Not For the Better…But For the Worse

Reconciliation with our Creator through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ restores every single part of our lives to God’s original design (Ephesians 2:10) – it impacts and transforms everything.

I wish that were the case for every person that calls themselves a “Christian” and every group that calls themselves a “church”. But it’s just not…it wasn’t even the case in Corinth, only 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus.

I had a pastor friend ask the question recently, “Is there a use for the local church anymore?” (I believe he was attempting to provoke thought not really question God’s plans). But truthfully, that’s not for us to decide. The local church is God’s design and not ours…it is not only useful until the day of Jesus’ return but it is absolutely essential. If it is not functioning according to the New Testament design of God, then it is NOT a local church – it’s a religious organization.

Paul says that sometimes when “Christians” get together, it’s not for the better but for the worse. He said that their religious gatherings, small groups (“discipleship”), and practices, even taking the Lord’s Supper, are purely self-indulgent, self-centered, humiliating acts. It’s all about them – it’s not about Jesus. Paul said that in God’s providential direction of the life of the church, he allowed pockets of carnality in the church (professing believers who feed their flesh) to reveal the genuine spiritual quality of individual believers. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” People’s behavior reveals their identity to everyone who is watching. Our identity always drives our behavior. Paul called them out on it.

We need more of that in our community today. For the sake of Jesus’ prayer over the church and the lost world around them in John 17, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” we need to distinguish between His Church and religious organizations by calling His Church to repentance.

But in the following instructions, I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. [18] For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, [19] for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. [20] When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. [21] For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. [22] What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ESV

ALL of christ for all of life!

Jesus’ substitutionary death and powerful resurrection is for so much more than a religious practice to be performed on the Sundays we choose. It is for so much more than access to Him through prayer…when we choose, hearing His voice through the Holy Scriptures…when we choose, and telling others about what He did…when we choose. It is sooooooooo much more than being saved from sin and hell. It is sooooooooo much more than “going to heaven” when we die.

Reconciliation with our Creator through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ restores every single part of our lives to God’s original design – it impacts and transforms everything.

  • It impacts our values and how we live them out.
  • It impacts how we spend and invest our time.
  • It impacts our relationships.
  • It impacts our sexuality.
  • It impacts our genders and our gender roles
  • It impacts our marriages.
  • It impacts why we have children, how many children we have, and how we raise them.
  • It impacts how we educate our children.
  • It impacts whether or not we go to college,
  • It impacts our politics.
  • It impacts what type of career we choose and how we perform at our job.
  • It impacts how we handle our money and how we invest it.

It impacts and transforms the way we view the whole world. Every domain of our lives belongs to Him.

We are given ALL of CHRIST’s identity for ALL of our LIFE!

Make Me Feel Good

There’s a portion of the professing christian culture that gets a little twisted when we teach and preach about overcoming sin, wrongdoing, carnal thoughts and behavior, and the grief it brings to the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer when we do not renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. “Why focus on what we’re doing wrong rather than encouraging us in what we’re doing right?” It shouldn’t catch me off guard or cause me to wonder (even though it does) when people convey these types of comments. Paul told Timothy that this would happen.

It’s true, we NEED encouragement from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be edified, and we need to be spurred on toward love and good works that we were designed to do before the creation of the world. We should definitely receive that from the body of Christ AND from our Elders.

BUT, the Elders/ Pastors/ Ministers/Priests/Bishops/Overseers of our congregations have a responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God. There are literally mandates in scripture that we teach our people how to die to sin and live to righteousness. I struggle to understand where this desire for “feel good, felt need” teaching is found in Scripture. The freedom from, not only the curse of sin but also the weight of sin SHOULD encourage the regenerate follower of Jesus. It SHOULD make us feel good and edify us to have our shepherds reveal things to us that we might not have realized were offensive to God’s character or displeasing to Him and also to challenge us to forsake the sins that so easily beset us. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, we deeply desire to be transformed to the image of Jesus and though surgery does not FEEL GOOD, the exposure and removal of cancer is reason for celebration and restored health FEELS incredible!!!!

Why do we want our church leaders to tickle our ears, make us laugh and feel good about ourselves when the Bible specifically teaches that this is a sign of an apostate generation?????

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:2-5 ESV

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, [12] training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, [13] waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, [14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. [15] Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Titus 2:11-15 ESV

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

Ephesians 4:1 ESV

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, [15] but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, [22] Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, [23] since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

1 Peter 1:14-15,22-23 ESV

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11 ESV

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV

“If God is love…don’t be a jerk”

This is one of the ideas of progressive Christianity and a book title of one of the most self-righteous, damning, hateful, phobic, and bigotted progressive Christians that I’ve ever read.

It is true, Paul defines love as “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;” But he also says, “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” One of the problems is that many progressive Christians are limited in their scope of wrongdoing…they define it by what 21st century Americans view as “wrongdoing” and not by what offends the character and nature of God, which the Bible defines as “wrongdoing”.

It’s not an either/or…either you love this way OR you love that way. It’s a BOTH/AND. Love is not mean or rude or arrogant but it lovingly exposes wrongdoing and the lies of our culture and love celebrates Truth according to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. If love is ALWAYS approving and accepting…

-- What do they do with the scriptures detailing Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the temple...overturning tables and releasing the doves? That was some guy's livelihood. Those birds belonged to someone else. That's how they put a roof over their families and food on their tables. How loving was that? That's an injustice in our culture and incredibly rude.
-- What do they do with both Paul and Jesus going into synagogues, arguing with and embarrassing the tar out of the rabbis and the Pharisees for their faulty practices of the Torah? What about when Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs filled with dead men's bones? Doesn't that offend our modern sensibilities about what love is?
-- What do they do with Jesus' engagement with the rich young man who wanted to know what he needed to do to secure a place in the Kingdom of God? Jesus told him that he needed to give away his property and wealth to the poor. The bible says the young man walked away sad...and Jesus just let him walk away. How is THAT love in our modern interpretation?

Progressive Christianity does not view either Jesus or the Bible as central to their beliefs. They don’t deny either but instead selectively abuse them. The Bible says the GREATEST commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength…and the SECOND is like unto it — love your neighbor as yourself. We love ourselves and our neighbors by loving God first. This idea of progressive Christianity doesn’t have the priority of loving God first that FILTERS all other priorities. There’s a deep inconsistency. They argue AGAINST privilege but then turn around and bestow privilege on certain people over others while despising those that they deem to already have certain privileges they despise. Interestingly, their demonstration against privilege is often a personal exercise of the same privilege. It’s hypocritical. They argue FOR tolerance and then demonstrate some of the greatest intolerance toward those that THEY deem intolerant. If you’re hurting someone’s feelings with Truth, you’ve gotta be wrong and you need to change your theology…unless it’s you hurting me because you deem my definition of love as “injustice” from my position of privilege. Rather than going to scripture, progressive Christians often view modern experience, story-telling, as truth-making. But here’s the problem: my satisfaction in my story does not the goodness and truthfulness of a thing.

It is sooooooo true though that there are many professing “fundamental” Christians who are brutally bigoted, phobic, damning, hateful, and self-righteous. Defining “fundamental” is like nailing jello to the wall…everyone has their own tweaked definition or illustration. But there are also many professing Christians of progressive thought who are the same way from an opposing viewpoint. Both abuse scripture by either cherry-picking or proof-texting. We don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Both are wrong. There are many followers of Jesus who do not subscribe to either form of abuse or rejection of Jesus or His Word. One who has sworn allegiance to Jesus as King to trust Him, obey His Word and follow His lead and help others do the same will love as Jesus loved and in all ways as Jesus loved. We might get it wrong from time to time. We might willfully or unwittingly put our view of scripture (or Jesus) through our cultural lens rather than putting our culture through the lens of Jesus and the Scriptures. But we accept rebuke and exhortation. We confess and restore.

Thank you, Mike Winger, for inspiring thoughts.

Lord’s prayer

I pray the Lord’s Prayer at least 3 times a day. I set alarms to remind me…it’s that important.

It’s not done as an empty ritual.

I’m not trying to earn favor with the Lord or brownie points with men.

I must keep my arrogant, self-centric flesh in subjection.

I must bring my thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

I must surrender my plans, my will, my control and declare my sworn allegiance to follow my King, to trust Him and obey Him and to lead others to do the same.

I must crucify the flesh and walk in His Spirit and in His Word.

The Lord’s Prayer helps me keep that tied as a sign to my hands, and as frontlets on my forehead…on the doorposts of my house and on my gates.

[9] “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. [10] Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. [11] Give us this day our daily bread. [12] And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [13] And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

Reveal and remind

There are two kinds of people in America —

1. Those who find a way to seriously or sometimes humorously whine, gripe, or complain about nearly every job, task, responsibility and feeling that they have — how terribly busy they are, and how they rarely (if ever) have time to enjoy their lives, their family or their job. They never have enough time, money, house, land, stuff, etc. to be content in life and are often vocal about their discomfort and hardships. They are attracted to drama like flies to a pile of manure.

2. Those who are just happy to be alive, healthy, and trusted by God with the responsibilities of caring for the things over which He has given them dominion. They thank God for each day and the hours entrusted to them to leverage who they are and what they’ve been given. These are often those with the least wealth, the most handicaps, and the poorest health. They are attracted to holy, healthy community like bees to pollen.

3. Okay, there’s actually a third. Those whom the world, their own flesh, and the devil constantly bombard and tempt to be #1 while knowing in their hearts that they are #2.

Lord, please reveal to me where I’m #1 and remind me that because of your overwhelming grace and mercy, I am very much #2. Surround me with #2’s that love and support and encourage me in the truth and not in the lie that the world, my flesh and the devil try to convince me.

I want…

– I have no desire to be “trending”.

– I’m not looking for “likes” or “shares” (though I’m humbled and encouraged by those who do so).

– I’m not interested in promoting my image, my quotes, my church, our “results”, “stats” or “generosity”. It literally makes my stomach queasy at the sight/sound of such activity.

– I don’t want to be “known” for my qualities, skills, personality, traits, etc. My flesh is full of pride and does not need to be fed by those things

– I’m not motivated by making people feel good in a negative world.

– I’m not interested in making people feel good enough that they’ll want Jesus.

1. I want to be obedient to the King to whom I’ve sworn allegiance.

2. I want to be loyal to the King to whom I’ve sworn allegiance.

3. I want to be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

4. I want to point others to the reality that the only way that they will find goodness, the only way that they will find hope, the only way that they will find peace, the only way that they will find love, the only way that they will find healing is in humbling themselves before the Lord, repenting of atrocities committed against the character of God and being transformed from death into life by HIS POWER and HIS SPIRIT.

5. I just want to be holy and spur others toward the same. I want to be so yielded to the Spirit of God who lives in my body that my appearance, my thoughts, my actions, my interests, my words, my motives, etc., mirror the image of my Savior and the fruits of His Spirit.

alive by the spirit

It is my experience that the church can unintentionally send the wrong message AND those seeking absolution can receive the wrong message through ignorance and/or confusion. We must be crystal clear.

Those who are regenerated to “new life in Christ” – those who are redeemed, reconciled, and restored to relationship with their Creator through the shed blood of their Savior and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit – the Bible does not speak of them TRYING to be holy or TRYING to pursue righteousness. They just do – Spirit-filled believers pursue the things of the Spirit of God.

There is no such thing as “guilting” a believer into trying to behave righteously.

There is no such thing as “shaming” a new believer to the point that he/she begins to pursue righteousness.

There is no believer in whom the flesh is more powerful – bears more fruit – than the Spirit of God.

A dead tree bears no fruit or foliage…no matter how much you preach to it, guilt it, or shame it.

A tree that’s been made alive by God’s Spirit, bears the fruit of the Spirit because it’s the life of the Spirit that flows through its roots, trunk, and branches. The blight of death no longer has a hold on a tree filled with new life.

That doesn’t mean that the blight of sin won’t TRY to be a hindrance to a living tree. It might stunt the growth of some fruit. It might spoil a piece of fruit or two. It might even steal the life away from a branch or two. The regenerated tree is not perfect BUT sin will not REIGN in the tree, sin will not have a hold on the tree because of the life of the Spirit of God that pulses through the tree.

Parental Priorities

The duty of a Christian parent is not to convert our children. We can’t do that. It’s not in our power. It should be our prayer and our hope that that will be the outcome of our parenting. Every child is an independent soul who will give an account to God on their own for how they responded to the Gospel.

Our duty is to ensure that under our parenting, our children have no excuse. We have the responsibility to ensure that our children have been taught God’s Ways, that they have been disciplined according to God’s Ways, that God’s Ways have been modeled for them, that the Gospel has been made clear by their parents, that they understand its message, that they understand its demands upon their life, namely to repent and believe. That is our ultimate aim in parenting.

If there is more concern and more energy in your home devoted to helping your child become the next star in whatever field that you or they have chosen (for whatever reason) rather than working toward godliness and their understanding of what it means to follow Christ, then your parental priorities are messed up.

There is a 0.0296% chance that a child will become a professional athlete.

There is a 100% chance that every child will stand before a righteous and holy judge and give an account of what they did with Jesus.

We are dead people who have been made alive, humanity that has been regenerated, redeemed, and reconciled with our Creator to fulfill His plans for our dominion as rulers on the earth.

We live differently. We parent differently than the rest of the world. We prioritize differently than the rest of the world around us.

the path

THE PATH TO A LONELY, EMPTY AND MISERABLE LIFE…

– always be right/never apologize because you’re never wrong

– always blame others/never assume fault

– always look for the hidden agenda/never trust anyone

– always be defensive/never proactive

– always judge others for being judgmental/never let God be in control

– always hurt others to protect yourself/never be vulnerable enough to allow others to get close enough to you to see your pain or weakness

– always read into the motives of others/never take a statement at face value.