The Importance of Relationships in Apologetics and Evangelism

This past week, God has shown me through multiple avenues the importance of relationships. I listened to Garrett DeWeese’s lecture on “Solving the Problem of Evil” and in that lecture DeWeese addresses the importance of relationships. Also, I had a wonderful conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline as he discussed relational apologetics, that is involving relationships in one’s apologetic presentation.[1]

Often times, people think of apologetics as being a “heady, intellectual” pursuit, unconcerned about matters of the heart. While apologetics concerns itself with intellectual matters and the training of the mind, one must understand that apologetics is a branch of a larger spectrum of evangelism. A strong argument could be made that apologetics is part of one’s discipleship effort too as one must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).[2]

Seeing that apologetics is often intellectual, it is easy for one to lose sight of the greater challenge and the greater goal: not winning arguments, but winning souls for Christ. For this to take place, the apologist must understand the great value of relationships. These relationships should include three things.

  1. The presence of love must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

          Christian leaders should understand the great damage that has been done by the anti-intellectual movement that invaded the church beginning in the 19th century. Modern heresies that have entered the church are a direct result of the emphasis placed on the heart rather than the head. But on the other hand, the apologist, in one’s quest to emphasize the intellectual pursuits of the faith, must not neglect the heart entirely especially as it relates to love. A strong head and weak heart leads to a sterile, emotionless shell of what the Christian life should be. It is a firepit with the wood and coals properly placed, yet without a flame providing heat. What’s the point of a firepit with no fire?

Paul warns vehemently that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). If I have a strong apologetic with no love, then I am just another “talking head.” Apologist, do you love the person you are conversing with? If not, you may want to step out of the conversation until you have the loving flames of the Holy Spirit burning within your heart.

  1. The presence of listening must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

           In my conversation with Kline as well as DeWeese’s lecture, I was reminded of the great value in listening. DeWeese noted that with Job, “Job’s friends were appalled at the conditions Job faced. They sat with Job silently for 7 days, but it all went downhill from there. Their silence, tears, and ministering to Job helped him more than their words.”[3] As apologists we must use our words to proclaim and defend the faith. But we cannot sacrifice a listening ear in order to do so.

I am from the Southeastern United States. While not as prevalent today, it used to be commonplace to find a group of men gathered around a popular restaurant and/or storefront talking about the issues of the day. My grandpa, Roy Chilton, was a child of the Depression Era and served in World War II. In his time, they had no Facebook, Instagram, or instant messenger. Rather, they had the local gathering place. In my younger years, he took me with him to visit some of his friends at one particular person’s welding shop. The thing to remember about these conversations is that many of the stories become “tall tales;” fun stories based on truth, but exaggerated to make the story sound more appealing. “Conversation” is a loose term to be used in this environment as most of the “conversations” turned into a competition for who could tell the greatest tale. I noticed that Grandpa would not so much listen to what was being said by another as much as he was preparing his next story. Others would do the same.

Apologists should use caution against the use of the same practice. If we are simply preparing our next argument without truly listening to the objections being made, then it is highly likely to miss the objection entirely and leave the seeker more antagonistic in the end. As my grandmother, Eva Chilton, used to say (and it may have been partly directed towards Grandpa), “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we’ll listen twice as much as we speak.”

  1. The presence of longing must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

What is the apologist’s goal? What is one in apologetics anyhow? Is it the goal of the person to appear smart and intelligent? Is it the person’s goal to show how many books he or she has read? Or is a person in apologetics simply to join a particular community? Intelligence and community are important matters. However, the goal of the apologist if based on relationships must be to clear the path for the Holy Spirit to operate. It is an evangelistic affair. The Westminster Confession of Faith proclaims that “the chief end of man is to glorify God.” To borrow Westminster’s verbiage, the chief end of apologetics is to win souls for Christ. Does the apologist long to see the person with whom they are conversing come to know Christ? Or is the person simply using the arguments as a means of intellectual chess? A strong argument is nothing without the wooing presence of the Holy Spirit. This means that the apologist, if effective, must be a person of prayer, consistently seeking after and desiring God.

Conclusion

Apologetics is a branch of evangelism. Evangelism seeks to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. Therefore, apologetics must seek to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. If Christ has truly died for the sins of humanity and has truly risen from the dead according to the Scriptures, then the apologist’s intention must be to see others come to know the reality that is Christ and the salvation that comes from a covenant relationship with Him. Let’s be brutally honest. Sometimes we as apologists can become so involved in apologetics that we come off as jerks to those in which we are trying to minister. For me, guilty as charged. The church needs apologetics. The church needs apologists!!! The church is never going to accept the apologist if he/she consistently berates the pastor or those who are not onboard. If this is true of the church, the lost person will certainly not desire to listen to any apologist (regardless of their credentials) if the apologist comes off as obstinate or emotionless. Remember, Jesus was the greatest apologist of all and He spent a great amount of time building relationships. Apologetics without meaningful relationships often becomes valueless.

© June 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] The conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/06/20/relational-apologetics-with-pastor-apologist-and-chaplain-jason-kline.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil,” Biola University, lecture notes, 10.

3 Manifestations of God’s Love

Not long ago, we had our cat declawed and fixed. He had to be declawed because he would have destroyed our couches otherwise. Our cat’s name is Boo. We named him that because he is jet black and arches his back when he is scared like the Halloween cats you see depicted. Living in town as we do, we have to let him roam around with a harness. It may seem odd to have a cat on a harness. But with him being declawed and living in an urban area, he would quickly be killed either by the neighborhood animals or the ongoing traffic. While I was preparing this message, he was begging to go outside. A few minutes after being out, a truck stopped at a local store unloading supplies. Boo went crazy. He wanted inside badly. He was scared! He tried everything possible to get inside. But he would never by his own power make it. So, I had to go out to him and let him inside. The manifestation of God’s love is very similar. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. God’s love is a moral attribute. We sometimes use the word omnibenevolent recognizing that God is fully love and fully good. The apostle John puts quite aptly, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But how do we see God’s love manifested? We see God’s love manifested in three ways. But first, let’s look at S. S. Smalley’s “three observations about John’s description of God as love:

  1. Its background is the Jewish (OT) understanding of God as living, personal, and active, rather than the Greek concept of deity which was abstract in character.

  2. To assert comprehensively that “God is love” does not ignore or exclude the other attributes of his being to which the Bible as a whole bears witness: notably his justice and his truth.

  3. There is a tendency in some modern theologies (especially “process” thought) to transpose the equation “God is love” into the reverse, “Love is God.” But this is not a Johannine (or a biblical) idea. As John makes absolutely clear in this passage, the controlling principle of the universe is not an abstract quality of “love,” but a sovereign, living God who is the source of all love, and who (as love) himself loves (see vv. 7, 10, 19).”[i]

 1. God’s love is manifested in God’s REALITY (4:8b).

 John demonstrates the great reality of love. John is not saying that love is God. There are several varieties of love. Love is not God. Rather, God is love. We must note that “The same construction is found in 1:5 (“God is light”) and in 4:2 (“God is spirit”). The noun love, referring to a process, is the predicate of the sentence; it says something about God’s quality, character, and activity. The translator must take care not to give a rendering that equates God and love. This would imply that the clause order is reversible and that God is love and “love is God” are both true propositions—which is certainly not what John meant to say.”[ii] In other words, John is showing that God is the source of love as love emanates from the person of God.

Wayne Grudem defines love as “self-giving for the benefit of others.”[iii] Norman Geisler defines love as “willing the good of its object.”[iv] Geisler goes on to say that “love and goodness can be treated synonymously. Literally, the word omnibenevolence means ‘all-good.’”[v] Thus, God’s goodness indicates God’s moral excellence and virtue. God’s love denotes God’s desire for the good of others. Goodness and love are moral standards. One must first know love before one can know hate. One must first know good before one can know evil. The only way we can know love and goodness is if we know God. God is the source of goodness and love.

2. God’s love is manifested in God’s RESPONSE (4:9-10).

John’s argument continues in showing the manifestation of God’s love in his response to human sin. John argues that God’s love was made manifest in this way: “God sent his Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).[vi] God ultimately showed his love for us by making a way for us to enter into heaven. John demonstrates that God loved us first before we could ever even know what love was. God’s act through Jesus freed us from the penalty of sins (1 John 3:5) and to defeat the power of Satan (1 John 3:8).[vii]

We must understand that God was the first mover as it pertains to creation. But, God was also the first lover. All of humanity is the beloved. God loved the world and made a way to save it. Often in modern times, people want to take the credit for God’s love. However, such is not the case. God loved us first so that we could love him. Augustine said, “You cannot therefore attribute to God the cause of any human fault. For of all human offences, the cause is pride. For the conviction and removal of this a great remedy comes from heaven. God in mercy humbles Himself, descends from above, and displays to man, lifted up by pride, pure and manifest grace in very manhood, which He took upon Himself out of vast love for those who partake of it.”[viii] In other words, Augustine is saying that if God had not intervened, humanity would succumb to the depravity of its own pride and sin. God demonstrated his love for you by giving of himself in the ultimate display of love. As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

3. God’s love is manifested in God’s RELATIONSHIP (4:7-8a, 11-12).

John provides two powerful points as it relates to God’s manifestation of love in relationships. First, John says, “love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (4:8a). But look what he also says in verses 11-12. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). What does John mean by that no one has seen God? Akin explains that “No man has seen God in his unveiled essence, glory, and majesty. Indeed, we are incapable as finite sinful creatures of looking on God. It would certainly be our death. He can be seen, however, in the lives of those who demonstrate his love to others.”[ix] So while we do not see the full essence of God, we do see the moving of God in our lives and in the lives of others. In addition, this love will spill out into a person’s relationship with others.

 John argues that since God is love and manifested his love through his Son, then a relationship with the God of love will produce love in the life of the recipient. A person cannot physically see God. For one, God is spirit and immaterial. Two, God’s great power would not allow one to see God and live. God told Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, we can see God in our relationship with him. We can feel his embrace. We can experience the joy from the Holy Spirit. Do you want to annoy a hypocrite? Be genuine. That will annoy the hypocrite worse than anything.

Some of you may have heard this story. It is supposedly a true story although I cannot verify that it is. It is a story of a young man who, while quite athletic and considered a “jock,” notices another young man who was the victim of bullying. The victimized boy, who was somewhat nerdy, wiped tears from his eyes and was in the process of picking up his belongings off the sidewalk when the jock came by to help. The jock began talking to the nerdy fellow while assisting him. The jock walked the nerdy boy home. As they reached the nerdy boy’s home, the jock invited the so-called nerd to play football with him and some of the fellas over the weekend. The nerdy fellow agreed. Over time, the nerdy fellow developed and built up his bodily strength. In high school the former nerd actually began to have more dates than the jock, much to the chagrin of the jock. As expected, the so-called nerd graduated as valedictorian of his class. During graduation, the former nerdy fellow gave the valedictorian speech. Much to the surprise of the jock, the former nerdy fellow thanked the jock for his friendship. He later revealed that on the afternoon when the jock befriended him, the nerd was planning to take his own life. He took all of his possessions home from school that day because he did not want force his mom to come back to school after his suicide. The now valedictorian said that his friend’s act of love and kindness saved his life. The jock, stunned, began to wipe tears from his eyes when he noticed he valedictorian’s mother look at him and say, “Thank you so much!” You will never know the damage that is done from a heart full of hate. However, you will also never know the great blessings and benefits that come from random acts of kindness that truly demonstrate the love and compassion of God.

Notes

[i] S. S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1984), 239-240, in Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 178.

[ii] C. Haas, Marinus de Jonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Handbook on the Letters of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 121.

[iii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 199.

[iv] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 585.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[vii] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 179.

[viii] Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 55.

[ix] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 181–182.

The Greatest Danger for the Christian

For the past couple of years I have written about the top challenges that face the church for the year ahead. God-willing, I plan to do the same at the end of this year also. However, this week during our revival services, it dawned upon me that there is an even greater danger to the modern Christian than those that have been listed in years past. This danger is not found in terrorism, politics, or national threats. Rather, this danger is found in nightmares, the what-ifs, and what-could-be’s. This danger in which we speak is that of fear. Fear can cause individuals to do radical things. Fear makes us shrink back, step aside, or even stick our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich…although it has been said that ostriches do not practice such. Furthermore, fear is a weapon of Satan.

The Bible makes it clear that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).[1] Fear is dangerous for three reasons alluded to in the previous passage of Scripture.

Fear forgets the power of God.

When threats abound and dangers emerge, it is easy for the believer to become panicked. Thoughts abound as to what may ensue in the days and weeks ahead. Could there be a nuclear holocaust? Will there be an outbreak of some unknown disease? Perhaps one’s fears are more simple. What will happen when my son begins to drive? Will my daughter be in danger when she begins to date? When thoughts like these come our way, the enemy takes our eyes off of God and places our minds upon the what-ifs and what-could-be’s. Most of the things we worry about will never come to pass.

Nevertheless, it is important for the believer to keep in mind that God is still sovereign. Even if we face the fears that we hold, God has promised that he will “never leave us or abandon us” (e.g. 1 Kings 8:57; Matthew 28:20). God has an order behind what appears to be chaos. Wait upon God’s plan. It may be that you will not see the full perspective of God’s working in your life until you reach eternity. Even still, don’t be consumed with fear. Be consumed with faith.

Fear forgets the command to love.

Rod Sterling was a genius in the genre of storytelling. His series The Twilight Zone often captured the effects of what fear can do to individuals and to a society. On the show “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” aliens were able to destroy an entire community. The destruction came not by an invasion, but rather by planting seeds of doubt amongst each of the neighbors until the entire community was ready to tear itself apart. The enemy does much of the same. Fear masks the humanity of a person to the point that the person is no longer seen as a person, but an object to be destroyed.

Jesus told his disciples something far different. He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus even noted that the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity would be that of love as he said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Don’t be consumed by fear. Be consumed with love.

Fear forgets the importance of service.

When fear is left unchecked, people will not seek to help others. Instead, fear leads people to hide away. Perhaps one is tempted to flee to the desert or to take a one-way flight to Antarctica. The Essenes were an important sect of Judaism in the first-century. Some believe that the Essenes may have been the legitimate heirs to the priesthood but were cast out by the Roman sympathizers, the Sadducees. It is possible that some of the early disciples were of the Essene sect, although this is a hotly debated topic in New Testament studies. Nonetheless, the Christians were not to hide away. Rather, they were to be about serving others in the name of Christ. Do not be consumed by fear. Be consumed with service.

Conclusion

Fear leads to bizarre behaviors. However, the Christian is not to be filled with fear. Jesus often told his disciples, “Fear not, it is I.” I think that Jesus is saying the same thing to modern Christians as well. I think he is saying, “Do not fear. I am still in control. Keep serving until I call you home.” Instead of looking to the stars and to the heavens for signs of Christ’s appearing, maybe we should look to the plow because the fields are ripe for harvest.

Do not be consumed with fear. Be consumed with Christ.

© October 29, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

5 Parameters of Genuine Christianity Found in 1 John

Parameters are limits that constitute the nature or definition of someone or something. If one were to describe the parameters of an unused composition notebook, then one would set the following parameters: a book with lined pages so as to allow the owner to write in it, holding no writing on those pages. If any one of the previous parameters were changed, a person would not possess an unused composition notebook. If there is a printed text from a publisher, then one would have a book (perhaps Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn) but it would not be a composition notebook. If someone wrote on the pages of the notebook, it would still be a notebook but not an unused notebook.

Parameters are set for everything in life. Christianity is no different. What constitutes the core parameters of one who claims to be a Christian? C. S. Lewis wrote about Mere Christianity, that is, Christianity at its most basic form. But what about the mere Christian? What are the core fundamentals that constitute the life of a Christian? The apostle John answers that question in his first letter. Within the text of 1 John, the reader will find five parameters of Christianity: holiness, love, truth, perseverance, and testimony.

Parameter of Christian Holiness (1 John 3:9; 5:18).

The first parameter that John sets is that of holiness. John writes, “No one of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).[1] Some have misinterpreted this text to claim that the Christian will never sin. Popular antitheists seek out a mistake in a person calling oneself a Christian. When the antagonist finds a fault, which they are sure to do, they will claim, “See! You did wrong! You are a sinner, not a saint!” However, John does not claim that a Christian will never fall or make a mistake.

John teaches that the Christian will seek to live a righteous life and will not be seek a life of rebellion. Daniel Akin notes that “The perfect participle (gegennēmenos) implies not only a single past act of spiritual new birth but also the ongoing effects of being born of God” (Akin 2001, 147-148). This falls in line with John’s use of the term seed. “The seed refers to one of three options: (1) the Word of God, (2) the Holy Spirit, or (3) the regenerate spirit when one is born again” (Walls and Anders 1999, 195).

Therefore, a true Christian will not live a life of rebellion against God. Rather, the genuine Christian will embrace God’s standards and God’s ways. For such a one realizes that God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than their own (Isaiah 55:9).

Parameter of Christian Love (1 John 4:7).

John provides another parameter of the genuine Christian, that of love. John writes that “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). What is the basis of such love? John notes that “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The Christian has experienced the love of God. Therefore, it is expected that the Christian demonstrate that same kind of love to others. A person’s vertical relationship with God should affect the person’s horizontal relationship that they hold with others. Kruse states that “When the author says that ‘God is love’, he is not making an ontological statement describing what God is in his essence; rather, he is, as the following verses (4:9–10) reveal, speaking about the loving nature of God revealed in saving action on behalf of humankind” (Kruse 2000, 157). I disagree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s benevolent ontological nature of God. For the basis of a believer’s love is based on the nature of God’s love and the demonstration of God’s love to the believer. Nevertheless, I do agree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s emphasis on God’s saving action on behalf of humanity. Thus, the genuine believer must possess a love for others. Obviously that love may be tested and there will be those who are difficult to love. This love is a choice, a choice based on one’s obedience unto God.

Parameter of Christian Truth (1 John 5:1).

Third, John provides the parameter of truth. John notes that “Everyone believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1). As has been noted ample times by this author, theology matters. What a person believes shapes the way the person lives. John boldly proclaims that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:1-2). Going back to Peter’s confession, Peter noted of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Thus, the core fundamentals of Christianity must be accepted by the Christian to still be considered a Christian. Those core fundamentals are found in the Apostle’s Creed:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church (meaning universal church, not the denomination), the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen” (Apostles Creed).

This constitutes mere Christianity. If these core fundamentals are not held, then one is found outside the theological boundaries of the Christian faith.

Parameter of Christian Perseverance (1 John 5:4).

John also notes that the Christian will be found within the parameter of perseverance. John writes, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). In his Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes the true Christian as one who has heard the gospel, accepted the gospel, and one in which the gospel has taken root. The true believer will persevere. A person who remains wishy-washy in the faith is one whose legitimacy could be questioned. A person who says one day, “I wish to follow Jesus” and the next “I wish to live only for myself” is not one who will persevere and is rather one who is indecisive in their discipleship. The believer will come to accept Christ and follow him with steadfast perseverance. This is not to say that one cannot backslide, as I myself have done. But, rather one’s overall life will be a story of an overarching faithfulness from the point that the person met Christ until the day of that person’s death.

Parameter of Christian Testimony (1 John 5:9-10).

Finally, Jesus notes that the Christian will have evidence of a Christian testimony. John writes, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:9-10). What is the “testimony of God?” Different scholars hold differing perspectives. Kruse writes that “it to be identified with the testimony of the eyewitnesses, God speaking through them. This last alternative is preferable because the content of God’s testimony described in 1 John 5:11 is that God has given us eternal life in his Son, which is the central feature of the testimony of the eyewitnesses alluded to in 1 John 1:1–4” (Kruse 2000, 181). Daniel Akin thinks that “The most likely answer is that John is referring back to the threefold testimony in v. 8. This interpretation fits with the perfect tense of the verb (memarturēken, “he has testified”). God has testified concerning his Son in the past through the Spirit, water, and blood, and this testimony is still valid today” (Akin 2001, 200). I agree with Akin, however I would emphasize that the “testimony of God” refers more to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Going back to the testimony of Simon Peter, Jesus said after Peter’s proclamation that “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Seeing that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and compels people to faith (John 16:8ff), then I would say that the “testimony of God” refers to this inner witness of God through the Holy Spirit. Thus, a believer should have the testimony of God in one’s life.

Conclusion

Christianity holds particular parameters. A lot of people can claim a lot of things about themselves. However, there are certain truths that must exist in a person’s life to legitimately be considered a child of God. A person must strive to live a life of holiness before God. It is impossible for one to do so on their own merit, but only through the empowerment of God. Secondly, a person must be filled with compassion and love. Third, a person must stand upon the truth of God’s word. Fourth, a person must not hold a flimsy, whimsical sort of faith. Rather, one’s faith must be a decisive, steadfast kind of faith. Lastly, one must have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. While we all fall and falter every day, it must be remembered that these attributes are those that are examined over the course of a person’s life. John’s parameters serve as a good test for all of us to gauge how close we are to the person that God has called us to be.

Bibliography

Akin, Daniel L. 1, 2, 3 John. Volume 38. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000.

Walls, David, and Max Anders. I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude. Volume 11. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this article comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Christians in American Exile

This article is written after a weekend of turbulence in the United States of America. Last Friday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. This website does not normally engage in more controversial social issues as this site seeks to build unity rather than division. However, in this case, it seems that a response is necessary. Yet, the response I was led to provide in our church service is the same response I feel led to provide on the website. The response will not engage the issue of same-sex marriage nor will it address the issue of marriage (Lord knows that the blogosphere and social media have exploded with comments pertaining to those issues). This response deals with the ever-increasing reality that Christians—by Christians here, I mean those who take the Bible seriously in its morality as well as its theology—find themselves in exile in their own land. Bizarre as it may seem, especially heading into the Fourth of July, many Christians feel that this land of the free does not provide them with as much free expression as it once did, thus leading to the feeling that Christians are in exile in America. But, one should know that this is not the first time that the faithful have found themselves in the minority. It is not the first time that the faithful have found themselves strangers in their own land. In fact, God has allowed such times to occur to bring forth several realities. Such realities can be seen as the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after having been exiled in Babylon for several years. When Ezra, Nehemiah, and others came back to rebuild the Temple, they discovered these realities. This article will deal with three.

Exiles Acknowledge the Faithful Have Always Been a Minority

God may allow exiles to occur in order to remind the faithful that they have always been in the minority. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).[1] The fact is—the people of God have always been in the minority. But this brings the church to another reality.

Exiles Purify the Faithful by Identifying the True People of Faith

One may query, “But hasn’t the church been in the majority in American public life up until now?” Yes. But such an acknowledgment does not indicate that everyone who claimed to be a Christian really was a Christian. In a society where being a Christian is easy, it may be that some become “Christians” for reasons beyond that of true acceptance and surrender to the risen Christ. For instance, I knew a person who never acted like a Christian, yet everyone observed that he attended a local church every Sunday. Someone asked him, “I notice you go to church. Are you a Christian?” He said, “No, not really. I just attend church because it makes me look good to those in the community. It is job security.” When exiles occur, the people of God are reminded that this is not their home. This is a fallen world. When faith is tested, the people of faith will rise to the occasion. Those who are not will fall. When Ezra and the people of God returned from exile, they rebuilt the Temple. Yet, not everyone was excited about this endeavor. Ezra denotes that “many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and he sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:12-13). Some may claim that these tears were tears of joy. But the next chapter indicates that the people of faith encountered great opposition against the building campaign. All of this demonstrates that the people of faith will rise to any occasion because of the empowerment of God and the faith in which they hold (e.g. Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Others will fall. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to see what a person is truly like, put them in power.” The same could be said in that if one wants to see the one who truly has faith, put them in situations where the person’s faith is tested. Like separating wheat from chaff, the wheat will remain and the chaff will be blown away.

This does not mean that the church gives in or gives up. It means that the church must look up and reach out.

Exiles Strengthen the Faithful

Finally, one will note that the faithful are strengthened during times of exile. It is an odd thing that when the church faces its most pressing times, it is then that the church becomes the strongest. The darker the times, the brighter the light of God shines through the church. This does not indicate that bad times are good. It simply indicates that God uses dark days to strengthen his people. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). The faithful will remain standing and in fact will be strengthened during what appears to be a Christian American exile. Looking back in history, great times of distress have accompanied great times of revival.

Conclusion

So how should a Christian respond in such difficult times? As one may have noticed, there will be some who become angry and filled with hate. Such should not be the response of the Christian. Yes, we become frustrated. Yes, we become irritated. However, a true believer will not respond in hate. Second, some will fall away. Some will become so frustrated with the drama that they discontinue their ministries and/or their work in the church. But such is not demonstrative of a true believer because the “one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). This is not to say that church attendance saves, but rather that one who continues to endure is the elect of God. Perhaps the best response is given by the apostle Paul who wrote that the church should “excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love is genuine” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8). Excel church and be excellent! Those are great words of wisdom. During this time of exile, let your light luminously shine while standing firm upon the foundation of faith. Stand for biblical convictions, but never stop loving those around you–including those with whom you disagree.

© June 29, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Top Ten Challenges Facing the Church in 2015

In late 2013, I posted an article which has become one of the hottest articles on my website at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com. The article laid forth the top ten challenges facing the Christian church in 2014. Due to the interest sparked by that article, we will make the Top Ten Challenges List an annual offering to you the reader. 2014 witnessed some daunting challenges for the Church.[1] 2015 will also provide some distinct challenges which will need to be met with truth, integrity, and faithfulness. The following list will provide the top ten challenges facing the Church in 2015 and will offer a proposed method of handling the problem.

Challenge #10:           Racial Issues

Problem:         Some may find this a bizarre issue to place on the top-ten list. When the reader discovers that this writer is Caucasian, this may provide an extra bit of surprise as Caucasians do not traditionally address race issues as African-Americans. However, if there is one thing that can be learned from the issues from the latter part of 2014, that is that race relations in America are not as good as everyone might like to think. The issues surrounding Ferguson has demonstrated the lack of trust that some of African descent have towards those of European descent, and vice versa. Couple that problem with the fact that Sunday mornings is among the most segregated time in America, and one finds a real problem. Adding to the mix is the level of distrust that Latino (or Amerindian) individuals possess with those of African and European descent, and vice versa, due to problems surrounding immigration. The sum total of the problem equals a big, grand, ol’ mess!!!

Solution:          The Church can provide a solution. In fact, many churches are already helping to correct these issues. The solution is to focus on the value of human life, all human life. Jesus placed great value on human life and was not divided over socio-economics, race, or gender. This value was demonstrated when Christ met with the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman at that.[2] In addition, the church needs to stress, as Paul did, that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).[3]

Challenge #9:             Holiness/Integrity

Problem:         In 2014, the Mars Hill Church of Washington decided to disband their multi-site complex once Mark Driscoll stepped down. Among many other things, Driscoll was accused of plagiarism within his works. Many of his publishers removed his works and Driscoll was left in the cold. Christianity Today’s Morgan Lee reports that,

In a statement, the church’s board of overseers accepted his resignation, but emphasized that they had not asked Driscoll to resign and were surprised to receive his letter.

They concluded Driscoll had ‘been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,’ but had ‘never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.’[4]

Regardless of Driscoll’s leadership style, the origin of the problems at Mars Hill stemmed from a lack of integrity on Driscoll’s part. It is easy for one to condemn Driscoll, but the cold-harsh truth is that many modern church leaders, as well as many modern congregants, lack integrity in their Christian walk.

Solution:          First of all, each Christian needs to be reminded that they are not responsible for their salvation. For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, each Christian must stay focused on Jesus, which can only be conducted by regular private and corporate worship.

Challenge #8:             Technology Addiction/Individualization

Problem:         The eighth challenge is not only a challenge that the Church faces, but is one that all modern people face, at least those who have the means: that is, addiction to technology. Messaging has replaced phone calls, instant messages have replaced visits, and emails have replaced cards. Whereas this is not all bad, there has been an increased emphasis on individualization. Technology addiction may have something to do with such a problem. However, can one blame technology for the modern individualization, or is technology addiction the byproduct of a culture that is possessed with “having it your way”? Either way, sympathy, empathy, and compassion are being lost in the “world of me.”

Solution:          It is recommended that Christians set boundaries as to their time spend with technology. Technology fasts may be a good disciple to practice. In addition, families may desire to have “technology free zones;” that is, times where iPhones, iPads, iPods, and computers are not permitted. Good “technology free zones” include: supper time, family time, vacations, and et cetera.

Challenge #7:             Solid Male Leadership

Problem:         The seventh challenge may seem a little bizarre. Nevertheless, the modern Church is increasingly finding itself without an abundance of male leadership. Perhaps part of the problem is due to the breakdown of the family. It could also be that men find Christian principles to be feminine in nature (i.e. love, compassion, etc.). While many denominations have stressed female leadership, much is lost in such a drive. This article is not arguing from either a complementarian or egalitarian standpoint, but is simply noting that many men fail to see their role in the local church. Several families suffer from fathers who have given up their roles. The children especially suffer from the lack of a fatherly role.

Solution:          The Church needs to revitalize its focus on male leadership. If a denomination accepts female leadership, well and good. However, such an acceptance should not come at the expense of the denomination’s focus and training of men in order that they might take leadership roles. Men have a place in God’s house. Men should not expect women to perform all the work at church; neither should they think that their role in the family is unimportant. Perhaps leadership conferences could be held with a focus on male leadership. Churches could focus on masculine attributes of the Christian walk, such as truth, justice, and standing tall in the face of adversity, while also demonstrating that it takes a “real man” to love and show compassion as such disciplines are often difficult. While it is certainly healthy that the Church places its attention on women (and unfortunately many churches in history have failed in this endeavor), such a focus should not be done to the neglect of the men. Both sexes are important to the family of God.

Challenge #6:             Negativity

Problem:         The modern Church has lost its joy! Every Christmas churches sing “Joy to the World,” but do so with a melancholic and defeated temperament. Perhaps the strains of modern ministry have taken its toll on Christians. Nevertheless, the Church must not be bogged down with negativity, but must face uncertain days with the joy that only God can bring.

Solution:          A few disciplines may help the modern Christian reclaim their joy. First, the Christian needs to take time away from the news. If one constantly allows oneself to be bombarded by negative news, one will find oneself becoming more and more negative. Second, limit your time spent around negative people. It is impossible to avoid every negative person, but a person does not need to allow such a person to envelope one’s life. Third, take time with God!!! Even Jesus Himself was known to go “out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Take time with God privately and corporately! You may find your joy quickly coming back!

Challenge #5:             Love/Interpersonal Relationships

Problem:         Perhaps the eighth challenge listed in this article is what affects the fifth. Nevertheless, it seems that the Church, particularly the American church, faces a problem with Christian love, particularly interpersonal relationships. The Church is at its strongest when it is united. Unfortunately, churches have found themselves focusing on trivial matters which lead towards a lack love towards their fellow man. Because of this, the Church has seemed calloused and rigid to many who do not know much about the Christian message.

Solution:          In Revelation, Jesus has John write a letter to the Church of Ephesus. The church had done many things right. They had stood up against “those who are evil” (Revelation 2:2) and have “tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2). However, Jesus had one thing against them: they had “abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Perhaps that is what has happened to many Christians. In our effort to stand for truth and to be salt, we have forgotten that we are to stand for love and are to be light. We must remember that all the law is found in two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and to “love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). Focus on the major things…loving God and loving humankind.

Challenge #4:             Secularization

Problem:         Secularization is something the Church must continue to face in 2015. The world is becoming more and more secular and the influence of the Church is becoming less and less in certain areas. Ethical values have been tainted and, in some cases, have been completely reversed. Most troublesome is the entrance of worldly values into the church, particularly the American and European churches.

Solution:          Values and ethics from a biblical perspective must be emphasized. No longer should the church leader expect individuals to automatically know right from wrong. In many cases, people have been so tainted by the culture that they may not realize the impact that it has had on the way they view the world. Christian teachers and preachers must stress values and be unafraid to speak on sin. One may lose a member or two, but great spiritual development will come to those who remain. As Isaiah denotes, one should “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Challenge #3:             Marriage

Problem:         Marriage is under attack in modern times, indeed and understatement. Not only has the definition of marriage come under assault, but traditional marriages are collapsing as well. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune to this problem. I recently spoke with a woman who attends a church I previously attended. She told me that she knew of at least three couples that were either separated or facing divorce. Infidelity was the cause of the problems in all three of these occasions. She frustratingly inquired, “Does anyone remain faithful anymore?!?”

Solution:          One cannot offer an easy fix especially to couples determined to part ways. However, there are means of fixing the problem. First, individuals must ask what it is that they really want. Does one merely want a partner with whom to party? Or, does someone desire to find a faithful, loving partner? If the answer is the latter, then one needs to find a faithful Christian partner. Christians should marry Christians. If it takes a Christian several years to find their mate, so be it. It is better to wait and marry the right person, than to rush and marry the wrong person. Second, couples need to constantly work the make their relationships better. Many people will get married and then will stop trying. Continue to kindle the fire in holy matrimony.

Challenge #2:             Biblical Heresies

Problem:         The second great challenge facing the Church in modern times is that of biblical heresies. This year Victoria Osteen was blasted by evangelical Christian for spouting individualistic and unbiblical teachings. Victoria is not the only one offering a watered down form of the Christian faith. Megachurches and small country churches have fallen victim to erroneous doctrines and beliefs. The apostle Paul placed so much emphasis on right doctrine that he boldly proclaimed that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

Solution:          The solution is relatively simple. Stay true to the Bible! Preachers should strive to preach expository messages, that is, allowing the Bible to speak for itself, rather than choosing topics and jumping around from text to text. Also, as Greg Koukl has often said, don’t just read one verse from the Bible, read Bible passages and keep them in proper context. I would say that it is important also for preachers to obtain at least some Bible training from an accredited Bible college or university. This will help one to abstain from straying from the truths of the biblical text.

Challenge #1:             Global Persecution

Problem:         While the other nine challenges will be debated by many, it should be beyond dispute that the greatest challenge the Church faces in 2015 is persecution. With the rise of Boko Haran, ISIS, and the continued efforts of the Taliban, 2014 will go down as one of the bloodiest years for Christians (and non-Christians alike).

Solution:          It is difficult to know how to respond to Christian persecution as this has been a problem since the inception of the Church. But, perhaps there are a few solutions that one may find concerning the problem. First, one must pray. Pray for those being affected by such ruthless persecution. Pray for the families who have lost their loved ones. Also, pray for the enemies and attackers. Pray that God would change their hearts. God has transformed people through visions, miracles, and near-death experiences. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to reach these individuals. Second, one needs to pressure their elected officials to protect the defenseless wherever the defenseless may be. The world has seen dictators and ruthless aggressors before in Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Finally, the Church needs to remember the end result. In the end, God wins. Evil will be defeated. As the Bible concludes, Jesus is noted as saying, “Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). Along with John, I would also say, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

Conclusion

Many other challenges could be listed. Ebola, socialism, and countless other problems entered my mind as I prepared this article. At times, it seems that the challenges that the Church faces is overwhelming. But, when we feel overwhelmed, we must remember we serve and all-powerful God. Our problems are big, but our God is bigger. Finally, let me conclude along with Paul in saying “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Bibliography

Lee, Morgan. “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve.” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html. Accessed December 15, 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Copyright 2014. Pastor Brian Chilton.

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Footnotes

[1] When Church is capitalized, the global church is referenced.

[2] Racial tensions existed between Samaritans and Jews. The problems between the two races extended back for centuries. The problems originated when the Samaritans, who were originally of Jewish descent, interbred with Gentiles. Nevertheless, Jesus was unmoved by the racism of the day and sought to minister to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Morgan Lee, “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve,” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html.

Comforts Found in the Moral Attributes of God

God not only possesses non-moral attributes, which describe God’s essence of being; but God also possesses what are termed moral attributes. These attributes demonstrate the moral qualities of God. The moral attributes describe how God relates to individuals. Whereas the non-moral attributes depict the awesome power of God, the moral attributes demonstrate the personal qualities of God. This post will examine each of the nine moral attributes as given in John S. Feinberg’s book No One Like Him, and will provide comforts that the modern Christian can find in each of these divine moral qualities.

holiness

Holiness

Feinberg notes that “Scripture offers a two-fold picture of divine holiness. On the one hand, God is holy in that he is distinct or separate from everything else…other passages that speak of his holiness may be seen as referring to his majesty.”[1] Isaiah writes “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed'” (Isaiah 57:15). The believer can take comfort in knowing that God is higher than the problems of life. While individuals may become victims of the evil treachery of the wicked, God will eventually judge the wicked. Those who are wicked may be able to act in horrific ways now, but there is coming a day when every person will give an account of his or her life. God will not be bribed (2 Chronicles 19:7) and God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Righteousness

Feinberg defines God’s righteousness as His “moral purity…he has established a moral order for the universe, and he treats all creatures fairly.”[2] In fact, the book of Deuteronomy states that God is “the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17). It is also said that God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Therefore, the Christian can take comfort in knowing that God’s moral character will not change. Often some individuals will act in fashions that are contrary to their character. For instance, good people will at times act in an unfavorable way. Bad people will sometimes act friendly. However, God is God; and God will never change. That fact can provide great stability to a life found in chaos.

Love-of-God1

Love

John famously wrote that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). God has a love all people. While it is noted that this love may be in greater or lesser degrees, as with Jacob and Esau (Romans 9:13), Feinberg notes that “The NT teaches that God’s love extends to all people, not just to those who trust him.”[3] John indicates as much when he wrote that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Some would claim that God’s wrath discredit’s God’s love in some fashion. However, this need not be the case. Tony Lane indicates that wrath may be a natural function of love as “there is not true love without wrath…Failure to hate evil implies a deficiency in love.”[4] Lane brings forth a compelling point. No one would ever think that a parent could be termed loving who willingly allows his or her child to suffer abuse without repercussions to the offender. Such actions would not constitute love, but something far worse. Thus, God’s judgment towards those who remain rebellious is found perfectly in the heart of love.

Grace

Feinberg states that grace is “best understood as unmerited favor.”[5] The great grace of God was involved in one’s salvation, for “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” (Ephesians 2:8). Some individuals live under the impression that they are owed something: someone owes them a living, or a corporation owes them particular benefits. However, when an individual understands that they do not deserve salvation or heaven, one can appreciate the great grace that God has bestowed upon such a one. Jesus said that “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Salvation is not deserved. Salvation is a gift given by God to individuals.

Mercy

Related to the concept of grace is that of mercy. Feinberg compares mercy to grace in that “Both involve unmerited favor, but the difference is that whereas grace may be given to those who are miserable and desperately in need of help, it may also be given to those who have no particular need. On the other hand, mercy is given specifically to those whose condition is miserable and one of great need.”[6] It is not a popular thing in polite society to proclaim that people deserve to go to hell, but that is exactly what the Scriptures indicate as “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When a Christian understands what it is that he or she really deserves, such a one will earnestly appreciate the great loving mercy demonstrated by God in saving them. The word saved begins to take on a new meaning.

longsuffering1

Longsuffering

Longsuffering is best understood as God’s “patience toward us.”[7] One of the fruit of the Spirit is indicated as patience in Galatians 5:22. Paul indicates that God “endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction” (Romans 9:22) and Peter writes that “the Lord does not delay His promise as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Comfort can be found in that while evil is present and often goes unpunished; God will rectify all things in the end. God is patient desiring all that would be given the opportunity to come to Him. However, at some point in the future, God will bring justice to those who do evil. Just because God has not judged yet, does not indicate that He never will.

Goodness

Feinberg indicates that the major point concerning God’s goodness in the Scriptures is that “God is concerned about the well-being of his creatures and does things to promote it.”[8] Paul Moser writes that God’s goodness would include “uncoerced human volitional…cooperation with God…To that end, God would want people to be related to God on perfectly loving terms that exclude selfishness and pride and advance unselfish love toward all agents.”[9] While theologians may argue the uncoerced aspect of Moser’s assessment, almost all would agree that God advances unselfish love towards His children. Each Christian can find comfort in knowing that God is indeed good.

Lovingkindness

Due to the other attributes listed, one can obtain a good picture of what God’s lovingkindness would be. The believer could easily pray along with David, “God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 36:7). While the world becomes increasingly hostile, the Christian can take comfort in knowing that God will always be loving and kind towards His children. Even when God must discipline, His actions are performed with kind motives.

Proclaiming Truth Square

Truth

Truth speaks of things as they really exist. In this note, Feinberg describes God as a “God of truth. He knows the truth and only speaks the truth.”[10]  God is a reality. God is the source of all things. Thus, God knows things as they really exist. God is the ultimate source for reality. Since God is transcendent, God knows all things that was, are, what will be, and even what could be. God’s truth extends from God’s omniscience and omnisapience. In addition, it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, when Jesus said that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), then it can be trusted that God will lead us in the right paths and inform of certain realities. The great comfort found for the Christian is in the fact that God can be trusted. Those things that God promises will come to be. The Christian does not have to worry about whether the truths of God can fail or falter. They can rest in the great comfort that the promises of God are certain realities from the Certain Reality.

 

Conclusion

While the non-moral attributes of God demonstrate God’s awesome power and complex being, the moral attributes of God provide comfort like no other. The non-moral attributes stretch the powers of the mind, whereas the moral attributes of God stretch the depths of the heart. The theologian and Christian leader owes it to individuals to teach them about God’s moral attributes. It may be that one has suffered from infidelity and needs to know that God is always faithful. Another may have suffered from great wickedness and desperately needs to know that God still loves them and will bring justice to their assailants. People need the comfort that can only be provided in knowing the moral attributes of God.

 Note: This work represents the academic work of Pastor Brian Chilton. The contents of this article have been submitted to the author’s university. Any attempt to improperly use the information found within this article for academic papers without proper citation may result in charges of plagiarism.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman     Bible Publishers, 2009.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Lane, Tony. “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God.” In Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God. Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001.

Moser, Paul K. “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God.” In God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible. Edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. Downers Grove: IVP, 2009.

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014

 ________________________________________________________________________________________

Footnotes

[1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 341.

[2] Ibid, 345.

[3] Ibid, 351.

[4] Tony Lane, “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God,” in Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God (Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001), 159-160.

[5] Feinberg, 354.

[6] Ibid, 359.

[7] Ibid, 362.

[8] Ibid, 366.

[9] Paul K. Moser, “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God,” in God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible, William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, ed (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), 59.

[10] Feinberg, 370.

50 Shades of Green: The Problems Associated with a Greed-Driven Life

There is concern among the Christian community about an ultra-erotic novel titled 50 Shades of Grey. While it must be admitted that this writer knows very little about the novel, it is certain that the Christian needs to avoid those things that would tempt them. While I will leave the book 50 Shades of Grey to be critiqued by another more knowledgeable about the book than myself, it does seem to me that there is another problem. For the sake of argument, let us call this problem 50 Shades of Green. What is 50 Shades of Green? It refers to a greed-driven life. While there is nothing wrong with possessing nice things, especially if one has worked hard for those things; there is something wrong about a life that is focused more on possessions and power than on the things in life that really matter (God, family, friendships, parenting, and the like). The Bible presents at least four problems that come by living a greed-driven life. Those four problems will be addressed in this article.

money bag

Greed Brings Immorality

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Some have misinterpreted this verse to claim that “money is the root of all evil.” However, Paul writes that the “love” of money is the core root of evil. Thus, a greed-driven life is a catalyst for immorality. Have you ever thought about what drives individuals to rob banks, steal information from another person’s bank account (e.g. identity theft), and even commit atrocious acts of abuse? Greed is the engine that drives such actions. It stems from the desire to have more.

While there is nothing wrong in one desiring to improve one’s life, it is wrong when one has an incessant desire, or craving rather, for more things. Part of the problem is that a person will never know contentment under such circumstances. I have known more than one person who has worked themselves to an early grave. Why? Perhaps, it came from a desire to possess more or to do better than everyone around them. In such cases, a person will not know peace and contentment. Rather, for such a one, life will be one continuous competition in which no ultimate winner will ever emerge.

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Greed Brings Hypocrisy

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus said of the Pharisees that they were guilty of hypocrisy. Why did they become hypocrites? Greed! Recently, Eric Metaxas wrote a powerful article for the Christian Post titled What We Can Learn from Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity. Metaxas writes, “Here’s something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven’t seen too much of that” (Metaxas 2014, http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/). The Pharisees were not changed by their belief system. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. The Pharisee’s hypocrisy was driven by greed. They wanted people to look to them for answers. They wanted to be liked. They wanted power. They wanted to have all that came with fame and popularity. However, the Pharisees sacrificed their integrity at the altar of greed. Jesus teaching and Metaxas’ article should remind us that we should not allow greed to warp our mentality. Greed should not cause us to warp the message of the Bible in favor of entertainment. Greed should not cause us to be so driven by proclamation that we fail to undergird the message by a close, personal relationship with God. Perhaps, part of the weakened state of the American church stems from congregations placing more focus and attention on the building in which they worship instead of the God in whom they serve.

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Greed Brings Idolatry

“Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature:  sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Atheists and agnostics will commonly call themselves “free-thinkers.” Yet, it seems that once one enters a “free-thinking community,” one loses the freedom to believe in God. If one chooses to believe in God in the “free-thinking community,” the community may not be as open to them as they once were. So, how free-thinking is the “free-thinking community”? Nonetheless, a greed-driven life leads one to idolatry. Idolatry is a lifestyle that leaves God out of the midst. Idolatry is the worship of a material thing over the Creator. It should be of no surprise that the “free-thinking community” refers to themselves as “pagans” or “the godless.” The free-thinkers do worship something. Perhaps the object of their worship is found in themselves. The object of worship could be that of their perception of science. The object of worship could even be in the free-thinker’s own fight against religion. Whatever the case may be, something is still worshiped.

As tragic as it is for the free-thinker, it is far more tragic for the believer to fall into greed’s idolatrous trap. When a person claims to be a Christian, the person should realize the value of life and of creation in general. When anyone allows greed to take control, the person will then justify his or her actions to obtain a particular thing. For a Christian, this may allow for unChristlike behavior. The Christian should remember that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15). How much do you love Jesus as opposed to materialism?

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Greed Brings Atrophy

“They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep” (2 Peter 2:3). Peter was writing to the church concerning false prophets in the end days. In fact, I would suggest that every believer makes oneself familiar with the teachings of 2 Peter chapter 2. Peter warns the church about the problem of greed. A greed-driven life will lead one towards atrophy (or destruction). One will find that the more one is driven by greed, the less one is concerned about family, friends, or even God.

I will never forget a time when I met a Christian businessman. He was asking about how serious he should take the commands of Jesus in the workplace. I told him that he should take the teachings of Jesus very seriously. However, there were others who tried to justify his actions in business. I admit that I do not know what those actions entailed. But, if Jesus is God incarnate (which I believe He is) and if Jesus is the truth (which I believe He is), then what He taught and what He instructed in how we should live should be taken seriously, regardless of whether the context is in business, or in the life of one’s family. Now obviously, context is the rule. Nations cannot turn the other cheek whilst they are being bombed. They must protect their citizens. Of course, Jesus was not addressing national polity in His messages. Jesus was addressing individuals. Context is the key. Nonetheless, the clear teachings of Jesus should be followed by the one who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Otherwise, a person will find oneself eroding in their relationship with God and in their relationships with others.

 

Conclusion

Do you need evidence that greed erodes? Just look around you. Nations will war against other nations because one nation wants what the other possesses: the driving force—greed. Businesses will ruthlessly overtake every other smaller business that they can drive out of business: the driving force—greed. Companies will charge hidden fees to obtain more and more of your money: the driving force—greed. Groups of individuals will ruthlessly take the lives of others that cause them problems: the driving force—greed. American sports constantly face union strikes that often interrupt American pastimes: the driving force—greed. The NCAA is potentially facing an implosion: the driving force—greed (be it from players or from the NCAA…you be the judge). The United States of America was once the greatest superpower in the world. The nation’s standing is eroding: the driving force behind this erosion—greed (and the rejection of God). Why do great churches crumble? Why do great leaders fall? The reason…they begin to look more upon themselves and their desires than toward the direction and leadership of the One who first gave them life: God. Greed is a dangerous monster. Don’t be found to hold 50 Shades of Green. Be found to be driven by God…not greed. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).

fifty shades of green

 Bibliography

 Metaxas, Eric. “What we can learn from young atheists: what turned them off Christianity.” Christian Post.com. (August 1, 2014). http://www.christianpost.com/news/learning-from-young-atheists-what-turned-them-off-christianity-124151/. (Accessed August 4, 2014).

Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Version. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.

Don’t Lose Compassion in Your Passions

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Passion drives many of us. For those of us who are passionate about sharing the truths of Christianity, we are driven to get the word out about the salvation we have found in Christ to as many as possible. This is not only good for the Christian, it is encouraged. Jesus commands the Christian to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). When it comes to apologetics, the defender is fervently passionate about presenting the Christian faith in a reasonable and rational way. However, it seems that there is a trend that many well-meaning Christians have become indifferent and bellicose in their responses to fellow Christians and unbelievers. While the Christian must stand for truth, let one not forget the commands of compassion that the Christian must demonstrate.

Love is at the Center of the Two Great Commandments

Jesus was asked about which commandments were the greatest. Jesus responded by saying, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). There is a common word found in both these commandments. Did you catch what it was? It was love. While it is certainly important to live a righteous life, it is never okay to forget the main focus of the law itself…love.

Jesus’ Harshest Condemnation Came to Those Who Lacked Love

When Jesus came down on the disciples and the Pharisees the hardest, it was either because they were not showing true faith or because they were guilty of not demonstrating compassion to others. For instance, when Jesus was dining in the home of Matthew (one who was deemed a sinner by the Pharisees), Jesus said of the Pharisees that they needed to “go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners” (Matthew 9:13). Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6 as indicated in the all-caps of the New American Standard. So often, Christians seek to break fellowship with someone when a person falls into sin. Certainly, one needs to guard from being trapped by the sin themselves. But, it seems that a complete break in fellowship from one who is ensnared in sin in counter-productive. Regardless, Jesus demonstrated love for those who were engaged in a sinful lifestyle. As we preach truth, let us not forget compassion for those who have been led astray.

Love is the Mark of a True Disciple

Jesus said it as loud and clear as He said anything, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Love is the mark that should identify a Christian. It is so important that John writes in his letter that “the one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother is in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10). If that was not strong enough to demonstrate the importance of love, John goes on to say that “the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Love Defined

So with all this mention of love, it should be defined what love truly means. Paul writes that love is…

patient,

kind,

not jealous,

does not brag,

is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly,

does not seek its own,

is not provoked,

does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness,

rejoices in truth,

bears all things,

believes all things (according to truth),

hopes all things,

endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

It is possible to be the greatest of speakers…the most brilliant of teachers…the most persuasive of debaters…and the most respected of scholars…and still not make an impact for the kingdom of God if one does not have love. So, the moral of the post is…don’t lose your compassion in your passions.
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

 

Are You a “Gotcha” Christian?

A godly man on Facebook recently posted a comment on what he called “Gotcha” Christians. “Gotcha” Christians are Christians who are quick to judge another who has fallen into a sin. The term comes from the game “Gotcha” where, as the tagline states, one “catches their friends before they catch the person.” Gotcha Christians do the same. They are quick to condemn another, perhaps because they fear that someone else may condemn them. These Christians can at times be callous. Yet, is this truly a display of genuine Christianity? For those who are regular readers of our resources, you know that we stand for genuine Christianity. Genuine Christianity is that which displays the fruit of the Spirit…those characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus stood against individuals that held onto a “Gotcha” religion. Jesus slammed the Pharisees on several occasions for this behavior. Jesus, not the tame person that many purport Him to be, said,

“The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets'” (Matthew 23:11-29).

Wow! That was straight to the point, huh? From Jesus’ teaching, we can find at least five characteristics of “Gotcha” Christians:

gotcha      1.     “Gotcha” Christians are Quick to Judge, but Slow to Self-Evaluate.

Jesus accused the Pharisees of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” In other words, He was saying that in their attempts to filter out sin from their lives, they actually engaged in egregious sins…sins against humanity. The Pharisees were quick to judge another for one’s sin, but they did not evaluate their own lives.

Much to the same degree, “Gotcha” Christians will see all the bad things in someone else while being just as guilty of those things themselves. For instance, I heard about an instance where a woman who had been divorced four times tried to give marital advice to a newlywed. I am sure the woman had some great points to offer, but she acted as if she was an expert on marriage. The point is that you will ultimately be responsible for your own actions. You will not be responsible for what I do just as I will not be responsible for what you do. Each person is responsible for his/her own actions. So, why should a person concern oneself over the flaws of another when the observer should be concerned for their own personal sins? That is not to say that one should not seek to offer help to another struggling in a particular sin. However, such an occasion calls for humility and love instead of hostility and loathing.

gotcha 2     2.     “Gotcha” Christians Focus on Symptoms instead of the Solution.

Jesus showed in verse 13 that the Pharisees that He was confronting were not going to enter the kingdom of God. They were so focused on particular sins instead of the solution to those sins. For instance, suppose you have a sore throat, the sniffles, running a fever, and are coughing and sneezing. Would you simply consider treating each particular symptom or would you treat the problem? Would you consider blowing your nose a solution to the problem? Of course not. For the runny nose is not the problem, the problem is that you have the flu. Therefore, you will have to fight the sickness to cure the symptoms. Likewise, Christians can focus on individual symptoms like: extramarital sexual relations, gossiping, and the like. Or, Christians can focus on the solution: salvation through Christ Jesus. Please understand that I am not saying that we should not acknowledge and diagnose the characteristics of sin. It is important for people to know what the Bible teaches about sin. However, if the symptoms overtake the solution, the disease will never get better. “Gotcha” Christians will normally hammer down on one sin without proclaiming the solution found in Jesus Christ.

gotcha 3 3.     “Gotcha” Christians Teach Legalism instead of Holiness.

Dr. Ergun Caner has become a controversial figure apparently over the details of his early involvement in Islam. However, Dr. Caner has some great things to say, nonetheless. In a video, Dr. Caner described the difference between “holiness” and “legalism.” Caner said, “Those who promote holiness want you to be like Jesus. Those who promote legalism want you to be like themselves” (Ergun Caner, Video, Liberty University). That is so true. Jesus seems to promote the same idea. Jesus showed that the Pharisees focused on small issues while demoting large areas of concern such as justice, mercy, and faith. Many churches have become “Gotcha” institutions. In these churches, a particular culture is promoted over Christ. For some, a particular style of music is held sacred over another. But according to Psalm 150, the believer should praise God with all kinds of instruments. Hence, Caner’s point remains, “Those who promote holiness want you to be like Jesus where those who promote legalism want you to be like themselves.”

gotcha 4     4.     “Gotcha” Christians Focus on Appearance instead of Integrity.

Have you ever meet a person that was attractive outwardly, but appeared ugly after you got to know them? Outward appearance only takes one so far. If there is no personality and genuineness, the physical appearance of the person wanes. Jesus showed that many of the Pharisees tried to look righteous outwardly but held no integrity. It seems like many people seek drive the nicest cars, live in the biggest houses, and only attend the fanciest churches. But, is that what God is really looking for? No! Instead God is looking for inner purity, integrity, and a merciful heart. “Gotcha” Christians will go so far as to divide a church over carpet and cleaning supplies, but wouldn’t give two cents over whether the church stands on the authority of God’s word. They will say “Gotcha” to one who does not fit their own perspective of what the church is supposed to be. But, the core question should be, “What does God say the church should be?” After all, it is His institution. As far as outward beauty goes, there is not a suit or dress expensive enough, not a tan dark enough, not a body fit enough, and not enough makeup in the world to cover up the ugliness of bad inner character and moral depravity.

gotcha 5     5.     “Gotcha” Christians Focus on the Praise of People instead of the Person of God.

Have you ever met a person that after talking with them would have you think that they held the world record in the bench press, while also holding the fastest track record, while also winning the Nobel Peace Prize, while also having the world’s highest IQ, and also claimed to invent electricity? Well, maybe that’s a stretch. Yet, for some people, there is no limit to their ego. “Gotcha” Christians are the same. They will seek praise for their spiritual disciplines, praise for their humanitarian efforts, and accolades for their position in society, while not considering what the Sovereign God may think of them. In another passage, Jesus said, ”

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him” (Matthew 6:1-8)!

In other words, a person’s faith is not genuine if the whole intent of one’s actions is just to be seen by others. “Gotcha” Christians do things just to be seen by others. At the heart of it all, “Gotcha” Christians seek to be seen as good by others to cover up the pain and distress within. But all the show in the world will never replace an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

“Gotcha” Christians have their focus all wrong. They focus on judgment, symptoms of sin, legalism, outward appearance, and personal praise instead of the more important issues of repentance, salvation, holiness, inner character, and the person of God. In the end, it must be asked if “Gotcha” Christians are truly Christians at all. Could they only be Christians in name only? Or, could it be that maybe “Gotcha” Christians have received Christ, but have not been discipled properly? Only God knows for sure. We must truly seek Christ and His character. In the end, there are four words that will protect one from becoming a “Gotcha” Christian…BE A GENUINE CHRISTIAN!!!

Seeking to be genuine and not a “Gotcha” Christian,

 

Pastor Brian

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Has the Dream Been Realized? Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Has the Dream Been Realized? Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Has the Dream Been Realized? Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

marchonwashington     Today (August 28th, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.    Although it must be admitted that our society has advanced by great leaps and bounds, one must ask; has the dream been realized?  In this article, two of Dr. King’s emphases in his “I Have a Dream” speech will be examined as the question will be asked: has the dream been realized?

Kids Holding Hands

Dream of Equality

One of the core tenets of King’s speech was on the equality of all people of various races.  King stated, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (King 1963, 5).  This is a biblical theme also.  Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).  Paul stated concerning the church, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NLT).  James, the brother of Jesus, even wrote, “Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law” (James 2:8-9, NLT).  Therefore, Dr. King’s voice of equality was a very biblical message.  Are we where we should be in this regard?

We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  In some regions, the role of race is not as much a factor as it is in others.  But, let us be honest.  There are still tensions.  Perhaps the passing of time will in the future mend the wounds suffered in the past.  In order for this to occur, people must be diligent in building bridges with others of different races.  Christians should lead the way.  The evangelical Christian should realize that God created all of us.  Yes, we all have weaknesses and faults.  But, we are all creations of God and have a purpose for being here.  This should help the Christian, of all people, to understand the necessity of loving others.  If a person is loved by God, who are we to act any differently?  Yes, if a person strays, kind-hearted corrections should be given with the best interest of the other in mind.  But, nothing should surpass the love that we are commanded to possess for people of all skin tones.  As the Gospel hymn is sung, “Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…Jesus loves the little children of the world” (Hymn: “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” Public Domain).  We are not there yet, but we should judge more by the “content of their character” (King 1963, 5) rather than the color of any person’s skin.

freedom

Dream of Freedom

King said, “When we allow freedom to ring when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholic, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last” (King 1963, 6).  The area of freedom is one that brings great concern for many people today.  Are we still the “land of the free”?  Considering the fact that individuals are losing the right to publicly profess their faith, one must wonder whether the First Amendment rights of all Americans will stand after the next century has passed.

jesus-statue in Montana     In Montana, a statue of Jesus, which held significance for the veterans being commemorated, was challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.  The American Center for Law and Justice reports, “Part of a war memorial on Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana since the 1950s, the statue was inspired by monuments the soldiers – who were also members of the Knights of Columbus – saw in the mountains of Europe during the war” (ACLJ, “ACLJ: Federal Court in Montana Keeps War Memorial in Place – “Win for Protecting Religious Heritage and History of our Nation”).  Is this really freedom?  It seems that we have taken a different turn than what Dr. King had imagined.  King said, “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day” (King 1963, 5).  The great irony is, Dr. King, if living on earth today, might find that his dream of freedom was gained on the racial spectrum, but would be losing ground on the religious spectrum…the very fuel that sparked the fires of his bravery and fortitude.

Conclusion

A lot of good was done on August 28, 2013.  Dr. King reminded us of the great kinship that we all hold together.  We have many problems in our day and time.  The United States of America is more divided than ever before.  However, Dr. King reminded us then, as we need to be reminded now, that we are all creations of God.  Every life has a purpose and value.  The world may look at you as a loser.  You may have been called a mistake.  But, God sees you as a winner.  God sees the person you could be.  Despite the differences that many possess, let us be reminded of the value of life as we celebrate the work and message of Dr. King.  For Dr. King reminded us of what the Christian should have already seen…that every person of every race is made “imagio dei” (in the image of God).  As God told Samuel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT).  As the realm of freedom is addressed, may it be reminded to the reader that true freedom comes through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 7:24b-8:2, NLT).

free-in-christ

Seeking to love all…red, yellow, black, and white,

Pastor Brian

Bibliography

ACLJ, “ACLJ: Federal Court in Montana Keeps War Memorial in Place – “Win for Protecting Religious Heritage and History of our Nation”, (ACLJ.org, June 25, 2013). Accessed August 28, 2013. <http://aclj.org/american-heritage/jay-sekulow-aclj-federal-court-in-montana-keeps-war-memorial-in-place-win-for-protecting-religious-heritage-history-of-nation>.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream,” Washington DC. March on Washington, delivered on August 28th, 1963.  Accessed August 28th, 2013. <http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf>.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

What the Evangelical’s Response to Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Should Be

mtv-video-music-awards

I must admit that I do not watch the Video Music Awards.  I never have and, quite frankly, probably never will.  Many, however, do.  One needs not watch the Video Music Awards to know of the controversy surrounding one or more of the performances due to the media and internet outlets.  It seems that every year the Video Music Awards (henceforth called VMAs) produces some ludicrous or audacious event that takes the nation by storm.  One year, the nation was a buzz due to the comments made by Kanye West during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech.  Another VMA was focused around a controversial kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears.  This year’s controversy is centered around Miley Cyrus’ apparent racy performance.  Many are left wondering, is this the same young woman who portrayed Disney’s “Hannah Montana” character?  From what little I have seen, it seems like this is a far different young woman from the one who portrayed the Disney pop star.

Many Christians will respond with judgment towards Miley Cyrus.  Yes the performance appeared to be crude and illicit.  This was even evidenced by the expressions found on the faces of Will Smith and his family.  However, I suggest that Christians take a different approach in response to Cyrus’ performance.  It is apparent that Cyrus is taking the same pathway preceded her by the likes of Lindsay Lohan,  Anna Nicole Smith, and Britney Spears.  The problem is that this pathway leads to certain destruction.  Some may be able to bounce back, but most do not.  The Christian needs to take the following responses:

Miley-Wallpaper-miley-cyrus-33260309-1280-800

Pray For Cyrus’ Repentance

Repentance can be viewed as a heavy word.  Some even see judgmental connotations connected to the word.  However, that need not be the case.  One of the first steps in recovery of alcoholism is the acceptance that one has a problem.  It is the same with anything in life.  The message of the prophets can be seen as harsh and caustic, but it was actually given out of a loving heart.  A person going down a destructive path does not have to continue on the pathway.  As Ezekiel proclaimed, “Son of man, give your people this message: The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins. When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins. And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right” (Ezekiel 33:12-14, NLT).  Therefore, the Christian needs to pray that Miley Cyrus’ eyes will be opened to the fact that she is heading down a bad pathway that will lead to the same results of those who have preceded her in traveling down the same road.  My prayer is that Cyrus will change soon for her own well-being and the well-being of her loved ones.

Pray for Cyrus’ Emptiness

One who seeks the approval of others will do anything for that approval.  I think this is what occurred at the VMAs.  Cyrus is under the impression that performing in crude and illicit fashions will bring her the approval of her peers and of the fans.  Her behavior has in fact given her an abundance of attention.  However, at the heart of this mentality is an emptiness.  Terry Muck writes, “The sexually seductive counselee needs help. She can be helped by the counselor who understands that her seductiveness is not just a “sin problem” but evidence of being terribly unsure of herself. She doesn’t feel like a whole woman, and the only way she knows how to relate to men is sexually” (Muck 1989, 169).  It seems that this may be the problem not only of Cyrus, but of Lohan and others.  The problem is that the entertainment industry is sexually-driven to the point that attractive women who struggle with emotional issues are easy prey.  I do not feel that these women are necessarily bad women.  I think that they have been victimized by the combination of internal struggles and external predation.  Unfortunately, no massive amount of wealth thrown at them will fill the emptiness in their lives.  In fact, the wealth only fuels the fires even more.  Only the presence of God will give purpose and meaning to one’s life.  Cyrus, who claims to be a Christian, may only need to be reminded of her purpose in God.  If in fact Cyrus has at one point entered into a relationship with God through Christ, her chances of recovery may be stronger than most.

Hannah Montana

Pray for Cyrus’ Well-Being

The Christian needs to pray for Cyrus’ well-being.  While living the prodigal lifestyle, one needs to pray that Cyrus does not make too many decisions that she will regret.  More importantly, the Christian needs to pray that she does not do anything that will harm herself in ways that will haunt her for the remainder of her earthly life.  Cyrus is sowing her “wild oats.”  But, we must not lose the compassion for her soul.  As Jesus reminds us, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35, NLT).  So, let us pray for Cyrus during this difficult time in her life.

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Conclusion

It is easy for a person to condemn another, but it is more important to love others.  Love is one of the central themes of the Bible.  Many Christians will see Cyrus’ performance and scoff.  Yes it is true that her performance was unnecessarily scandalous and racy.  But, we must remember that a person’s actions shows a lot about the person’s heart.  Her heart is hurting.  We need to remember that.  In addition, we need to remember that if it were not for the grace of God, we might be involved in the same type of behavior.  Christians should be the most humble people in the world.  Paul writes, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT).  In other words, the Christian is set free by the grace of God, not by one’s works.  Remember this fact and you might find that you are less likely to judge another.

Praying for Miley Cyrus’ well-being and others caught in the same trap,

Pastor Brian

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Muck, Terry C.  Sins of the Body: Ministry in a Sexual Society, vol. 19, The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1989.

Balancing the Mind and the Heart

Balancing the Mind and the Heart.

Balancing the Mind and the Heart

girl-balance-beam-6089464When I was a child, there were three boards at the playground that were mounted at three levels.  The object was to walk the boards like a tightrope walker to the very end of the top board, turn around, and walk back.  If one leaned too far to the left, one would fall.  If one leaned to far to the right, one would fall.  It was only by keeping oneself centered and balanced that one could make it to the end and back.

God has made the universe and everything in it with checks and balances.  If an environmental system gets out of balance, the system is designed to correct itself…perhaps by Divine intervention at times.  In life, it is also important to keep things in proper balance.  In politics, one finds that those on the ultra-liberal side promote issues too far to one end.  Those on the hyper-right side also take issues too far to the other end of the spectrum.  People are reactionary.  If something bad happens, people will go to extremes to ensure that the event will never occur again.  Unfortunately, these protective measures are often extreme, as well.

Solomon gives a great lesson on balance.  Solomon writes,

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 

2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NASB).

Along with these balances given by Solomon, a balance must be kept between the mind and the heart.  Jesus said, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NLT).  Jesus shows that a person should love the LORD with all their spirit.  This is a given.  But, Jesus especially shows that a person should love God with their whole heart and mind.  The heart (GK. kardia) was seen to be, as James Strong suggests, “of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions” (Strong).  The mind (GK. dianoia) was, “the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring” (Strong).  Therefore, it seems, at least to this writer, that there is a call for a love of God with a balance of the mind and the heart.  Unfortunately, many in today’s church seem to think that it is an “either/or” affair instead of a “both/and.”  In this article, an examination will be given, showing that the Christian does not have to choose between intellectual Christianity and an emotionally-charged Christianity.  In fact, the Christian can…and in fact should…enjoy both.

Love God with mind

 LOVING THE LORD WITH THE MIND

In certain ultra-fundamentalist circles, education and Christianity are like oil and water.  They seemingly do not mix for some people.  Some claim, “A preacher does not have to be educated.”  At the heart of it…no pun intended…the Scripture seems to give exactly the opposite charge.  Some will use the charge given of the disciples that they were uneducated in Acts as it is written, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, NLT).  However, this does not mean that Peter and John were dumb by any means.  It simply meant that Peter and John had not been trained in the council’s schools.  By the way, it seems that there is a common bias today in this regard.  Some pick and choose the “scholars” in which they listen.  But, is this not in fact a bias in and of itself?  Truthfully, Peter and John were extremely educated.  If Jesus is who the Bible claims Him to be, then Peter and John had been educated by the greatest educator of all time…God incarnate.  They had the greatest PhDs and ThDs ever known to humanity as they spent 3 and 1/2 years with “The Logos.”  So, how do we love the Lord with our minds?  It is done in four ways.

The Intellect

The Scripture, in fact, demands that the disciple be a student.  The term disciple (GK. mathetes) means “a learner, pupil, disciple” (Strong).  Joshua demanded that the people be learned in the Book of Moses as he wrote, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:7-8, NLT).  Paul, in fact, was a learned man.  Paul writes of himself, “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law” (Philippians 3:5, NLT).  Paul was so much a scholar that he was able to carry on debates with Epicureans and Stoics in the halls of Athens.  Therefore, the Christian should have a call to study the Scripture.  In our day and time, Christendom needs more individuals adept in the truths of the Bible so that they can, as Peter said, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB).  This does not mean that all Christians should have advanced degrees.  A call is given for those who are called to higher education to minister to those who do not.  Paul writes, “For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and uneducated alike” (Romans 1:14, NLT). However, it does mean that we all take seriously the call to become true disciples, or students, of Christ Jesus.

Logic and Reason

There is a call for Christians to check their interpretations of Scripture.  Fundamental truths exist for Christianity.  These truths are those in which the Christian is convicted as to their veritability.  The fundamental truths of Christianity which construct a biblical worldview are such truths as: the existence of God, the fall of humanity, the person and work of Christ, the resurrection, the trinity, and the like.  However, many other convictions fall in line with personal interpretations, preferences, and/or traditions.  A good example of one who holds an illogical view is the advocate of the King James Version of the Bible who says, “That’s the Bible I read because that is the Bible that Paul read.”  This becomes embarrassing if the Christian seeks to show the veritability of one’s convictions because English did not exist in the first-century.  Furthermore, the New Testament was written in Greek.  Also, Paul would have read the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) which would have either been in Hebrew or would have been in Greek if the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew scrolls) was used.  I never will forget Dr. Kent Blevins, my professor of theology at Gardner-Webb University.  He held different beliefs than I when it came to the foreknowledge of God and the like.  However, his demand in the class was, regardless of our view of God’s sovereignty, that our views were constructed logically and were coherent.  If you believe that one can lose his or her salvation, what do you do with passages of Scripture that seem to indicate that we are sealed and have assurance in Christ?  If you hold to the belief that one is secure in one’s salvation, what do you do with the passages in Hebrews and others that seem to indicate that a loss is potential?  If you believe in the Rapture…great!  This writer does.  But why do you believe it?  Can you prove that it a biblically sound event?  These things are important for the Christian to work through in order to have a coherent and logically sound faith.

It is important to love the Lord with our minds.  However, if one loves the Lord with the mind and does not love the Lord with his or her heart, then one is left with a calloused, cold, and legalistic religion.  It is important to love the Lord with the mind, but if there is no heart then one’s faith can become dangerous.  Paul writes, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NLT).  One needs more than just the mind.  The Christian needs to love the Lord with his or her heart.

God's heart

LOVING THE LORD WITH THE HEART

Jesus also mentions loving the Lord with all of one’s heart.  What constitutes a love for God with the heart?  Truly, many may be intellectual Christians who can bring forth great theological truths, present cogent arguments for the faith, yet lack love.  It must be admitted that this writer does not know the Slick family.  However, after reading the testimonial of Rachel Slick, the daughter of CARM’s director who turned atheist, it appears that she did not feel loved.  Now, I am not saying whether or not there was love in the home.  I do not know and will not dare to make such a judgment.  However, this appears to be a common theme among many who turn from the faith.  It is just as important for a Christian to love God with his or her heart as much as it is to love God with his or her mind.  Francis Chan indicates as much as he writes, “If God cared only about outward appearances and religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him.  But, God tells us repeatedly that HE cares more about the heart than the externals.  If God cared only about religious activitites, then the Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith” (Chan, 39).  This love from the heart involves three constituents:

Emotions

Emotions are powerful.  Our emotions can direct our thinking and our decision-making.  At times, an individual will become hurt and will allow his or her emotions to dictate one’s actions towards the offender.  The problem is that the offended can easily become the offender.  Some times, there may be a call to action.  Nonetheless, a person should seek the Lord’s guidance before acting.  It is amazing what 30 minutes of prayer can do for one before engaging in an action.

In this regard, it may be best to act according to the old contractor’s advice, “Measure twice and cut once.”  Once the cut has been made, the thing being cutted could become beyond repair.  Before we lash out with words and actions, it is wise to consider what the words and actions could do.  This is something on which this writer admittedly is still working.  Of course, the Christian is not going to be perfect on this side of eternity.  The Christian should wear a caution sign that reads “God at work.”

Will

When one speaks of the will, the person is speaking of the decision-making process or choices that a person makes.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the “will” as, “used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal “ (Merriam-Webster, “Will,” http://www.m-w.com).  The will must allow an experience with God.  I could give you all the evidence, all the reasons to believe, and all the logic to accept Christ in your life.  But, until you open your life and be willing to allow God to infiltrate your life, all of this is just talk.  Likewise, it is possible for a person to believe all the right things and have everything lined up correctly in his or her life and still be as much of an unbeliever as the skeptic and cynic.  Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.  So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say” (Luke 6:45-46, NLT)?  When a person has correct doctrine and not a right heart, caustic and cynical religion develops.  It may be that God would do greater miracles in your life, but you might be too restrictive in your theology to allow His Spirit to move and flow.  It is possible to quench the Holy Spirit.  Paul writes, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, NLT).  Could it be that heartless religion stifles the Holy Spirit?  I think it does.  In my life I have found that when I surrender to the power of God, God’s Holy Spirit flows through my life and gives great joy, love, and peace.  This is just the beginning.  Every day we are confronted with decisions which holds consequences.  Every decision, every choice, holds a particular consequence.  Will you allow the Spirit to conform and transform your will?  If every Christian would do so, hypocritical religion would be a thing of the past.

Compassion

Lastly, loving God with the heart opens oneself to love others.  Paul says it all when he wrote,

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, NLT).

Love is necessary if we are to claim to be a Christian.  This love comes from a relationship with a holy God.  It also comes from the willingness to love the Lord with all the heart.

Yet, in this, Christianity can lose its’ balance.  If one simply loves and does not stand for truth, then a person will float like driftwood never holding any bearings in life.  James writes, “Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, NLT).

CONCLUSION

God has created the universe with a great balance.  The Christian life must hold balance.  When the Christian leans too far to one side or the other, their life and faith becomes unbalanced and unfocused.  A Christian faith that holds intellectual prowess with no heart becomes legalistic, caustic, hypocritical, and worthless.  Likewise, a Christian faith that holds compassion with no intellect becomes flimsy, watered-down, flippant, and holds no foundation.  It is when a Christian allows the Spirit of God to infiltrate one’s life with truth and love that the individual becomes centered, focused, and a living example.  This is not the only balance.  In future articles, further balances will be presented.

Seeking to love God with the mind and heart,

Pastor Brian Chilton

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chan, Francis. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2012.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.