You had one job.

broncos

Did you see the news yesterday, that the Super Bowl grounds crew accidentally painted both end zones with the Broncos logo?  It is humorously reminiscent of the Snicker’s commercial where the grounds man meticulously painted “Chefs” instead of “Chiefs” for Kansas City.   “You had one job”, the meme goes today.

Do you ever stop to think, as a Christian what is my “one job”?  We are all unique individuals, God has made some of us to be mothers, some fathers, some political leaders, some pastors.  We all have a variety of roles and hats that we will wear throughout our lifetimes.  But is there one overarching drive or job that we have?

To consider this question, we must look directly to Scripture.  We know that Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Testament Law, but He taught us grace and love, so did He give us any commands?  Scholars have actually counted up over fifty direct commands that Jesus gave.  They also have counted 1,050 direct commands given in the New Testament as a whole!

The vast majority of the instructions and commands that Jesus gave during His lifetime on Earth are directly related to how one is to act and feel as a Christian.  How to be a disciple.  Jesus entered the world in a time where Jews had the Law of God, and were following it – and had even added to it – out of a heart of legalism and pride.  The pious kept the Law well and judged everyone who kept it poorly.  But Jesus came in to teach them that they had missed the entire premise of God’s commandments, and that was love.  It was love for God that was to compel them to obey the rest of the Law.  When He was confronted as to which of the Laws was the greatest, His response was:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, 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.”

– Matt 22.37-40

Sometimes we forget that these are direct quotes from the Old Testament, Mosaic Law.  You can find them in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19.  Jesus did not introduce a new teaching here, He simply stated that the entire premise of being a Christian is to love God, and by that love be driven to love our neighbors and obey the rest of His commands.  The rest of the commandments Jesus gives are similar to the rest of the commandments of the Old Testament:  they are instructions for how our love should be enacted.

The culmination of those commandments are Jesus’ final words, the Great Commission.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  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.”

– Matt 28.18-20

As with the rest of the commands, the Great Commission is indicative of how a disciple should act, and it should be driven by love for God.  However, unlike other commands, it is our appointed job – if you will.  It is the climax of all the other commands.  Once we have met Jesus, repented of our sins, learned to be a disciple by walking in love and obedience to Him, we must replicate ourselves.  We must turn around and teach others what we have learned.  It is the circle of the Christian life.  Part of being a disciple is making disciples.

Now, we all have different personalities and different strengths.  We will not all make disciples in exactly the same way.  Some of us will teach Bible studies.  Some of us will mentor young believers one-on-one.  Some of us will be preachers who proclaim the Gospel to the masses.  Mission boards even send out missionaries who are in “support” roles – meaning they handle paperwork, housing, finances and the like.  These people, while their primary role is not Church planting, however, are not off the hook in sharing the Gospel and making disciples personally.  Whatever fills up your heart will be that which comes out.  If you can have a conversation, and if you love Jesus, then you not only should, but naturally will talk about Him.

We often put an emphasis on people’s dying words, or parting words.  You can read numerous articles on villains’ final words upon execution, or heroes final words on their death beds.  Jesus’ dying words were indeed profound, but His final words to us as He returned to Heaven and left us on Earth are life altering.  Go, make disciples of all nations.  When you meet Jesus face to face, if He were to ask you “Did you go make disciples of all nations?” what would you say?  Now, obviously, God knows everything and will not have to ask us for an account of our activities.  But perhaps His question will be, “Why did you not go?”  What will our answer be then?  I was too busy?  Too afraid?  I had to make money, raise a family, or buy that big house?

Part of discipleship is making disciples.  Charles Spurgeon ominously stated,

“The great question is not, ‘Will not the heathen be saved if we do not send them the gospel?’ but ‘Are we saved ourselves if we do not send them the gospel?'”

Let’s step back and consider our lives in light of this reality.  Jesus gave us a very clear final command.  How are we doing in obedience to it?  Are we ready to give an account of your obedience to Him?  When we examine the whole of our lives in light of this command, what do we see?  Let’s be disciples.  Let’s make disciples.  We have one job, let’s get busy about doing it.

We praise what we love.

conversation

Some people talk a lot.  Some people talk a little.  I personally ebb and flow on the spectrum depending on situation and environment.  But when you are meeting someone new or catching up with someone from the past, one thing is always true:  you talk about common interests.  The fun (for some) “get to know you” conversation includes the normal questions of family, history, and interests.  You are trying to find common ground on which you can connect with this new person.  Do you have a common interest?  Do you have a mutual friend?  Have you ever lived in the same city?  When you go home to visit your parents, you end up talking about people and situations from your distant past – to the joy of some, and the pain of others.  You will never live down that one story from your past in your parents’ eyes.

We talk about the things we know and love.  Not only do we not enjoy conversations about things we know little or nothing about, we simply have nothing to say about them.  I know very little about race cars.  Other than having attended High School in Indianapolis, where they have the Indy 500, I have nothing to add to a conversation about racing.  I can ask questions, but will be generally lost on the topic and quite frankly, not that interested.  But when you find that sweet spot, when you figure out what makes a person tick, you can see their eyes light up, and if you happen to have the same drive you can talk for hours.

“Your mouth is always filled with praises for what you value most.”

– C.S. Lewis

Jesus also says it quite simply:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

– Luke 6.45

We speak that which fills our hearts.  Jesus, interestingly, puts a value on the fruit of our mouths:  it is either good or evil.  Our comfortable Christianity teaches us that there are three categories:  good, evil and neutral.  But Jesus had a much more black and white outlook.  Either something is glorifying to God and therefore good, or it is evil.  Either an action or word is out of faith and therefore good, or it is evil.  Either a word is edifying to those who hear it, or it is evil (1 Cor 10.31, Rom 14.23, Eph 4.29).

Does that mean that we cannot talk about anything other than Jesus, Church and theology?  No, but it means that everything we think, say and do should be done intentionally to the glory and honor of God.  Eating, drinking, singing, working, playing, talking, you name it.  And if we fill up our hearts with Jesus and His Word, then we will bring forth actions and words that glorify Him, even if they are not directly about Him.  He will still be the driving force behind them.

It will be a natural occurrence that we fill up our hearts with Jesus and His Word when we love Him, not a chore.  Sometimes we like to make excuses for ourselves to say that we are too busy, we have responsibilities, etc.  But we always make time for those things that are important to us!  If you know you have a standing appointment at the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you don’t plan coffee with friends during those times.  If you teach Sunday School before Church every week, you do not enroll in a soccer team that plays games on Sunday mornings!  We plan our activities and events around those things that we value most.  And, quite frankly, we let others (and Jesus) know that they are not that important to us when we schedule something else over a standing appointment (or Church and prayer).

Too busy to pray?  John Piper has eloquently stated,

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the last day that prayerlessness was not from a lack of time.”

– John Piper

What do you value?  Is Jesus and His Word saturating your heart such that everything that comes out is glorifying to Him and edifying to one another?  Can you confidently say that you are eating, drinking, speaking, resting and playing by faith and to the glory of God?  Your mouth is praising something today, what is it?

 

When you don’t know what to say.

public speaking

How do you feel about public speaking?  My full time job is managing up to 100 volunteers at a time, I have spoken and taught in front of thousands, and for some reason getting up in front of people is no big deal to me.  My husband, however, feels the exact opposite.  He is the outgoing, social butterfly of the two of us, but anytime there are more than eight or so people gathered, he gets uncomfortable.  If I were going to share the Gospel, I would prefer a crowd.  He would prefer one-on-one.  God truly makes unique individuals!

Interestingly enough, we both have comfort zones – specifically in sharing our personal faith – and we both feel uncomfortable when out of them.  I get so nervous anytime I get the opportunity to share the Gospel one-on-one, but share it twice a day with fifty people at a time.  He would rather do anything else than speak to a large group, but he is quite possibly the most bold person I know in small settings.

What is your comfort zone?  And what is your go-to excuse when trying to stay in it?  Do you remember Moses?  His mother spared his life when the Egyptians were forcing all male babies to be murdered (an his brother’s as well), but when she could not hide him anymore, she put him in a basket and Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own.  He knew he was a Hebrew, he killed an Egyptian for abusing Hebrews and then fled for his life when the matter became known.  While he was in hiding, 40 years later, God came and called him to be His mouthpiece and point person in dealing with Pharaoh.  God had a plan:  He wanted to exemplify His power through plagues and signs, and after killing Pharaoh’s eldest son, the Hebrew people would be released from Egypt.

God told Moses all of this before he ever stepped foot on Egyptian land.  Even so, after seeing the burning bush, after witnessing the first three miracles, and after speaking to God face to face, Moses objected:

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

– Ex 4.10

Three times Moses objected.  God’s response is beautiful:

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”

– Ex 4.11-12

God began with an assertion of His power and sovereignty.  He Himself created man’s mouth.  We each only have mouths and tools for communication because God gave them to us.  He also is sovereign over the ability to speak and the ability to see.  He enables us to utilize our mouths and eyes.  Therefore, since He is the one who created mouths, since He is the one who is sovereign over mankind’s ability to speak, Moses should submit to Him.  And not only that, but He promised to give Moses the very words.  He should also trust God.  Obedience and Faith, in perfect harmony.

Moses, however, still refused:

But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”

– Ex 4.13

Do you know what the result was?  God became angry at Moses.

“Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know thathe speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.  You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do.  Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.'”

– Ex 4.14-16

God was angry at Moses, and gave Moses what he wanted – but Moses was the one who suffered for it.  God still chose to use him, and he is still known as a great patriarch, but Aaron got half of the role.  He was the point person to Pharaoh and the Hebrew people.  His staff is the one that was forever saved in the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses considered himself slow and not eloquent of speech.  He did not want to get up in front of Pharaoh or in front of a crowd, even though God promised to give him the very words he would speak, and He gave him the power to work miracles.  Do you think you would be willing to get out of your comfort zone if you could turn your cane into a snake?  Or turn water into blood?  I would think that power would enforce a sense of authority, but I don’t mind public speaking.

This might sound like an interesting story, but what is the application for us?  Thankfully, Jesus gives the same promise to the disciples, church and us when we are in our moment of persecution and need:

“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

– Matt 10.17-20

Not only does Jesus promise to tell us that we will have the words, He promises that the Holy Spirit will speak through us in those moments.  He will bring thoughts and verses to mind that we never expected.  He will give us the wisdom in those moments.

The other application is terrifying.  God set Moses apart for a wonderful task, and he rejected it, in part.  God got angry at him, and went about His plan without Moses in that role.  The take home is simple:  God’s plan will not be thwarted.  We can go deeper into the intricacies of God’s sovereign knowledge of our refusal and the fact that He already knew Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses’ refusal still resulted in his missing out.

God is going to take His Gospel to every people group in the world.  He has commanded us all to go, and be a part of it.  If we refuse to go, He will accomplish His goal without us, but we will miss out on the blessing, and not only that but when we stand before Him we will have to give an account for our disobedience.  Are you prepared to give your excuse?

God will ask us to do things that are outside of our comfort zone.  He will ask me to share the Gospel with people in one-on-one settings.  He will ask my husband to speak up in a big group setting.  He will take us across the street, across the city, maybe even across the world.  But He will always go with us, He will never forsake us, and He will give us the words to say through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

So let’s trust Him today.  When you find yourself in a conversation or situation that is outside of your comfort zone, say a prayer.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you.  And trust God to get you through that uncomfortable situation.  You may never adapt to like or enjoy those types of situations.  You may still get nervous every. single. time.  But thankfully, we can rely on the promise that God will do the work through us, and He will bring about the fruit.  All we have to do is obey and have faith!

“I kept you from sinning…”

ethics

Being finite and confined to our own, physical bodies, it is very often difficult for us – especially self-centered westerners – to consider powers outside of ourselves, and greater than ourselves, greatly impacting our lives.  I vividly remember my high school freshman AP English class entering the discussion of destiny:  is there such a thing?  Are we in control of it?  And that conversation quickly turned to the issue of morality:  would we know right and wrong if it weren’t for laws and rules?  We were essentially discussing the existence and power of God without bringing His name into it.

Interestingly enough, however, those who believed in destiny were the more free-thinking artistic type, while those who did not were more of the scientific, right-brained persuasion.  However one such guy, who is now a pharmacist, made the statement:  “I think if I killed my friend and there was no law against it, I would at the very least feel sad that he was gone, and recognize that I had done something bad”.  This conversation has remained in my mind as I have grown Spiritually through the years.  I am a bit more right brained, and without the direction of Scripture, I would naturally like to believe that I am in control and make my own destiny.  But when we truly consider our limited nature, it is the greatest blessing to have Scripture teach and guide us.

The book of Romans beautifully teaches us that we are given the Law of God so that we may know sin (Rom 7.7).  When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden, they had not yet sinned and therefore had no experiential knowledge of it.  They were still innocent and thus could walk in the presence of God.  God did, however, give them a commandment and consequence for breaking that commandment – thus they had an intellectual knowledge of sin.  They knew disobedience was an option, and its result if they did it.  The law gave them knowledge of sin.

Romans also teaches us that God has written His Law on our hearts to the extent that we have consciences and feel guilty when we do something that is morally wrong.

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

– Rom 2.14-16

So my non-believing, scientifically minded friend recognized this God-given attribute of a conscience, which is founded on God’s perfect law.

We also see beautifully in Scripture that God is the beginning and the end.  He wrote the entire story of history before He even created the world, prophesying Jesus at the very moment Adam and Eve sinned.  Because of this sovereignty we can believe promises like Rom 8.28 which states that “all things work together for good for those that love God”.  If God were not sovereign and in control of the universe, then He cannot guarantee that everything will work together for good.  He is just a piece of the puzzle watching and waiting to see what happens next.

What, then, when someone puts us in an impossible situation?  Will we ever be tempted or able to turn back and blame God for our actions and sin?

While God is sovereign over every situation, and while He uses sin as a part of His plan and will, we still make that decision to sin in our minds and will still give an account.  It was God’s sovereign plan from the beginning to offer Jesus as our atoning sacrifice, and yet those who actually murdered Jesus will be held responsible for their actions and sin.  It was prophesied and God’s perfect plan that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His close friends, and Judas is still responsible and guilty for that sin.  As Joseph said, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen 50.20).

God does promise, however, that with every temptation there will be provided an escape.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

– 1 Cor 10.13

I once was in a situation where the local police were looking for some Christians because they had been talking about Jesus and seeing people saved (this was illegal in that country), so I and some friends were helping to hide them until they could leave the region.  Their car was in my back yard, but they kept moving from friends’ house to friends’ house.  The police came and asked if we knew where they were.   We were honestly able to answer, “no”.  They did not ask any probing questions, they did not ask if we had seen them, God oversaw the situation such that they asked the only question we could answer without lying and without endangering the lives of our friends.

Whatever temptation comes your way, enticing you to sin, God has promised a way of escape.

Not only that, we also see a beautiful example of God protecting a king from unknowingly sinning:

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”  Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?  Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”

– Gen 20.2-6

Abimelech was the king, so it is not only possible but likely that he had multiple wives.  But even so, consider taking a wife and not being with her intimately that same day!  He was exercising his rights as king, he considered Sarah beautiful and so he took her to be his wife without the knowledge that she was married, but believing the lie that she was not!  Therefore, God kept him from sinning.

I am not promising that there will never be a time when you sin based on incorrect knowledge or the sin of someone else.  But we do see that God is concerned about our holiness so much so that He promises to always provide an alternative to sinning, and there are times when He will intervene and keep us from sinning when we are unaware.

We do all have a God-given conscience by which we recognize sin, and there is a destiny.  God has written the story of our lives, and He will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him.  He will intervene in our lives and provide us ways to escape temptation and sin, and He will intervene in our lives in ways that we may never know – to direct us down a path, to keep us from sinning, or to bring glory to Him in any number of ways.  So let us trust Him today.  Let us praise Him for our salvation and the provisions thus far, and let us continue to trust in Him and follow Him diligently until we get to meet Him face to face.

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

difficult

As Christians, we believe that God is sovereign, and Lord over the universe.  We comfort ourselves with promises like Rom 8:28, that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, and we regularly [mis]quote verses like Phil 4.13 when getting ready to set out a new adventure:

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

We know that nothing is too difficult for God.  He created the entire universe by commanding the occurrence.  He has defeated armies, He has stopped the sun, and He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land.  I find it very interesting, too, that many of the patriarchs had wives who were barren.  Abraham was married to Sarah who was barren.  His son Isaac married Rebekah who was barren.  And Isaac’s son Jacob married Rachel who was barren!

God, however, touched all three women and gave them children.  The crazy part about these stories, however, is that Sarah was 90 years old when she had Isaac (Scripture even says she was “beyond child bearing”).  Rebekah was approximately 72 years old when she had Jacob and Esau, having been barren for 20 years, and Rachel was 36 years old when she gave birth to Joseph, after being barren for 14 years.

Yes, Sarah was by far the most dramatic example of God’s sovereignty and hand in “unnatural” childbirth, but even Rachel was barren for 14 years.  Anyone nowadays who has struggled with infertility would have most likely adopted or given up the dream of a family after a few years, let alone fourteen!

But when the Lord was appearing to Abraham and Sarah and promising a child, both of them laughed.  It seemed the impossible when He made the final promise that within the year Sarah would have a baby, and they were 99 and 89 years old.  His response is simple and profound:

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

– Gen 18.14

Is anything too difficult for the Lord?  We have heard the Bible stories often enough that we mentally assent that God can defeat a giant with a single stone.  He can bring plagues on Egypt when they disobey His command.  He can raise people from the dead.  But how often do we think of Him as having intercessory power over infertility or a job search?  What are the things for which we long the most, or over which we stress?

Job hunts tend to be intense.  We compromise what we want and desire because we need something to pay the bills, and then when we are in our new roles we tend to be unsatisfied and longing/looking for something more.

Unexpected bills and budgets can leave us fretting, when the bank account just cannot keep up with the Jones, or the medical bills rolling in.

Failing health can cause immeasurable stress.  Many of us live for years with a sense of invincibility but then they find cancer, a blood disorder or a heart disease and we are suddenly left facing the reality of death and our inability to live forever.

Nothing is too difficult for the Lord.  He can put us in the most impossible situations and provide a miraculous escape.  He can leave us wanting and pursuing something that He will only fulfill after a seeming eternity of effort.

God has reasons for all of these trials, and we know that they will work out for our maturity and good, and also for His glory.

God never promises to give us everything that we want and that we ask for.  He does, however, promise to meet those needs He sees – which will lead to our good and His glory.  Sometimes that will mean providing and preforming the impossible!

There is nothing too difficult for God.

Always Learning but never gaining knowledge.

books

When I was in High School, I went to a big church that was exceptionally good at events.  Like many of the big, evangelical churches in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, we began to see that while we were successfully drawing in people (namely, students), we were failing to truly introduce them to Jesus, and discipleship was not happening.  Thus, many youth and adults who once attended church for the entertainment factor have fallen away.  The church was large enough that we put on our own summer camp.  Hundreds of students, a big stage, a cool band, a dynamic speaker, you know…the cool stuff.  Students would make an emotional decision to follow Jesus, but then continue living worldly lives with no accountability or training.  While I was in High School, we began the transition away from events and to cell groups.  Remember those?  The first small groups.  Unfortunately, they were still age-segregated and thus we had students teaching students.  As it proved later, non-Christians teaching non-Christians about the Bible.

At the time, my faith was extremely academic.  I loved the Bible, I loved theology, I loved to study.  Seeing a youth group full of people who did not know Jesus, but pretended to, I grew frustrated with the Church and developed a circle of friends from high school who were the philosophical type.  We took the world religions classes, we would discuss Nietzsche, the meaning of life, and sit up drinking coffee at Perkins until 2:00 am.  I was the only professing Christian in the core group, but we all had a respect for one another and would listen attentively and critically to push one another to think more deeply.  We were those kids.

The day I arrived home from my sophomore year of college, I received news that one of these friends had been killed in the war.  My world was shaken, and my faith rocked.  Jesus hung out with the sinners, right?  I was hanging out and preaching the Gospel to nonbelievers.  I wanted him to believe.  I had prayed for him.  I wrote him letters on while he was fighting for our country.  How could his salvation not be what God wanted?

Throughout the next year as I wrestled with the eternal facets of the faith and the implications thereof, God helped me to fall in love with the Church.  In short He said, I love and died for my bride.  You are called to do the same.  Not only that, He showed me that philosophy is vain, if we are not being transformed into the image of Christ or winning others to the faith.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

– Col 2.8

For us, the meaning of life and whether or not the physical world truly existed was an interesting mental exercise.  Sure, I kept the ten commandments as best I could, I didn’t smoke or drink or sleep around, but theology and the Bible was so interesting to me that it engaged my mind without engaging my affections.  I wanted to see how all the pieces fit together, but was not falling more in love with Jesus in response.  We were thinkers.  We were philosophers.  We were “seekers”.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

– 2 Tim 3.1-7

Many churches in those days developed programs, and some even turned their entire focus to seekers.  “Seeker Sensitive” became the new hot word which some despised and some embraced as gospel truth.  We no longer used “church-ese” language, so that outsiders can understand.  We keep our preaching simple to engage a potential visitors, and our focus is on those who might show up and not know what is going on.

While that mentality is completely unbiblical, it also proved to be unfruitful.  Why?  Because many “seekers” are those academics who enjoy the mental discipline of examining theories and worldviews, but will never take a stand and choose one.  They are “always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of truth”.  And most seekers do not show up to church on their own.  If they do, they enjoy the simplistic preaching and people are not growing.  It is the same problem as the event-driven church: no disciples are made.

Paul warned us that this day was coming.  It has been happening throughout history.  William Wilberforce fought against it in the early 19th century.  Ryle and Spurgeon fought against it at the end of the 19th Century.  Jonathan Edwards and the puritans fought against it during the birth and growth of modern philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries…academic philosophers questioning the nature of reality but never encountering Jesus in a life-transforming way.

Paul teaches us not to rearrange our churches to cater to seekers.  Quite the opposite, in fact, he warns us to avoid such people.

Now, I know that sounds harsh.  God is love, and He would reject no one, and if we are supposed to be like Him, we should love everyone and not reject anyone either.  Right?  There are people that we are commanded to avoid and disassociate with, and they are those who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reject it or continue in sin, rejecting God’s teaching on their sin.

“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

– Matt 10.14

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

– Matt 18.15-17

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.  For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

– 1 Cor 5.1-5

Avoid such men as these.”

– 2 Tim 3.5

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us…If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.”

2 Thess 3.5, 14

We are too afraid to offend anyone these days, that we will not call a spade a spade.  We are too afraid to stand up against sin that we allow it in the camp and it destroys us from the inside out.  The early church took sin extremely seriously because they were running for their lives and depending on one another for accountability and livelihoods.  Church was serious.  Now, church is like a big club that we want everyone to join, and showing up on Sunday mornings is enough for us.  The early church also understood their guilt before a righteous God and the due penalty for that guilt, thus they took their personal holiness seriously, learning to live holy and righteous lives through the power of the Holy Spirit and dying to the flesh.  Nowadays we trivialize sin and believe that God will forgive us no matter what we do, because God is love.

Paul gives us the clearest instruction for how we are to respond:

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

– 1 Cor 5.9-15

A person who claims to be a believer yet continues is sin is dangerous and we are disassociate with them.  Period.  A person who hears the Gospel and rejects it is not of us, and we are to move on, and take no offense.  We do not cater to seekers who are always learning but unable to come to knowledge.  We do not cater to nonbelievers who might stumble in our doors.  We go out and proclaim the Gospel where people are, and then welcome them in to begin the process of maturation and growth.

Do you have the knowledge of Jesus Christ?  Do you interact with Him on a daily basis and abide in Him?  Do you rely on Him for strength and sustenance?  Doe the Holy Spirit guide you and convict you of sin?  Or are you just an academic seeker?  Do you entertain the various philosophies out there to expand your mind?

Avoid the temptation.  God has given us clear truth and answers to the questions we have.  Let’s find the answers and be satisfied, not continually seeking, and not continually engaging those who hear the truth but do not receive it.  Let us keep precious our pearls and not throw them before swine.  It is a sensitive balance that we do not write off unbelievers, we pray for them, we engage them, but we must beware to invest too much time in one who will never learn and thus not have the opportunity to reap the harvest that is ready.  Let us pray for wisdom, discernment and guidance.  Let us trust God.

Why are we not going?

world

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  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.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Few people would argue with the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, calling us to go make disciples of all the nations.  But in response to the call, how often have you heard [or said] the sentiment, “There is so much work to be done here in the United States”.  I live in a city – Denver, CO – that many would call a mission city, a largely unchurched city.  I drive through an urban section of town to get to work, and on my four mile commute I pass no less than six churches.  I know of quite a few mega churches in the city, running multiple thousands of people every weekend, as well as a dynamic Acts 29 planting network in the city, as well as many, many long-time established churches.  My husband and I bought a house and had to furnish it, and we bought almost everything off Craig’s List.  Of the countless home visits we made to check out and buy furniture, lamps and everything we needed, we met only one non-Christian.  I guess it is possible that only Christians use Craig’s List…

Statistics and numbers are lost on us.  We hear them all the time, and it is nearly impossible to grasp the magnitude of a million people verses three hundred thousand.  Our views are limited, our perspectives skewed, and we tend to care about those things that are in front of us and which we have experienced.  Just for the sake of reciting the numbers again, however, here they are.

It is estimated that there are 7.4 billion people in the world.  There are slightly more than 321 million people in the United States.  Within the United, we are 77.3% professing Christian.  That means that three out of every four people is at least professing Christ.  And we make up roughly 4.3% of the world’s population.

There are 16,324 distinct people groups – marked by a unique language and culture by country.  Of those people groups, 6,573 are considered unreached.  This means that less than 2% of their populations are Christian.  Those peoples make up 3.067 billion people.  Almost half of the world’s population lives amongst a people and nation where they will not rub shoulders with Christians, or ever hear the Gospel and hope of Jesus Christ.  Of those unreached people groups, there are 3,136 that are completely unengaged, with a population of 201 million.  This means that there is no Christian presence among the people – no Church, no missionary, no radio broadcast, no way that these people will ever stumble upon or be able to seek out the Gospel.

To give a little perspective, that means that the equivalence of nearly 2/3 of the population of the United States has absolutely no access to the Gospel.  9.6 times the population of the United States lives in a nation that has less than 2% Christian presence and will likely never run into a Christian.

And yet, three out of every four people in the United States is professing faith in Jesus.

It is true that we are only ever one generation away from being a lost people ourselves, but for lack of a better term, we are hoarding Christians here.

Jesus said go.  If we follow Jesus, if we obey Him, it should be the norm to go, not the norm to stay.  If you choose to not heed the calling, you better be extremely sure of God’s leading you to stay.  Many of us will be very sad when we meet Jesus and He asks us why we chose not to obey.

While Jesus was walking on the Earth and preforming His ministry, He was broken for the lostness of the people.  In His sorrow, He told the disciples,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

– Matt 9.37

But do you know how He instructed them to pray in response?

“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

– Matt 9.38

It is the Holy Spirit’s work to draw and change people.  It is our job to preach the Gospel.  Jesus looked out over the lost people and stated that there are many in whom the Spirit is working and who are ready to believe.  Therefore, it is not our responsibility to pray to God for the lost people, but to pray to God and petition Him to send more workers into the field!  The harvest is ripe, the need is farmers who will start reaping!

Almost in the same breath, Jesus then turns around and sends the disciples out:

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them…”

– Matt 10.1, 5

Jesus saw the reality.  He was broken over it.  He taught the disciples to turn to God to pray for the workers, and then He sent them out.  It will happen that as we pray for the world and develop both an eternal and broader worldview that we will no longer be satisfied with the status quo.  We will go.  And we will not go, just to go.  We will go and be obedient to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all the nations.

Let’s stop hoarding Christians.  Let’s stop making ourselves comfortable.  Let’s get busy about obedience.  Let’s get busy about reaping the harvest that Jesus says is ready!

7,400,000,000 people in the world
3,067,000,000 people have little/no access to the Gospel (41.4% of the world)
201,000,000 people have absolutely no chance of hearing the Gospel (2.7% of the world)
248,133,000 number of professing Christians in the United States

 

So you had an affair. Now what?

restoration

Yesterday I wrote from the offended spouse’s position on adultery.  But there are two sides to every story.  There are two players in marriage.  If one spouse is cheated on, then the other spouse is the one who cheated.  If you have come to God for salvation, confessed your sins and begun a Spiritual walk with Him, then chances are high that the Holy Spirit has been all over you throughout your experience of infidelity.  As with most sin, it did not start big, some naked woman did not just jump in your bed.  Perhaps a love scene in a movie caught your attention and you curiously sought out pornography, which after a while could no longer satisfy your desires so you sought out a living person.  Perhaps you reconnected with an old friend on Facebook, and after a few messages decided to meet up just to check in and say hi.  Perhaps you found yourself at lunch at the same restaurant as that hottie at work, and both being alone you decided to sit together and slowly lunch became a habit, and then lunch turned into a relationship.  Yes, it is possible that you intentionally went out looking for a rush outside of your marriage, but much more common is the “it just happened” story.

The first step in moving past any infraction is the recognition of the sin.  God says that any infidelity is sin:  fornication, pornography, a one-night stand, an ongoing affair and even lust.  We all feel badly when we get caught in our sin, and thus we must examine ourselves to see if our sorrow and grief is because we got caught or because we recognize our sin and its offense to God.

We also cannot justify ourselves in our sin.  There is no excuse before God for any sin, and that includes infidelity.  Will your spouse not be with you?  Perhaps you are serving in the military and are serving overseas for long periods of time.  Perhaps your spouse is incapable for the time because of an illness or injury.  There is always a back story, and usually a reason that some people might use to appease their guilt, but when you have fallen into sin it is of utmost importance that we recognize it, confess it, and leave it there.  God does not justify the guilty, nor should we.

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

– Prov 17.15

After we have confessed our sin, we then begin the long process of restoration.  Unfortunately, in the church today, adultery and divorce are the scarlet letter from which people are rarely restored.  Usually such a one will have to find a fresh start, move somewhere where no one knows him, find a new job and new church, and keep his secret until enough years have passed that he has proven himself “of good reputation”.  But this time of restoration and reconciliation is one of the greatest privileges and benefits of the Church body.  If your church is harsh and judgmental towards a repentant sinner, then spearhead the change!  Everyone who has been forgiven must forgive one another when they repent.  The greater we recognize our own guilt and condemnation before God, the more we can pour out grace on one another and push one another on to holiness.

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

– Matt 6.14-15

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– Luke 7.47

Scripture teaches us that sexual sin is indeed a “special” sin, in that by doing it you sin against your own physical body.

“Flee immorality.  Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”

– 1 Cor 6.18

It is also the primary offense which allows people to divorce their spouses (Matt 5.32).  But it is not special in the sense that it will bring any extra judgment or disqualification upon you.  If a person has broken any of the Law of God, he is guilty – and that unto eternal damnation  – be it lying, greed, murder or infidelity (James 2.10).

Therefore, once we recognize and confess our sin, we must also recognize that there is nothing that can separate us from God, no sin that He will not forgive, and no sin that can forever disqualify us from serving Him.  Perhaps the most beautiful example of this reality is King David.  He was God’s chosen man, he served God tirelessly throughout the years that he was waiting to be appointed as king after Saul.  God blessed him, and he prospered. While the nation was at war, he saw another man’s wife taking a bath and he called to have her brought to the palace.  He slept with her and she became pregnant.  In an effort to try to cover up his sin, he had her husband brought home from battle so that he could sleep with her and believe the baby to be his, but the man was so honorable that he would not be with his wife while his men were fighting.  David’s response?  He had him killed.  That way he could marry the woman and have her for himself.  After all of this had taken place, David confessed his sin and repented, and while there were consequences for his sin, he was still king and still called, by God, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13.14).

Now, even if you have been engaged in an ongoing affair, I highly doubt that you have had your partner’s spouse murdered to cover up your affair.  And if you have, then there is still hope for you!

God can and will restore anyone who repents from his sin.

Before we move directly into fighting the sin, the offending spouse must also recognize that this is indeed grounds for divorce.  The offended spouse is required to forgive the offending spouse, but the trust may be broken to the point that the offended spouse chooses to leave, and is Biblically free to do so.  This is simply the consequence of the sin that the offender must be prepared to accept.  If the offended spouse does not choose to leave, then the road to restoration will probably be a long one.

Moving forward will require trust to be rebuilt and temptations to be fought.  Accountability and instruction will be key here.  In short:  get help.  We are given the body of Christ to hold one another up, to push one another on, and to help one another out.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 – Heb 10.23-25

Chances are extremely high that there is someone in your church who has walked where you are walking.  Whether your marriage has remained together or not, if there is any variation in demographic within your body, someone has fallen and been restored.  If not, then your pastor will know of someone, or a solid counselor.  Confess your sin to such a one:  someone who can help you grow and hold you accountable.  And then set for yourself a structure of accountability.  When someone else knows your sin, you are much less likely to commit it again.  And when you know someone will be asking you directly about your temptations and weaknesses, you are even less likely to give in.

Replace the sin with something God honoring.  If you have been indulging in pornography, focus that time and energy into getting to know and enjoy your spouse again.  Find a hobby, pursue your spouse or pray.  We must have a “go to” when we are tempted.  The immediate response should be claiming the promises of Scripture and prayer to redirect our minds and hearts, and then another activity in its place.  If you intentionally fight for your marriage in the wake of those desires, you will achieve the goal:  restoration.

Understand also that trust takes time to be rebuilt, and you will need to be an open book to your spouse.  Answer any questions they have, and allow time to grieve.  If the offended spouse does choose to remain in the marriage, the expectation is to forgive.  The affair cannot be held over the head of the offending spouse forever, there must come a time when the marriage moves on.  The offended spouse will probably find help and counseling from the spouse of the person who is counseling you.  Meet as a couple with that couple who has found victory.  Or meet as a couple with a counselor or pastor.  Reconciliation is two sided and unforgiveness is not acceptable.  The offending spouse, however, cannot lord this over the offended spouse.  Patience will be key.

There are many books that have been written on the topic, and it is not my intention to exhaustively walk a marriage through restoration.  Simply to note that infidelity is quite common, even within the Church, and there is hope both for the marriage and for forgiveness.

It used to be believe that once someone has broken his vow of marriage, he is forever of ill repute.  The pious would quote the guidelines for Church leadership and automatically disqualify anyone (and usually only those) who has fallen into sexual sin.

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.”

 – 1 Tim 3.2-3

Some would even go so far as to say that the offended spouse, after choosing to leave the marriage, would forever be disqualified from serving God for having been divorced.  They would say, “You are no longer above reproach” – forever.  I have heard this very statement with my own ears.   Isn’t interesting that to such a one, the God of all grace can forgive every sin except infidelity?  And such a one would label divorce the unpardonable sin, when God Himself is the one who gave us instructions for how to rightly utilize divorce?

Do not listen to such a one.  In fact, run hard the opposite direction if someone tries to tell you that you are no longer fit to serve God.  Yes, it will take time for your reputation to be restored and for your office to be returned, but in the same way God loved, kept, forgave and used King David, He can and will love, keep, forgive and use anyone who repents.

This is a very serious sin, but God is infinitely bigger and is not shocked.  He can forgive; He will restore anyone who turns to Him.

So your spouse had an affair. Now what?

broken trust

When you are young and in love, you are dating your best friend and could never imagine a major problem coming your way.  You have a magical engagement experience, you spend months planning the wedding of your dreams and going through premarital counseling to make sure that you are prepared for this major life change.  You take thousands of pictures.  You spend every moment together.  You say “I do” and then go away on a lavish vacation to spend your first week together as husband and wife.  You envision a lifetime of bliss, building a life with your love.

As the newness wears off, you grow comfortable with one another, you develop habits and routines and you settle into life.  Some bad habits might form.  You get busy with work and children.  You have your hobbies, your spouse has hobbies, and time just continues to pass by.

Then the unthinkable happens.  You get the news that will forever change the way you view marriage, love and life.  Your spouse has been unfaithful to you.

Now what?

We, as the Church, need to not only talk about this, but be ready and prepared to help people walk through this tragedy because it is happening every day.  People are crushed.  Lives are shattered.  Dreams are lost.  It is happening outside of the Church, and it is happening within the Church.  It is now almost a daily occurrence to hear about a pastor or a Christian leader confess to infidelity.  People who are in the Church will need to be supported and encouraged in the aftermath, and if we learn to love well, people outside of the Church can come to find salvation and healing within our communities as well.

There is no greater breach of trust than infidelity.  Even if the marriage relationship is sick or imbalanced, the covenant that was made at the beginning offers a sense of hope and security.  But when one partner in a marriage enters into an inappropriate relationship outside of that marriage, the damage caused and the pain inflicted is unthinkable.

And we must be ready to respond.

First and foremost, we must turn to Jesus.  I know it sounds cliche, but God is the God of all comforts, He will wipe every tear away, and He can heal the brokenhearted.  If your spouse has been unfaithful to you, know that it is good and healthy to respond emotionally and to grieve.  You will be angry, you will be hurt, you will be mad, you will cry, you will want to lash out.  God hates sin, God punishes all sin, and He does not cover up or make peace with sin.  It is not only normal, but it is right for you to hate the sin of infidelity.  It would be wise, however, to find a safe place where you can process these early emotions – with trusted friends or family, who will let you process in whatever way you need to process and still point you to God.  That way you can be angry, but not sin in your anger:

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

– Eph 4.26-27

It is important to not make any major-life decisions in the emotional response of the news.  Give yourself time to get yourself together, and let those trusted friends and family members support you and hold you accountable.

Once the shock wears off, you then have to decide what to do.  If you are a Christian, then the Bible is your authority and you must understand what God has to say about forgiveness, infidelity, divorce and remarriage.  Infidelity and divorce are discussed much more clearly than remarriage, but it is extremely important that every decision we make we do so with a clear conscience and direction for the Lord through Scripture.

What does forgiveness mean?  Is this something you can move past?  Will you remain in the marriage?  Are you Biblically allowed to leave the marriage?  Will you marry again?

Forgiveness is a difficult topic, especially when discussing a grievance as gross as adultery.  Biblical forgiveness is the reconciliation of a relationship that was broken by sin or an offense.  You can read more extensively about that here.  We see, therefore, that God does not forgive everyone – only those who confess their sins and repent, asking for forgiveness.  If this were not the case, then no one would go to Hell.

Does that mean we are justified in refusing to forgive?  Unfortunately, no.  We are sternly warned that as believers, if we do not forgive one another then God will not forgive us (Mark 11.25-26).  Part of the salvation experience is recognizing our guilt before God and experiencing His forgiveness which we do not deserve.  When we recognize the gravity of our guilt and the price Jesus paid to buy our pardon, we will respond in forgiving one another.  It may take time, and it will not look the same for everyone, but if the cheating spouse asks for forgiveness and repents, then we must forgive the offense.  If the cheating spouse never confesses or repents, we still must be ready and willing to forgive.

Does this mean that we have to remain married?  Jesus clearly taught that infidelity is grounds for divorce:

“…but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

– Matt 5.32

Interestingly enough, the word that Jesus uses for “unchastity” is Greek term that means any kind of sexual immorality, such as fornication, prostitution, adultery, incest, etc.  Thus we clearly understand that adultery is not limited to an ongoing emotional and sexual relationship.  It could be the employment of a prostitute, getting a happy ending at a massage parlor, or a one-time offense with a known person or stranger.  Many even argue that it could also include an addiction to pornography and masturbation.

We know that God hates divorce, but God also knows that not only is it a reality, sometimes it is the only way to move forward.  I argue here that divorce is not a sin, but a reality for which God gives clear instructions in utilizing.  Thus, if you are in a marriage and your spouse is unfaithful to you, it is a Biblical and understandable response to leave the marriage.  It is expected by God to forgive – to intentionally and deliberately “release feelings of resentment or vengeance (a psychologistst definition)” towards your spouse, but you are not required to remain in the marriage.

You may, however, choose to forgive and restore the marriage.  Some people are able and willing to move beyond sexual infidelity and restore that relationship.  Perhaps you have been married for years, you have many children, and the damage caused by breaking everything apart would be too much to bear on top of the infidelity, and the spouse is genuinely repentant and willing to get help!  Jesus does not command divorce in the circumstance of infidelity, He merely allows it.

We see, in fact, that God uses the example of a man who forgives his cheating spouse as an example of the love that He has for us:  with Hosea and Gomer.  You can read more about that here.  Restoration of a broken marriage will be a long road.  It will require trust to be rebuilt, it will require accountability and vulnerability.  The offending spouse will need to be ready and willing to answer questions, find someone to regularly check in and hold him accountable and intentional effort on both sides to move forward in relationship.  It will not be easy, but it is possible.

What about remarriage after divorce?  This is where Scripture speaks less, and thus there is great controversy.  The Old Testament allows for a person to be remarried, but can never return to the original spouse.  Jesus obviously assumes remarriage when He discusses divorce:

“…but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

– Matt 5.32

One would only be committing adultery if she marries after an un-allowed divorce.  To remain celibate, obviously would not be adultery.  This is also why Paul gives the extra teaching that if a couple separates for reasons other than adultery (or abandonment), that they should only come back to one another when the differences are reconciled (1 Cor 7.10-11).  Paul also teaches, however, that if a marriage is lost because of abandonment, then the believing and abandoned spouse is free to remarry:

“Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”

– 1 Cor 7.15

Thus, it seems clear that in the situations where the covenant has been broken by infidelity or abandonment by a non-believer, one would be free to remarry.

Processing the pain of infidelity and divorce is worse than losing a spouse to death.  In death, the remaining spouse is confident of the love that was shared, and is left only to grieve the loss.  In infidelity and divorce, the offended spouse has been hurt on the deepest levels of betrayal on top of grieving the loss of the spouse.  While there are many helpful books and tools already written, this grieving process will look different for everyone.

We, as the body of Christ, need to be intimately familiar with the Biblical teaching on these difficult topics.  Infidelity, sexual promiscuity and divorce are rampant in our culture.  We must learn how to respond to both the offender and the offended in these situations out of Biblical truth and love.  We are tempted to gossip and to judge the situation, but we must chose to love and encourage instead.  The person whose spouse has left will lose many friends because people do not want to take sides, they are uncomfortable hanging out with a single person, or they just don’t know what to say or do.

We, as the Church, must always take sides against sin.  This does not mean that we alienate or condemn a repentant believer, but we always fight against sin in our own lives and in other’s lives.  Otherwise it will kill us.

So let’s get dirty.  We all know the reality of infidelity and divorce.  Most of us have witnessed it within our own families.  It is going to happen, so let’s be prepared and not shocked when we see it.  Let us intentionally offer a place to stay and a place to grieve to those who have been hurt.  Let us intentionally offer a place of counseling and healing for those who have fallen and repented.  And let us intentionally hold accountable those who have sinned and choose to remain in that sin.

If it happens to you, I pray that you have a healthy Church family who can and will embrace you and support you.  Press into God, give yourself time to grieve and process what is going on, know the Biblical truths, prayerfully process the next steps for you and your family, and intentionally fight the overwhelming temptation to sin in response for how you have been sinned against.  Find solid, Biblical counseling (I highly recommend the ACBC), and remember that God is in control, He is the God of all healing and comfort, and He will give you peace.  You will smile again, I promise.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

– Matt 11.28

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

– Ps 34.18

Is it wrong to strive?

work

Since the beginning of time, there have been false prophets.  The greatest tactic of Satan is not to completely dissuade people from God, but to twist His words just enough to get people off the straight and narrow – though often times believing they are still on the path to Heaven.  In the Garden of Eden, Satan twisted God’s words – nothing he said to Eve was untrue, it was just a distortion of the truth.  They did not die right away, they did “become like God”, knowing good and evil – but they disobeyed God and brought the curse upon mankind (Gen 3.4-5, 22-23).

The failure of the Pharisees and Sadducees was that they distorted the Law of God, keeping the letter of it without obeying the first and primary one:  to love God.  They added to the Law in order to make their reputation great for being pious without knowing God, thus while they appeared to be holy, they were far from the heart of God.

Jesus Himself warned strongly of false prophets.  He foretold that there would be many who would arise within the Church, who were wolves in sheep’s clothing, who were tares among the wheat – they look just like believers but truly are not (Matt 7.15, 13.25-30).  The apostles and epistles deal with many heresies and distortions of the Gospel in the early church and also continue to warn against false prophets.

And we have seen this trend continue throughout Church history.  This is why councils were held, doctrines defined, heretics discredited and sadly many cults and false churches started.  In the early days there were major disputes about the nature of Christ:  was He man, was He God, was He both?  And these debates led to conversations about the trinity.  Such doctrines we now take for granted, but were difficult in the beginning.  Other false doctrines have been believed at various times throughout history, such as the belief that human nature is good, apart from God, and will seek God on its own.  While it was condemned as heresy early on, as Christianity has become a major world religion and Christians have less conviction to the knowledge of the Word and doctrine, such heresies gain more traction.

Another dangerous teaching was the Keswick movement that started in England in the early 19th century.  Also known as the Higher Life Movement, it influenced many of our heroes in the faith.  The core of the belief system was that the true Christian life required two major crises:  the first led to conversion and the second led to maturity or the “deeper” things of Christ.  They defined these as justification (salvation or conversion) and sanctification (maturity, the deeper things).  This second crisis is similar to the Pentecostal belief of the baptism of the Spirit, and it is called a variety of things, such as “entire sanctification”, “second touch” or “second blessing”.  The benefit of this experience, they believe, is the Christian realizes his unity with Christ and thus can stop striving.  He has that fullest communion with Christ, His joy is complete, the Holy Spirit is living through him, and he can even attain perfection.

As Christians are less and less learned, we are doomed to repeat history (and believe false doctrines)- just like all other disciplines of study and life.  And while there are those who still believe in a second touch – namely the baptism of the Spirit – there are also those who are adapting the “cease striving” aspect of Keswick theology all across the United States today.  This appeals greatly to our culture who has defined herself by individual autonomy, lack of absolute truth and tolerance.  Essentially they are saying it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin and I am a passive agent in my (and other’s) sanctification.

It is indeed the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin and righteousness:

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

– John 16.8-11

No one can be convicted of sin and long to turn to righteousness without the work of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot drum that up in our own hearts, and we cannot force it upon someone else.  But just because the Holy Spirit works in and through us does not mean that we are off the hook in terms of responsibility before and to God.

Even under the covenant of grace, even with salvation by faith alone through grace alone, the entire New Testament continually commands us to strive, to work, to obey, to die to our flesh, to live unto the Spirit (Luke 13.24, Phil 2.12, Heb 5.9, Rom 8.13, Gal 5.25, etc.).  We must root out sin from our lives, we must be active in our Spiritual lives, and through that we will have peace knowing that our sanctification is being established.  There is a dual responsibility:  the Holy Spirit enabling us, and us doing what He leads and enables us to do.

If we do not work, if we do not fight, the battle between the flesh and Spirit will allow the flesh to prevail:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

– Gal 5.16-17

And we are also solemnly warned that if we continue in sin and do not submit to the sanctifying work of the Spirit and commands of Jesus, we are not saved:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

– Heb 10.26-27

It is sin alone that separates us from God, and therefore when we are saved, when we are born again and have Spiritual life, the Holy Spirit enables us to fight sin.  We abide in Christ, drawing the life-giving sap through Him, the vine, and thus we are able to die to our flesh.  We see the work He does through us, and because of that we have peace and rest, knowing that our eternity is secure.  The rest is a Spiritual rest.  The peace is the knowledge that no matter what happens to us on Earth, we will one day be glorified with Him.  It is not necessarily temporal peace or rest.

Unfortunately, we take promises that are not for us and try to claim them, like Ex 14.14.  God wanted to show His power to the Israelites and reveal to them who He was, as He was preparing to bring about the Mosaic Covenant with them, write the Law, lead them through the wilderness and into the promised land.  He was revealing Himself to them, and exemplifying His power by parting the Red Sea, providing a way for them, and destroying the Egyptians – all at once (after He had shown His power by the plagues in Egypt).  Thus Moses proclaims:

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”

This was a situational promise, this was to the Israelites while they stood on the shore of the Red Sea.  This is not an ongoing command for how we are (or they were) to live their lives.  As they conquered Canaan, there were times that they fought, there were times that God fought for them.  He likes to change it up and be unpredictable.

There is another verse that Keswick Theology loves,

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

– Ps 46.10

What does this mean?  If the command is to cease striving, and the response instead is to “know that I am God”, then this is not a command against working towards holiness.  It is a command against proving God.  John Piper gives this illustration:  imagine that you commit a substantial amount of time in prayer, asking God to reveal or give you something.  We ask, we communicate our need, we are emotionally involved.  While we are deep in prayer, imagine God walking up to us with the provision on a tray, handing it to us.  When we finish our prayer, however, we turn around and go right back about our day, instead of looking up and receiving that which He is handing to us.  When we rely on and depend on God, when we ask Him for things, there is a moment where we must receive that which He is giving us.  God has given us provisions for the Christian life, and often times we ask for those things instead of taking them up, even though they are already ours.  If we know that He is God and recognize His gifts and provisions, we receive and our striving in satisfied.  Our sanctification, however is a life-long process for which we continue to work, in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification (becoming more like Christ, growing in Spiritual maturity) is part of our salvation.  God promises that all who are justified will be sanctified:

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

– Rom 8.29-30

We will have a variety of experiences with God throughout our life, and we might even have a variety of crises.  But there is no Biblical teaching of a second revelation whereby we go into a deeper relationship with God, and the exhortation is clear that we are to work out our salvation continually, and not be passive.  Not only that, but we are to hold one another accountable and help each other work out our salvation.  That is why God gave us the body.

Are you actively working out your salvation today?  Are you fighting for holiness and sanctification?  Or are you just coasting through life, expecting the Holy Spirit to work through you without your participation?  Let’s get up close and personal with Him today.  Let’s be aware of the false prophets and false teachings that have led many astray and fight for the purity of doctrine and belief within our own hearts and churches.  Let’s unite with those around us to push one another on to holiness, and give the Holy Spirit glory for enabling us to obey!