Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Can we save without seeking?

A licensed therapist once told me that most of his patients were simply looking for approval, acceptance, or some other form of validation. Not that you have to be a student of psychology to see the reality of that. So the church should be at an advantage, with Jesus offering the ultimate unconditional love. However, that does not seem to be the case much of the time, since so many so-called believers are so conditional with God's love.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” -Luke 19:7-10

In Jesus' own words, he came to "to seek and to save the lost." Words uttered in reference to a man who was viewed as a sinner. A man who was a tax collector, a group of people who were perceived as thrives who sided with their oppressors. A man who had no approval, acceptance, or validation from his fellow Hebrews.

Over two-thousand years later, what has changed? While there are a few exceptions, but for the most part most are uncomfortable with seeking and saving the lost as Christ did. We will condemn, criticize, and judge them in a futile attempt to save them. But we will not seek them and get personally invested in order to save the lost. Yet, somehow we rationalize such unloving actions despite it being doctrinally unsound.

If you really want to abuse those you find unworthy, there are other religions that make allowances for that, however, Christianity is not one of them. Not that we need any religion to lead us down the path of human nature's tendency to exclude and hate. So for that reason alone I must dismiss any belief that condones humankind's self-destructive sinful nature, including the shaming of the lost. Such practices cannot be divinely inspired. How can what's considered a symptom of narcissism ever be considered holy after all. No, it's far more likely that the practice originates in the wicked hearts of mankind.

Yes indeed it's in our nature to seek approval, acceptance, and validation from our peers. Yet it's not in our nature to offer it to just anybody. So if we really want to follow the path of the righteous, then one must defy that nature. Not just because we must seek the lost people who make us uncomfortable, but also because our peers will likely judge us for it. Just as Jesus' own people did with him.

I have stated it all very bluntly. If you find yourself convicted by this, I challenge you to ask God to examine your heart, so you will better understand your own failures so that you might be able to repent in a deep and significant way, and not merely in a surface superficial way.

illustrating how to disciple
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A kingdom without walls?

Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. -Hebrews 6:1-2

This passage came to mind while attending a Lenten study called The Walk. I say that because it was rather basic beginner stuff, more like a crawl if you ask me. The author himself even called it foundational; hence, the passage. In a way, I was glad it was cut short because of the quarantine. Yet, where I was unimpressed, it seemed that many others there ate it up. While there is indeed a need for basic foundational teaching for those new to the faith; however, I happen to know most of the people there did not qualify. Many of them have been a part of the church longer than I have been alive. So it seems rather apparent that some two-thousand years later, we are dealing with the same issue that the second generation church was.

Let me start by saying in a way it is proper that this blog comes right after Easter. To quote a friend of mine ”We know that the resurrection changed things, but we need to pay attention to ALL of the ways it should change things…” Dare I say “self” should be at the top of the list of changes.

Christ established a foundation that his church would ultimately build God's kingdom. We honor that by becoming a pillar in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:18) Yet if too many of his followers are content to remain in a safe and familiar place by revisiting the foundation repeatedly, not much of a kingdom will be built upon earth. This would surely explain the church's present situation.

Let's consider the ramifications of this. If one were to remain in the basic truths of forgiveness and salvation, one will not progress with the transformed life that leads to genuine holiness as the passage alludes to. This means we won't likely become missions-minded, which is necessary to expand the church. If we don't challenge ourselves, then we are ill-equipped to answer the hard questions that come up when witnessing. This has absolutely been downright harmful to the growth of the church.

While a true disciple must indeed learn to walk with God, not just crawl. One must remember, we cannot learn to walk without many falls, bumps, and bruises. Which touches on what may be at the heart of the problem. It seems that many in the church play it safe, thinking it’s better to not try than fail. That it’s better to crawl through life, instead of risk stumbling. As if God were so strict that we are required to get everything right the first time. When in Reality the biggest failure a Christian can make is to never try.

An example of the disciples failing to try, and Jesus’ reaction. Matthew 15:10-20

An opportunity for the disciples to redeem themselves. Matthew 16:5-12

Another possible reason is we just don’t want to disrupt our lives as is. Let’s face it dedicating our lives to mission, evangelism, or outreach isn’t always going to be easy. So by remaining in foundational truths, instead of building ourselves up as a disciple, we won’t have to risk inconveniencing ourselves.

No matter the reason, I'm sure it all comes back to one thing, self. We stay in the realm of introductory foundational truths for our own perceived good. This may be true, in the short-term, but in the long term, we are doing ourselves a great disservice. Since the church universal, is suffering for a lack of spiritual maturity, so it's ill-prepared to be there when and how the lost need it to be right now.

So my challenge to you on this day is this. Ask God to examine your heart on this matter, so you can honestly ask yourself these things. Am I acting in faith, or just fear or a desire for comfort. Am I a vital part of the structure of the kingdom of God, or am I a part that’s too weak to bear any load? Am I living the resurrected life, or am I still in the tomb?

a man wanting to raise walls on a foundation but his follwers are too apathetic to do so.
click to enlarge