A Controversial Movement Benefiting the Church

“Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good.” – Zwingli

Throughout history, there have always been movements. A movement can be defined as, “a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.” In our own country of the United States, movements have been apart of our society since its beginning. The American Revolution started with a movement to separate from England. The Abolition Movement sought to end slavery. The Women’s Right Movement, which first started in 1848, sought for various rights for women. Currently, the Climate Change Movement and Black Lives Matter Movement have had significant impact on our culture.

When we step back and analyze these historical movements (and even current movements), we need to see if a movement is beneficial or hazardous to our culture. There are many that fit both the good and the bad. Something that is beneficial, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “producing good results or helpful effects.” When we see movements like the Hippie Movement, Black Lives Matter, and Abolition we can legitimately discover if that movement has benefited society (Abolition) or not (The Ku Klux Klan Movement).

As a church, we need to do the same with every social movement. As a new movement marches the streets, Christians are responsible to not react to these movements. Christians are to look to Scripture and see if there is any way this movement can help the church.

A movement benefiting the church would need to bring helpful effects. However, to clarify what this looks like, we need some criteria.

The Criteria

As Merriam-Webster defines, a movement that is beneficial needs to produce helpful affects.

Therefore…

A movement beneficial to the church would need to push us in our gospel-focused interactions with people.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to cultivate a deeper Biblical thinking and study of the Word.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to affirm our stance on God’s Word.

A movement beneficial to the church would need to assist us in our gospel proclamation.

We can all agree if a movement came along that fulfilled these criteria, that movement would beneficial to the church. For example, the Abolition Movement fulfills each of these criteria. We learned to study the Word deeper and cultivate a Biblical thinking on the issue of race and slavery. We were forced to push our gospel-focused interactions with people of different races. We were forced to stand on what God’s Word said about slavery and race rather than mans’ misguided teaching. We have been pushed to contextualize the Gospel to other people groups and not white-wash our churches and the Gospel.

Therefore…

The Proposition

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church.

The LGBT+ Movement is dedicated to gaining rights and normalcy for those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and any other category in this group.

First, we need to remember that we do not bend where God’s Word stands on this issue. What God’s Word says about this lifestyle or this worldview or however we want frame it we do not compromise. What God’s Word says goes.

Second, this means there will be disagreement between Christians and the LGBT+ Movement over what is sin and what is not sin. As Christians, we stick with Scripture. However, it does not mean that the LGBT+ Movement can’t benefit the church. As we will see, the LGBT+ Movement fulfills our criteria; and therefore, is beneficial to the church.

Image of God Interactions

Genesis 1:26-27. God creates all human beings in His image. Men and women are created by God, personally, in His image. God did not make us like the animals. He did not make us like plants. We are the crowning glory of His creation.

Each human bears the image of God. Genesis 9:5-6 states that any murder of a human is heinous in God’s sight, because it is destroying someone who bears God’s image. We would agree that abortion is murder because it is destroying the image of God.

James 3:7-9 takes the destruction of God’s image bearers even further. Not only is murder destroying the image of God, but according to James the slandering and verbal degradation of another person is degrading the image of God.

Not only actions and words, but attitudes that degrade the image of God are condemned in James 2:1-13. We are not to show favoritism. We are all made in the image of God. Therefore, having an attitude that one is inferior than another is still degrading the image of God.

When we look at the LGBT+ Movement, what comes to mind? Do we call them the “alphabet soup”? Do we see them as freaks in society? Do we avoid having friends who identify with this group, because we see them as inferior to us? How do we see the sin of homosexuality? Is it a sin no one can be forgiven of? Is it a sin worst than any other? Or, is it a sin like stealing, lying, and idolatry? When the topic of the LGBT+ Movement came up in your life, how did you respond?

Romans 3:23 clearly states that all have sin (including us), and all have fallen short of the glory of God. I Corinthians 6:9-10 condemns all of us. We are all not without sin.

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church, because it challenges how we view each other as fallen image bearers of God in need of a Savior. All of us are lost in sin. All are in need of Jesus Christ. We will continue to degrade the image of God in those who identify with the LGBT+ Movement until we see them as God sees us – Fallen image bearers in need of a Savior.

When we do not see them as image bearers, we assume the worst about their motives and interactions with the world around us. The American government did the same thing with Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pear Harbor. People did the same thing during the Red Scare with their trials. Lastly, Christians did the same thing during the Salem Witch Trials.

When we forget to see people as the image bearers of God, we treat them under suspicion. Everyone needs Jesus. The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church by challenging us to continue to see people as made in the image of God who are fallen and need a Savior just like we do.

A Deeper Bible Study

One of the most reoccurring themes in the pulpit today is that of Bible study. Pastors and teachers in the church continually challenge us to read and study our Bibles with depth in order to know God and to know how to live for Him.

Titus 1:9 is a forgotten reason for studying the Bible. We are to study the Bible with such a depth that we are able to answer those who try to contradict what the Bible says.

In recent news, we have seen many instances where the LGBT+ Movement contradicts Scripture. However, we tend to react to those things. We stiff arm and say, “that is wrong.” But, we do not have a reason. We have not studied the Bible in-depth in order to come to a Biblical response to the LGBT+ Movement.

The LGBT+ Movement challenges us to study the Word deeper and to come to a Biblical response to what is happening. This is a benefit to the church. Instead of reacting the this movement, have you seen it as a God-given opportunity to deepen your Scripture study? If we all claim II Timothy 3:16-17 as a promise of what God’s Word does in our lives, then do you not think it is sufficient to answer the questions and concerns of this movement? If you have been pushed to study your Bible deeper for God’s glory, then it is benefiting the church.

A Firmly Founded Stand

Sometimes there are ideas and movements in our culture which make our faith seem to wobble under pressure. We are unsure what to do. We think we know the truth, but we are scared to stand for the truth. The pressure comes, and we feel like cowards towards God’s truth. However, the issues of the LGBT+ Movement forces us and challenges us to stand firm on God’s Word.

Paul’s final exhortation, in I Corinthians 16:13, urges us to stand firm in the faith. He commands us to be courageous and strong. He would not give us this exhortation if it was going to be easy to stand on God’s Word in faith. In fact, throughout the New Testament we are urged to stand firm in our faith and to stand on God’s Word no matter what movement or government is sweeping society (Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 4:1; Colossians 4:12; II Thessalonians 2:15; I Peter 5:12)

Any person, movement, government, or anything that forces us to stand firm in our faith in beneficial. The reason is because we live by faith, and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).

Contextualizing our Outreach

As missionaries plant themselves in other countries to make disciples, they have to learn to contextualize the Gospel. Contextualizing the Gospel is not changing the message of the Gospel. It is adjusting the presentation of the Gospel in order for a people group to understand it. Paul clearly contextualizes his Gospel presentations throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 13:13-52 Paul preaches to a group of Jews. He uses a lot of Old Testament references in order to reach the Jews. However, in Acts 17:16-34 Paul takes a whole different approach to reaching Gentiles with the Gospel. He uses their own culture to reach them by using the altar to the unknown god as an illustration and expounds on a point using one of their poets.

Have you ever thought how you would share the Gospel with someone in the LGBT+ Movement? How would you share with them how to be reconciled with their Creator through the work of Jesus Christ in faith? The message of forgiveness of sin through Christ will not change, but how we present it will change.

The LGBT+ Movement benefits the church by challenging us to present the Gospel in a contextualized way that will make sense to those who identify with this group. If we all agree we are all created in God’s image who are fallen and in need of Jesus to save us, then we need to know how to present that to everyone so they can understand it and make their faith in Jesus personal.

Conclusion

Movements come and go throughout history. Our country has seen many. Our churches have seen and interacted with many. We have been benefited by many; like the Abolition Movement. However, some movements we react to and forget there might be a benefit in disguise. The LGBT+ Movement is one we tend to react and stiff arm. We forget to Biblically respond.

The LGBT+ Movement does benefit the church. We will disagree on the issue of sin. However, that does not excuse the church to write off this movement. We can learn and grow as Christians from things we Biblically disagree with. God brings things into our lives to grow us. Do you not think the LGBT+ Movement can be used to grow our faith and churches? God uses everything for His glory as He uses the church to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

The next time you come across the LGBT+ Movement or someone who identifies with this group, what are you going to think? How are you going to approach this group? Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). All nations mean all peoples. All people include those in the LGBT+ Movement. This movement does benefit the church as we seek to fulfill the mission of the church to make disciples of all peoples.

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Communion: In Remembrance of What?

“We ought carefully and with the utmost seriousness and consideration attend the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: this was appointed for this end, to draw forth longings of our souls toward Jesus Christ.”
– Jonathan Edwards

Preparing for a wedding can be a wonderful, yet a chaotic time. There are many details that go into creating a wedding. However when families find out a wedding is coming, it seems like everyone comes out of the woodwork. Everyone has an opinion about how a wedding should be done. The dress, the music, the vows, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, the invitations, etc. Each element has an opinion.

My wife and I have only been married a year-and-a-half. We remember putting together our wedding. We had ideas. Each family member had ideas. Each friend had ideas. Pinterest had ideas. Yet, one thing kept us going: our wedding was about celebrating us. Our wedding was not ignoring family, but it wasn’t about everyone. The wedding was about us and vowing to be loyal to each other and love each other as Christ has loved us, and be an example of a godly marriage to the world around us.

We did things some felt were “unconventional.” Yet, again, we wanted the wedding to celebrate the main thing: our marriage.

“Keep the main thing the main thing” is a popular phrase thrown around today. It is true that we need to keep a main priority on things that are important; however, sometimes good things tend to rise above and overshadow the main thing.

Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) is a sacrament or ordinance in churches that is celebrated many times throughout the year. Recently, my wife and I took part in our church’s observance of communion. As we were reflecting as the elements were being passed, a thought hit my mind and I began thinking.

“In remembrance of what?”

The Story of Communion

The night of the Passover had arrived. The disciples found an upper room to observe the celebration of the Exodus with Jesus. They gathered together. Reclining at the table, the disciples’ eyes were fixed on Jesus. He talked about suffering and not eating the meal until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus took the bread. He gave thanks and broke it. Yet, His words spoke something unusual, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).” After they had consumed the bread, Jesus grasped a cup. He gave thanks. Again, His words were unexpected, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20).”

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

The disciples did not realize that these words were not symbolic. These words became a reality not even twenty-four hours later.

Jesus the Son of Man, the Miracle Worker, the Great Teacher, the Messiah was arrested. He was tried, beaten, and flogged. A leather whip with ends of bone and other sharp objects ripped through his flesh like a lion tearing at prey. His beard was ripped out of his face. A crown of thorns was wedged on his head causing blood to stream down his face. He was unrecognizable. Yet, he did not protest. He freely gave over his body.

The bloodied Christ, burdened with a cross, was led out of the city to be crucified. His muscles were so weak and torn, that another man had to carry Jesus’ cross.

The soldiers arrived with Jesus at a place called “The Place of the Skull.” He was stripped and became vulnerable for all to see. His arms were pulled to each end of the beam while spikes were hammered through his wrists into the wood. His feet suffered the same.

Jesus, the one who healed a woman with the issue of blood, the one who cast out demons and put a man in his right mind, the one who saved a woman about to be stoned, the one who fed hungry souls was lifted on a cross for all to see. The soldiers then dropped the cross into a hole tearing his ligaments and dislocating his shoulders.

In agony, Jesus had to gasp for breath. In pain, he stretched his bloodied form to fill his lungs. After a while, he looked to heaven and said, “It is finished.” No more air entered his lungs. His kind eyes grew dim. Jesus was dead.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

His lifeless body was taken down and buried. Yet, three days later. Jesus rose from the dead. He was not a spirit. He had a physical body and ate in front of his disciples. He lives. His disciples were changed and began to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world.

One thought permeates their message to the world, “My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

In Remembrance of… our Purity

The story of communion is sobering. We come to communion based on this story. However, what is it in remembrance of?

I have sat through many communion services and observed one thing that really sticks out – “Take time to pray and get your heart right before God. Christian, if you are living in sin, you cannot partake until you are restored with God.”

I Corinthians 11:27-32 is the basis for comments like this. Paul commanded the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were partaking in the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. Why? 11:17-22 gives us the answer. The Corinthians were abusing the Lord’s Supper. They were partying and stuffing themselves like a pagan celebration. There were factions among the rich and poor. The Lord’s Supper looked no different than what happened at the pagan temple. The Corinthians had lost sight of the purpose of communion.

Similarly, the pendulum can swing the other way. Have we forgotten the main purpose of communion? In our churches, we tend to belabor the point of repentance and being right before God that we make communion in remembrance of our purity before God. When we pass the bread and the grape juice (or wine depending on the church’s beliefs), we tend to figure out who took the bread and who has not. Our minds quickly race, “What is going on in his life?” “What is she hiding?” We tend to make communion a memorial of our purity before God.

Sure, we are not celebrating and abusing it like the Corinthians. But, we are making it about us. Communion is not about our purity before God. That is not the main point. When we belabor and focus on our purity and confession before God during the Lord’s Supper, we have missed the purpose of communion.

In Remembrance of Me

In the book of Luke (Luke 22:14-23) and in I Corinthians 11 (I Corinthians 11:17-26), a phrase is repeated: “In Remembrance of Me.” Twice in I Corinthians 11 it is repeated.

The main purpose of the Lord’s Supper is remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is remembering the incarnation, remembering his life, remembering how he redeemed us and signed a new covenant in his blood, and sealed it with his resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is in remembrance of Jesus as we look forward to his coming and restoring everything as he brings about the New Earth where he reigns and we are living like we were originally created to (Revelation 21).

We break the bread with our teeth, we drink the juice and we are to remember Jesus. Our righteous standing has nothing do with our efforts or the number of prayers given. It has all to do with Jesus. As we partake the Lord’s Supper, we are proclaiming the new covenant God initiated in Christ. The temple curtain is torn. His blood is there for us to paint our doorposts with. It is all about him. We eat and drink communion in remembrance of him.

In Remembrance of Him… We Pray

Are we just supposed to throw out making sure our hearts are right before God? No. The Christian life is a lifestyle of repentance. The fruit of salvation is repentance. Too often we come to communion with fear of the judgement that comes if we eat in an unworthy manner (I Corinthians 11:27-34). Have we forgotten that in Christ there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)?

We are not condemned. We are free from sin. This is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we need to examine our live. But, we do not have to fear because we are adopted as heirs and sons of God (Romans 8:15-17).

When we remember Christ, we praise God for his salvation and we bow in humility as we know we do not deserve it. Communion is a reminder of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we come to that realization we cannot help but repent of our lukewarm hearts. It is not out of fear, but out of longing for the satisfaction that Jesus gives. It is a longing to be with Jesus when he comes again. It is a longing to finally see our Savior face to face and touch the body he took on and kept.

So, shake off the spirit of fear. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial celebration of thanksgiving to our God. We repent because we marvel and remember the great work Christ did for us on the cross and in his resurrection.

“My body… given for you… new covenant… in my blood… poured out for you… in remembrance of me.”

I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!
– Martin Luther

Cross-Fit Bodies: A Biblical Perspective on Male Body Image

“The most critical need of the church at this moment is men, bold men, free men. The church must seek, in prayer and much humility, the coming again of men made of the stuff of which prophets and martyrs are made.” – A.W. Tozer

Body Image. This is an issue that is becoming more and more visible for men. For me, it is a personal issue. Having a disability makes the issue of male body image hit close to the heart. Yet, I am not the only one. Men may not speak out about their struggle, but it is real. Even as I write this post, I am overhearing three different conversations where men are discussing body image in relation to working out.

Us men, whether we realize it or not, are constantly barraged with images and ideas of what our bodies should be like. We live in the culture of super heroes and celebrity eye-candy. Images of fit men like Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, John Cena, and Michael Phelps are celebrated as the specimen of good male body image. The cultural phenomenon of the “dad bod” is another way for those who do not want to be in the “fitness camp” to relate to their bodies.

We might not say this is a real issue for Christians to talk about. However, look at culture. Men are more and more seen for their bodies. It might not have been obvious 50 years ago, but it was still there. Look at movies such as Grease. There is a body image for men even back then. When we think about the church, there are plenty of books and conferences for women on the issue of their bodies, yet why is it that nothing is said for men?

Amidst the flashes of models, fitness programs, and celebrities, Christian men need a biblical perspective on how to view their bodies. This post will not cover everything, but I pray this starts a conversation encouraging men to sharpen other men to live a biblical life dedicated to Christ.

Back to Genesis

When talking about men and our bodies, we need to go back to creation. However, we cannot start with God making man. In fact, we cannot start with creation. We need to start with our Creator.

In order to understand a biblical male body image, we need to truly come to an understanding that we have a personable, Creator God. Genesis 1 reveals that our Creator is the Almighty God who can breathe creation into existence. He is in a relationship with humans from the beginning. Even after the fall of man into sin, our Creator promises a destruction of sin as he reconciles our relationship with Him (Genesis 3:15).

God knows us, and not just facts about us. Due to being our Creator, God is able to know us on an intimate level (Psalm 139). We cannot begin talking about our body image unless we realize that our body comes from being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Created with a Cross-Fit Body

CrossFit. What comes to mind? Do you think of guys straining to flip tires? Men drinking protein shakes? Mirror selfies showing transformation?

What is the purpose of working out? We tend to only see fitness as an aesthetic quality that we must possess in order to be considered attractive. Or, we react against the fitness craze and not care about our looks. But, what is the purpose in that? These two trends boil down to the qualities of aesthetics.

What if our male bodies were created for more?

When we talk about our bodies, we tend to hear sermons on Psalm 139:14. But, have we taken the time to read Psalm 139:13-16? It is not enough to marvel at God creating our bodies, but it is even greater to marvel in the fact God formed our inward parts, fitted together each physical aspect of our bodies for a specific purpose (v. 16).

God creates each man’s body for a specific purpose. Adam was created to work the garden (Genesis 2:15). The prophet Jeremiah was created for the purpose of being a messenger to God’s people (Jeremiah 1:4-5). In fact, Abraham’s body was created to show the glory of God’s miracle to bring about the nation of Israel (Hebrews 11:12).

God designed each part of our body, even the parts we do not like, for a this purpose. Abraham’s infertility was used to bring God glory through a purpose designed from the beginning of the world.

When we claim the name of Christ and live for Him, we have a Cross-Fit body. Our bodies are to be used to for the purpose God called us to. Your body can be used for purposes of teaching, constructing, analyzing, diagnosing, mentoring, writing, speaking, running, socializing, and even sexual intimacy in the context of God’s creation of marriage. Your body is not just a machine. It is the vessel through which we fulfill the calling of God that He created for us in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).

Using our Cross-Fit Body

However, how are we to use our bodies? Where does fitness come in?

Hebrews 12:1 shows us God’s race that is set before us. Usually, we talk about being spiritual fit for God’s calling in our lives. But, does this apply to physical fitness?

In order to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we need to be physically fit enough to do what he has called us to do. Our bodies are used as God’s Temple. Can we glorify God with our bodies if we are physically unable to do what God has called us to?

However, there is another side to this issue. We should workout and be fit. Yet, working out and looking fit does not help us use our bodies. When we focus on looking good it is hard to step away from the mirror and begin using our bodies. That is the point of physical fitness. If we are unable to physically spend time with our families, fulfill our vocational responsibilities, or interact with the church due to us neglecting our physical fitness, then we are not honoring God. But if we are only working out to perfect our looks in order promote ourselves, we are still not honoring God.

The reason we have a body is to use our bodies. How are we physically preparing for the purpose God has for us?

Cross-Fit Community

But, all of this will not stop the struggle with body image. Satan is always warring against us. We battle against our flesh. Body image will never go away as a struggle; even if we are silent about it.

Paul tells us the church is to a place where we encourage each other in the faith (Ephesians 4:12). We are also told in Ephesians 6 that our struggles are not isolated from each other. We struggle together. The church is where we need men to open with each other and struggle together over every issue. God created our bodies. Therefore, is it wrong for us to talk about our bodies?

In order to encourage each other, we need openness and we need each other. Why would God create the church if we were meant to face the Christian journey alone? Community helps us refocus our minds on God’s truth – even with issues regarding our bodies.

The church is desperately needing men who are bold enough to open up about our struggles. When we allow the light of God’s Word to shine on every aspect of our lives we can fully live for Christ.

The struggle of body image affects many people. But, with the church’s commitment to the using of God’s Word, we can see men sharpening each other to refocus their thinking biblically, and begin living out God’s Truth.

It starts with a conversation searching the Scriptures and sharpening each other to use our bodies for God’s glory.

Our male body image is found in being created in God’s image for His purpose in order to bring God glory.

The Lost Mentality of the Christian

“There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.”
– Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Violence, raunchy movies, swearing, immodesty, drinking adds, liberal ideas, worldly messages, and worldly people. These are the things we run into on a daily basis. We see these things and our first response is to react, and then to hide. We stay in our churches and throw tracts at people in order for them to come in and be converted.

We see the fallen state and the continue depravity of man like a gathering storm. So we take shelters in our churches and with our Christian friends. We fear the storm. We fear the disaster it will cause on our lives. Self-protection of our spiritual lives and our moral lives become our number one priority when facing the World.

The ideas rage, the sin booms its thunder, and depravity rains down. Yet, we stay inside our shelter in the time of storm. Yet, we need to ask ourselves the question: is this biblical? Is this the way we should be acting towards the world around us?

The Heart of Interaction

When we look at interacting with the World, we must look at what the Scripture says.

John 1:14

Jesus, God himself, took a human body. He interacted with us. He interacted with your world, your sin, and your helpless state.

John 3:16

God loved you (and the world) so much that He came to interact with our world. He saw the storm from the beginning, and He needed to interact with it. He could not let you be damned for your sin. He could not allow you to die in your sin. He interacted with you.

The heart of interacting with the world is the Incarnation. Because God took on a body and kept it to interact with you at your level, He has freed us from the power of the World so you could interact with it. Without the Incarnation, we would have no faith. It is our faith in the Incarnate God which conquers the World (1 John 5:4).

The Forgotten Heart

But… Do we live like this? Do we find empowerment through the Incarnation to engage the World?

No. Instead, we try to save our own lives. We have made a Christ who sits in our churches and calls people to come. Yet, where was Christ found? He was accused of being the friend of sinners, because he ate with sinners. He was found at their tables. What does Jesus say in Mark 2:13-17? He did not come to call the righteous or who were healthy. Jesus wants the sinner and the sick.

This was the heart of Jesus. He came, took on a human body, died, and rose again for sinners. It is the sinner that needs this salvation. It is you that needs this salvation.

Why did we fall in love with Jesus? Was it because of the heart of Jesus? Yet, we have forgotten His heart. We have forgotten our first love: Jesus.

Do you remember when you saw your sin? It was like a storm that was going to kill you. You could not find shelter from the death sentence over your head. You could not find it in a church, or in a translation, or in following a list of obedience. You could only find it in the heart of Jesus who comes to sinners like you and shows you the way to salvation. Have you forgotten this? When we remember what Christ has done for us, we gain His heart and His mindset to engage the world (Philippians 2:1-18).

The Ignored Commission

Christ’s heart gives us a commission. Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

When we first hear this passage we think of our missionaries across oceans living in weird places and learning languages to give the gospel. Do we ever consider this passage to mean our neighborhood? Our culture?

We tend to ignore this command when thinking about our current situation. We would rather hide in our churches throwing tracts at people and give them a moral standard as our fulfillment of the Great Commission. Sadly, this commission is the greatest omission of our Christian lives and in our churches.

Christ commands us to make disciples of all nations. You can’t make disciples when you are worried about your own life. Making disciples means you are worried about another person’s life. It does not have to be handing out tracts. Daily life evangelism is a better tool than handing out a tract. When the world sees you struggling and clinging to the hope of Christ, then they will be more open to hearing the gospel than off a piece of paper. Tracts can be effective, but only giving a “fire-insurance gospel.” The gospel transforms lives when it is engaged with lives. And, you have been given that gospel to make disciples of all nations. Are you going to continue to ignore Christ’s heartfelt command?

Engaging the World

Now, how do we actually work through the “storm of sin” we see in our culture? It is easy to run for shelter. However, there is a better route: Critical Thinking. It is not being critical and judgmental.

Critical Thinking is about evaluating the messages, ideas, and events around you. It is willing to listen to people you disagree with in order to understand them. Critical Thinking is interacting with what you are hearing, and then responding. A critical thinker does not react. Too often, we as Christians react to the world around us. We see sin dripping like slime off the wall and we decry it. Why are we surprised that sinners are acting like sinners? Did Christ react? Yes, he did. However, it was not just a reaction. It was a response. He knew how to respond to the people around him. Paul knew how to respond. For us, reacting never gives us an opportunity to give the gospel. Responding opens many doors.

Think through what is going on in our world. Seek to understand those around you. Engage in their lives. Be well read. Understand them in order to improve yourself as you seek to make disciples of all nations. Think critically how to respond before you react.

Acts 17:16-34 is an excellent example of critical thinking. Paul sees the culture around him in Athens. He does not go and smash idols. Instead, he looks for a way to respond that will open the minds of the people to hear the gospel. He even quotes one of their own poets. Paul did not react in protecting his moral life or imposing his moral standards on them. He responded. He showed them the heart of Christ.

Heading Out into the World

In the movie The Giver, the community is kept safe by the Elders. All memories are wiped away. All evil is put aside and taken outside the community. Everything is in black and white. Jonas, the main character, sees this as taking away from what makes us truly human. He then goes on a quest to bring back the memories and break the barrier. He is successful. The memories come back. However, they are not all good. It is the good and bad that makes us human. We experience bad and good. Yet, at the very end he comes to a house decorated for Christmas. He says he found the truth. He found where reality is. He finds what makes us real. Watch the clip below. As it comes to the end, identify the song being sung at the house.

The Ending of The Giver

Reality is found in Jesus. The world is living in the shadow and echo of what is real. There is good and there is evil. But, aren’t you grateful for that Silent Night? The birth of the Incarnation gives us the freedom to critically think, enter into our world, and engage with it.

How does this quote strike you?
“The reason why the Christians in this day are at such a loss as to some things is that they are contented with what comes from man’s mouth without searching and kneeling before God to know of Him the truth of things.”

Does it feel like it was written for today? It was written by John Bunyan in the 1600’s. There is a lost mentality of engaging the world through critical thinking. It is not just about listening, it is about understanding, it is about learning, and it is about responding like Christ and making disciples of all nations.

The good and bad makes us human. The Incarnation sets us free from this fallen world in order to bring the gospel to this fallen world. We can engage our world, because Jesus engaged us.

The Shaming

May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.
– Martin Luther

Have you ever watched a movie with one actor and then watched another movie with the same actor and could not believe it was the same person? One name that comes to mind is Meryl Streep. You can watch Streep play a witch in Into the Woods, and then play a mother in Sophie’s Choice, and then play Julia Childs in Julie and Julia. She can put on one mask of a character and switch with ease.

Many times when we see a movie or a play we marvel at the acting skills. Books upon books have been written about how to portray characters with reality in performance. In fact, there are awards given for who can be the best character. It is not an award for being themselves. It is an award for being another person. Those who do not get nominated for an award tend to walk with shame as they have tried, but still cannot get it. In the film world, image is everything.

Have you ever felt like you were putting on another person in order to have an image? Is your image one of a successful Christian in order to hide what is really going on? Do our churches shame us into having an image?

Shaming in the Church

You have signed up for a small group. It is an exciting time to get together with your fellow believers to study the Word and help each other through struggles in your life. You are well aware of that one sin which keeps you down and stalks you in the shadows. The freedom you find in knowing a small group or a church that can help is celebratory… until the group starts.

You sit in a circle and begin sharing about your struggles in order to pray for each other. “Pray for me. I am struggling with staying in my Bible reading daily.” “I am struggling with pride.” Then all eyes watch you as it is your turn to share, “Pray for me. I am still struggling with (insert your sin here).” All of a sudden their eyes grow wide. Silence makes you feel claustrophobic. “Maybe I should have said pride or another less awkward struggle,” you think to yourself.

As the group dismisses, you receive warm encouragements of “I am praying for you.” Yet, as the week goes on, do you hear from them? The members of your small group begin to avoid you or just tolerate you. Then it seems like everyone in church knows. You feel shamed. Shamed to go to church. Shamed to speak out again. Shamed to even call yourself a follower of Christ.

The weight of your shame is back-breaking and you can’t take it anymore. So, you make an excuse. You say you have found victory. You slip on a mask of an image, and say, “I struggle with my prayer life.” In your mind, it is better to be a part of an image, rather than bear the shame of the church.

Have you ever felt like this? Do you know someone who has felt like this? Do you feel like you can be open about your sin struggles in the church? Or, do you feel like you have to keep them a secret and keep an image in order to not be shamed?

Shame is a powerful tool to use against people. In the church it can be used to keep an image of “perfect saints.” Sure, many will say their church is not perfect. But, when was the last time you heard someone open up and testify to God working in their hearts through a deep struggle? Does the church use sins like pride or lack of a prayer life to cover up what is really happening in people’s lives?

The Root of Shaming

Shaming in the church is real. It happens all the time. We hear people confess to not reading their Bibles enough or not praying enough. Yet, out of the blue they are renouncing their faith and joyfully embracing a life characterized by sin. Why did they not open up about this? Were they afraid of being shamed if they did? The fear of shame is powerful, and it causes many to not open up and let sin live in secret.

You do not shame someone unless you want them to change or adopt a set of practices. Shaming causes people to fall in line with an image presented. Many churches have an image of a nice building, people dressed to impress, and everything is right as rain. If someone comes in not properly dressed, or says something out of line there is an immediate reaction to nonverbally let that person know to fall in line. When that happens, the church is using shame to worship their image.

The root of shaming is image. When image becomes the most important, we make sure masks are provided to cover up things in our lives in order to be perceived as perfect.

The Real Image of the Church

So, what is the image of the church to be? Does the Bible say anything about this? Actually, it does.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 states what a church in the New Testament was perceived as. Paul states in graphic terms what sins the people in the church used to take part in: stealing, greed, homosexuality, drunkenness, and idolatry. Pride and lack of a prayer life is not mentioned. These are some pretty heavy sins that are mentioned. Yet, Paul does not glorify the sin. He glorifies the Savior who washed and cleansed them of their sins.

It is a story that is repeated throughout the New Testament. Ephesians 5:8 and 1 Peter 2:9 sing a similar song. The image of the Church is of individuals who were living in darkness and now called into the marvelous light of God. It is a group of people who recognize and remember where they were before Christ. They do not try to hide their past. They freely admit to it. Just like Paul does many times throughout his epistles. Paul clearly shares in detail where he was before Christ turned his life around. The image of the church is not one of perfection. It is one of a group of people being called out of darkness and into light, and the church elevates this story time and time again. The church’s motto is old made new (II Corinthians 5:17)

The Church That Struggles Together Shines Together

As we have seen from the New Testament the church is one that is being called out from darkness into light. Are we made perfect right away? No. Paul reveals in Romans 7:21-25 that he struggles with sin. He feels a war inside of him. Are we more perfect than Paul? No. But, should the church continue to sin that grace may abound? No.

However, we ,first, must acknowledge that all of us who are believers and inside the church are struggling with sin. If we say that we are not currently struggling with sin, 1 John 1:8 says that the truth is not in us. 1 John was not written to unbeliever. It is written to believer. The word “to have” in Greek is in the present tense. John is not saying if we do not acknowledge we have sinned in the past then the truth is not in us. That is not his focus John declares that if we deny we are currently sinning and struggling with sin, then the truth is not in us.

Everyone in the church is struggling with sin. And, we are not meant to struggle alone. In fact, we are commanded in Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the amor of God and wage war. The commands “to take” are plural in Greek. The passage talks about our struggles. We are not alone in this. So stop pretending that you do not struggle with sin. Remove the mask that you have been shamed to put on. The church is meant to struggle together.

If the church was meant to be seen as perfect, people will be turned away. That is what is happening today. The church is to be a living, breathing, struggling demonstration of God’s glorious grace and redemption through the work of Jesus Christ and the transformation of the Holy Spirit. How much brighter would our testimony be when the world sees a church struggling together? What would the world say when they see the live transformation of people’s lives from salvation all the way till we meet Jesus?

Openness and transparency is difficult to cultivate. But, it is the way we see the working of the Holy Spirit. We can’t see God’s Working in the church when we shame people to hide their lives. When sin is kept in dark secrets, sin will only grow and destroy people. It must face the light of the Gospel. A church that shames people will only be concerned with an image and numbers. A church concerned with seeing lives changed and repentance will focus on openness and discipleship.

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins on the cross. We have been brought from darkness into light. Stop tell people this with only words, and start showing them how God is changing you. Put the mask down. We no longer have to pretend and be ashamed of the sin we are struggling with. Why? Because we are being sanctified by the washing of the Word and through the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. We all need repentance because we all have sin since the truth is in us and points out our sin. But, if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Shame leads to hiding God’s work in your life. Take off the mask. Don’t accept the award for being the best Christian. Tell the story of how God, through the death of His Son, brought you from darkness to life. This is the true image we should be proud of.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul
It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Stop Talking About Pornography

“[God] has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”
– Screwtape

Have you ever been in a museum or a cathedral and the beauty of the artwork captures your breath? All around you beauty astounds and inspires. We have museums and we preserve works of art for this purpose. We learn from art, we grow from art, and we learn our humanity from art.

However, have you ever looked at a trash can in a museum? Studied the steel that covers it, and asked yourself, “What is the purpose of this waste receptacle?”

I have never seen anyone go to Notre Dame and stare at the trash cans. I have never seen anyone go to the Art Institute in Chicago and write papers and analyze the trash cans. It seems ridiculous that anyone would do that. With all the beauty of stained glass, architecture, paintings, and sculpture, why would anyone look and awe over the trash?

Yet, we do this in our churches. We do this in our teaching of our youth and ourselves. We do this in our Christian lives. We have exchanged the beauty that God created for the focus on the trash.

The Current Teaching of God’s Creation of Sex

I was sitting on the floor of our youth room carefully listening to my youth pastor. He was talking about sex and purity. The topic was almost taboo as it was secretive. He stressed that sex before marriage ruins the true intimacy of marriage. I heard the pitfalls and yuck to avoid: pornography, fornication, homosexuality, and any other sexual sin. The seriousness of his voice and the silence of the teens indicated the grave severity of these sins. There was something ominous in the air. I was warned, and I knew that transgressing that warning meant grave consequences.

Was your experience similar to mine? Is how we teach our children a biblical understanding of sex in this kind of mindset?

When the topic of sex comes up, our minds flash a word: Flee! We think of 1 Corinthians 6:18. The image of killing the flesh and its earthly desires play across our minds like a movie as Colossians 3:5 reads like subtitles. Then the hero of the movie appears 1 Corinthians 10:13. We see the charge to find that way of escape and avoid sexual sin.

Churches and Christian schools emphasize the flight from sexual sin. As they do, ourselves and our teens see sex as something to flee from. They may see a beautiful wedding, but the topic of sex and intimacy in marriage is filled with images of avoiding and fighting pornography and the host of sexual sins.

The Forgotten Artwork

When was the last time you heard a sermon on the subject of sex glorifying the beauty of marriage?

Marriage. It is a word that we might not hear that often in our churches. We hear it at weddings and the announcement of weddings. But, when was the last time we heard that word in a sermon, or in Bible teaching?

“God said, it is not good for the man to be alone.” When did God say these words? Was it before or after sin entered the world? Before. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone. After calling all of His creation good, God saw something that was not good: man being alone.

After all the beauty that God personally spoke into existence, God wanted to create something even more beautiful. Genesis 2 spends eleven verses (2:15-25) painting the picture of His most beautiful creation: man and woman in married intimacy. God creates marriage. Their intimacy is described as being one flesh and having no shame. It is a special intimacy where a man leaves his family to join his wife in oneness through marriage.

Think about the most beautiful love story you have read or seen. There is always trouble, selfishness, and other problems that create road blocks for that couple. Yet, the marriage and intimacy of Adam and Eve had no problems. It is truer love than Cinderella. It was a more intimate love than Belle and the Beast. In our fairy tales, sin always creates obstacles for love. Yet, no obstacles in Genesis 2.

Jesus retells the story of Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:1-6. He shows the beauty of marriage against an ugly question of divorce. The marriage and intimacy of Genesis 2 is shown in its beauty as what God designed before sin twisted everything in Genesis 3.

Studying the Trash

Marriage and the intimacy in marriage is like stain glass and art in a museum. God has on display His most beautiful creation. We cry at weddings and we awe at the beauty of the newly married couple.

Yet, in our Christian life we tend to study the trash. Our focus rarely is on the beauty of marriage. The pulpit resounds the pounding charge to avoid sexual sins and pornography. How many books are written to teens and singles on the dangers of sexual sin? How much does our teaching of sex and relationships revolve around the trash that sin created when it distorted God’s beauty?

God tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are beautiful and excellent. Yet, we pound out the sins of pornography. We aren’t thinking about what is beautiful. We have fallen into Satan’s trap. It is just like C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape (who is a representation of Satan) complains about the beauty God has given to man. However, in order to draw Christians away from that beauty, Satan must make them focus on the twistedness of sin. That is when the beauty is useful to Satan’s schemes.

We have exchanged studying the beauty of God’s creation in the form of marriage for the analysis of the trash of sin. We no longer see marriage valued in our churches. We would rather decry sexual sins, than elevate the beauty of marriage.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you heard a sermon on the beauty of marriage?

Refocusing on God’s Beauty

This is a clear problem. Our teens and our own minds are focused on the wrong thing. We spend so much time focusing on the trash, that we forget to look up and see the art that God personally gave us.

Couples, are you displaying the beauty of your marriage that God gave you? Is your marriage speaking louder than the warnings against pornography?

Pastors, are you promoting God’s beauty more than sin’s trash? If all we feed our people is the analysis of garbage, then that is all they will focus on. When was the last time you preached about the beauty of marriage?

Children, teens, and singles, what are you being taught about sex and love? Is it mainly about what to avoid? Or, is it seeing the beauty of marriage playing out before you?

It is good to give caution on what God’s Word gives caution to. However, God wants us to show the world His beauty. We do not need another analysis on the sexual depravity of man. We need demonstrations (obviously appropriate) of God’s creation of marriage.

Christian marriages should be the ones we see as the best love stories around us. Let us stop focusing on the trash, and start elevating the beauty God created in marriage.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

1989. A song was heard across radios and climbed to #1 on the charts. If I Could Turn Back Time performed by Cher became one of the most iconic songs of all time. The song reveals a longing to go back time and fix the mistakes between two lovers. The singer would go to the greatest lengths, including reaching for the stars, t0 turn back time in order to restore a “golden age.”

1979. Bob Segar and The Silver Bullet Band released a song that became a staple in the Rock and Roll genre: Old Time Rock and Roll. The lyrics sing:

Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock n’ roll

Still like that old time rock n’ roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock n’ roll

Both songs reveal a desire to turn back time and return to a “golden age” of the singer. Many of the most iconic songs heard on the radio and on our playlists have a theme of going back in time to bask in the sunshine of yesteryear.

We think about the same. We hear exclamations of wanting to return to the “golden age” of our country, our church history, and even our personal selves. We hear the desire to reject the ways of today because it does not have the same “soul” as those nostalgic times.

As Christians, many of us have heard in churches about turning back the clocks. We desire to go back to another time either to a different national leader, or a time in church practice. I have not been to a church where this topic has not been brought up from the pulpit. Or, I have heard people desiring to go back to their life before Christ or at least have a small bit of it. But, is it biblical thinking to desire to turn back time?

Well, Back In…

When we look back at our lives, we often see the hardships we endure spiritually and physically. We think about how easy it must have been for us before salvation. We did not have to wrestle and struggle between serving God and the desires of the flesh. Sin was first nature. We could have gone on living like that. We could be our director. We could write the endings we wanted. Yet, we had to give everything up to follow this Jesus into a life of spiritual battles, loss of relationships, changes in our plans, and a constant responsibility to live a certain way. Like Cher, we sometimes want to turn back time and undo our decisions. We want to go back to those days that seem so peaceful and possibly had potential.

Exodus 16:1-3. The Israelites have been miraculously delivered by God out of slavery in Egypt. They were in the wilderness following God through Moses to the Promised Land. Excitement after the drowning of the Egyptian army soon turned to complaining. “Well, back in Egypt…” became their motto. Over and over again, a struggle comes up and the Israelites cry out, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”

Does this sound familiar? We say the same. We look at where God is leading us, and we say, “It was better before I gave my life to Christ.” Our lives before Christ seem better and less “chaotic” than our lives with Christ. We would gladly join hands with the Israelites and return.

The Israelites wanted to turn back time and find a way. And, they did. Moses convinced them to stay, but they decided to make Egypt in their midst through a golden calf (Exodus 32). Holding on to just a little bit of Egypt was better than letting it all go for the unknown God was doing. Would we be doing the same? Would we throw our gold in to have some comfort of our old lives before being delivered from slavery? Do we hold on to something that stokes our inner thoughts and lusts of those nostalgic sinful days?

See, the Israelites forgot one thing: slavery. They could think all about the “good” they had. But, they were slaves! They had no freedom. It is the same with us. We were condemned to Hell. No escape. Why go back to the things that lead us back to the slavery of sin? We lusted, we went after it. No shame in our actions; not caring who got hurt in the process of our desires. Yet, in salvation, Christ bled so we could follow Him to a right relationship with our Creator that ends in the New Earth with no more tears or pain.

Do we really want to turn back time to where we were before Christ? Where would you be if Christ did not die and rise from the dead for you?

Remembering the Old Ways

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16).

How many of us have heard this verse? How many of us have heard the tales of the glory days of Christianity in America? Many churches will decry from their pulpits the practices of today and urge people to return to the old practices of yesteryear.

But, that is not what Jeremiah 6 is talking about. God wants His people to return to Him. He does not want them to return to some way of living of using one instrument over another or something along those lines. He wants a return to a relationship with Him first.

We decry the cultural sin of today and we hear, “Back in our day we did not see this evil in our country or in our churches. We need to get back to a simpler time.” We then sit and reminisce about those days of old. We think how much we want to be there, and so we make our churches feel that way.

Remembering and imitating the days of old does not get rid of the sin of today, nor of the sin of yesterday. Sin will find its way. We live in a fallen world. We cannot escape it inside our churches.

It is not the former days that will save us and defeat sin, it is the days to come when Christ reigns as King on the New Earth and wipes away ever tear.

God tells us it is not wise to go back to the former days and dream about them (Ecclesiastes 7:10). God wants us to look forward as He pushes all history, all time periods, all “golden ages” to the restoration of the Creator with His creation (Revelation 21-22). We were not made to look to the past. We were made the look to the future that is bright with the radiance of our Savior as He restores creation and puts all things under his feet (I Corinthians 15:20-28).

The Time That is Given to Us

The world is falling apart. Sometimes our lives are falling apart. Bad things happen. We don’t get the job. Promises from people fall through. Our lives are not the way we think they should be. Our baby is diagnosed with a disability. The Christian leader we respected leaves the faith and turns his back on God. Every day we hear sin becoming more and more normalized. And, deep inside we ache and hurt. We cry out, “God, stop it!” When we do not get an answer we tend to want to turn back time.

A young woman is kidnapped from her home that was burnt to the ground. She is forced to present her beauty before the ruler of that nation. She is then chosen to be his wife. She is forced to marry a king who was known for his parties that involved drunkenness and orgies. After her marriage, she hears of a conspiracy by an advisor to annihilate what is left of the people from her home. When the world and her life were about to crash down, her cousin said, “Perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

We, like Esther, may wish none of what we are going through would ever happen to us. We want to turn back time to reverse decisions. Yet, it is not for us to decide. The One who made us is the One who gave us our life. He saved us. He redeemed us for a purpose. We are placed purposefully in the times we live in. Do you not think we have been placed here for such a time as this? All you have to decide is what to do with the time God has given you.

Why are we holding on to the past? What good is it going to do unless it is in remembrance of what God has done? He brought us this far for such a time as this, and He will bring us to the end for a such a time as will be.

Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!

In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sovereign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.

For the Sake of His Name by Chris Anderson