Does God bring you pleasure?

Image result for love

There are three ways in which human beings fundamentally respond to our primary problem in the world:  sin.  We either feel shame, guilt or fear.  Some might argue that there are those who enjoy sin or who feel nothing in response to it, and while we understand that sin is indeed pleasurable in the moment, Scripture teaches us that God has given us each a conscience to convict us of sin such that we are without excuse before Him and therefore we know that it is a learned callousness which keeps us from one of those three basic responses (Rom 2.14-16).

We often mirror our response to God with these responses to sin.  God is the judge of sin, after all.  He hates sin and apart from Him we are slaves to sin, therefore we regularly direct our shame, guilt or fear directly at Him.  And this is not a fully bad thing.  Jesus Himself commanded us to fear God (Matt 10.28), and Paul teaches us that it is Godly sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor 7.10).  We should be very concerned if we become hardened and/or oblivious to sin such that it no longer affects our hearts – especially as we approach God in His holiness.

However, it is not God’s primary desire that we fear or are ashamed before Him.  The entire foundation of the Old Testament Law was built on this single commandment:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

– Deut 6.5

Jesus affirmed that this is indeed the greatest and first commandment and carried it through to the New Covenant of grace.  Obedience, service, morality, or any form of holiness is are all worthless if we do not love God.

Sometimes, however, it is difficult to understand what exactly it is to love God.  He is not physically present that we would spend time talking back and forth with Him.  We cannot interact with Him in the same way that we interact with and develop relationship with anyone else.  Is our love for God, then, comparable to our love for a person?

We can indeed get to know Him – that is why He has given us His Word.  We can know the heart and mind of God by reading the Scripture.  When we understand and believe the Gospel and repent of our sins, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us so that we can experience the presence of God as well.  We can talk to God through prayer and experience His beauty in creation.  And as we develop these disciplines of getting to know Him, we will find that His Spirit within us establishes the emotion of love and joy.  This is why Scripture actually commands us to enjoy God.

“Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

– Ps 37.4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

– Phil 4.4

In what do you find pleasure?  Television?  Friends?  Adventures?

Do you take pleasure in Bible study, prayer and worship?  If not, we should examine our hearts.  God is the author of pleasure.  He created our very nature which desires pleasure, He gave us the things or the ability to create the things which give us pleasure, and He desires that we find our joy and satisfaction in Him.  If He is the author of pleasure, He can offer us the truest and most satisfying fulfillment of it.  Have you taken the time to get to know Him and fall in love with Him?  Do you delight in Him?  Do you rejoice in Him?  Or is He just something you do on Sunday mornings…is He just eternal fire insurance?

Spend some time with Him today, and let your soul be enriched.  Delight in Him today.

‘He loves Thee too little, who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.’

– Augustine

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Distinguishing Root and Fruit.

fruit

We all know the golden rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Most of us know that this comes straight from the Bible:

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”

– Luke 6.31

If you have spent much time in the church or if you have read much of Jesus’ teaching, you will also know that He was cornered by some pious men and asked which of God’s commandments was the greatest.  Without blinking, Jesus responded:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

– Matt 22.35-40

The greatest commandment of God, that on which the entire Bible is established is the commandment to love God with everything we have – and let that love overflow in such a way that we love everyone around us in the same way that we love ourselves.  The commandment to love is a strange one, however.  What exactly is love?  We talk about our different love languages – the ways that we express and receive love.  We talk about different cultures and how they perceive, feel and express love.  We talk about how people should treat one another when they love each other…but it is quite difficult to nail down what exactly love is.  Webster’s defines love as:

  1. a (1) :  strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) :  attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3):  affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>
    b :  an assurance of affection <give her my love>

  2. warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>

  3. a :  the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love>
    b (1) :  a beloved person :  darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address

  4. a :  unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) :  the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) :  brotherly concern for others
    b :  a person’s adoration of God

In summary of these points, it is primarily an affection that results in putting someone else before one’s self.  Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek term used for love (ἀγαπάω, agapaōas:

 – To be full of good will and exhibit the same;
– with acc. of the person, To have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of

As we enter into marriage and as we evaluate the prevalent flippancy of our culture, we regularly discuss the commitment involved and the choice to love even when our emotions fail, but we all must and do recognize the simple fact that there is and must be at some level an emotional side to love.  Miserable is the marriage that goes through the motions of matrimony without any care or affection.  Sad is the child who receives dutiful care from a mother but no emotional engagement or nurture.  Yes, there are times that we choose to do those “duties” that our love requires when our emotions are not there, but in general we recognize, expect and hope for the emotional side of love to accompany the dutiful.

Unfortunately, emotions are not quantifiable and we turn to actions hoping to gauge the presence and proof of that love.  This is not only a good thing to do, but a Biblical guideline:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him’.”

– John 14.23

Jesus Himself stated that anyone who loves Him will obey Him.  He said it multiple times and in a variety of ways in this one discourse (John 14.15, 21, 23, 24).  We also see in other passages that the fruit of the spirit is love for one another and the keeping of Jesus’ commandments:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

– Gal 5.22-24

If we love God, then we will love one another and exemplify joy, peace, patience, and all of the other fruit of the Spirit.  If we love God, the Holy Spirit will abide within us and empower us to obey Jesus’ commandments and His fruit will pour out from our lives.  Our obedience, our changed personalities and dispositions are the fruit – the outpouring, the result of our love.  Yes, we can force some of them for a little while, but we will not be transformed and it will not be the outpouring of who we are unless we love God, abide in Him and draw our strength and life from Him.

The root is love.  The fruit is obedience.

Jesus talks about abiding in Him, remaining in Him, being grafted into Him as a branch is to a tree.  These analogies are all painting the same picture:  we love Him and that love is emotional, real, and causes in us a longing for Him.  As we come to Him, spend time with Him, reflect on His teaching and study the things He said, we are in return deriving strength from Him.  By coming to Him, we are becoming one with Him – drawing life-giving sap and nutrients from the core of the tree, being empowered by the new Spirit that has taken up residence in our lives, and being transformed into new creatures.

What does all of this mean?  First of all, it means that we do have a tangible way by which we can evaluate ourselves.  If we are not walking in obedience and exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit, then we know that we do not love Jesus and we are not walking in Him – therefore we are most likely not saved.  Yes, there are times that we will struggle with sin and there are times that we will make peace with sin and the Spirit will take time to work those things out.  But we should be very concerned about ourselves and one another if we are not seeing obedience and the fruit of the Spirit portrayed.

Secondly, we have a means of accountability with one another.  Everyone who loves Jesus will obey His commandments and be marked by the fruit of the Spirit.  We must and should keep each other in mind and in heart – part of loving our neighbors in the same way that we love ourselves – making sure that they are not making peace with sin either.

Unfortunately, while it is true that everyone who loves Jesus will obey Him and be marked by the fruit of the Spirit, not everyone who keeps a moral lifestyle or attends church loves Jesus.  If we are not deeply invested in one another’s lives, then moral people will be able to self-placate and believe themselves safe from damnation within our churches, small groups and communities.  They can fool themselves and they can fool others, for a while.  There will come a time when true colors come out, however, and this is another reason we need accountability and deep investment.

Thirdly, this reality gives us great hope.  Our salvation and unity with Christ are not contingent on our perfect obedience or fruit, it is based on our love and remaining in Him.  Men naturally hate the light.  If you have an affection for or longing for Jesus, that is supernatural and it is a gift.

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

 – John 3.20-21

In fact, Paul tells us that the very word of the Bible is foolishness to those who are not saved:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

 – 1 Cor 1.18

Therefore we can take great hope in the simple fact that we love Jesus, long for Him and enjoy spending time with Him and in His word.  If you do not, this is the starting point – not cleaning up your life.  Ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart, to draw you to Himself, to give you a new Spirit and a new life.  You cannot long for these things on your own.  Yes, you can long to be saved from Hell, but you cannot desire intimacy with Jesus unless He draws you and gives you faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

 – Eph 2.8-9

Lastly, it simply means that obedience will be an outpouring of love.  Yes, there will be times that it will be hard.  But by-in-large, when we know and love Jesus, when we are being transformed to look more like Him, we will start to act like Him.  We will “obey” Him, because we want to emulate Him, because we want to please Him, because we want to enjoy Him.  The fruit will come out of us naturally, we will not have to force its growth and we will not be out picking fruit off other branches and taping to our own.  The root is love, and it supplies us with the life-giving sap that produces the fruit.

Let us weep with those who weep.

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“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

– Rom 12.15

Yesterday we woke up to the news that Omar Mateen had murdered 49 people and injured 53 more at a popular LGBT club in Orlando, making this the most deadly attack on American soil since 9/11.  The people of the United States are in the process of grappling with the event and are experiencing varied emotional responses in the grieving and acceptance process.  Some people are scared.  Some are angry.  Some are numb.  Some are distancing themselves by reason of lack of association.  But we, as Christians, must carefully consider how to respond.

It is no secret that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin – just like lying, stealing, cheating, any fornication or sex outside of marriage and all of the other sins which are more easily recognizable by social norms and our current legal mandates.  It is also no secret that no one enjoys being told they are living a sinful lifestyle, and thus the LGBT community and Biblical teaching are at odds with one another – causing much tension and difficulty in decision making as a nation.  Understanding of discrimination and the freedom of religion/belief has been headline news for months, compounded by issues like the Target bathroom fiasco.

But here we are in a completely different scenario.  Over one hundred people have been injured or murdered, and many have entered into eternity by the hands of a man with hatred in his heart.  It is time for Christians to step up.

Sometimes our situations and problems are a direct consequence of our actions.  Sometimes our situations and problems are an indirect consequence of our actions, and sometimes things happen purely by being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.  When a person is hurting or broken in the wake of a tragedy, regardless of how they got to that point, it is the God-given duty of Christians to respond in love.  It is always our responsibility to act and respond in love, but we have a very real opportunity to portray the love of Christ in the midst of suffering.

Paul gives us a very clear picture of how we should handle ourselves on a regular basis:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

– Rom 12.9-19

This is merely a portion of Paul’s instruction.  He speaks directly to how Christians should interact with one another, and also with the outside world; with friends and with enemies.  We, as Christians, are given the almost impossible task of blessing those who persecute us.  That means when we are shot during a church service or martyred for our faith, we should respond in love to our captors and murderers.  But we are also given the command to meet people in their circumstances – to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  When someone else is murdered or attacked for their lifestyle, we grieve with them.  We do not have to agree with someone’s philosophy or worldview to sympathize with his grief.  We do not have to condone someone’s lifestyle to be a friend or comfort.  Just as God comforts us in our sorrows, we should be ready and willing to comfort those around us who are suffering.  Even if their suffering is a result of their choices.

The events in Orlando are the result of one man’s choice, not the direct result of a homosexual lifestyle.  We can and must respond in love:  with sympathy and grief over the tragedy of lives lost – certainly some of which were lost without Christ.

This is indeed a chance to present the beautiful hope of Christ, by presenting the Gospel.  This is also a chance to present the beautiful love of Christ by being present, and silent if necessary.  Some people are looking for answers immediately, some people need time to process and grieve before looking for an answer or for hope.  This is when we weep with those who weep.  There is no science to sensitivity, only awareness and direction from the Holy Spirit.

God often uses tragedy to awake in us a contemplation about eternity and our mortality.  God also uses tragedy to help us keep in perspective those things that are of eternal importance.  We must love.  We must mourn.  We must be sensitive, all without compromising the truth.  We must be wise with our words, knowing when and how to speak truth.  We must be the voice of hope.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

– Col 4.5-6

When someone doesn’t like you.

hatred

I am a pretty adventurous person.  I like to get out, try new things, meet new people, stretch the boundaries.  But even with an independent personality, I still want people to like me…just like everyone else.  Sometimes we build up facades or walls because of past hurt, claiming that we do not care what other people think, and we each have some non-negotiables on which we will take a social, political or relational stand, but by-in-large we try to put our best foot forward so that people will respect and like us.  Deep within this desire is an underlying pride.  We do not want people to like us simply because we want to be friends with everyone, we want affirmation.  We want praise.  We want people to admire, think well of and build us up.

As believers, is it right and good to build one another up.  Scripture regularly admonishes us to put the needs of the body before our own (James 1.27ff), to push one another on to holiness (Heb 10.24), and husbands should love their wives and wives should respect their husbands (Eph 5.22-25).  Leaders within the church should be people of good reputation and Jesus says that the world will know that we are Christians because of our love – which means we honor and respect one another (2 Tim 3, John 13.35).

However, as believers, we must remember and be convicted of the fact that there is no righteousness in and of ourselves and that we desperately need a savior (Rom 3.10ff).  When we are saved, Christ switches places with us – taking our condemnation and giving us a covering of His righteousness.  Because of this fact, we can and should glory in the victory that God grants us over sin in our lives, but we should also be the most humble of people.  When we recognize our guilt, and when we comprehend the cost of the sacrifice required to save us, we will become exceedingly humble.  We see our worthlessness and the weight of our salvation, and are left as the beneficiary of a completely undeserved gift and inheritance.

True Christians are thankful.  True Christians are humble.  True Christians know from where they came, and praise God for their priceless gift and all progress made in dying to sin.  True Christians offer abundant grace to one another, recognizing the fact that we are all in the battle against our flesh and push one another on to die to the flesh and sin.  True Christians recognize the deceit and horror of sin and do not make peace with it in their lives or in other’s lives and purposefully walk together to remove sin from our lives so that we can honor God, all with a humble attitude knowing our own weakness.

However, there are non Christians who infiltrate the Church.  There are also non Christians in our daily lives:  coworkers, family members, neighbors, people on the street, etc.  There are also Christians who have fallen into sin and harbor bitterness and resentment in their hearts.  It will happen in each of our lives that there comes a day when someone does not like us.

How should we respond?

First of all, we must examine the situation to see if we have sinned against this person and make every effort to apologize and rectify the situation.  If we are left without resolution and the other person still has a hard heart against us, then we have an intricate and beautiful situation.  Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matt 5.44).  He also teaches us that when someone will not receive us and the Gospel we proclaim, we should walk away and not waste our energy (Matt 10.14).  Lastly, He teaches us that if someone proclaims to be a believer and yet continues in sin (in this situation, harbors bitterness in his heart), to completely disassociate with him and remove him from the church (Matt 18.15-17).

But in all of this, our heart must remain humble.  How do we do that?  By remembering our own guilt and the weight of the unmerited gift of salvation we have received.  Charles Spurgeon said simply,

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

– Charles Spurgeon

If any one person thinks ill of us, it is not because he knows the depths of our depravity.  It is because he knows a small amount of it.  This nonbeliever has never come to understand forgiveness for himself, and thus still judges those around him with a human judgment and even if the offense was a misunderstanding, we remain humble by remembering God’s gift of salvation while we were His enemies (Rom 5.10).  Instead of responding in pride, we should always respond in humility.  If someone makes a character assessment, we should examine ourselves to see if it is true, ask Jesus to change us, and remember our guilt before Him – relying on Him to change us!  Once we have made every effort to rectify the situation, however, we move on and remember that God looks down and sees the blood of Jesus covering our sin and we are righteous in His eyes.

“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

He who has been forgiven much loves much.

The call to love is not a choice.

tough love

Did you watch the Super Bowl this past Sunday?  Did you see the culmination point in which the entire stands were involved, holding rainbow-colored pieces of a warm and fuzzy mantra that read, “Believe in love”?  For generations, Americans have believed that simple love would solve every political and social problem we have.  “All you need is love” was written to give the world a message during the sixties, and countless love-enthusiasts pushed back against the Vietnam war proclaiming “Make love not war”.

It all sounds good in theory, but unfortunately we all have varying opinions of what love actually is, and we all have a conscience and morality by which we value justice.  Even if we can agree that love seeks a person’s best, and therefore does not necessarily give another what he wants but what he needs, people can disagree on what exactly a person needs!  Love alone does not answer all of those intricacies.

Thankfully, we have the Bible to direct and guide us.  In Scripture, we learn fundamentally that God is love (1 John 4.8).  He has been love since the beginning, and every aspect of life on Earth is a reflection of His love for Himself and His love for His people.  He uses every circumstance to work things out for our best and for His glory (Rom 8.28).  Sometimes we wish we could change our circumstances, but when we recognize God’s sovereignty and nature, we come to realize that He has something planned which we simply may not yet understand.

Because God is love, when we come to understand His love through salvation, we are commanded to love.  The apostle John is poignantly and painfully clear on the fact that when a person is saved by God, the natural response will be an outpouring of God’s love for God, for brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the lost.  He states, in fact, that if we do not love, then we do not know God:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

– 1 John 4.7-8

And this is not simply a a character assessment.  He narrows it down to even one person:

“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.  The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

– 1 John 2.9-10

If there is one person whom we are incapable of or willing to love, then we are in the darkness.

This is one reason the Scriptures weigh heavily on our obedience and intentionality to die to ourselves and work on our salvation (Phil 2.12).  If we simply coast, we will not fight back against bitterness, jealously, envy and strife.  If we do not keep our emotions and actions in check, we will fall into those normal pitfalls and justify our wicked hearts and actions.  Anyone would hate her rapist, the murderer of his child or the one who stole his job, right?

Everytime I am tempted to justify my bad attitude, my ill feelings of another person, I remember that Jesus loved and cared for the people who were murdering Him.  If Jesus can love those people, and we are called to follow His example, then I am not justified in hating someone who stepped on my toes or who hurt my pride.  We are commanded:

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…”

– Heb 12.15

The root of bitterness is so sly.  Unless we are intentionally loving someone, hurt feelings or distrust can quickly turn to a twinge of bitterness.  And any small inkling of bitterness will only grow unless purposefully rooted out.

But does that mean we should let people walk all over us?  Are we just doormats who get taken advantage of, and we smile all the while?  No.  Absolutely not.  In fact, Scripture teaches us plainly and clearly how we are to handle sin.

First of all, Jesus commands us to love God with everything we have (Matt 22.37).  Secondly, we love one another – namely, the Church (Matt 22.39, Gal 6.9-10).  Lastly, we love a lost world, and your enemies (Luke 6.27).  The way we love God is different from the way we love other believers, and the way we love other believers is different than the way we love the lost and our enemies.  We love God by submission and absolute trust.  He is our Lord, He is in charge, and we submit to His authority and His leadership.

We love one another by pushing one another on to holiness (Heb 10.24).  Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt 22.39).  This means that our first and primary concern is their Spiritual well being and maturity, while our secondary concerns would be meeting physical needs:  food, clothing, a place to sleep, a job.  A brother or sister in Christ is someone who has confessed belief in Jesus Christ for salvation and calls himself a believer.  Such a person needs accountability in his walk with Christ and every day life.  We all need that.  Thus, we do not tolerate sin and we help one another conquer sin.

We love our enemies by recognizing that they have not yet understood the Gospel and have not yet submitted themselves to Jesus Christ for salvation.  In the same heart as loving our brothers and sisters, our primary concern is their Spiritual well fare – and this simply means their salvation.  Since they do not yet know Jesus, it serves us no good to fight against any of their sins because until they are saved they are Spiritually dead.  Putting makeup on dead people will not help them out eternally.  So we love them by trying to introduce them to Jesus, and also helping meet their physical needs to the best of our ability.

God is so concerned about our loving one another that He even gives us instructions for how we are to handle a person who claims to be a Christian, but yet will not submit to God’s commandments:

“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.”

– 1 Cor 5.11

Jesus teaches us that if a “brother” sins against us or we catch him in sin, we should confront him privately.  If he confesses his sin and repents, then it is over and we have gained our brother.  If he will not confess and repent, then we should take one or two trusted people with us to confront him.  If he confesses his sin and repents, then it is over and we have gained our brother.  If he will not confess and repent, then we should take it to the church.  If he confesses his sin and repents, then it is over and we have gained our brother.  If he will not confess and repent, then we should remove him from the church and completely disassociate with him (Matt 18.15-17).

Repentance and humility are the key.  None of us is perfect and none of us will be completely without sin – this side of Heaven.  The problem is not the fact that we will all sin, the problem is choosing to embrace sin and an unwillingness to submit to God as Lord over our lives.  God gets to define sin, we must submit to Him.  If we do not submit to Him, then He is not our Lord and we are not saved.  Thus, if someone can be confronted four times without repentance, he is proving himself to not be a believer.

We disassociate ourselves with such a one because he already knows the truth, and it is up to God alone to work in his heart for conviction.  Thus we understand Paul’s teaching more clearly:

“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

We must associate with non-believers who act like the world, in order to show them the love of God and win them to salvation!  We must not, however, associate with those who know the Truth and continue to live like the world willfully and in light of confrontation.  We must be concerned with the purity of the body of Christ, because we love God first.  Again, this does not mean that we are perfect, it means that we confess and repent from our sins when we commit them and/or when someone confronts us in them.

Is it then unloving to disassociate with a false brother who is established in sin?  Absolutely not.  We do this out of love for them, to show them the severity and penalty of sin.  God does not tolerate sin, and we long for their repentance so that they can be right with God.  If they will not walk away from it, them we disassociate with them until they do.  The moment they repent, we welcome them back with an embrace – the same way the father received the prodigal son.  We should and may never disassociate with someone out of bitterness or anger, that would be sin on the part of the body.  It must always be out of brokenness, love and with a Spirit of humility, praying for the restoration of such a one.

God is love, and we are commanded to love as He has loved.  This does not simply mean making everyone happy, it means pursuing everyone’s Spiritual best.  How is your Spiritual walk today?  Are you making peace with any sin?  Are you choosing not to love anyone?  Is there anyone in your body who needs to be confronted?  Are you choosing to disassociate with someone who is in unrepentant sin for the sake of their salvation?  Or are you still friends because it’s just not that big of a deal?

Let’s love.  Let’s love boldly.  Let’s pursue one another’s and the world’s Spiritual best, and that in the way God commanded us.

Real or Imaginary?

moviegoer

Do you enjoy movies?  Are you into action and history?  Or perhaps love stories and drama?  Do you like suspense?  Horror?  Each of these types of movies engages our emotions.  Some people revel in the tension of a mystery while others find pleasure in being scared.  Some like to escape reality and watch two people fall in love and some like to witness the drama of major wars that shaped our world today.  [Almost] all movies have one thing in common, however:  the subjects are acting.  People go to great lengths to create a story – either factual or fictional – and to present it as though it were real.  My husband and I just watched “The Martian” over the weekend.  We were drawn in for over two hours to be emotionally engaged in Mark Watney’s tragic story having been mistakenly abandoned on Mars.  While the story line is fully fantastical, we were sad for him when he realized he was left, we were concerned for him when he did not have enough food, and we were tense watching the rescue attempt, wishing for his well being.  People cry in movies.  They laugh, they clap, they become involved emotionally.  The same is true about sporting events, and a variety of hobbies and activities to which we devote our energy and time.

But when was the last time you were emotionally engaged at Church?  When was the last time you heard Truth spoken and you were convicted of your sins, or excited over your salvation and eternity?  When was the last time you cried, or were moved in your Spirit to love and compassion?

George Whitefield was perhaps the most talented and driven preacher in the history of the Church.  It is estimated that he preached more than 40 hours every week for the last thirty-one years of his life.  Living in the 18th century, there was no system of amplification, yet he could project his voice such that crowds of over 8,000 people could here him.  He once preached three times in one day in Philadelphia, standing at Society Hill.  With a crowd of 8,000, his preaching was distinctly heard and observed at Gloucester Point, which is two miles down the Delaware River.  Originally from England, he preached often in the United States and it is estimated that 80% of all Americans had heard him preach.  In person.

Not only did he have skill and ability, he was driven by a passion for evangelism and love for the Lord.  He recognized the reality that people loved to watch plays and be lost in a fictional world, and yet were rarely fully engaged while listening to a preacher.  He told this story to explain why:

“I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop…said to Butterton… ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’”

“Therefore,” added Whitefield, ‘I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.

– George Whitefield

Our worship exercise is often ritual or habit.  Musicians, preachers, testimony-givers, pray-ers, and listeners can all fall into a routine, can all develop habits and get comfortable.  We would all state that God is real, our salvation is our life, and that Jesus is Lord, but yet something is not real to us.  We have a separate compartment for faith and religion, and the moment the sermon is over we are discussing our lunch plans, our weekly events, our jobs or our pets.  We have to rush home for that football game, we cannot miss that TV show…But how quickly do we skip church?  Or only show up out of obligation – wishing we could sleep in?

Jesus says that what fills our hearts is what will come out of our mouths.  He also says that where our treasure is, there will be our hearts.  Is Jesus real to you?  Or is He imaginary, a puppet on the Sunday morning stage (and a weak one at that)?  Are you deeply connected to His body, and committed to serving it as He commanded?  Or is church a club you can attend to feel good about yourself or get a Spiritual boost that will help you throughout the week?

Let’s check ourselves.  Since the beginning of entertainment, there have been many who claimed that the newest release was the demise of society “as we know it”.  Plays were temptations to forget reality.  Books were the first “brain rotters”, which isolated people and made minds mush.  Then the telephone, the radio, movies, television, the internet and now the smart phone.  The problem is not that we are busy or distracted.  The problem is our hearts.  What do we truly love?  What do we believe is real?  And to what do we want to give our time?

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?