Thinking Out Loud

March 14, 2017

Salvation is Instantaneous, Spiritual Formation Takes Time

img 032915I am frequently reminded that people new to the journey of following Christ often need time in various outward areas. Their inward growth may be great: A love for Jesus, a desire to tell others, and a cultivation of personal discipline in Bible study and devotions. But becoming a follower of Christ isn’t about outward conformity, and some things may need more time, such as:

  • Language – If you are directly involved in mentoring the person, then it’s appropriate for you to try to help them shape their speech along higher standards. But if you’re not the one doing discipleship with them, you have to let this go, most times. You’ll be surprised how more is caught than taught on this one.
  • Spending Priorities – A person may have begun a process of percentage giving to their local church, but still has spending patterns about which you may not approve. This may just be a matter of time and spiritual maturity. On this, I keep thinking about the little diagram in the Four Spiritual Laws booklet, wherein the various aspects of life have come under Christ’s control. (See second of two images below.)
  • Dress – This is usually a discussion about women, though it doesn’t have to be limited to them. In a church setting, sometimes someone needs to be pulled aside on this one, but it has to be done very lovingly so as to not drive the person away. Admittedly, in many of our local churches, this one is awkward.
  • Addictions – The Twelve Step Program meetings, in various forms under various names, are proof that once addicted, battling this can be a lifelong fight. One program which confronts this from a Christian perspective is Celebrate Recovery. Some things however, like smoking, should be considered superficial.
  • Attitudes – Everything from racial prejudice to arrogance could get tossed into this basket. Remember, they’ve not arrived yet, and neither have you. Rather than have an agenda here, it’s far more beneficial to you to watch the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

Did I leave some out?

None of us started this walk fully formed, fully arrived; but solid 1:1 discipleship, the influence of a small group, sermons which deal with the lifestyle application of various scriptures, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will make a difference in what people see.

With people who manifest outward traits that you or others find problematic, remember that God looks on the heart.

 

July 23, 2012

Undermining The Faith Foundation of Others

Three things this week came together to cause me to be concerned about what happens when people holding to more liberal Christian beliefs have influence over others.

The Book

The first was a confession from a guy I’ve gotten to know well in the last couple of years. It seems his pastor at a previous church had loaned him a copy of a book written by a well known, but very liberal Canadian “Christian” author.  He told us that the book totally undermined his faith; that he stopped going to church for three years; and that during those years his two children dropped out of church [at this point, possibly] never to return.

The Blog

Then, last week I linked to the Christian Clichés article. Personally, I love it when people call into question some of the words and phrases we’re emotionally bonded to; but I had not done a lot of background research on the author, and in the comments section of this blog, and other blogs that linked to it, some disturbing things came to light concerning the author’s orthodoxy.

The Sermon

Then, on the weekend, I decided to ‘help’ out a guy who has been asked — for the first time — to do a Sunday morning sermon at his church on the subject of a popular Old-Testament story. Knowing that a mega church in Grand Rapids, MI was covering this same territory, I sent him the sermon link before realizing that the pastor in questions has some serious misgivings as to whether or not the story can be accepted as fact.

Conclusion

We live in a time when doubts are cool; where transparency about a faith struggle is considered a virtue; where it’s okay to call the creation narrative in Genesis a “poem;” where hell may or may not exist and may or may not be everlasting. Still, the rule of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) that has always stood Christians in good stead over the years is that, “Everything that can be taken literally should be taken literally.” This includes both the stories and the teachings. That may lead to different results with different people, but I believe it is the safest place from which to begin. Sadly, Christian belief is becoming increasingly diluted as increasing numbers of both mainline Protestants and Evangelicals seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

If I were a new believer today, I would need a lot of guidance, and I would want to be shielded somehow by the ‘enlightened’ whose ‘insights’ might ultimately be doing more harm than good.

image: Transforming Leadership

August 28, 2011

Seeing and Hearing Grace for the First Time

You could call it “elder brother syndrome.”  It doesn’t matter what you call it; I just keep thinking that those of us who’ve been around church for a longer period of time are sometimes working from a distinct disadvantage. I don’t mean to minimize the years of things God saved us from, but I’ve had two experiences within about two hours of each other:

  • The first one was sitting in the morning service behind a couple who are new to our church having started coming about a year ago. The worship leader chose some pieces which we haven’t sung in awhile, and the thought struck me, they’re hearing some of these choruses for the first time. I imagined the freshness of the music and lyrics to their ears and compared it to when I heard some of them initially.
  • The second impression was just an hour ago. I’m reading a manuscript for a counselor who is writing to other counselors on dealing with issues like forgiveness and healing, and twice in four pages he noted that people who have amassed a head knowledge of God over the years will find it will actually prevent them from hearing directly from God; hearing a message that reaches into their hearts.

This is why I believe it’s so important to invite friends, neighbors and co-workers to weekend services; so we can see what we do through fresh eyes.  It’s also good to get connected with people who are new to faith, so we can rejoice with them at the discovery of the different aspects of God’s grace as He reveals it. Finally, we need to constantly “come as a child,” with the sense of awe and wonder that happens when people “taste and see that the Lord is good” for the first time.

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