Belief Isn’t Faith

One of the most awkward conversations that I’ve ever taken part of happened at a basketball game just a few years back. Someone asked me, “Is *so-and-so* a Christian?” Without missing a beat, I said “No, he doesn’t put his faith in Christ.” Sitting near me was a good friend of this person, and I noticed I had taken him by surprise. He then went on to explain to me that although he didn’t go on mission trips or attend church every Sunday, he was still a Christian, because “he believes in God.” It was awkward not because I was proven wrong, but instead that I was proven right.

Somehow, since the 1st century church began with Peter at Pentecost, we’ve gotten this idea that belief = faith, and we become disappointed when our belief isn’t met with a burning or deepening passion for Jesus and His will for our lives. Too often, people believe they have tried Christianity because they admit to themselves that there is a true God, when even demons believe that.

You say that you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe in this, and they tremble with terror.  How foolish!

James 2:19

To boil it down to the question, “Do you believe in God or not?” is not only dangerous for lost souls who don’t know Christ, it is foolish on every level. So if your Christianity is based on the belief of a one true God in the sky, congratulations, you’re on the same level as a demonic beast.

The problem is that the church has done an unbelievably poor job of defining faith, and it has led to inaccurate teachings of what Jesus intended from His followers. Might I appeal to you that the reason some churches do not like to define faith is because it isn’t pretty. Faith doesn’t sound good if you’re looking for a comfortable life. As C.S. Lewis once said, “If you’re looking for a really comfortable religion, I certainly wouldn’t recommend Christianity.”

I don’t believe in criticizing without offering a solution, so this is how I would define faith, in the words of Paul:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ–.

Philippians 3:7-9

Faith can be scary, faith can be painful, and faith can be pretty outlandish at times, but faith is counting it all as loss. Faith says, “Not only do I believe in You, but I’m pouring my life out for You.” To have faith in Christ means to have no faith in your own good deeds and your own ability to be a good enough person to earn your way into heaven. Belief is all about you and your feelings. Faith is all about Christ.

If you’re reading this and someone has presented Christianity to you and never mentioned dying to yourself for the sake of Christ, I am genuinely sorry. You’ve been fooled and you’ve been presented something that isn’t Christianity.

Christianity is not just believing in God, it’s putting our faith in the Savior of the World, no matter the circumstances. Christianity is forgetting our own will, and submitting to His. Christianity is dying to our childish desires and living a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

With belief, there is no death.

Without death, there is no faith.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Therefore, I do.

Someone once asked me, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and why?”

It’s a pretty good question, and an interesting one as well. I had never really thought about it until this guy asked me, so it took me a little off guard. I thought back to my playing days and the advice my coach gave me before pitching the game of my life. “We have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. So do you.” Or maybe it was the advice my dad gave me years ago when he heard people poking fun at a man who had his whole life stripped away from him. “You’re better than that, son. Never be that.”

But it was pretty obvious what the greatest piece of advice that I had ever received was, and it was something that seemed so simple but yet so difficult to actually do, that to this day I write this down to remind me of its importance.

 

“Find what stirs your affections for Jesus, and cling to it.”

Now for anyone who knows me, they won’t be surprised when I say I am a person with a pretty emotional soul. So much so, that I gained the nickname “John” because of the way John wrote with such emotion in his writings about walking with Jesus. (There are worse things to be called, like Seabiscuit) Some friends poke fun at it, some people don’t really know what to do with it, but over the years, I am learning to embrace the soul that God has given me. I love a deep song that speaks about life, love, and loss because of the emotion that it stirs up inside of me. But I had never applied to my walk with Christ until I heard that one line. So I decided to write down what stirs my affection for Jesus.

  • Early mornings without the rush of having to be somewhere stir up my affections for Jesus.
  • Long talks about life and the goodness of God with my closest friends stir up my affections for Jesus.
  • A good story or good music stirs up my affections for Jesus.
  • Spending time alone with a cup of coffee and a book stir up my affections for Jesus.

When I started to think of Christianity in my every day life this way, I began to see it in a different light. It was less about being a good person, and more about my love for Jesus. We don’t do the things we do as believers because we hope it will make us fall more in love with Jesus. We pray, we give, we love, because we love Him, and we love Him because He first loved us. Getting this cycle backwards, which is, “Actions then love” is contrary to Christ and a big reason why so many people think they have tasted Jesus and want nothing to do with Him, when in fact they have only tasted morals and religion.

A man buys flowers for his wife not because he hopes it will make him love her more, but yet because he loves her already, and the flowers are in response to that love.

In a society that preaches moralistic deism, we must always remember that our good deeds are in response to the affection, to the love we have for our savior.

Christianity is not “Do, so you’ll be loved.”

It is, “I am beloved, so therefore, I do.

To The Single Christian On Valentine’s Day

Forgive me.

I understand that this is probably the 109th post you have come across that has the words “Single”, “Christian”, and “Valentine’s” in the title, and it was probably no doubt an open letter to the boy who did you wrong or the girl you let get away. You might have even clicked on a few of those and they pretty much read all the same. Be content, don’t let a relationship with someone else define you, and be joyful in your season of singleness. Maybe the post even had a personal story of what the Lord has taught them through their prolonged absence from a relationship. It all sounds too familiar.

I am not bashing those types of post. Lord knows I can be a little cliche and follow the “Open Letter” crowd myself. But I’m speaking to the Believer who has been content. I’m speaking to the one who is seeking Jesus with all of his or her heart, and who desperately longs for someone to share that joy with. I’m talking to the followers of Christ who deep down, know they yearn for companionship with the opposite sex.

 

 

The first thing you should know, is that it’s okay to want a relationship. Never let anyone guilt you into believing that wanting a relationship with a godly man or woman is a bad thing, because “He who finds a wife, finds what is good.” (Proverbs 18:22) Never apologize for wanting something God said wasn’t good to be without. Don’t pretend that you’re completely joyful being single, because for most of us, that’s not how God designed us. Don’t be afraid to own up to it: “I long for a relationship”.

But it’s Valentine’s Day weekend and although we can feel pretty lonely on rainy days, February 14th ups the ante just a bit. So what are we single Christians to do?

“Remain in My Love.”

John 15:9

That basically covers it. I could describe the thought process who those who are single and go into detail about our innermost thoughts and feelings about being alone, but that wouldn’t make much sense. We follow the God of the Universe who came to Earth to die for the very universe He created. We were already His, He made us, gave us our breath, but He paid for our lives anyways. Why would a holiday about love do anything else but point to the person who allows us to love in the first place? We worship a God that literally gave us love. Let us act, accordingly.

Single Guys, be men. Own up to your mistakes and put to death your childish ways. Treat all girls as God’s daughter and not whatever you have conjured up in your mind that she should be. Learn to lay your life down, because it’s no longer about you. In fact, it’s never been about you, but pursuing a godly woman reveals that more than words ever could. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and show emotion. Loving well doesn’t make you less of a man, but more like Jesus.

Single Girls, never settle. Remember how beautiful the Creator of the World sees you and expect that our of your man. You’ll never be a second option to the guy who loves Jesus and pursues you. He’ll never treat you as such, and he’s always worth the wait. He’s also going to make mistakes, but a man who loves Jesus will do all he can to make them right. Let him, and always love well. Jesus compares the church to His bride, and Jesus died for His church. Expect that from the guy sitting across from you at O’Charley’s.

But always, always, as believers in Christ, regardless of your sex or your relationship status, always remain in Jesus’ love. He is what makes love so sweet and so fulfilling.

He is our Ultimate Romance.

 

Truth vs. Grace

Much is made out of how the Church handles certain issues.

In this year of a presidential election, Christian cliches and political pandering are at an all time high. Sometimes we buy it, sometimes we don’t. We really can’t control it, and that’s okay. I am more concerned with how the Church itself handles issues in modern day, rather than politicians, whether I support them or not. But this isn’t about them, but rather, us. Together as a body.

I couldn’t help but notice a division among churches that is unhealthy and unbiblical.

We have been split between the “Truth People” and “Grace People”.

You have your “truth” people, who’s only interest is to show you where you’re wrong, why you’re wrong, and why he or she is right (all in the name of God, of course). But you also have the “grace” people, who only point out the characteristics of Jesus they like, such as the grace, mercy, and love He shows, but never quote Jesus when He spoke of being thrown into a burning bush or flipping tables over in disgust.

It’s confusing, to say the least. Mainly because scripture says both sides are right. If you don’t think so, I invite you to read the letters Paul wrote to the Churches. In one letter, Paul says to “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:5) but we read that Jesus showed grace to those still living in their sin, whether she was a prostitute, a pharisee, or a tax collector.

So which is it? How should we “correct, rebuke, and encourage” (2 Tim. 4:2) the church as believers?

 

Using scripture and prayer, the only conclusion one can come up with is that it must be both. These are not mutually exclusive events. 

In order for the Church to thrive, one must be accompanied by the other. They should not be separated.

There are two portions of scripture that lead this line of thinking: The first comes from 2nd Timothy chapter 3.

 

“People will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Tim. 3:2-5

The second is Romans chapter 13:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments “You shall not murder”, “You shall not steal”, “You shall not covet” and whatever other command there may be are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                                                              Romans 13:8-9

 

It is pretty obvious why I quoted Romans chapter 13. Paul specifically states that every single command ever given by God or to ever be given by God is summed up in one: Love others. Keep in mind, neighbors doesn’t just mean your friends, your church family, or those who live beside you. (See Luke 10:29) But it means everyone.

To those who wonder why “God’s Love” seems to be the main topic of every sermon, speech, or blog post that I participate in, Romans 13 should shed some light. Love fulfills the Law, because Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17) and Jesus is love. You cannot deny that. His love surpasses all knowledge and that cannot be changed by what you do or do not do. His love is life-changing and eternity-altering. He loves us despite us, and if we do not preach that in our pulpits, with our actions, and with our lives, then we are missing the Gospel completely. I could have faith that is strong enough to move mountains, but if I do not do it in love, then I am nothing. (See 1 Corinthians 13)

 

Now before you go and approach me and show me all the scripture that says faith without works is dead and have nothing to do with those who claim to know God but do not back it up with actions. I hear you. Not only does Paul say this in 2nd Timothy referenced above, but it is throughout the New Testament. It even says God himself handed people over to their sin, in hopes that they would come back to repentance in Romans chapter 1.

Again, these are not mutually exclusive. You can’t have one without the other. But one portion of scripture seems to sum up this debate pretty well:

 

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.

Philemon 1:8

The very first thing that stood out to me is that Paul basically says, “I have the right to tell you what you should do because Christ gave me that right.”

Not people, not your mentor or your preacher at church, not your mom and dad, but Jesus Himself. And the same goes for all believers. We as followers of Christ not only have a right, but an obligation to show those in the faith what to do, how to do it, and “gently instruct” (2 Tim. 2:25) our opponents. To know the truth and not share it, especially with the laborers in the faith, is to bury our talent and cover our light.

To those who get upset with believers when they call you out on your sin, Christ has given us the right. To have a problem with instruction from a true believer is to have a problem with God himself. (Not a fight I would recommend picking)

What makes these two ideas one in the same is the final part of this verse. The idea that Paul chose not to order Philemon on what to do, but he chooses to appeal to him on the basis of love.

Just because we have the right to be bold and order someone, doesn’t always mean we should.

Paul didn’t sell out. Paul didn’t back away from the truth. He just appealed in a way that was loving. Caring. As Jesus would. Paul was asking Philemon to send him his son, who became his son while in chains. (Philemon 1:10) Paul had every right to order Philemon to send him Onesimus, but he chose a different way. Paul loved Philemon, he was a dear friend to him. So instead of just ordering Philemon to do something, he appealed to him in love. Maybe we as a church can learn something from that. We tend to treat our dear friends with more love than those who we do not know. It’s human nature. It tells me that it’s much easier to appeal to someone in love with “gentle” instruction when you actually get to know a person for a reason other than to convert them to Christianity.

People aren’t projects.

It can be humbling to lay aside your right to order someone and to appeal to them in a different way. You do not change the message. You stand firm in the faith, and remember we have the obligation to help those who seek Jesus and warn those who don’t. But we remember that we didn’t see Jesus because someone talked down to us, but because God appealed to us in love, in truth, and in grace.

He showed us His love through the sending of Jesus, revealed the truth that we are broken, hurting people, and gives us grace for the journey.

It is always done with the appeal of love. Full of truth and grace, together.

Sounds like our Savior. (See John 1:14)

 

Filtered Christmas

This post will be short and sweet, or at least I will do my best. It’s December 23rd and my two baby cousins and I are making Christmas cookies at my grandmother’s house tonight in hopes that Santa will enjoy them. So you better believe I will not miss that. I just want to write a note explaining why I am turning off my phone and shutting down my second life (social media) for the next couple of days.

 

I recently returned to the Bahamas this past week, and like always, The Lord showed up in not only the work that we accomplished, but in the people that are so near and dear to my heart. One moment, however, stood above the rest, in the unlikeliest of places.

 

It came from a young man named Carlos. Carlos is something else, let me tell you. He’s just in his teens, but has a heart of gold and a love for people and life that is unparalleled, and it springs from one place: his love for Jesus. Carlos and I have become good friends over the last few trips over to Blackwood, and I consider him like a younger brother. He taught me a lesson on accident, but the Lord knew what He was doing.

We were returning from the Christmas celebration we had orchestrated at the Gathering Place in Blackwood, and as we waited for the ferry to pick us up late that night, a couple of the boys started to get up in front of everyone and show off their dance moves. Carlos is the life of any room he walks into. Without saying much at all, he wins over any crowd and has everyone hanging on his every word. So it was no surprise when he had everyone laughing and cheering as he performed the Quan to perfection. (As if I would know what a perfect Quan looks like) As this was going down, I went into my backpack to retrieve my phone to record it, but I had left it at home that day, for no reason other than I didn’t feel the need to bring it. So I put my backpack down and continued to enjoy the performance. Man, was it something else. I think back and laugh as I write this very sentence.

 

After I returned to the United States the next day, I was going through my pictures and thought to myself “I really wish I had that video of Carlos dancing, it was so good!” And that’s when I realized something. Although I would’ve been able to look back on that moment and laugh if I would have caught it on film, I am so glad I watched that moment with my own eyes, and not through the lens of my smartphone. I actually got to enjoy the moment for myself, and was less worried about showing it to other people later and more concerned with living right then and now.

 

As I began to think about Christmas this year, I was already conjuring up captions and filters for the pictures I would post of me and my family this year during the holidays. As if I was more excited for the amount of likes I was going to get than the actual celebration itself. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

So I prayed.

 

I prayed to the Lord to rid me of my fear of acceptance and need for attention. Because in reality, that’s all it is. In the midst of my snap-chatting and tweeting, I just want people to know how good I have it here on Swindle Creek. I want people to know how cute my baby cousins are, or how great my mother is for the gifts she got me. I wanted people to notice me.

 

So I decided to not only delete the apps or to leave my phone at home, but to turn it off for a few days, to spend less time worrying about who tweeted me and more time enjoying my family.

Less time snapping and more time serving.

And if my Instagram followers and Snapchat friends have to miss out on the fun we are having this holiday season for me to open my eyes and see what’s right in front of me, then so be it. I do not want to spend Christmas looking at my family and experiencing Jesus through the lens of a filter, but through the lens of what God has given me.

If I miss Jesus in the midst of blessings such as Christmas and my family in hopes for 100 Instagram likes, then shame on me.

 

So for the next few days, I will be without a cell phone. It will be turned off and left in a drawer in my desk for safe-keeping. I do not say this to tell you this is what you should do, but only to say that this is what the Lord has put on my heart. He’s pruning the bad fruit in my life in order for the good fruit to grow, and I am thankful for that.

If you need me.. Well, I pray that you don’t. I pray the only thing you need this Christmas is your Savior, and your loved ones.

 

Merry Christmas and God Bless.

An Open Letter to the Bible Belt, from the “Radically Religious”

“Super-Religious”

This is what you are called when you take the Church, Bible, and Mission thing just a little bit too far outside of the comfort zone of the people around you and they start to notice. Whenever you come into a situation with friends or family, you make the situation a little bit more awkward, and it is impossible to over look. And when you are gone, people sympathize with you, almost as if they feel sorry for you.

“That boy is super-religious. Good for him and all, but I don’t know how he does it. Bless his heart.”

I have been included in this category, so I wanted to clarify the position of the “taking it too far” club. (Yes, we have jackets and everything now.)

First and foremost, I want to preface this by saying every word, comma, and period is covered in as much grace and love as possible. We are all on the same team. We both desire fulfillment, hope, and love. We all fight for the same cause.

I can’t speak for everyone, but to those who have asked why I take this “Jesus-thing” so seriously, and for those who have wondered the same thing internally, this is for you.

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:36-39

To understand our viewpoint, I point you to the story of Simon and Mary. Simon is the Pharisee who has invited Jesus to have dinner with him at his home. Word has gotten around and this sinful woman named Mary has decided she must see Jesus, at whatever cost. The reason I use this story as an example is because it depicts very different reactions to Jesus, and tells a lot about the people in the story. Note the contrast in response to who Jesus is.

Simon could not wrap his head around the response of Mary to Jesus. Simon treated Him as just another guest in his home. You can feel the contentment Simon holds for this display of affection. He doesn’t get it. Why is she treating this man like royalty?

Simon sees Jesus as just another man, with good life advice and fortune cookie sayings.

But to Mary, He is the Man who can heal her broken world.

The problem with the church in the Bible Belt is that we claim that Jesus is the victorious King of Ages, but live our lives as if He is a Greek philosopher. Worthy of being quoted, but not worthy of our love. Contrary to popular belief, a quote will not change you. A good life motto will not solve the problem we all face. Only one has that distinction. Christianity will never make sense to you if Jesus is just another guy. We don’t fall to our knees, break our most valuable commodity, and kiss the feet of someone who is just another person. We reserve that treatment for those who are worthy.

Too often, we leave the church thinking we’ve tried this whole “Jesus thing” and come away dissatisfied, when the only thing we have tried is more religion. You’ve never truly tasted Christianity until you have been where Mary was in this story. Broken, hurting, and weeping at the feet of our Lord. Only then, do we see our need for a Savior. Only then does the Cross impact our lives.

So to those who look at us over-zealous Christians and wonder what in the world we are doing, just know we can’t help it, not that we would if we could. We’ve found the key to a fulfilled life and restored soul. We heard he was in the neighborhood and we ran to His feet, hoping to meet the man who has healed the blind and the lame. We’ve met our ultimate romance, and that is something to be radical about.

I am “Super Religious” because Jesus is not just something to me, but everything.

Christians Condoning Sin

See the best in people.

At the risk of sounding uber spiritual, those are the words that I wrote down one night as I worshiped my God in tears and heartache.  For those who know me well, they would all agree I am a pretty emotional guy. I would be lying if I said I don’t tear up a little bit at the end of a good The West Wing episode. (When Josh whispers “Thanks Boss” after Leo dies, I just want to lose it.) The same comes to worship and getting lost in the praise of Jesus. I love to do it, because even though the attempt is feeble and sometimes a failure to measure up to the majesty that is Jesus, God is revealed in a powerful and mighty way. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men.” I feel Him in those tender and open moments. Never more so than that night.

As I read through Galatians (my favorite book in the Bible, btw), I became convicted as I worshiped, and it was something that Paul was hitting on throughout the first two chapters, and also the theme of most of his books in the New Testament. What stood out to me was that Paul had little to no concern about a particular issue that plagues Christians today.

Condoning sin.

This is never more evident than in his address to the Galatians as he spoke about his relationship with Peter. (Yes, walked on water, denied Jesus, Peter.) Paul flat out calls Peter out for doing what so many of us, including yours truly, get caught up in when we claim Christ. We become so preoccupied with staying away from sin and the appearance that we are condoning it, that we forget what saved us in the first place. Paul recalls his conversation with Peter and those in his posse:

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men, came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

Galatians 2:11-12

Paul wasn’t a man to mince words, especially when it came to something as near and dear to him as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To give context, many people in the time of Paul and Peter believed that the message of Jesus was only for a select few, the Jews. It wasn’t until Paul was baptized and converted that Jesus sent Paul on the mission to proclaim to Gospel to the Gentiles, Pagans, and eventually the rest of the world. Peter claimed the message of Jesus was for everyone, but was afraid to be seen with those who were deemed “unclean” or not chosen by God. Paul goes on to describe the conversation further:

Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law, no one is justified.

Galatians 2:16

Most of this sounds pretty standard for any Christian to believe. That one is justified by faith in Jesus and that is what separates us from the rest of the world. It is the next verse that Paul really cuts into the heart of the matter when it comes to condoning sin.

But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

Galatians 2:17

Paul’s point to the Galatian church and to Peter and the Jews was simple. Our fear of condoning sin is completely man-made and pride-driven. Paul is telling Peter directly to his face that if Christ himself is found among the sinners and is not promoting sin, than we shouldn’t be concerned with it, either. Paul is telling his church and his brother in Christ to not only love people, but to see the best in people. When it comes down to it, our fear is not that we will condone sin, but rather that someone will think we are condoning sin. Paul probably had that in mind when he wrote Galatians 1:10.

In all the stories I read about Jesus, the overwhelming theme and persona of Jesus is to always be an advocate for the broken. Too often we are so worried about condoning sin that we often lose sight of what’s important. The Love of Jesus. Paul understood this so well. Paul was more concerned with showing and telling Jesus to everyone he came into contact with, than the reputation he had of being a person who sat with the unclean, broken, and sinful.

Jesus was also known for that sort of thing. I guess you could say Paul learned from the best.

Why I’m Not Outraged

When I was a freshman in college, someone once asked one of my close friends what’s the first thing they thought about when I came to her mind. I started to sweat the actual answer, but I thought surely she will say “He just loves Jesus”, or “Alec is a family man, it’s awesome to see”. (Hey, one can dream, can’t they?)

“He always has to be right.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement when you consider yourself to be a follower of Jesus and a nice guy all around. The truth is, it hurt me. Not in a “you are a meanie, take it back” kind of way, but it shook me in my core, only because I knew she was right. My Twitter/Facebook feed was littered with arguments and conversations that left me looking like the crazy uncle who came to the dinner party only to tell the family the latest conspiracy theory found in the National Enquirer. I was not prejudice, either. Whatever stance someone took, I would take the opposite, just for one simple purpose: To prove that person wrong. I was convinced it was my job to change everyone’s mind who disagreed with me, from religion to the Kennedy Assassination. I had to be right.

I just so happened to be in a fireworks tent when the news of the Supreme Court ruling that Gay Marriage was legal in all 50 states came down. (Another story for another time) I knew that people would be asking me about it, but oddly enough, I had little outrage. I watched my friends, peers, mentors, and people I didn’t even know express their disappointment and disgust with the news, in the name of Christianity.

What happened to ‘One Nation Under God??’

‘This country is going straight to Hell!!!’

It reminded me of how Jesus handled sin versus how people handled sin in John 8, with the woman who was caught in adultery.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.

Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

To understand what Jesus is doing here, one must acknowledge the fact that the Pharisees were right. They quoted the law, accurately. 

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

Leviticus 20:10

As I read through the Facebook posts and articles found online, I kept thinking one thing. “They’re right. Homosexuality is a sin. This is against the Bible.” But this passage would not leave my mind.

In our rush to be right, we lose the one thing Jesus showed to this woman.

Grace, despite Law.

Throwing this woman in the dirt and proclaiming to the world that she was a sinner did not set this woman free. Posting Bible verses quoting Mosaic law isn’t going to set people free from their sin. In an attempt to stand firm in the faith, we bend down with our long flowing robes and noses in the air to pick up our stone, ready for justice.

The Church acts as if the governments of the world are in control, and not a Sovereign and Holy God. The Church acts as if Jesus laid out a 3 point argument when accused of blasphemy by Pilate, instead of remaining silent. The Church acts as if Paul and Peter went around condemning unbelievers for their unbelief, instead of asking the believers to “hold fast to the confession of our faith, for He is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

To answer the question, “Why am I not outraged?” Simply because God is in control and I am not. When I let my anger subside, I realize God is the one who appoints world leaders, and their is no greater authority than God. (Romans 13) We preach that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, but react as if He is just a guidance counselor. Jesus’ love isn’t shown, when the only people we love are those who agree with us. I appeal to the church, to stand firm in its convictions. Preach the word, stand firm in the faith.

Just remember, we are either the pharisee’s with stones in our hands, or the woman thrown into the dirt.

And only one was set free.

It’s an “I need You” thing

Hypocrite.

A believer’s number one enemy and the unbeliever’s poster child for why Christianity isn’t for them. It just might be our favorite phrase here in the south, right behind “Bless your heart” and “Roll Tide”. Most of us define a hypocrite as someone who lives a sinful life while claiming to live sinless, and on the surface, that would be right. Urban dictionary defines hypocrite as “A person who professes certain ideals, but fails to live up to them”. However, it’s more than that.

Hypocrite derives from a Greek word that was used to describe an actor who would use more than one mask while portraying a character on stage. The actor or actress would put on one mask, play the part, then run off stage and change masks to play a different part in the same play. These actors were literally two-faced, and when translated into English, it means someone who says one thing, but does another. Might I appeal to you, as a 21 year old college student still learning his way through his walk with Jesus, that maybe we’ve missed the point of the word hypocrite. Many people in today’s culture see the word hypocrite and automatically join it with sin.

Jesus never used the word hypocrite or hypocrisy as a description for sin, but yet, an over-abundant focus on “me”.  Jesus uses the word hypocrite 7 times in just a few verses (NIV Version) found in Matthew Chapter 23, known as “The Seven Woes”, so let me give you an example of the context He gives the word hypocrite:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)

Just to be sure I’ve provided enough context, here is Jesus speaking to this term hypocrite again in Matthew 6:5:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.

As you can see, Jesus never called someone a hypocrite for sinning, even when they were followers of His. Jesus didn’t go up to Peter after he had denied Him in His most vulnerable state and shout, “Woe, you hypocrite!”, because that’s not what the word means. (John 21:15-19)

What makes you and I hypocrites is not sin, but self-sufficiency. 

These Pharisees and teachers were not hypocrites because of their bad habits or lack of moral standards, it was their obsessive focus on getting the glory. Everything these religious leaders did, was about themselves and what they could achieve. If sinning made you a hypocrite, we would all be guilty. It’s not about living up to standards, it’s about recognizing your need for a Savior who has already come. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be known as the guy who had two faces, with one being all about me, and one being all about God. I just want to rely on Jesus, trust in Jesus, and love Jesus. I want one identity, and that’s Him.

Christianity comes down to basically one concept. It’s an “I need You” thing.

singleness

Very well said and written. Our own experiences are our greatest testimony. Check it out.

Bailey Speer

i know i have blogged about this type of thing before, but i believe many of us share the same struggle. and i want us to struggle together.

now, in high school, and even my first year of college, i honestly really never desired a relationship. ive always been independent and loved “me time” and my own personal space. sounds selfish, but i just really loved having to only worry about me, myself, and i. not anyone elses happiness. and i realize now that the Lord didn’t put me in a relationship then because like i said, i wasn’t in any position to be able to LIKE someone else, much less potentially LOVE someone the way they should be loved.

but now more than ever i honestly, truly, believe that i am in a position, that im in a place in my life to where i CAN be in a…

View original post 1,199 more words