the only one that is so sick of all this hypocrisy, am I the only one that is tired of "playing church"? I know I am not, but if you too are tired of all the pretense than don't quit going to church because it seems as if everyone there is a hypocrite, begin reforming your own life and pray that with much love and mercy God would begin to change the hearts of those around you. We must make a choice, will we live godly and suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12) or will we conform to the world and get society's collective pat on the back. It is one or the other, we cannot have the approval of God and society, friendship with one equals enmity with the other, conformity to one must necessarily mean a distinct difference from the other.