You’re Doing It Wrong

“You are the light of the world…”
(Matthew 5:14) 

This weekend I posted a comment on Facebook that has been rattling around in my head ever since.  My daughter was watching a YouTube video called, “The Problem with Christian Bands” (go ahead, click the link, it’s worth watching, or just scroll down to the end of this post to watch it).  At about the 2:13 mark in the video the young man says, “If you’re a Christian and I spend the whole day with you and can’t tell that you’re a Christian or not, you’re doing it wrong… Even if I’m completely oblivious I should notice some kind of difference.”

I don’t think this means that you should go around telling everyone “I’m a Christian, I’m a Christian” but the fact that you are a believer in a risen Savior should make a difference in how you relate to the world.

Look at it this way:

When the words of the world would toss you about on the waves of trouble, are you able are you able to stand firm in the Word of God because you have read the Scriptures daily?

When the way of the world is stress and anxiety over what has happened and what may happen next, a desperate grabbing for security and provision, are you able to rest in the fact that you have laid your cares before the throne of God and walk confidently in the knowledge that He will provide and see to every need?

When the world would tell you that we are only here by chance and there is no greater purpose in life, are you able to face each day with purpose and joy knowing that God has created you for this particular time and place, and has called you to find joy in glorifying Him?

When the world would have you believe that you are the product of your genetic coding and predisposed by the conditions of your upbringing, do you rejoice in the Savior who has broken the power of sin, the Sprit who brings new life, and a Heavenly Father who has called you to be His own from before the beginning of time?

When the world would tell you that nothing in life is ever free and you have to look out for yourself, do you rest in the grace of God in Jesus Christ and in thanksgiving and praise place others before yourself and look for every opportunity to give of yourself in love?

When the world celebrates “self” and tells you to promote yourself, to improve your image, to achieve and make yourself stand out for “one shining moment,” are you content in the assurance that God has called you His child, and only too happy to point to the goodness, the righteousness, the love, the supremacy of Christ our Savior?

This isn’t an “in your face,” obnoxious kind of Christianity – but rather a faith that permeates a room like a bouquet of fragrant flowers.  Jesus said “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

You can’t hide the fact that you are a Christian and still be a Christian.  You can’t receive the joy of the Lord then cover it up so as not to offend or repel your friends (as if true and pure joy could ever be offensive or repulsive).  Living by faith the Christian life should look different from living according to the way of the world, even if that way is by all appearances noble and good.

Friends, do those around you know you are a child of God, a follower of Christ?  Do you bring the light of faith, the radiance of joy, the glow of peace into a world darkened by sin and despair?  Don’t hide your light – that’s doing it wrong – but let it shine for all to see.

SDG

Standing in the Wake of Evil

 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12:21)

 On Monday, April 15, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 and wounding over 140 others.  Currently, two days later, we still know nothing about committed this act of terror, or even why.  As if knowing would somehow bring meaning to such tragedy, as though there could possibly be some explanation to justify the killing of innocent men, women, children.

I struggle to find the words that would express the heartbreak, the anger, the fear that such violence brings.  Lately, I’ve found myself reading the Psalms just to have something to pray, it has been difficult to find my own words.

Truth be told, I am also saddened by the “knee-jerk” reaction of my own mind – this had to have been some Islamic terrorist striking fear into the nation – that’s where my thoughts went immediately.  There’s no proof.  Outside of historical trends, there’s nothing to support the notion.  It’s just my hatred, my fear, my anger needing someone, something, to stand as a target.  When faced with evil, it is easy to respond with evil, quick decisions, rash assumptions, broad generalizations, and indiscriminate retribution.  How many times after 9/11 did you hear people talking about turning the Middle East to glass?

So how do we respond?  What can we say?  Let me offer, briefly, a few responses.

Remember we live in a broken and sinful world.  While we can often feel secure in our own quiet corners of the world, having managed our sins into respectability, the truth is that the world is broken and evil is very much real.  We live in a world that is in desperate need of salvation, and every day we must “be killing sin, or sin will be killing us.”

Remember that we are called to compassionate ministry.  Paul says in Romans 12:15, “weep with those who weep.”  In 2 Corinthians Paul blesses God, “the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  The comfort that you have received in Christ, the assurance of your salvation, the mercy of your pardon from sin, the grace of everlasting life; all of this is the comfort we have received from God, and the comfort we can share with others.

Remember to give thanks for God’s daily grace.  When you realize that this kind of violence is shocking and rare for us, we can be grateful for the restraining grace of God that protects us and prevents us from even greater evil.  Such remembrance, however, should also cause us to prayer for those for whom this kind of violence is commonplace, like those in Israel, and all of the Middle East.  Let us also be grateful for those who ran into danger to help those in need, the first responders, the other runners and bystanders.

Repent.  Repent of the anger and rage, the thirst for vengeance that is smeared with sin.  Repent of the dependence on military strength and political savvy as the source of your security and confidence.  Repent of the quiet complacency with the “acceptable sins” of our society while decrying this outrageous act of violence.  We will not rest until this act of terror is brought to justice and rightfully so.  But should we not also be as committed to seeking justice for the thousands of unborn who died on April 15, to the countless lives lost in Kermit Gosnell’s government funded death clinic?  R.C. Sproul once wrote, “The American psyche has no place for a God who judges people or nations.  God can bless us, but God forbid He ever judges us.  Rather than repent in dust and ashes before a holy God, we continue to shake our fists in His face, demanding a more benevolent providence from His hand.”

Live for the Kingdom of God.  The rest of Romans 12:9-21 speaks to our moving forward. I’ve highlighted a few verses here:

    • Let love be genuine.
    • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
    • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
    • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
    • To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Finally, remember Christ is coming.  We longing for the day when, rather than blood in the streets, righteousness will roll like the streams, when God will judge the actions of man, and righteousness will reign.  We look to that day when He will wipe away every tear, “and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

And so we pray, Come Lord Jesus!

Strive for Joy

 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11)

Lately I have been reminded that the Christian walk and the call to ministry is not to be a life begrudging duty, but rather a life of joyful obedience in the promise of the Lord.  Jesus, as we are told in Hebrews, set his eyes on the joy that was before him as he endured the cross.  James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).

Along these lines, I came across something I read in a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones called, Joy Unspeakable that I thought I must share.

Now all I am trying to establish is this, this is what the Christian people are meant to be.  This is the whole message of the New Testament, that the Son of God came into this world to deliver us.  It is salvation; he is a Savior who sets us free from the guilt, the power and the pollution of sin.  And no man can be aware of that without really rejoicing.  The Christian is not meant to be a man who is just managing to hold on and who is miserable and unhappy and forcing himself to do these things, dragging himself, as it were, to the house of God, as so many foolish people are saying at the present time.

What an utter denial it is of the whole of the New Testament, this foolish suggestion that one service a Sunday is enough, one that takes place at nine o’clock in the morning, to get rid of it, as it were, in order that you can then really go on and enjoy yourselves and have real happiness in looking at the television or in rushing to the seaside or in playing golf!

But what happens when people are baptized with the Holy Spirit – as you read throughout Acts – is that they want to keep together, to get together as often as they can – the continued daily, steadfastly, talking about these things, singing together, praising God together.  This was the thing that was first above everything else.  Everything else came second; even their work was something they had to do.  It was right that they should do their work, of course, but this was the thing that meant life to them, and joy and salvation.

What I am trying to put to you is this: I am certain that the world outside is not going to pay much attention to all the organized efforts of the Christian church.  The one thing she will pay attention to is a body of people filled with the spirit of rejoicing.  That is how Christianity conquered the ancient world.  It was the amazing joy of these people.  Even when you threw them into prison, or even to death, it did not matter, they went on rejoicing in tribulations.

I am commending this to you, not merely that you may have the experience of the joy of salvation, but also, I hope, as a matter of duty. I am exhorting you in this evil world in which we find ourselves that if you really are concerned about it, if you really do feel what you say about the daily evidence in the newspapers of the moral rot that is setting in in this country, if you feel that we are facing ruin economically and industrially, because people are worshippers and lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of god, if you really believe that and mean it and feel it, then it will be your duty to become a person such as is depicted here, because this is the only thing that is going to persuade men.  They say, ‘Oh we know your teaching and preaching, we have had it all before,’ but when they see it in operation they will listen because they are miserable and unhappy.  When they see this quality they will begin to pay real attention.  So there is nothing more important than for us to understand this teaching and to experience it in our own personal and daily lives.

Llyod-Jones,  Joy Unspeakable (Harold Shaw Pub, Wheaton, IL, 1984) 102-103.

Friends, Christ came for our salvation, and that salvation ought to produce in us great joy.  Have you lost it?  Has it been so long since you’ve tasted that joy that you’ve forgotten it was ever there?  Remember that our calling in life is established in joy – “for we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Set your mind on the joy that is set before us, the joy that awaits God’s faithful (Matt 25:21).  Strive for joy, casting off the sin that would hinder, and fighting for the joy of the victor’s crown.  “And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).

The Cross and the Open Tomb

 

 “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 6:4)

The following is an excerpt from The Cross through the Open Tomb by Donald Grey Barnhouse:

It is not wise to teach the crucifixion as the climax of the life of Christ.  Such teaching not only minimizes the resurrection, but it also robs the believer of a sense of the ever-living presence of his Lord in daily life.  Let us consider the cross from the resurrection side in three aspects.

First, as we think of the cross in connection with out past sin, we shall know only sorrowing defeat unless we see the death of Jesus Christ through the open tomb, for our sin nailed Jesus Christ to that cross.  If we see Him merely dying, then there is nothing for us.  But Christ arose from the grave, and His resurrection assures us that He has overcome death.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the triumphant cross. There our sin was dealt with; there our sin was paid for; there our enemy was defeated; there death with all its powers was vanquished and we have life in Christ.

Second, the cross though the tomb means that we have a living Savior, a Savior of our present life.  The tomb of our Lord is empty and our Savior is in heaven interceding for us.  Furthermore, because Christ is risen, we have the high privilege of walking with Him in newness of life, for by His Spirit we are identified with Him.  This enables us to walk as the sons of God among the sons of men.  Through the cross our sins are forgiven; by the open tomb the risen Lord imparts to us His eternal life.  When the cross is truly seen through the open tomb, we can be sure of victory in our risen Savior, amid the problems of daily life.  God can tame our tongues; He can give us a word of grace instead of words of criticism.  God can make us long-suffering instead of short-tempered.  In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Third, not only is the cross through the open tomb our greatest triumph because our sins are forgiven and redeemed forever; not only do we have confidence and trust for daily life because our risen Lord is at the right hand of God; but the cross through the open tomb guarantees our future hope.  1 Peter 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Nothing can destroy this hope, nothing can corrupt it, nothing can defile it, nothing on earth can depreciate it, for this hope is reserved in heaven for us.  Through the power of God we are being kept for this glorious hope.  Nothing can keep us from it.