Walk Worthy of the Gospel

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…”
(Philippians 1:27)

In military service, one of the most serious charges that can be brought against you is Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.  Within the realm of service, there are certain moral attributes common to the ideal officer and the perfect gentleman, a lack of which is indicated by acts of dishonesty, unfair dealing, indecency, indecorum, lawlessness, injustice, or cruelty. Not everyone is or can be expected to meet unrealistically high moral standards, but there is a limit of tolerance based on customs of the service and military necessity below which the personal standards of an officer, cadet, or midshipman cannot fall without seriously compromising the person’s standing as an officer, cadet, or midshipman or the person’s character as a gentleman.

Examples of behavior that can lead to such a charge include: making a false official statement; failure to pay a debt; cheating on an exam; being drunk and disorderly in a public place; public association with known prostitutes; committing or attempting to commit a crime involving moral turpitude; and failing without good cause to support the officer’s family.

Keep in mind, these are the military’s standards of moral behavior for officers.  Officers have been called out, set aside for specific purposes, entrusted with authority and honor to lead others.  Having been called to such a position, officers are also expected to set an example, not just in their service, but also in their manner of living.  A failure to live up to these standards is a failure to lead, a failure to honor the call, a failure to honor the nation you serve.  Those convicted of Conduct Unbecoming face dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay, and imprisonment.

It shouldn’t surprise you that all that was said above can also be said for the Christian.

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them;  for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

There are things that are unbecoming, inconsistent, unfitting in the Christian life.

Sexual immorality and impurity – and let’s be clear about this means: adultery, infidelity, promiscuity, pre-marital or extra-marital sexuality, homosexuality, pornography – immorality is an idolatry of the body, putting the desires of the flesh before the desire of the Spirit.

Covetousness – note that this is listed right alongside the “naughty parts” – a covetousness is an idolatry of the heart for the things of the world, not being satisfied with what God has given, with what you have, always longing for what your neighbor has.

Filthiness nor foolish talk, crude joking – bathroom humor, racy talk around the office, celebrating in foolishness, profane jokes – should these things come out of the same mouth that is supposed to be praising God?

Those who take part in these things, those who encourage these things in the lives of others, exhibit conduct unbecoming a follower of Christ, and have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  These are the things that characterize those who walk in darkness, those sons of disobedience, and have no place in the life of a believer.

Those who are in Christ have been called out of darkness and into the light, and are called to imitate God in their lives. A failure to live in the light is a failure to lead and bring light to the gospel life, a failure to honor the call of Christ, a failure to honor the Kingdom you serve.

Now, if I left this message there (where my cursor has sat for the last two days), what would we be left with?  Were we to reduce the gospel to this “do this, don’t do this”, we would all fall under judgment and condemnation.  For, in fact, we do all fall under judgment and condemnation.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

What’s missing here is the grace of the gospel.  We have all fallen, and we all once walked in the ways of darkness.  But now, those who are in Christ walk in the light as he is in the light.  We are no longer under the domain of darkness, but are citizens with the saints in light.

The Christian life, while by necessity must demonstrate growth in holiness if faith is genuine and indeed the Holy Spirit is working in you, is not a moral system.  Immorality has no place within the Christian life, but a heightened sense of morality is not what makes you a Christian.  The offer of grace does not negate the call to holiness; the offer of grace is the only way true holiness is even possible.  A Christian is one who places their hope, their trust, their faith, their life in the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and in Him and by His power is one who begins to grow in holiness and truth.

So walk worthy in a manner of the gospel of Christ.  Do not fall back into the ways of darkness, but rest and live in His grace, and walk in the light as He is in the light.

SDG

Meet the new Sin, same as the old.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
(Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV))

In reading George Marsden’s “Jonathon Edwards: A Life,” I came across something that surprised me.  Marsden wrote that when Edwards grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, passed away leaving him as the lead pastor of a church of 1300 members, Edwards faced three major obstacles.  The first was the issue of admittance to the Lord’s Table for Communion.   His grandfather had practiced a rather open table, allowing all who had been baptized to receive the meal regardless of whether their life showed evidence of true conversion.  There was great debate on this matter, one that plagued Edwards’ entire career, but Stoddard’s position was that there was edification and encouragement for conversion in the celebration of the Table.

Another pressing issue facing Edwards in his new church was a growing political divide.  This was the 1720’s, and already there was a growing divide between those who were loyal to the crown, and those who felt independence from the throne would lead to financial and religious prosperity.  It is fascinating the level of contention and divisiveness that political matters such as these had in the church.  Perhaps the reason was that in Edwards day, there was no Cable News to present the political ideas of the day, so the pulpit was the forum in which all ideas were disseminated. 

What struck me as most interesting, however, was what Marsden says occupied the majority of Edwards’ attention: the “indulgences of the young” (pages 130-131).  Marsden writes,

The most notorious result was amazing impurities tolerated among the young in recent years.  Not only was lasciviousness encouraged by nightwalking and similar frivolities, but New England parents allowed practices that are “looked upon as shameful and disgraceful at Canada, New York, and England.”  Everyone knew that he referred to the New England practice of “bundling” in which parents allowed young people to spend the night in bed together partly clothed.  “I believe there is not a country in the Christian world, however debauched and vicious, where parents indulge their children in such liberties… as they do in this country…”

Bundling, which was supposed to be a way of getting acquainted without sexual intercourse, did not always work as advertised.  Pregnancies before marriage were rising dramatically in New England.  Premarital sex was commonplace.  Even when it resulted in pregnancy, so long as the couple married, there was no longer much stigma involved.

Sound familiar?

Edwards noted that the indulgence on the part of the parents was most likely a reaction to their own very strict upbringing, but was increasingly discouraged by the behavior of the youth in his community.  The taverns were full of young men who were wasting their time and energy in worthless pursuits, delaying marriage and work, living with their parents rather than forging out and establishing themselves.  Sounds to me like Edwards could have been writing about 21st century youth as well.

“And there is nothing new under the sun.”  We hear today of the Culture Wars, and young men and women are portrayed in such negative light.  Parents decry “what’s wrong with the children today?”  We see the political divisions of our national leaders, the lack of concern for spiritual growth and maturity, and the erosion of any semblance of moral integrity and we think to ourselves, “Whatever happened to the good old days?”

The truth is, there were no good old days.  Edwards railed against the moral turpitude of the youth of his day; as did Augustine, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, and Baxter.  Sin has always and will always attack us where we are most easily tempted.  The youth are tempted with passion and lust; the elders are tempted by power and division, all are tempted to spiritual stupor and sloth.

What Edwards saw as the corrective to the moral decay of his time, the heart of true reformation, was a return to the Word of God.  Revival and reformation would only come through the renewal of the passionate preaching and teaching of the Word of God.  To awaken a people to a zeal for the Lord, to heal divisions within the community, to draw the youth from their immorality and sensuality, they must heed the call of Scripture.

And as we share the same problems as the people of Edwards’ day, we also share the same solution.  We must return to the Word of God.  We will only find revival and reformation in the renewing work of God’s Holy Spirit that comes from the passionate preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  That means that we need to be studying God’s Word for ourselves.  It means that we need to be leading our families in private worship and study of God’s Word. It means that we need to find ourselves in churches that faithfully teach and preach the Word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  The sins we face today are the sins that have been with us since the fall. 

There is nothing new under the sun.  Our savior from sin is Jesus Christ: always has been, always will be.