On God’s expectation of holiness 

God has a standard He has set of expectation for all human beings that is based on His level of holiness (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23).  He does not lower the standard so we can attain it, rather He provides a way for humans to live up to this standard in Christ.  The technical terms are justification and sanctification.

Justification means we are made holy and have a legal standing of sinless before God as He cancels our debt of sin by the cross of Christ.  By faith in what God did on the cross in Jesus, we are declared righteous.

Sanctification means the process of being made holy.  At the moment of justification, you immediately begin to see the affects of God replacing our desire to sin with the desire to please God and pursue holiness.  And the power to attain holiness is supplied by the Holy Spirit of God by the name of Jesus.

Does this mean you will be perfect like Jesus?

No, rather that the power is supplied by faith and we will feel convicted by the Spirit when we sin.  To be like Jesus is the standard, and to actually be like Him now requires walking by faith moment-by-moment, being filled with the Spirit and in the word and prayer to know what God calls you to do, and then you need to obey and do it.  This is the Christian life.

GODSPEED

Why go to church?

I did not grow up as a Christian.  I became a Christian because I noticed that my Christian friends had a different home life than the rest of the kids in my class, and I wanted what they had.

Let me explain, in third grade at Flatirons Elementary School in Boulder Colorado, the teacher asked, “How many of you live in homes of divorced families?” Almost every hand went up.  So the teacher said, “Wow! Let me ask the question differently, how many of you still live with your mom and your dad who are married to each other?” Out of 53 students, only three hands went up.  And all three of those kids were boys.  And all three of those boys went to the same church.  And about a year before this question was asked I started going to church with one of those boys.

Why did I start spending all my time with these Christian kids instead of all the others? Because I realized how crazy life was in everyone else’s home and how different it was in the Christians’ homes.

My mom had the philosophy that I needed to grow up by spreading my wings early; and so starting in kindergarten I would walk to a baby-sitter’s house three blocks from school for after school care.  During soccer season, in the first grade (age 7), I would walk a half mile to my mom’s office and then a mile to soccer practice.  This was all before the era of cell phones, and so my mom had great trust in my and the citizens of Boulder to not touch me. The crazy thing was, at times, my mom would be late picking me up after practice and I would sit on the curb a full hour after practice waiting for her to come pick me up.

My mom thought it was important to buddy up with other kids for protection.  And so she would talk to other parents and often I would walk with other kids in the same predicament and we would stop off at their house on the way (usually to go to the bathroom or get a snack), but often their parents weren’t home either.  And so I was exposed to some pretty crazy things: Playboy magazines, kids stealing stuff from stores, kids inappropriately acting out (sexually) with other kids in as early as second grade, etc. I had a knife drawn on me by a “friend’s” older brother, I saw drunkenness by some mom’s and dad’s  as early as 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I saw drug use, and I was exposed to crazy ideas through MTV, all before 1984 (I was nine years old).  And this……….was “normal.”

I literally was rescued from this over the next seven years.  I started spending almost every day after school with one of the three children whose parents were still married, and who went to church.  I noticed something different in all three of those homes: their moms were home waiting for them and they were loved.  A majority of the time I went to my best friend’s house (we lived in the same neighborhood) and there were tremendous benefits by going there as opposed to my own home or someone else’s after school.  My best friend’s mom would always feed us a snack, and then make sure we did our homework. After that we were free to do what we wanted as long as we were near the house.

Let’s compare that to my house: my mom’s rule was, “Call me after school to tell me where you are and I will be home at 5:30pm, see you then.”  When I went home alone, there was no one to ask questions about my homework, no accountability about what I did, basically I was a latchkey kid.  So I watched a lot of TV and just did my own thing.  Needless to say I almost failed out of school.  I was held back in second grade (I had to repeat first grade), because I couldn’t read (in fact I could barely write my own name).  But this was one of the best things that could have happened to me because I met my best friend and his Christian family.  Here’s the changed I noticed in myself by hanging out with their family:

  • I was safe after school.
  • I started doing my homework.
  • I was protected from exposure to Playboy and such.
  • I realized arguing, physical abuse, drugs, and drunkenness was chaotic and undesirable.
  • I realized this family had peace and love, which was desirable.
  • I stopped cussing.
  • I stopped throwing things at cars and getting in trouble.
  • I started learning that the reason this family was different was because they followed Jesus Christ as Lord (which affected their attitudes, morals, ethics, and choices – and mine).

My life was being dramatically altered in the most positive way imaginable.  And then tragedy struck.  My mom was killed in a bike accident (hit by a car) after Labor Day weekend in 1991.  I faced a crossroads: move in with my father who lives in another town, or remain in Boulder with my church friends and family.

I chose to remain in Boulder for one more year.  And even though my mom had died, it was one of the best and most stabilizing years of my life.  Why? Because my church youth group and their families became my family.  They rallied around me and I felt loved and supported, like I could make it through anything.  And then I moved.

The most difficult two years of my life was when I left my church family to live with my dad during my Junior and Senior year of high school.  Why was this so hard? Because I had no church, no youth group, and no support.  I was completely alone and had to make new friends.  I did make friends, primarily through my baseball team.  But their friendship was vastly different from what I had with my Christian community in Boulder.  My new “friends” were aggressively sarcastic, backstabbers, swore a lot to cut each other down, they were physically violent, and wanted to experiment with just about everything.  One night I found myself in a car with four guys who wanted to go find a rave.  I had no idea what that meant.  We looked and looked for the place and as they talked about it I realized what a rave was and I said, “Guys, if there’s gonna be drugs and drinking, please drop me off at my car.  First, it’s illegal.  Second, drugs are terrible for you.”  That was pretty much the end of my relationships with those four “friends”.  All four of those guys got into some crazy addictions.  One of them actually tried to run me over as I crossed the street one day after school.  This way of living is chaotic and pain-filled compared to the Christian life and spending time with Christians in Christian community.

During those last two years of public education I began to realize what I had in the church in Boulder.  And when I re-dedicated my life to Christ in 1994, I vowed to be part of church and have ever since.  And now I am a pastor.

I hear from people all the time, as a pastor, who complain about church and ultimately decide to take a “break” from church, sometimes for years.  I try to convince them to come back, but they don’t see the point.  They think the church is either boring, irrelevant, judgmental, or that they have heard it all before and so they want to do their own form of “church.”  But often this means hiking on a mountain-top or meeting for “fellowship” without any kind of study or worship, and this often devolves into doing nothing.

Some people have tried to make a go of it, and really focus on their and their family’s devotions, but refuse to be part of a formalized congregation.  And so they are kinda doing it alone.

Why bring this up? Because I am convinced that you were never meant to do life alone. You were never meant to be a solo Christian.  “Church” is God’s idea.  It means “assembly” for worship.  And church is about “fellowship” which specifically means “sharing in Christ-centered community.”  Sharing our faith with one another, sharing in prayers with one another, sharing in worship together, sharing emotionally with one another, sharing support for one another, sharing our physical possessions with one another, etc.  And it is all “Christ-centered” or it is not Christian fellowship.  So being Christ-centered means we need to hear words from the New Testament, that this is our baseline to be read and talked about in community.

So…why bring this up? Because the church is the answer to many of your problems.  And my deepest desire is to create a Christian community that is biblical and supports you as you walk through the pains and joys of life.

Join us, this Sunday 10:00am at Grace Church Seattle as we talk about how the gospel bears on the above resulting in forgiveness.  Join us as we talk about why church is so important.

GODSPEED

 

Christians are the silent minority

You have perhaps heard in the news about North Carolina, Target, Alabama, the DOJ, etc. What are we to make of all this? Especially if we are Christian? Or if we are considering becoming a Christian? What are we to do as the Church? Or as individual local churches?

Many have assumed for years that this is a Christian nation, and therefore the morals would continue based on Judaeo-Christian values.  As Michael Medved said on the radio last week, “This has always been a Christian nation, but with a secular government.” Jefferson, a writer and signer of the Constitution and non-Christian deistic former President once said, “This is a government that will work only so long as the people are moral.”  This was his motivation for affirming that Congress print and distribute family Bibles.  But no longer is this the view of our nation.  Why?

We live in a country where majority is supposed to rule – 50.01% wins when put to a vote. And so the silent majority, being Christian and assuming this country would never turn from a Judaeo-Christian worldview, laid down and went to sleep.  We are beginning to wake from our slumber and we are discovering, if anything, we are a small minority (or at least that those in power through the courts, government, media, and schools are actively proselytizing everyone, let alone our children).

We live in a culture with the mantra, “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”  But now that the silent majority is a minority and is realizing it doesn’t have a voice, people are beginning to speak up and realizing we are being bullied into silence.  So what is the solution? Remain in our slumber? Go with the flow? Act like our adversaries and speak out of turn with a viperous tongue of political incorrectness?

My questions are meant to make you ponder.

The following gives us a glimpse of history, for a wise man once said:

History

So how did our culture get to where it is today? Because Christians laid down and let someone else speak.  The following is an explanation of “how” by Francis Schaeffer.  (Warning, the following is for those desiring to really understand – it requires deep thinking and contemplation, but it is worth it to spend the time it takes to read it carefully and thoroughly, and then determine how this should affect us [Christians] concerning today’s issues):

“The attempt to make nature the basis of morals was also taken into the area of civil law, where it was called the Natural Law School of jurisprudence…It was an attempt in this eighteenth-century period to have principles of law, ‘even if there is not God.’  These jurists thought that a complete and perfect system of law could be constructed upon principles of natural law.  But there was a serious problem in trying to construct a system of law upon nature.  Nature is cruel as well as noncruel.” (P. 159)

“Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), a biologist-sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University produced his influential Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953).  These were based on 18,500 interviews.  Kinsey made that which is “right” in sex a matter of statistics.  Many people read his books because at that date they were far more titillating than other books accepted as respectable.  However, their real impact was the underlying conception that sexual right and wrong depend only on what most people are doing sexually at a given moment of history.  This has become the generally accepted sexual standard in the years since.  Modern man has done the same thing in law.”

[Concerning decision making and democracy] “If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes.”

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.  Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in northern Europe and in the West.” (p. 224)

“In our era, sociologically, man destroyed the base which gave him the possibility of freedoms without chaos.  Humanists have been determined to beat to death the knowledge of God and the knowledge that God has not been silent, but has spoken in the Bible and through Christ – and they have been determined to do this even though the death of values has come with the death of that knowledge.”

“We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy… “

“But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man’s loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?”

“Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help? The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.”

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different… But they support each other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence.  Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.”

“I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least and illusion of them.”

“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).

So what can Christians do to get back to being able to positively influence society? Two thoughts: first, become a biblical and attractional community.  How? If you are a Christian, intentionally devote your entire life and family to four things found in Acts 2:42.  The following is a contemporary summary of that verse: devote yourself to the authority of Scripture, especially the New Testament teachings; devote yourself to a Christian community called a church, where you find Christian “fellowship” (Christ-centered community); devote yourself to a smaller community like a small group in which you share with each other spiritually and materially.  When Christians live this way, they influence non-Christians (this is a contemporary summary of Acts 2:43-47).  This is the grassroots movement we need to be part of if we are every going to turn everything around.  For a major reason we (Christians in America) are less than the 50.01% majority is because of a lack of being a true, genuine, biblical community.  Christians have primarily been Sunday Christians.  But we are called to be everyday Christians and an everyday community, which requires that you (if you are a Christian) try to band with others to pick up the pieces and follow Jesus and His teachings in community with others.

The above must be the norm for every Christian, or we will become spiritually weak-minded have no influence, which is precisely what happened in the 4th and 5th centuries of the Church:

“When Christianity was made the official religion in Rome in the fourth century, the church became socially and politically acceptable. People with halfhearted faith flocked to churches that could no longer disciple them.  Soon the word ‘Christian’ became meaningless.  And when the empire that sanctioned it collapsed, the church nearly went down too.

“And in our own day, one of the most inglorious examples [of Christians being spiritually weak and without influence] can be found in the church’s failure to stand solidly against Hitler in Germany during the 1930s.

“The church must stand apart from the state.  Independence from culture is what gives the church its reforming capacity and enables it to point society toward the truth.  The church must be free to address issues biblically across the spectrum and to speak prophetically, regardless of who is in power. [i.e., when your pastor is speaking about issues today that seem political, he is not preaching politics but rather showing you how the Bible relates to what is going on in this world – he is trying to help you develop a biblical lens to filter the news.]

“Ironically, political flirtations and alliances have threatened the church’s independence in the West even more than the direct oppression of the Communists in the East.” – Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 239

This is a great quote that gives us insight into history and politics in our modern era, especially during an election year.  Regardless of your political views I want to remind you that we, as Christians, are called to stand for Christ and His gospel, first and foremost.  We are also called to stand for Jesus’ values, which should inform how we engage culture.  This leads to the second quote:

“It’s time for lambs to roar.

“What I am calling for is a radically different way of thinking about our world. Instead of running from it, we need to rush into it. And instead of just hanging around the fringes of our culture, we need to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

“Why not believe that one day the most critically acclaimed director in Hollywood could be an active Christian layman in his church? Why not hope that a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting could go to a Christian journalist on staff at a major daily newspaper? Is it really too much of a stretch to think that a major exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art could feature the works of an artist on staff at one of our fine Christian colleges? Am I out of my mind to suggest that our son or daughter could be the principle [sic] dancer for the Joffrey Ballet Company, leading weekly Bible study for other dancers in what was once considered a profession that was morally bankrupt?

“The best way to testimony is through credible engagement from within our vocational call.” – Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs. P. 31

May we Christians live like this so that we will have influence, and that the world will be made a better place to the glory of God Almighty.

GODSPEED