Thursday, October 29, 2009

Enemies of God?

Back on this post, I made this comment:

"All people, including the poor, are enemies of God - unless and until we place our faith in Christ as Savior."

My use of the term "enemies of God" garnered attention from a friend who is not a Christian, and she was gracious enough to point it out in the comments section, and I have been pondering it since then.

It is Biblically accurate. It is a term God uses to describe those that are not His children (by children I mean through a relationship with Jesus) in Romans, Colossians and Hebrews. But I can see how using it in an unqualified way could be offensive, and actually I had not completely thought through what it means to be an enemy of God.

Eternally speaking, if a person dies an enemy of God, what that means is that they will spend their eternity in hell, paying the punishment for their sin against Him.

But I'd like to take a moment to focus on what it means to be an enemy of God while a person is still breathing and alive on this earth.

Being God's enemy means that:

  • You are offered the chance to reconcile with God through the death of Christ (Romans 5:10)
  • You are offered the chance to be free of the sin that makes you His enemy, and to have the holiness that He requires as entrance into heaven (Colossians 1:20-22)
  • He wants you to be loved by people, especially His people (Matthew 5:43-45)
This list is not exhaustive, but is part of what I've come up with in regards to what it means to be an enemy of God. To me, the most astonishing thing is that while we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us.

When I say someone is an enemy of God, I don't mean that I am any better because I'm not. I mean that I used to be His enemy too, but because of Christ, I am now at peace with God (Romans 5:1). And anyone else can have peace with God, too, if only you open your heart and bend your knee to Jesus. Acknowledge Him as Lord, flee from your sin into His open arms. He has done all the work, you only need to accept it in faith and turn to Him. He does not want you to stay His enemy. He loves you beyond all imagination. His love is deep and far and wide.

But it has to be received with humility, on His terms. These are rules we don't get to make up, and we don't get to bend, and we don't get any do-overs. This life is it. If you don't have a relationship with Christ through faith, seek Him while He may still be found, before you die and face Him in His glory. Don't lay your head on your pillow tonight without being certain of where you will spend your eternity, and don't die His enemy. He has made it possible.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's all His

There are several things that title could pertain to.

Tonight, it pertains to a decision I made this morning.

When I am sharing my faith, there are times that I will be mocked, and my words and intent twisted beyond recognition, as happened today.

I am, by nature, a very sensitive person. This kind of stuff gets to me. See, I want people to like me. And when they don't...well, I take it pretty hard. I care more than I want to admit.

But today, I decided that I really can't get my feelings hurt anymore. I mean, I had already decided that. But I decided again. Because of this:

Matthew 5:10-12 - Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

and this:

Luke 6:22 - Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

I was told today that I "spew venom" and that I am a "very good reason some people disbelieve in anything at all." Those words may not seem so hurtful now, but in the moment, they were.

In America, we don't often (I didn't say never, just not often) get the chance to be persecuted for our faith. But when we are, it will most often come when we claim to know the truth, about anything. So while this persecution isn't on the level of the Voice of the Martyrs, I'll take what I can get. Because God says I am blessed for it. And I believe Him.

The thing is, the Bible teaches that it is actually Jesus who they are angry with, Jesus who they take issue with. Jesus is the one who claimed to be the Truth. Jesus is the one who claimed to be the only Way. Jesus is the one who took the persecution then, and takes it now. When I am hated for His sake, I am blessed because He takes it for me. The persecution is His. It's all His.

As He increases, and I decrease, that becomes more and more obvious to me. I have to get out of the way. Because when I take things personally, it becomes about me, and not Him. But when I move, He takes the blow for me, and then blesses me for it. And He gets the glory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do actions speak louder than words?

Mr. Claiborne has me actions speak louder than words? Or is that phrase and philosophy detrimental to the gospel?

Did Jesus model this for us in any way? I believe He did...His first recorded words in Mark's Gospel are "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Why would Jesus tell some of the people he healed, "Your sins are forgiven," and then heal them? Is it possible He was prioritizing for us the matters of importance?

What is eternal in this life? Is it hunger? Is it pain? Is it sickness? Those things are temporary. So then feeding people, alleviating pain, and healing them are all temporary also. They are the things that will benefit them temporarily in this temporary world.

What is eternal is the word of God. And a person's soul. So we can feed a person all we want, but in the end, if they go to hell with a full belly, they are NOT better off.

We cannot neglect one for the other.

Just as it is unbalanced to simply provide for people's physical needs to the neglect of their spiritual, it is unbalanced to preach the gospel and not live a life worthy of the calling we've received.


It is essential.

My point is mostly this: Our lives must provide the platform of credibility from which we share the words of the Lord.

I find that when I leave my house with the intention of sharing the gospel with someone, I am not impatient with that car in front of me that just.won't.move. Because I have an eternal perspective, and that person may be the one I am going to speak to, and my actions need to do nothing to hinder my words. I am friendly to the cashier, and show patience as I wait in line. And its genuine, not put on, because I know that my wait time is not nearly as important as the message I am carrying around.

If you think tracts are a waste of time and paper, I'd encourage you to reexamine what God says about His word. Some good Scriptures are 1 Peter 1:24-25, Isaiah 55:10-12, John 1:1, to name a few. I've also read more than one testimonial of how a quality tract made a difference in someone's life. (note the word quality, please)

I truly believe we should all do our part to love our neighbors in every way possible. I agree that the church in the past has been a lot about hellfire and brimstone preaching yet looking down their noses at the very people who need them. I agree that mistakes have been made, priorities have been skewed. But let's not make the opposite mistake in letting the pendulum swing the other way entirely to only "being Jesus" to people instead of giving them the words of life.

But if we buy into letting our life speak for itself - instead of allowing our life to lend credibility to our message - I believe we are buying into human logic and not God's wisdom.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some Questions to Ponder

If there is a God, and He has lovingly created a beautiful environment for us to live in and enjoy, doesn't it make sense that He would want us to know Him?

If He wants us to know Him, doesn't it make sense that He has made Himself plain and not hidden Himself?

If He has made Himself plain, doesn't it make sense that we can observe our world and learn about Him that way?

Since our world is so amazingly beautiful, doesn't it make sense that He is amazingly beautiful as well?

Since our world is incredibly detailed, wouldn't it make sense that He would be very particular about the way in which we may know Him?

If our sin is so offensive to Him, doesn't it make sense that He would have to take extreme measures (the cross of Christ) in order to save us from it?

If there really is a Satan, wouldn't it make sense that he would do anything within his power to keep us from his enemy, our God?

If there really is a truth, wouldn't it make sense that the enemy of God would distort it in so many different ways so as to confuse us and misguide us?

If our eyes can be so easily fooled by optical illusions, is it so unreasonable to think that our brains could be fooled by an extremely intelligent, deviously crafty spiritual creature?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gospel and David Letterman

I realize I'm running a little behind here, but I have been mulling this over in my head for a few days now.

In case you hadn't heard, David Letterman was the victim of an extortion plot whereby a person that works at CBS gathered evidence against him regarding affairs he had been having with women that work for him at the studio, and put it all in a box, and threatened to reveal everything through a screenplay and a book if Letterman didn't give him $2,000,000.

The video of his confession can be found here. Knowing what was coming, I was uncomfortable watching as he told the story piece by piece, and the audience, expecting to be entertained, kept laughing at stuff that I didn't feel like laughing at. It was a pretty uncomfortable thing for me to watch.

At one point, he told of having to stand before a Grand Jury and tell all of the "terrible, terrible" things that he had done, that this man was threatening to expose him for. He was embarrassed by that; it was a hard thing to do to stand there and speak about those things.

I couldn't help but think of the fact that one day, we will all stand before the Judge. He will know all of our thoughts and deeds from the day we were born until the day we died. What was done in secret will be laid out for examination. All the terrible, terrible things we have done and thought will be exposed, and all the good we should have done but didn't will be exposed as well.

We will be seen for how we really are, and all of us have a list of things that would be difficult to stand in front of the Judge and recount. After all, He is a perfect Judge, and He requires perfection of us. And which one of us is perfect?

David Letterman has experienced some human consequences for his actions. The eternal consequences still remain for him.

When David Letterman stands before God, this sequence of events will be only one of the many things that God will hand down a sentence for. Every instance of God's law being broken carries with it a sentence. A sentence that will be carried out in hell, in eternal torment.

This is where the gospel comes in.

If David Letterman were to turn to Christ and away from his sin, trusting God's provision of a sacrifice for him personally, then that courtroom scene would look a little different.

Instead of David Letterman standing before the Judge, being accountable for all he's ever done and thought, Jesus would be standing there, taking responsibility for it all.

Jesus stands before the Judge, with compassion, and lovingly accepts the punishment for the crimes we've committed.

Do you get it? Do you see?

We will all stand there one day, on the Day of Judgment, and someone will be declared Guilty.

God has made provision for our guilt through Christ. Jesus came to live a life free of sin so that He could pay our penalty. All that's required of us is faith. Faith in Jesus, taking Him at His word, that we are guilty (and you know, even if you are a good person by the world's have not lived up to God's know that...), and that His payment is sufficient for us.

Stand before God on the Day of Judgment and be declared Innocent. It is possible.

But only through Christ.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Nugget

"If you wish to know God, you must know his Word.
If you wish to perceive His power,
you must see how He works by his Word.
If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass,
you can only discover it by His Word."
(C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eternal Hope

I came across a quote today that is disturbing to me, and I wanted to address it quickly. On the surface, it sounds so good, but when you dig at it a little, it is really un-Biblical. And the reason it concerns me so much is that it is coming from a guy that has a pretty good looking ministry going. It looks good on the surface, but I really wonder if people are having their physical needs met in an abundant way, yet their deepest spiritual needs are being neglected. I'll give you the quote, then I'll elaborate on that thought.

"Even if there were no heaven and there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?" - Shane Claiborne

Now I want to start by saying that Mr. Claiborne is a champion for radical Christian living, taking care of the poor and downtrodden in the name of Christ, living lives that Jesus would recognize as Christ-following lives. And I think that is something that the Christian church today needs to hear, and do...desperately.

But here's the rub.

That can't come at the expense of sharing the true gospel, which is the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.

All people, including the poor, are enemies of God - unless and until we place our faith in Christ as Savior. This life is not just about what happens now. This life is not just about life, joy and fulfillment on this earth. And I would submit for your consideration that this life is not mainly about those things.


Ask the family of this man, or the flock of Pastor Manuel, or any of the rest of the persecuted church what they think of the life, joy and fulfillment they have received on this earth. Completely different kind of fulfillment than Mr. Claiborne touts as the end all of Christian living.

I'm very troubled by the trend in some Christian circles of social justice to the neglect of the gospel. Mr. Claiborne has swept aside the eternal aspect of the hope that we have in Christ, which is the hope to come. That is perilous to the people you are ministering to, and your ministry is useless if it doesn't address a person's greatest spiritual need primarily. If you feed a person to contentment here on earth, that will not matter one tiny bit if they face God without Christ on the Day of Judgment.

Finally, contrast Mr. Claiborne's question with Paul's (God's) statement in 1 Corinthians 15:19 - If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing Left to Accuse

About a month and a half ago, I had a meeting with a family member (let's call her "A"), and a counselor because of a rift between this family member and I that we could not solve on our own. "A" was hurt by some interactions we'd had and was keeping a wall up in between us, that I could feel every time we were around each other. Our interactions had been limited since January of 2008, but believe me, every time we were in the same room, I could feel that barrier. And this from a person that I have been close to my entire life.

This was really difficult for me. I am not used to family members shutting down on me. I have always prided myself on being a person that is closer to most of my family members than the others are. You know, because I'm such a good person (ick...NOT!). It was a source of validation for me, since I usually feel so unworthy.

Just before the meeting, I decided I was going to sit down and make a timeline of the events, so that I would have something objective to look at and reference during the meeting, because I have a tendency to get emotional and forget stuff, and I was afraid to forget something important. So I sat down with my Bible and a piece of paper and a pen, ready to write down all the ways our relationship went wrong, and where I felt we needed to work on it. I had an idea in my mind of where this was going to go, since I had her nasty email that she sent me right in front of me. In fact, I was going to make my timeline on this email. I sat down ready to accuse her.

Then God showed up.

Sitting on my couch, early one morning, God came and showed me everything I had done wrong in that relationship. All the wrongs I had committed, every way I had acted arrogant toward her and been prideful in my heart and bitter in my speech.

God wrecked me.

And it was the sweetest, most beautiful moment between He and I, and I realized then that when we went into that meeting, there was nothing left for her to accuse me of. My wrongdoings had already been terrible enough that Jesus had to die to take God's punishment off of my head. His death was required for my sin. I was as bad as she was saying. And worse.

This reaches so far into my life, and if I would just hold onto it, I could see so much more clearly. It doesn't take much for me to get caught up in feeling like people should be nice to me or like I deserve something. But if I could remember that my very existence before God was so detestable that the only way for me to be made acceptable to Him was the death of His Son, then I would do well.

"A" had nothing left to accuse me of, because anything she could have thought up was true. My husband has nothing left to accuse me of, because I have done and thought so much worse than he can bring up. can say nothing bad about me that isn't true on some level, because if I'm not doing it now, certainly I have, or have thought of doing it, which the Bible says counts.

On the flip side of that, I have nothing to accuse "A" of because who I am apart from Jesus and what I've done in my life is so bad, it caused Jesus to be put to death. I have nothing left to accuse my husband or children of, because I have done and thought so many terrible things in my life, were it not for Jesus, the punishment required would be an eternity of torment in hell. I have nothing to accuse you of, because Jesus is the only reason I can stand here today in freedom. The only reason.

The point I want desperately to make is that it all hinges on Jesus, and the life He lived which was perfect. Since I could never be perfect, and perfection is what is required to enter into eternity with God, I need Jesus. The Bible teaches that all can freely come to Jesus, but there is something required of us, and that is faith. Not just a kind of faith that agrees, but the kind of faith that trusts, like trusting a parachute when you jump out of a plane. It is not enough to know about Jesus, and his death on the cross and resurrection. We have to trust Him with our very lives, which involves leaving our sin behind and pressing toward Him. We will never achieve perfection, but we agree with God that we cannot do it on our own, that we mess up a lot, and that we need Jesus.

That is the gospel.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The What Centered Life?

The title of this blog is The Gospel Centered Life.

It was born out of my desire to share the love of Christ with others.

My intention is to share, in as many ways as possible, the gospel (means Good News!) of the forgiveness of sins that is found in Jesus Christ.

I will also be sharing the ups and downs and discoveries of my daily walk, as I am able to put things into words.

Be forewarned: I am messed up - BIG time. I struggle with stuff, I let people get to me, I am not loving toward all who I should be loving toward, I get my feelings hurt sometimes, I am hormonal, and sometimes (okay, most times!), I act out of feelings before I think about the consequences. In other words, I'm human. But, the God who knows me inside and out is the One who really counts. Its Him I run to when I have made the same mistake again, after twenty-five other times, and its Him who is able and willing to forgive, and heal the places where I hurt. And by His grace, I can live to try again, and hopefully do better next time. This blog will be full of those attempts.