Category Archives: Christians

Christians – challenged to rise up

Isaiah 42:21-22 offers the ongoing contrast between God’s word and his people.  “It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious” verse 21.

That’s the nature of God’s word, the LAW in the prophetic context.  Its origin on Sinai above the plain below.  Thunder, lightning and earthquake accompanied its presentation.  Terror fell on the Israelites as fire blanketed by black clouds threatened them with destruction—while Moses in the heart of it remained perfectly safe.

“But this is a people plundered and looted…trapped in pits…with no one to rescue…made loot….” verse 22.  That’s the contrast between God’s glorious word and his people.  Neither the ancient Israelites nor we are equal to its Mighty promise.  We don’t live it or proclaim it though we have the ability to do both.

The Law could inspire godly living, as Kings David, Josiah and Hezekiah proved.  And if the Law, Christ’s Grace certainly, as Paul, Peter and John proved.

This challenges Christ’s believers to be people of God’s word:  informed, rooted, articulate…living epistles known and read by sinners seeking forgiveness and spiritual purpose.

Let us discipline ourselves to remain within God’s will, as intimate with Christ in Grace as Moses with God in Law.  Let us rise as Christ calls us to be faithful to the discipline of New Testament Christianity instead of falling to the permissiveness of our perverted society.  Let us agree with God that tolerance is no virtue if it accepts sin as equal to righteousness Romans 1:18 ff, I Corinthians 5:2.  And let us agree that Christ’s demand of self-denial in discipleship is still necessary even in a culture that glorifies self-consumption and egotism.

What we don’t want to happen in 2016 is that Christians stop being living epistles, known and read, to become only dead letters in a castaway file.

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Christians – as a counter-culture

This blog is excerpted from a message preached July 12, 2015.

We may as well admit that the contemporary church is an accommodating-culture, not a counter-culture church.  This is the legacy of the church growth movement.  While it intended to remove only unnecessary obstacles to faith in God, in the process it removed sin, guilt, self-denial and Jesus Christ’s absolute authority over this life and the next.

Consider briefly four steps to re-establishing our churches as counter-culture, not accommodating-culture churches.

First, understand that we’re natural oppositionists to our society; critics of prevailing attitudes and behaviors.  Which has historically been true, as Acts 2:40 says.  The apostles had no kind words for their generation.

Second, we accept our role as Christ’s witnesses, not our country’s cheerleaders.  Which has been historically true, as Acts 1:8 says.  Jesus said nothing about Israel except as a mission field of sinners to be evangelized.

Third, we attack Satan’s strongholds wherever they exist in society.  Which has always been historically true, as I John 3:8 says.  Just because we have allowed societal wickedness to proliferate doesn’t mean we’re going to tolerate its existence.

Fourth, we expect and accept hostility from the unconverted.  It’s the natural Satanic result of being opposed by those who refuse to be intimidated by him.  This has certainly been historically true, as John 15:18-19 says.

Cheers for those willing to become part of the counter-culture church.  Because success is ultimately ours, as Jesus said in John 16:33.

After the Chicago Fire burned itself out October, 1871, residents found the heart of the business district the casualty of the mile-wide, four-mile long conflagration.

An author of a book of the city called Chicago, Past, Present, and Future met the publisher after the fire.  The publisher asked his opinion of Chicago’s future now that it had burned to ashes.  The writer didn’t blink an eye.  He predicted more people and money and opportunities in Chicago in the following five years than it had ever known. Chicago Fire, 196.

If anyone asks you as a Christian what you think the future of Christianity is in America, stand up and boldly reply.  Do not hesitate to say, “Brilliant, conquering, overcoming, devastating all of Satan’s pretensions and winning more people to Jesus Christ than have been won in all the centuries since Jamestown and Plymouth colony.”

But first…America must suffer many trials.  It must be humbled from its humanistic pride into “poor in spirit” sinners ready to repent and be baptized.

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Christians – a time to stand or retreat?

Prisoners of war are always casualties of battle.  The choice POW’s face is do they accept their status and wait for release when their armies conquer?  Or do they cause the enemy as much trouble as possible by making every effort to escape?

Both kinds of prisoners exist.  Some try to improve conditions of their captivity.  Some try to escape their confinement.  Sometimes those who escape depend on the skills of those who remain:  providing clothes, documents, identification that give a CHANCE of staying free.  A Prisoner’s Duty, 8, 11

 The question has particular relevance for Christians.  Face it disciples:  we’re prisoners of culture.  By our refusal to confront the unsaved with Christ’s demand of repentance, the unsaved dictate procedures in cities, school boards, presidential offices and personal relationships.

The question confronting Christ’s people is:  do we remain captives in culture and wait for release through personal death or Christ’s return?  Or do we seek ways to escape and take others with us to freedom in Christ?  The latter means we have to publicly and actively attack and destroy the works of Satan in society, continuing what Jesus came to do I John 3:8.

We absolutely refuse to adopt the world’s values.  We are persistently and perseveringly devoted to Jesus Christ’s Lordship.  But are we going to withdraw into the assurances of our faith and let society continue to degenerate?

It’s what society deserves.  But is it what Jesus expects of his people?  Would he allow us to remain faithful to him in private:  in our worship services, our personal devotions, habits and beliefs, but not taking public positions against the ballooning immorality and Bible-denying behavior?

Have we, at the end of the age now ripe for divine retribution, been excused from any public declaration of Christ’s sovereignty?  Indeed, is it now time for us to be like old Obadiah, chief of staff for Ahab’s household?  He proved a secret follower of Jehovah, who privately kept 100 prophets of God alive at great danger to himself I Kings 18:1-14.  Is it time for Christians to be interested only in their own salvation since it’s obvious culture isn’t interested in God?

In the past two weeks two groups of Christians have gone on record opposing gay marriage.  The 50,000 people pledging through The Defend Marriage Campaign are saying they will pay whatever price necessary to oppose same-sex marriage.  The Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Ohio declared their unyielding resistance to same-sex marriage.  Are other Church Conventions willing to state their opposition?  Has the NACC, the Convention of Independent Christians Churches and Churches of Christ done so?

Our battle with culture needs to start somewhere.  Why not by engaging the very people who have determined to overthrow every statement God ever made about what constitutes acceptable sexuality and acceptable marriage?

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Christians – co-workers in God’s kingdom

It happened in the November 22, 2014, football game between Nebraska and Minnesota, played in Lincoln.  The Cornhuskers blocked a Gophers’ field-goal attempt.  The ball flew up and past the fingertips of a Nebraska defender and hit the ground.  A teammate behind him as quickly caught it on the rebound and raced for a touchdown.

Then…what happened next got my attention.  The first man, who missed being the hero, began to block for the teammate who was.

A lesson for all Christians.  If we can’t run with the ball, block for the one who does.  If we can’t be the hero, support the hero’s effort.  Don’t refuse to play if you can’t star.  Support the star as he carries the kingdom’s ball forward.

It doesn’t matter who gets the credit so long as Christ gets the glory.  It matters only that Jesus is served, not who shines as the servant.  The church is a team, needing a united effort.  Some individuals may rise to great achievements, but only with help of OTHERS will they score.

Christians – while exercising sin in themselves, unbelievers won’t forgive it in Christians

In 1983, a husband and wife, described as an All-American couple, pleaded “no contest” to prostitution charges.  They had advertised in a local paper; offered sensual pleasures to all who responded, with the wife promising sadistic sexual encounters at $80 an hour.  At the time of their arrest they also worked respectively as the football coach and assistant principal in a suburban senior and junior high school.

Somehow, we don’t expect such people to be engaged in degrading, gruesome, immoral activities, even in the privacy of their own home.

When Amos blistered the surrounding nations for their sins, Israelites nodded approvingly and applauded.  Nothing those barbarians did would be surprising or shocking.  But how unnerving when the prophet unloaded his denunciations on Israel.  For, lo and behold, their disobedience was as great as their neighbors.  And, wonder of wonders, sins that everyone expected in the Syrians, were also found among the Israelites.  No one, especially the Israelites, expected that.

This should put Christians on guard.  There are things people expect from the unsaved, but not from the redeemed.  Things that don’t surprise people in non-Christians shock them when seen in God’s people.  It’s the coach and his wife all over again.  Of many others, yes.  Of them, never.  And, fairly or not, people grudgingly forgive egregious sins in Christians.  It’s the old rule that those from whom much is expected, and little is received, must pay higher penalties; when they betray privately the ideals they publicly espouse.  But, then, we could avoid being so resoundingly condemned if we don’t want to be known as Christians.  Are we willing to surrender such august privileges to be judged by a lower standard?

Christians don’t always live up to their potential.  They sometimes plummet to deplorable immorality.  But…important point:  whatever failure they experience occurs despite the Faith they represent, not because of that Faith.  Jesus empowers his people to live honorable, overcoming lives, but will not betray their personal freedom if they choose NOT to exercise his power.