Today I learned the importance of standing up for God-even though He does not really need standing up for, for nothing can change who He is and His standing. I mean this in the sense of letting people know in some way or another that you recognize yourself with Him and that you care about what he cares about. He wants us to be discerning as He is discerning of both good and evil. He wants us to be involved in His kingdom and fight the good fight. Although it sounds humble to say ‘to each their own,’ it is not Biblical. We are not to validate evil, but abhor it and work against it. We are to pursue and think of all things good for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.
I also learned, although silently, that through being a parent many questions that I used to get asked on the street, have a clear answer now. From this vantage point, I can understand why God would create people even though he knew that some would rebel or go through pain and be suffering out of their own will. I now know to some level that we are created to be loved and in to walk closely with Him. I had my child and am having another knowing that they will not have a perfect life, but I can guarantee that I will always have a love for them-though imperfectly.
Today I was also reminded of the power of the name of Jesus Christ. Although this might sound silly, whenever I have nightmares I lift the name of Jesus Christ high and praise Him for who He is–and all those terrors flee!
And finally, I am slowly and stubbornly learning to place people down off of unreasonable pedestals and expectations to be to me who only God can be to me. I will not find completion in romance, or materials, or experiences, but only in Him. This will be a prayer of mine for the rest of my life.
Everything is black and white.
-ex. a man misses church sometimes for his job, and he is also taking care of his pregnant wife. He comes to speak to his pastor, and his pastor says that he should get another job, and looks for bible verses to justify his opinion, or to see how many services are acceptable to miss – when there is no such black and white verse.
Mistake a misspoken phrase with an intentional rejection of the truth.
-ex. a believer says that they were ‘injected’ with righteousness instead of imputed with it, and you think they are way off course
You believe that everyone should be as theologically advanced as you. ex. When someone has no tolerance for new believers, and their questions and misunderstandings, or when someone only wants to be in the company of mature believers.
You cant tell the difference between wandering sheep and false teachers ex. Not being able to tell the difference between a teacher gets temporarily influenced by a slightly odd idea, versus someone who is out to intentionally fleece the flock. Even further when a person completely disowns or disregards a teacher because of a minor misstep.
You can’t sing a worship song when one phrase is a bit ambiguous
-(real life ex) Being told that the church can no longer sing “What a Friend we have in Jesus” because the bible doesn’t often speak of God as a friend.
Every doctrine is considered essential. ex. a believer will only fellowship with other believers who are on the same page with everything – even beyond the essentials.
You are intimidating and not engaging – ex. You intentionally stand alone in the church foyer with no interest in the others around you. ex2. You stand with a large picket sign with Bible verses strewn across it, with a constant frown and severe demeanour.
Most of your family is mad at you-you are not pleasant, or showing love to them. ex. A woman’s family tells her that it feels like she is never there for them, or present during difficult times yet is quick to preach at them.
You size everyone up theologically- not as in image bearers or sister in the faith. You riddle them with 1000s of theological questions. ex. a new person comes to church professing to be a Christian, and the pastor grills him/her with a long list of questions, instead of getting to know that person over time to see if their profession holds true. This is also done for the next bullet point.
If someone doesn’t embrace every one of your secondary issues, you lunge. ex. If another church sings contemporary hymns or uses another translation of the Bible, you feel that it is fair game to discredit or attack them. ex 2 (real life) A pastor discrediting a church simply based on its name (not the denomination but the title of the church), because they had a preconceived notion as to what a church ought to be called.
You look for any theological misstep. ex. Whenever a man speaks to other Christians he is suspect of them or believes that he is the only one who properly understands things.
Praying under compulsion is a superficial performance of religiosity. When one turns prayer into an automated habit of detached verbiage, prayerless praying occurs.
It is no different than a conversation to oneself, or rehearsing a speech without an audience – or presenting a rehearsed speech without consideration of its impact on the audience.
I suspect that there are many roots to this practice: the appeal of religion and tradition to the flesh, a desire to appear righteous to others, or belief in a demanding yet aloof God.
I think that one remedy to prayerless praying is to restore, if one once possessed a relational view of God and man. If one reads Isaiah 1 where God calls Judah to come and reason with Him, rather than practice outward, heartless rituals, this conviction should rise. We are reminded of the obvious, yet often forgotten fact that God can see our acts of devotion for what they truly are. He knows if we are praying in faith based on who He is, or if our thanks and confessions re sincere.
Another remedy to prayerless praying, is to lose the fear of man. Often people do outwardly pious acts for the validation of others. I would say that would be strongly the case in relation to spiritual leaders and peers in Christ. The praise of man does not always equal praise from God. And good deeds done in the open, have their reward limited to the present. When one catches them self doing this, even accidentally, it might be wise to confess it to someone to avoid this pitfall. One might be surprised by how common this is!
Times where one can fall into this trap, could include the habit of working through excessively long prayer lists accompanied by a misguided fear that missing a name would leave a person/cause without aid or blessing, another time could be during a prayer meeting when a person feels the need to fill up the prescribed time allotment with speaking, rather than silently reflecting or hearing from God.
If this bothers your conscience, bring it up to God! He will help you.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
adj. 1. Of,relatingto, or characteristic of a sect. 2. Adhering or confined to thedogmaticlimits of a sect or denomination;partisan.FreeDictionary.com
“… sectarianism does not spring full grown from the ground. It is sown as a seed of self-chosen opinion, which grows into a division, and ultimately reaps, sectarianism. The sin of sectarianism is one of the worst sins. The Apostle Paul told us to “look at, regard attentively, take heed, beware, consider” those who behaved this way and “refuse, reject, decline, shun, avoid” them.”Bibletruths.org
Here is an example in the 9th Chapter of the Book of Mark …
….What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”
34But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
35And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
36Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them,
37“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
38Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
40“For he who is not against us is on our side.
41For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Insight from a couple commentaries …
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
“The disciple desired to show, as in self-vindication, that he not only “received” his Master, but that he was unwilling to “receive” any who did not openly follow Him as a disciple. The fact of which he speaks is significant historically as indicating that one of the effects of our Lord’s work had been to stir up and quicken the spiritual powers of men outside the range of the company of disciples that gathered round Him. They believed in Him, or they would not have used His Name. They were fellow-workerswith Him, for they were seeking to rescue the souls of men from frenzy and despair. Their faith was effective, for, as the narrative implies, they not only claimed the power to cast out demons, but did cast them out.”
“The true disciples of Christ are to hinder no one who is really doing His work. The very fact that they do it will bring with it reverence and sympathy.”
“St. Paul rejoiced that every way Christ was preached” 8 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. Philippians 1:18
“But to confine religion to them that follow us, is a narrowness of spirit which we should avoid and abhor.”
“Forbid him not — Neither directly nor indirectly discourage or hinder any man, who brings sinners from the power of Satan to God, because he followeth not us, in opinions, modes of worship, or any thing else which does not affect the essence of religion. For he that is not against us, is for us — Our Lord had formerly said, He that is not with me, is against me…”
Also, previously the disciples were not able to cast out a demon, so it must have been a real dissonance to them that they were Jesus chosen disciples–which they were likely proud of — but couldn’t cast out a demon like another person, who likely heard the gospel, but wasn’t as ‘set apart’ as them, or still a ‘child in christ.’ I wonder how often churches today who are proud of their status (historical, traditions, size) notice what the Lord is doing through smaller, less ‘impressive’ churches? (or smaller stricter, elitist churches towards the larger ‘liberal’ ones)
And speaking of churches, notice how ‘factions’ are seen as a deed of the flesh? (factions: a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics)
19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Just a thought, but I feel that Jesus is humorously upping the ante here (below), He speaks previously of the pride of sectarianism, and deals with the envy of wanting to be best in the kingdom, followed by suggesting that they amputate their limbs to avoid sin! The Lord knows that even our hearts are deceitfully wicked and our minds can have wicked thoughts – so the only way that we could avoid sin on our own accord is to be a maimed vegetable at best, but more likely dead. He reveals to them their lunacy of their self vindication. But since we know that that is not the route to salvation, the main point he’s getting at us …..“Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—44 where
‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’
45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—46 where
‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’
47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—48 where
‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’
Now all this brings me to my final/foundational thought of this blog – the Doctrine of Separation, which is apparently based on 2 Corinthians:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [emphasis added], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17 KJV).”
“Unfortunately, some churches and individuals use it bolster a sectarian mindset which excludes from fellowship any that differ, even in the slightest way, and have gone to great lengths to separate from others who do not strictly observe certain “fundamentals” of the faith.” TheRecoveringLegalist/Separation
It is as though we forget that they were born again of the same spirit, washed in the same blood, and in also written in the Book of Life!
So in closing, whenever we are tempted to not welcome a fellow believer because of a difference in denomination or preference, remember the words of Jesus: “Forbid Him Not!”
I’ll be honest, when I try to engage people on the street, what typically happens is that people like to ask us rhetorical questions or questions that are really just statements, or insults under the poor guise of a question, so that they can try to put us in our place. These are usually based upon false prejudgements and assumptions about our character, what Christianity is, and what the Bible says.
Sometimes it feels like people take the worst example of a person who calls themself a Christian, i.e. Westboro Baptist Church member, an internet troll, a scandalized preacher, or a Christian they’ve personally encountered and had a bad experience with, and they place all those attributes on us. They expect us to scream at them, slander them, be self-righteous, be wildly out of our minds, etc –and when we don’t react as the devil they want us to be, they reach for another angle or provocation that they hope will stir us up enough to snap. Thankfully we don’t act that way, but we do offend people by speaking the truth, no matter how gently.
Here is an example of an conversation my husband and I had with a group of twenty-something people, with a ‘Rhetorical-Question-Statement’.
Person 1: “Excuse me? I just have a question for you.”
Me: “Sure, I’ll try my best to answer it.”
Person 1: “As a Christian, what to do you think about homophobia?” (smugly asked)
Me: “I don’t think I understand your question (I do), and that’s kind of a strange thing to talk about, because I don’t think most people are intensely afraid of gay people.”
Person 1: “oh c’mon you know what I’m talking about”
Me: “If your asking me if we hate gay people, then the answer is no.”
My Husband: “But with that said, the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin, and a man should not lie with a man as he would with a woman.”
crowd: (laughs) “The bible.” (said derisively)
Person 1: “So you hate gay people.”
Me: “no, we don’t. But the primary reason we are out here, is to share the good news of…”
Person 2: (cuts me off as I’m about to share the gospel) “So would you be friends with a gay person. Do you have gay friends?”
My Husband: “My brother is gay.”
Person 2: “And you still think that it’s a sin? What if he got married, would you go to his wedding?”
My Husband: “It’s not that this is just my opinion that I’ve made up. The Bible says that it is a sin or an abomination. And no, I would not go to my brother’s wedding.”
Crowd: (looks offended, then satisfied that they got my husband to say something that coincides with their picture of an intolerant Christian) “Wow”
Person 1: “So you don’t love your brother enough to support him in marrying the one he loves. Can’t you just put your religion aside for him?” (going back to rhetorical)
My Husband and I: “Of course we love him.”
Person 1: “Thats all we needed to know” (they all walk away)
So there you have it. I’m sure that any believer who just read that, especially those who are experienced with evangelism of any kind can speculate as to what we could have done differently, or could appreciate the challenge of speaking to this group.
It is really easy to get sidetracked or dragged into conversations about specific sin, and never get to talking about the penalty of sin, and the grace of salvation. I usually answer these types of questions as briefly as possible, so that I can move on to the gospel. This could be a great error or a wise choice – sometimes it depends on the conversation, and how much time you have with said person.It is important to listen, but also important to make sure that you’re not letting one person take over the conversation. But overall, it is of great importance to speak the truth in love.
Conversations like these usually make me feel defeated in the end. Like I just wasted my time, and was made the fool. But even when I do get the opportunity to share the gospel, in a fuller conversation, often times it ultimately goes back to the other person not being able to let go of a specific sin, or the approval of it in others. Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse.
But when these brief exchanges do happen, they are only a blip in the larger scene, where we continue to share with other people, through a tract, open-air preaching, etc and the Word of God might just plant into good soil, or be watered.