Neither to the Left Nor the Right

Hello friends, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

The modern church is grossly guilty of politicizing Christianity, and labeling is quite deceptive. We hear about “liberal” Christians and “conservative” Christians. Some describe themselves as “moderate” Christians. Such labels are very misleading, because the real issue is whether a person is a biblical Christian; is one’s life marked by biblical holiness, love, and purity—as God prescribes? 

The “liberal” claims to do things in love, but has he disregarded God’s holiness? The conservative says he holds to God’s holiness, but has he set aside God’s love? Often, in both camps, God’s mercy, justice, and righteousness are neglected. Again, the issue is not whether one is liberal or conservative, but is he biblical?

Let’s be clear, God’s ways do not always make sense to us. But we have brains about the size of a softball. The Creator of the heavens and the earth is perfect in wisdom. What He calls right or wrong goes. Our thoughts and feelings on the matter is completely irrelevant.

Friends, we need to return to biblical Christianity. For if what we call Christianity is not biblical, then it is not Christianity at all. “To the teaching and to the testimony!” (Isa. 8:20).

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:7

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” ~ John 14:23-24

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

When All Speak Well of You

Hello, my friends. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here. I hope you have been having a good week.

There is a peculiar thing that has transpired in our world when it comes to communication. Whether it concerns church, education, or politics people will note if a speaker is funny, offensive, tactful, mean, positive, negative, encouraging, depressing, entertaining, or boring. Often the speaker will be judged on these—but not on whether or not what he says is true

A well-known speaker (some call him a preacher, but he’s actually more of a motivational speaker) always gives light, warm fuzzy messages with humor and charm. Admittedly, he has a likable personality. After all, by his own admission, he doesn’t want to be negative. So, for a half hour or so he gives emotional head pats and belly rubs, but he will not give words the Holy Spirit can use to convict people of their sins so they can get right with God. In fact, he does not give clear instructions by which persons can be made right with God. To do so would be offensive to some, and this is negative.

Another falsely so-called “pastor” is a woman who is not quite as well known. With a foul mouth, she has acknowledged that her ambition is to destroy traditional teachings of purity, claiming its “oppressive” to people’s sexuality (she totally dismisses everything in the New Testament calling people toward purity and temperance). So committed to her cause, she encouraged persons to send her their purity rings (in return, they each received a “Certificate of Impurity”), and these rings were melted and then formed into a vagina sculpture to be presented to the pro-abortion feminist Gloria Steinem. Of course this received applause. She teaches you can have salvation and your sins simultaneously. However, the Bible does not teach this whatsoever. 

Someone recently commented on my last post, saying it was “too negative.” History supports what I wrote, but so many do not care about this. They just want words that make them feel good. But I want to caution men and women who profess to be followers of Christ. The Gospel message has nothing to do with giving people what they want but what they need. Just like going to see the doctor, as much as we want to hear that everything is fine, it would be malpractice to say everything is fine (just to be “positive”) if the truth is our bodies are being destroyed by cancer.

Jesus warns us sternly,

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. ~ Luke 6:26

The majority of the prophets of God were not viewed as heroes of the day. Many of them were despised, persecuted, and sometimes even killed. For just like people today, the people then didn’t like men of God condemning their idolatry, immorality, greed, or injustices. The people didn’t like being taught about God’s holiness or judgment any more than people today. 

We are also warned,

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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

My friends, where do you stand as a speaker or listener. The masses will adore those who can get them to laugh and enjoy their sins and tell them they do not stand guilty before God. What about your listening? Do you dismiss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable? 

Friend, what a tragic thing if all you have in the end is some fleeting laughs and emotional massages, but you reject the Gospel of Christ, the only means of salvation, because you thought it to be too negative. Also tragic is if you gain the approval and applause of people but not of God.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Hello, my friends, I hope your week may be off on a good start and finish likewise. In my last post I was talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am continuing on the subject.

The Beatitudes of which Jesus teaches are an internal, progressive work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. After all, by nature we are not meek, pure in heart, or merciful. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness or mourn over sin. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which require the inner working of the Holy Spirit, because only when these are activated within a person can the rest of the teachings begin being applied. Understand, Jesus’ teachings are not a list of do’s and don’ts to try to live by. Jesus is not interested in religious behavior. No, He is interested in redemption and transformation. And these we are completely dependent on Him and His Spirit, for we cannot accomplish these.

In the second Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some translations read, “Happy are those who mourn,” but I think the word favorable is more accurate than happy. In any case, what is Jesus saying, that it’s good for people to be sad? No, not quite. He is building upon the first Beatitude, which is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in Spirit are those who recognize they are completely incapable of paying their sin debt before God, that no amount of “good deeds” can cancel their guilt before God. Those who mourn are those who recognize the wickedness of their sins and are not only remorseful, but repentant before the Lord. Such persons will be comforted because these are the ones who will find mercy and justification. A prime example of this can be seen in Jesus’ following parable:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. ~ Luke 18:9-14

Three unfortunate, yet all too common, responses to sin—even in modern Evangelicalism—are to get angry when someone exposes our sins, to simply deny the sinfulness and seriousness of sins, or deflect in order to expose others’ sins to get attention off of ours. Sadly, all three of these inappropriate responses are representative of many churches. 

The first response can be seen in those who get upset with the pastor, “Preacher, you went from preaching to meddling! How dare you!” The second response can be seen in statements like, “Everybody is welcomed here! God loves you as you are!” No, God does not love us as we are. He loves us, yes; but He hates our selfishness, meanness, pride, immorality, hatred, etc. Then the third response is all too common in conservative churches, as the sins of society are highlighted and condemned, while all the pride, hypocrisy, partiality, division, anger, and the like are ignored in the lives of the “faithful.”

Is it not strange how easily sin can be detected in others but not ourselves? And when it is our sin, well, we have a justifiable reason (whereas others do not). For example, one’s child comes home from school with a bad attitude. How dare they behave that way! Yet, Dad comes home and slams the door, kicks the dog, and yells at his wife. “Well, I had a bad day,” he says. As if children do not? Young people today face a lot of stress triggers that didn’t exist when I was in school. At a deeper level, persons can judge the various behaviors of society, all the while ignore the arrogance, apathy, greed, lust, and hypocrisy swirling around within their own hearts.

When I was a child, I remember times getting in trouble with friends or family. “What about them?” I would ask. “You are in trouble for what you did,” I’d be told. In Jesus’ parable, notice the Pharisee’s deflection. “God, thank you I’m not like sinners, but I tithe and ….” But elsewhere, Jesus says of the Pharisees,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others…. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~ Matthew 23:23, 27-28

But notice the response of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He did not observe the Pharisee’s hypocrisies and such, nor did he mention the sins of others. However, he was very aware of his own sins, and was grieving over them. He could not even lift His eyes, but simply looked down while beating his chest, saying, “God, forgive me, a sinner.”

As Christians, we can all too easily decry the sins of society, but what has happened to our mourning over sin—our sins? How can we curse the darkness if we are guilty of blowing out our candles? 

At a personal level, God will deal with others and their sins in His own time. But the Lord asks of me, “Geno, what about your anger, unkind words, and those sinful thoughts entertained in your head? What about your own lack of compassion and laziness when some things could be done?”

Why are we afraid of the Lord’s light exposing us and our sin when He offers forgiveness? Yet, you and I need to take the Lord’s teachings seriously. We are not justified in decrying everyone else’s sins. We find comfort and justification only by turning to Him, and dealing honestly with our own sins. If we would return to genuinely mourning over our own sins, we could maybe see real revival throughout our land.

“Judge not lest ye be judged,” the bumper sticker reads (quoting Matthew 7:1 from the KJV Bible). It is ironic that people use a quote from the Bible to try to justify behaviors and practices that the same Bible condemns. “Do not judge,” they say, while judging those who study and try to live by the book they are quoting. “Do not judge,” they say, but judgment must be made when making a distinction between right from wrong, the righteousness from the unrighteous, and the Holy from the profane. The very Jesus who tells us to not judge tells us just a few verses later to not give to dogs what is holy or cast our pearls before pigs.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ~ Matthew 7:1-2

What a sad commentary concerning modern Christendom, when ministers do not preach the whole counsel of God for fear someone might be offended. Yet, is there any fear of God being offended?

For fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. ~ John 12:42-43

Of course you and I are not “perfect,” but for far too long Christians have been saying this to justify sinfulness and shortcomings. No, we are not perfect, but we can honestly own up to our shortcomings. We are not perfect, but we should steadily be maturing and changing from glory to glory, day by day becoming more like Jesus. By His grace we have come so far, but let us not settle for mediocrity. In the words of Oswald Chambers, let us give our utmost for His highest.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:13-14

Jesus died to set us free from the bondage of sin not to grant us freedom to sin, just as antidotes are not made so we can indulge in poison. If one happily and lovingly yields himself to sin, such a person has a grave misperception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Galatians 5:13-14

The apostle Peter teaches that Christians are part of a holy, royal priesthood. Our lives should be marked by holiness, compassion, and dignity in the pattern of Christ our Lord. Hypocrisy, indignity, impurity, and gallivanting are all unbecoming of those who profess to be citizens of the Kingdom.

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~ 1 Peter 2:5, 9

Visual Covenants and Taking Thoughts Captive

God takes sexual purity and fidelity very seriously, and these are issues men have struggled with throughout the centuries—including Christians. Even so, when a man of God falls into sexual sin, it is not a “mistake” and it does not “just sort of happen.”

I am not pointing a finger or criticizing those who have fallen. The struggle is real for many of us, and we stand only by grace. Yet, I want to offer some Scriptural help for those who are fighting for purity.

Much of the battle really takes place in the visual sense and in the mind, does it not. As men, we are visual. It is the way we are designed. To say we do not notice attractive ladies is to lie. Furthermore, such initial noticing is not the problem. The problems come when we take legitimate vision and store them into memory banks, then submerge these into the sewage of our lusts. Thus, the problem is not seeing a lady and finding her attractive. This is natural. However, it is the going beyond this into the realm of fantasy that leads men into peril. Before any man falls into sexual sin, he must first go through his thoughts. The entertaining of thoughts does not just happen. Persons make a choice. Godly Job says,

I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? ~ Job 31:1

Job states that he made a covenant with his eyes that he would not stare and lust upon a beautiful virgin. Yes, he notices her, but that is as far as he will go with it.

Jesus says plainly,

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:28

Here, the visual has gone beyond mere sight and acknowledgement of attraction. It has morphed into something, now, altogether different. We are warned of the danger of the process of the seed of desire becoming the plant of action.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:14-15

We see this very thing played out in the life of King David. It is doubtful that many of us love the Lord the way David did. Still, we read of him:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. ~ 2 Samuel 11:2-4

David did not simply notice a beautiful woman bathing. He gawked until he began to desire, and soon his desire became a burning lust. Before he ever laid with her it was brought to his attention that she was married. No, David’s fall into sexual sin did not come from mere happenstance.

We are told,

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5

As men, we are to take control of our thoughts and bring them under the authority of Christ. Just as we are not to violate a woman physically, neither are we to violate her in the dark chambers of our minds. In fact, elsewhere we are told,

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Did you catch that? We are to treat older women as we would our moms, and younger as our sisters, in all purity. Whenever a Christian man falls into sexual sin, never does it just “sort of happen.” It begins by him not treating a woman with the purity and respect he would have for his mom or sister. Thoughts and desires were entertained before any course of action was taken. And, no doubt, God sent numerous warnings  beforehand.

Men, the struggle and temptations are real; however, the flames of passion are not kindled without first dousing desires with fuel then igniting it with a spark. If we are going to walk in moral purity, then it will require effort and responsibility. We must guard our hearts, keep our visual limited, and take our thoughts captive to the obedience to Christ. Furthermore, we must honor the women around us. In Christ, they are most certainly family, moms and sisters. We must treat them as such with all purity.

Walk Worthily of Your Calling

If we are Christians, ones who are truly born again by the work of the Holy Spirit, then we have an obligation to walk (i.e., live) in a manner that is worthy of such a high calling by God. If we are genuinely saved, we must understand what we are saved from, as well as what we are saved to. Furthermore, this salvation is not something any of us achieved because we are so great; no, it is a work of God completely done by His grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Walking in a worthy manner begins with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

The maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is not some false peace, as promised by the United Nations. Also, it is not achieved by simply loving people apart from any confrontation, for we are told,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

The desires of the flesh are immoral, contentious, idolatrous, and selfish. In contrast, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

The goal is more than simply having a peaceful fellowship, but that we may “attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to [maturity]” (Eph. 4:13), so that we are not tossed back and forth from every doctrine and teaching from the pulpit or from the university classroom.

Do you think this is irrelevant? There are a number of “preachers” and so-called Christian authors who are promoting teachings that are in direct conflict of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. There are numerous persons who profess the name of Christ, yet who are adopting the teachings of Darwin (Darwinism is not science but intellectual dishonesty, as there is no evidence to support the theory, although schools teach such hogwash as irrefutable fact), Marxism, and the behaviors of Hollywood. But the apostle writes,

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:17-24

It makes no sense, whatsoever, for persons to talk about Christ dying and saving them from their sins, only to continue living in those sins! This is a total misunderstanding of the Gospel message.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ Romans 6:1-4

The knowledge of Christ is not meant as a means to simply know some cool things about Him. No! The knowledge of Christ is to be transformative by His grace. No, none of us is perfect, this is true. However, we can—and must—certainly grow in our knowledge of Him and to be continually transformed more into His likeness.

Today, if you call yourself a Christian, are you walking in a manner that is worthy of your high and noble calling?