Thinking Out Loud

January 3, 2016

Making Spiritual Assumptions

Back in October, we introduced a new writer at Christianity 201, Josh Ketchum who blogs at Life in the Kingdom. I thought I would share one of his recent posts here, as this seemed like a good way to help kick off a new year! As we say almost every day at C201, click the title below to read this at source, and then take a few minutes to look around his blog.

Uncertain Assumptions You May Be Making

We make many assumptions as we go about our days.  Most of these are not a big deal if they do not turn out as we have assumed.  Our battery may be dead, our TV show may not have recorded as we intended, but we will live.

But when it comes to assumptions in the spiritual realm there are much more serious ramifications.  Our souls are at stake!

The Jews of Jesus’ day assumed that since they were the descendants of Abraham they were acceptable to God.  John and Jesus both try to blow apart this assumption, by teaching them their need to repent and enter the Kingdom of Christ (Luke 3:7-9; John 8:33-35).
Here are 7 Uncertain Assumptions You May Be Making:

  1. I am better than them.  The Apostles of Jesus were guilty of this assumption.  James and John wanted to bring fire down on the Samaritans, while Peter avoided table fellowship with Gentiles in the early church.  The root problem is arrogance or pride.  The sin we commit is one of partiality and turns people away from the message of Jesus, when we assume we are better then them!
  2. God wants me to be happy.  Many view God as a personal genie seeking to grant their wishes.  Our happiness is tied to our feelings and emotions, which are constantly changing depending on circumstances.  God desires our obedience and holiness. He wants us to be a representation of Him in this dark world (Rom. 8:28; 1 Peter 1:14-19).
  3. God made me this way, He will not hold me accountable. This assumption is used as a rationalization or excuse for all types of sins.  People say this about their temper, sexuality, drug addictions, and language.  God created us pure (Ezekiel 28:15; Mat. 18:3).  We sin when we are drawn away by our own desires and enticed (James 1:14-15).  Jesus teaches us all to repent (Luke 13:3).
  4. No one will ever see or know.  This assumption has been proved false over and over, yet Satan deceives people into believing they can partake in private sin and no one will know. Whether it is our online life, our perceived privacy on our phones, or activities on vacation at a distant place; we must remember our sins will find us out (Rom. 14:7; Nm. 32:23).
  5. I have plenty of time.  This is a huge assumption, we all make on a regular basis.  We assume we have plenty of time to teach our kids about Jesus.  We have plenty of time to mend struggling relationships.  We have plenty of time to get our soul right with the Lord.  Yet the Bible teaches us differently (2 Cor. 6:2; 1 Peter 1:24; James 4:13-16).  Our own experiences have shown this to be a false assumption as we have lost friends and family members suddenly.
  6. I am too young, or I am too old.  At times both of these are valid and true, but they must not become excuses.  In a society that is delaying adulthood, youth is used as an excuse to delay maturity and responsibility.  On the other end of the perspective, we should never retire from the Lord, or think we do not have anything to contribute.  Wisdom and age are esteemed in Scripture over physical prowess.
  7. Good people are saved.  We are not the judge, but this false doctrine is widespread.  This cheapens God’s grace, strips the blood of Christ of its power, and destroys the need to live a live of faithful obedience (Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10; James 2:14-26). This assumption must be corrected with a conviction in ones’ heart that they are lost without the saving gospel of Jesus (Rom. 1:16).

What uncertain assumptions are you making?

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June 4, 2015

Split Person

Kevin was the reason a whole bunch of guys from one of the local high schools started attending our youth group, and later joined the follow-up Bible study.

His leadership qualities meant that people listened when invited and many of the guys, as well as a few girls I probably wasn’t aware of, stayed and became part of the local church. Some of those I still see today.

Kevin was also rather promiscuous.

While at an age where boys are often more talk than anything, there was no denying his feeling of entitlement to an active sex life. He shared his philosophy with anyone who would listen, including my own circle of friends, and there didn’t seem to be any filters as to who he would try to make converts to his liberal views on sexuality.

Sometimes when there are disconnects in the life of a Christian, we say they have "a divided heart." Read more at Psalm 86:11.

Sometimes when there are disconnects in the life of a Christian, we say they have “a divided heart.” Read more at Psalm 86:11.

One time he invited me to a particular club he was going to on a weeknight. Though the bar was in downtown Toronto, it was on the edge, about ten minutes from where I was living. I wanted to hear the band, so I went along and got to see him in action. Within minutes he was in deep conversation with one particular young woman, had bought her a drink, and then they were dancing.

I had some conversations, too; but had a sense of being in the wrong place. Around the same time, I would write a song, “You Don’t Belong Here,” about a young person who is basically looking for trouble, but the people he meets up with have a sense that he belongs to another tribe, and simply don’t let him enter in fully to what they’re doing. The situation repeats through another two verses, and then in the final verse, he finds himself standing before God who checks his list and says, “You don’t belong here.”

I got Kevin to drive me home, and then, as I learned later, he drove back to the club and reconnected with the woman. It wasn’t all talk.

He was a strange mix. An ambassador for both Evangelical Christianity and a Playboy lifestyle. He was actually one of three people I knew during that time period, whose personality and person-hood was split between competing ideals, and had basically no problem with that. At the time, I always felt there was an element of secrecy about a duplicitous life, so I couldn’t really think of him as hypocritical when he broadcast his views so widely and loudly.

If it were me, I would be torn apart with internal conflict.

Troy was another. Despite a very conservative Christian upbringing in which he was still committed to, he had no problem regularly going to strip clubs.  By age 23, he had seen more women naked than most men would ever see in a lifetime. While I was tempted, his invitations to me to tag along were never accepted.

Derek was another. Vowing never have sex with a non-Christian, he would invite the girls to church and see that they prayed the sinner’s prayer before taking them to the bedroom in his parents’ home. That was the one that disgusted me the most, and when you analyze it, there was nothing particularly redeeming about his ‘vow;’ it would probably have been better if it never existed. 

I should say that around the same time, I realized that there is a sense in which everybody has some type of compromise, albeit to a greater or lesser extent. With the three guys here, it was just so brazen.

These are the types of people I met in church when I was in my early twenties.

In their own way, God used them to refine my faith.


Names have been changed. The youth group was a mix of teens and college and career aged people and so two of the three people in the story were of legal age for drinking and clubbing. Two of the three people in the story maintain a connection to the church.

July 14, 2013

Jesus Calls Us to a High Standard

I mentioned in the Wednesday Link List that I really wanted more people to see this and would probably reblog it. The author is Eddie Becker and you are encouraged to read this at source, Relevant Magazine, where it appeared under the title, 8 Things I Wish Jesus Had Never Said.

It’s the commandments. It’s His treatment of the ones I deem unlovable in my own mind. It’s the drawn out parables used to teach lessons that cut to the very core of my heart and soul. It’s the not only difficult sayings of Jesus, it’s the ones that frustrate us, that confound us and convict us.

As I struggle through the red letters of my NIV Study Bible, I see numerous statements from Jesus that perplex me. To be blunt, there are several things I wish He had never said. For example:

1. That I’m blessed when I’m persecuted at for my beliefs. (“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11)

If we can all be truthful, we find some things Jesus said difficult.

Through ridicule and brutal persecution, we are to feel … lonely? Depressed? Angry? Bitter? No, Jesus says we are “blessed.” It’s hard to think of that especially when we hear stories like what happened at the Zirve Publishing House massacre in Turkey. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that our “momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory.” In the end, all of these evil things many Christians world wide face will truly be blessings.

2. That I’ve cheated on my wife when I check out an attractive woman. (“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28)

When do you think the moment of adultery occurs? To many men it’s when a spouse has sex with someone outside their marriage. Many women think just an emotional relationship on any level with someone other than a spouse is cheating. Jesus says the tipping point starts when we simply lust after someone who isn’t our spouse. Crushing to the core at the end of the verse is one word: heart. Our lustful affairs don’t stop at our minds. We’re temporarily replacing our spouses with someone else in our hearts. That convicts me greatly.

3. That I can’t love God and money at the same time. (“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24)

I think Jesus brings up money here because if there is one thing that distracts us from full dependence on God, it’s money. How much time do we spend on it? Thinking about it? Worrying about it? Working for it? Spending it? Saving it? Wasting it? Stealing it? After all, as Kanye West says, “having money’s not everything; not having it is.” If we could just make a little more of it, we’d be okay. If I can just use it to buy this and that, I’d be fine. If we save enough this year, Christmas will be great. Maybe we need to start seeing all of our money and possessions as gifts from a gracious Giver, and not just means to survive and the source of our pleasure.

4. Not to worry. (“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear … “ Matthew 6:25)

$300 billion. That’s roughly the amount of money spent annually by employers on work missed and health care costs related to stress. In America, it’s almost uncool to not have some form of stress or worry in your life. Yet Jesus says that if the birds and flowers are okay, how can we have anything to worry over? I feel sometimes He’d understand my stress better if He sat down with me as I pay bills. I’m sure He would ask me why I don’t ask Him more regularly for help in paying those bills.

5. “Why did you doubt?” (“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,’ he said, “Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31)

It’s fairly easy to follow Christ’s commands when the balance of the world is swinging in our favor. It’s when the bumps in the road come, the heavy storms, that we seem to waver. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, so he got out of the boat to go to him. But he got distracted. The wind blew. The lightning flashed. Waves crashed. Cancer struck. Feelings got hurt. Tragedy hit home. Wars started. Pain happened. Yet through it all, Jesus expects us—as He expected Peter—to trust him, even in the midst of impending disaster.

6. To take sin so seriously. (“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” Matthew 18:8)

All I can do is wonder if the things I wish Jesus hadn’t said are really the things He wanted me to hear and do the most.

Jesus doesn’t play with sin. He goes as far as to suggest that any part of our body that causes us to sin needs to be removed. Those are drastic measures. He doesn’t recommend a self-help book or program. He wants total amputation of the things that are causing us to seek pleasure away from Him.

7. To pay my taxes and tithes. (“Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:21)

Be honest: you don’t like paying taxes. You don’t scrape couch cushions at home to gather extra money to donate to the IRS. Why? Because we don’t always feel like the money goes for our own personal wants and needs. We treat our tithes the same way. Jesus commands us to honor our leaders, both civic ones and church ones. In our age of anti-government rage, Jesus shows us we all come under the authority of someone else. We’re to honor that.

8. To love my neighbors the same way I love myself. (“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39)

Jesus has apparently never met some of the neighbors I’ve had over the years. Not just neighbors but people in my community, church and workplace. Many of these people are hard to love in general, let alone to love as much as I love myself. All that should matter to us is God created us all in His image, and He loves everyone He created. We’re not only asked to do the same, we’re commanded to.

If we can all be truthful, we find some things Jesus said difficult. We can debate over the cultural applications of many of the statements He made. We can add to and take away, twist and rearrange the phrases so they fit our own selfish purposes. I’m as guilty as any other at doing these things. Yet all I can do is wonder if the things I wish Jesus hadn’t said are really the things He wanted me to hear and do the most.

Eddie Becker works in sales but has a passion for writing. He is married to a beautiful wife and has two beautiful daughters. Read more at his blog or follow him on Twitter

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