Tag: Grace (page 1 of 4)

Are We Defiling the Church?

Defiling

In Matthew 15 Jesus addresses the Jewish tradition of hand washing as a way to prevent defiling the food you eat. The idea being if you eat with dirty hands, you defile yourself on both a physical and spiritual level. Regarding that, Jesus explained, “…it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). Jesus is saying that the words we speak are important. But, not only are they important, they hold the power to taint and corrupt us on deep levels. In doing so, they cause us to become something substantially less than God intends us to be.

I know Jesus was plainly speaking to the condition of our individual souls, but what if it is farther reaching than that? As I have thought on that verse, I think it easily applies to Christians corporately, as the body of Christ, as well as individually. Specifically, what if what we say, as Christians, could defile the body of Christ? And, what if in defiling it, we cause the body to become something less than God intends for it to be?

As I scroll through my news-feed, I see a lot of words and statements that easily fall into that category. And while it is bad to say something that defiles you individually, it is altogether worse for us to collectively defile the body of Christ. Lately, it seems as if many Christians are more concerned with their agenda than with what they say and how they say it.

Of course there is ample opportunity, especially in this season, to be angry and respond out of that anger. But, my biggest concern is that instead of looking to the Holy Spirit for how to respond, many look only to their own feelings, conveying them as the “Christian” viewpoint or stance. And because Christ has called us to be His witnesses, when we do that, and we do it in an angry and hurtful way, we defile the body of Christ. In doing so, we become poor witnesses for Jesus and push people away from Him.

Jesus was clear on the seriousness of our words and the impact they have on the fruit we produce. In Matthew 12:33-37 he said,

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

And what is that fruit? This good fruit is the evidence of our connection to Christ and should always inform the way we relate to others. That means the way we interact with others, regardless of their differing views and how they express them, should always be seasoned with love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is these things there is no law against (Galatians 5:22). And, it is these things that elevate and bring honor to His body.

I’m not saying that you cannot have an opinion or take a stand on an issue. There is a difference between debate and sharing facts and intentionally being malicious. How then should we respond? The Apostle Paul tells us, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6) This passage shows us two ways that we are to respond to non-Christians.

1.  With Wisdom

Paul telling us to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders,” covers numerous areas. While it can be difficult to know what wisdom looks like in our conversations, bible commenter, Matthew Henry makes some suggestions. His first point is to be careful not to be hurt by non-Christians. Our ability to not take on the pain of others’ words is grounded in our security in Christ. The more secure we are, the less impact their words should have on us. Henry also proposes that we should be careful to not speak the way that non-Christians do. He calls it taking care to not “pick up their customs.” If you are using the same hurtful words they are, you are not using wisdom. His last insight is something I already addressed. He said, a wise response will not hurt them or give them reason to be prejudice against Christ and His Church.

2.  With Grace

Wisdom leads to grace-filled responses. Paul uses the example of salt to describe how grace should impact our conversations. Like salt, grace preserves the wisdom which leads to peace in our interactions with others. It should also flavor our conversations with a grace that can only come from Christ. In this way, we are prepared to give an answer to every person.

Sometimes wisdom and grace may suggest that you not respond or give an answer. But regardless, we ought to “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

 

photo: Crosswalk

The Insider’s Guide to That Plank in Your Eye

Plank

Lately, a lot of people are up in arms over what can and can’t be called sin.   Both Christians and non-Christians have drawn clear lines in the sand and drawn their proverbial swords from the sheaths, ready to do battle over our freedom to call specific actions sinful… or not.

So we log-on, click, share, and deliver our blow to the opposing side with a cleverly crafted meme. Our hope is that we can dig the speck out of their eye, before they notice the plank in ours. And, we know our viral logic can’t be refuted, sans a cleverer meme from the other side. Unfortunately, everyone is so media shocked, that no one is hearing what the other side is screaming.

The World’s Sin

Christians are in a unique position. We have the opportunity to communicate the simplest truths of the Gospel on a global scale. If not handled well, we open the door to some potentially devastating results; namely the possibility of driving people from Jesus, rather than to Him.

Consider John 16. Jesus is found telling the disciples about the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit’s job will be. Jesus explains:

8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.”

In verse 9 it appears that Jesus takes the time to intentionally point out and define, for the disciples (and us), what the world’s sin is. He could have said ANYTHING at that moment, but He chose to define it as unbelief in Him. Inarguably, throughout His ministry, He did address specific sins that did not fit with following him. However, I believe His defining of sin in this verse was intentionally focused on the sin that we, as His followers, should be focused on when addressing other’s sin.

The sins that he outright condemns (hate, lust, coveting, etc.) are all directed at His followers for the sake of their own righteousness; not for His followers to point out in others as sin. This becomes evident right after He teaches about anger, adultery and revenge. He says not to concern ourselves with the speck in someone else’s eye (their sin) when there is a plank in ours (our glaring sin) [Matthew 7:3-5.]

Christians and the World’s Sin

Fortunately, in defining the world’s sin, Jesus made that fit perfectly into the Great Commission He gave us before departing the earth. In Acts 1:8, just prior to His ascension, Jesus commissions the Apostles (and by proxy all His followers) to “be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This unbelief in Jesus is the sin we’re called to address and being His witness is how we’re expected to address it.

As we love and live life with others, they begin to wonder and ask where we find our hope (because they get to see the realness and rawness of our life and how Jesus moves within it and within us.) When that happens, we’re able to declare who He is, His goodness, and provide an explanation for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).

In response to the world’s unbelief, we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses (or testify, proclaim, declare) to who He is… the Son of the Living God. We do that by loving God and by loving those He has put in our life. Obeying these commands is evidence of our love for Jesus.

Now is the time to stop declaring what we’re against and start declaring Who we are for. This does not mean that we are not accountable for what Jesus taught, because we are. We are. Christians are accountable, not unbelievers.

The Best Way

When we love God, we’re drawn to a life of righteousness in Christ. Because we love God and Jesus, we also obey His command to love others. When we love others, they get to experience Jesus. Through our declaration of who Jesus is (through word and action), the Holy Spirit leads that person into all truth and convicts them of the sin of unbelief. They either answer or reject that conviction. If they accept it and seek Jesus; the Holy Spirit draws them to righteousness, in Jesus, and begins to deal with the sins that have kept them from that righteousness and holiness. Our part then becomes to disciple the new believer within a relationship (and community) of love and grace.

Make your plank the priority. Deal with the sins within you. Seek out other believers that will hold you accountable. But as for the world adhering to the standard of righteousness He calls US to, they don’t even believe in Him, why would they follow what He says?

Maybe it’s time that we actually do what Jesus said and love God, love others, and let the Holy Spirit lead us to Him, turning us to righteousness.

Photo credit/used from www.hendersonbaptist.org

A father’s anger and The Father’s grace.

angry-1431096

If I had to guess, I’d say that as a dad (primarily to my two older sons), I’ve messed up more than I’ve gotten it right. I have tried hard to be a good dad. But for all my effort, all I was doing was trying to modify my children’s behavior rather than nurturing their soul. This was not intentional. It’s how I grew up. I wasn’t equipped for any other type of fathering. Things are quite different now that I am actually committed to following Jesus in a real way; not in the “I go to church every Sunday” way. However, this doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

One of the things I’ve struggled with for most of my life, and definitely as a father, is anger. And not common anger, but a hurtful, rage-type of anger. The type of anger that frightens people. Most of the time it has remained dormant, deep inside. I believed part of being a “good man and father” meant controlling and restraining that anger. Unfortunately, life will eventually reveal the true character of even the most controlled and disciplined person. There are many reasons I carried this anger. While I won’t go into why in this post, it was the result of hurt and unhealthy, emotional crap. Over the past 6 years, God has healed nearly all of it and I’m far less angry. But, again, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Occasionally I still screw up as I did with my 18 year old son a couple weeks ago.

Over this last year of school he procrastinated making plans and two months into the summer he still didn’t know what he wanted to do. I’m sure it’s no different a situation than many parents of 18 year-old, young men go through, but nonetheless it was still frustrating.

I’m not sure how other parents would handle that situation. This is new ground for me. I did offer advice and direction. Until about two weeks ago. That’s when the proverbial nuke detonated and he was ground zero. To say I flipped out on him would be an understatement. What I did was go on a 10 minute tirade of steering-wheel, fist banging, accompanied by yelling and cursing. I raged. I reached a point of such severe frustration, that instead of walking away and taking time to regroup and calm down, I unloaded on him. At the end of my tirade he was visibly upset, hurt and frustrated. I walked away. I went to my room and tried to go to sleep. Fail. On a lot of levels, fail.

As we seek to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit reminds us, as promised, of everything that Jesus said. It’s part of our growth. One reason to establish a consistent time of prayer and Bible reading is to allow for this growth. God speaks to us through His Word. It is in the moments where our behavior is far from Christlike, that God uses the word He’s already spoken to draw us back to Christlikeness. Simply put, in those moments that we least reflect Him, He’s going to speak words from the Bible that we’ve intentionally chosen to hide in our heart. He won’t give us a word that will be easy to ignore, or one we will doubt as being from Him. Instead, He’s going to use Scripture, so that there’s no doubt it is Him Who is speaking. It’s the same reason that when faced with temptation in the desert Jesus told the devil, “It is written…”

As I laid in my bed trying to calm down, all that kept running through my head was, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Immediately I knew God was calling me to display Christ to my son. I continued to lay there, not knowing what to say to son. Then I felt the Holy Spirit remind me, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” And “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I went to my son and asked for his forgiveness. He extended it. We were able to have a calmer discussion and we are good. Here’s what I want to share with you:

When I offered my son anger, my Father offered me grace. When I was deaf to my son’s hurt and frustration, my father heard mine. When I refused to extend the fruit of the Spirit to my son, God cultivated and tended to the seeds that Christ had planted in my heart, leading me to extend the same to my son.

We fail…

Because we’re human
Because we’re still being redeemed
Because we’re not yet perfect

But, no matter how we fail, God offers grace. Every time.

You are not a failure, you are human. You will screw up; as a friend, as a leader, as a follower, as a husband and as a dad. I promise. However, God’s grace is bigger.

One of the best things you can do for your children is maintain a consistent prayer and Bible-reading time and listen to the promptings of God. Actions such as seeking the forgiveness of your child is God leading you to father them well.

Grace always trumps anger. Always.

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