If you are reading this blog post then congratulations, you have successfully survived the Christmas Holiday of 2016. It is hard to believe that Christmas is over and we are only a few short days away from 2016 being over as well. It does not seem possible, but I praise God for what He has done in 2016, as well as what He is going to do in 2017. I have high expectations because I know that God is able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). God is good regardless of the situations we find ourselves in, and this will ring true in the coming new year.
Not Condemn, But Save
As Christians, we are living in a culture where we are known more for what we are against, rather than what we are for. This is obvious to see and cannot be denied by those who take a simple glance around the country. Churches, partly because of horrid misconceptions, partly because of unfortunate extreme cases (ex. Westboro Baptist), partly because of silence on issues and failure to clarify, and only slightly because of the Bible’s teachings, are being written off as irrelevant simply because we disagree with the culture at large. There are many different issues that could be used as an example within culture but, for the sake of time and space, I will leave the reader to decide what these issues are.
The Church in America by and large, fits into this category, though there are always outliers that have stood firm in biblical convictions in a loving way, and the issue with being perceived in this light is that we have effectively lost our witness. We have been deemed a people of hate, instead of a people of love; and when we do nothing, or even worse, buck up and find a hill to die on, then we are not helping the situation in the least bit. So a question arises in our day, “How should the church respond to a culture that is plunging head first farther and farther into sin?” Should we stand by and recede into our own little groups? Should we simply cater to the culture and throw out doctrine that has not only stood for thousands of years, but is more importantly established in the Word of God? How should we engage, and better yet, how did Jesus engage?
What was the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth? The answer is found in a well-known passage of Scripture, one that most who have darkened the door of a church for any amount of time should know.
John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
From the start of the passage we can see one crucial idea, that God loves the world. God has a deep love for all of His creation, and especially for those who are made in His image. God’s sending His Son has one primary cause: He is good, right, and perfect, and we are not. He is good, where we are not. He is right in all that He does, but we are marred by our sinful nature. He is perfect, and we are depraved. This describes all of us. We are ALL sinful. If you are reading this right now, then you are a sinner. Everyone who has ever lived, apart from Jesus Himself, is a sinner. From the time we are born, we are a rebel that should rightly be put down by our just God. We have all committed cosmic treason and all face condemnation because of it. John 3:18 describes the condition of mankind apart from faith in Christ as being condemned ‘already’. We are never neutral before God, and God is NOT unloving or unjust to send every last rebel to eternal punishment.
Our culture does not like this, but culture has never had the authority to determine what is true or not true simply on the basis of what is popular. God’s Word stands for all eternity and carries with it the authority of God Himself, and this is how He describes our relationship to Him. We live in an age that seeks for tolerance, and yet it is not intolerant for a doctor to withhold a cancer diagnosis from his patient simply because he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings; it would be the very epitome of hate. In the same way, if we do not know how dire our situation is, then we will not see the glory and beauty of the Savior.
In our open rebellion against Him, because of His love, God sends His own Son down to earth. Jesus lives a sinless life that we could not live, and dies the death that we deserve, bearing on Himself the wrath of God that was to be poured out on His people, and then resurrects three days later to show that our debt has been paid in full. This bloody, gruesome cross is the picture of what true love looks like. Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself so that others may be saved. Isn’t this why we celebrate Christmas in the first place?
This is why Christ came to the world, not to condemn it, because it is condemned already. He didn’t need to judge because our sin condemns us even now. He came to save!
If that is why Christ came, how then should we live?
We are to live our lives in two ways, but these two are so interconnected that they could be classified as one.
- We are to live holy lives. Submitting ourselves to what the Word of God says about everything, and not only things that we like or agree with. We have no authority to determine what is or is not right, we simply submit and obey. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Without holiness you will not see the Lord. No matter your church attendance, or tithing, or your serving on a thousand committees, without holiness as described in the Bible, you will not see the Lord. We must daily put our sin to death and live like Jesus, which we will see clearly in the Bible. You will never reach perfection in this life, but that should never lower our standard that we are striving for.
- We are to known by our love. Christ came to save those from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7:9), so that means we have no excuse not to love everyone that is around us. You do not have to agree with one’s lifestyle or choices to love him. We should be a people known for loving all and seeking to serve all. Our cry, like Paul, should be, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some,” (1 Cor. 9:22). Jesus saved you out of your sin, why should we think that He is less powerful or glorious to save your neighbor? John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In a culture that screams for tolerance, we must show patient love. I can assure you of this, no one will be saved by your pointing out their sin in judgment. We must show love to all people, regardless of what they believe, or the lifestyles that they live. Now, we must also never seek to change what the Bible teaches to cater to those outside of the church. All of the Bible is true and must be treated as such, but how we use God’s unchanging Word is the key. Do we use it in a fit of anger and condescension, or out of love in a relationship that we have with that person?
You will never save anyone, that is not your job. Your job is to love and share the wonderful news that we can be restored back to God by faith in what Jesus has already done. We live our lives in holy and loving ways, but eventually we are going to have to open our mouths and share the gospel. Yes, your life will be a witness, but it will NEVER replace sharing your faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
So reader, stand firmly on the Word of God, be exceedingly clear on what it says (any vagueness will begin a slide into liberalism), and be loving. God will bless those who are dependent upon Him and obey the two greatest commandments: to love Him and to love people.
The Best Book of Them All
For this section, I will not be reviewing a book at all this time. Instead, I simply want to plead with you in the coming year to make it a point to pick up the book that many of us already own. If the Bible is the Word of God and carries with it the authority of God Himself, then why do we often let it collect dust on our tables or bookcases? As believers in Christ we should be reading our Bible every single day, not so that we can check it off a list, or have more knowledge, but because we want to know God. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God offers us fullness of joy and life in His Word.
God has given us a book and we must give it the time that it deserves. I read a blog just yesterday that said it takes around 70 hours to read the Bible through, which means that the average American could read it in four weeks if we would give up our TV time to read our Bibles (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/resolved-to-read-the-bible). So please, in the coming year, take the time to read your Bible through. All Scripture is God-breathed, and all of it deserves our attention (yes, that includes the Old Testament). Again, the goal is not to complete the Bible, but rather to know God.
Here is a link to Ligonier Ministries, which has an amazing list of options for Bible reading plans. There are also plenty of others on smart phone apps or online. If you do not own a Bible, then message me on here and I will send you one. I hope and pray that you will have a great New Year’s.
Soli Deo Gloria