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5 Things I Wish Christians Would Stop Saying

Just because we hear something – or say something – over and over again doesn’t mean it’s true. For instance, when my grandson Micah was 3-years-old, he referred to Hulu as “WeeHoo.” Whenever my daughter carefully pronounced it correctly for him, he would say “No, Mom. It’s ‘WeeHoo.'” Yes, the illiterate toddler thought he knew better than the grownup.

As silly as that sounds, we sometimes do that with God and His Word. We have allowed things out of line with Scripture to become so embedded in our brains, we now accept them as fact. Or we take a truth out of context and misapply it. And unfortunately, we repeat these things to others.

Although not an exhaustive list, the following examples are ones I hear over and over.

  1. “We are all God’s children” – All people are definitely God’s “creatures,” created by God and for God. But only those who have been spiritually born again through a saving relationship with Jesus are God’s “children” (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:15-17, Galatians 4:4-7). (This post explores what the Bible says about this topic.) At its best, this phrase is incorrect. At its worst, it gives people without a saving relationship with Jesus, a false sense of eternal security.
  2. “Judge not” – We too often quote these words of Jesus as an excuse to ignore sin in others’ lives or as a reason for others to leave us to our own detrimental behavior. The passages we whip out are Matthew 7:1 and James 4:12. Unfortunately, we regularly fail to consider the context of the greater passage and the whole counsel of God’s Word. Yes, both Jesus and James condemned a harsh, critical “judging” of people’s motives. This kind of “judging” is motivated by a self-righteous, hypocritical attitude. But in the whole of Scripture – including words of Jesus and James – God clearly commands Christians to lovingly point out sin and exhort each other to holiness. It is not our place to determine their motives, but it is our responsibility as a member of the body of Christ to gently identify behavior that God has already judged to be “sin.” The goal is to reconcile that person with others and with God and to keep the sin from spreading to others (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:5-7, Hebrews 12:15, James 5:19-20). For more about “judging” read this post.
  3. “God will never give us more than we can handle” – There is just one problem with saying this: It’s simply not what the Bible teaches. Many well-meaning people quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this understandable desire. But the context of this passage is about temptation. Here’s the good news: God does promise that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear; He will always show us a way to stand firm. So what does God teach about the amount of trials and difficulties He will allow into our lives? In a nutshell: He will allow far more than we can handle. Paul wrote that he had suffered extreme hardship in Asia, “far beyond his ability to endure so that he despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).  God allowed this so Paul and his companions “might not rely on themselves but on God.” For more on this topic, read this post.
  4. “God is love” – First, yes I believe that God is love! Scripture says it over and over (1 John 4:8-10). God defines real love. He is loving by nature. He expresses this divine love in all that He does. But unfortunately, some Christians try to stand on this truth – “God is love” – to rationalize sin or to dismiss hell.
  • “A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.”
  • “God loves me, He would want me to be happy.”

But our loving, holy God does not sweep sin under the rug. Instead His love moved Him to provide a way of salvation for all people by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:11). And Christ’s love compels us to repent of our sins, accept His sacrificial death, and be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). God’s love provides a way of salvation, not a license to sin.

  1. “All sin is the same” – Most assuredly, any and all sin separates us from God and brings eternal spiritual death (Romans 6:23). In that way, all sin is the same. But Scripture does show that some kinds of sins cause far greater harm to ourselves and other people or bring far greater consequences than other sins. (For more on this see this article at BillyGraham.org.) Here are a few examples:
  • Sexual Immorality – Due to the intimate nature of sex, sexual immorality has unique consequences, such as tearing apart families and even directly impacting our relationship with God (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • Pride – Scripture condemns the sin of pride over and over. In fact, the Bible says that God “opposes the proud” (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). Pride is an underlying attitude that manifests itself in a host of other “sinful” ways.
  • Hypocrisy – Jesus sternly warned the Pharisees about their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-36). This kind of self-righteousness blinds us to our own sin and our need for God. “Woe!”
  • Leading others into sin – Jesus’ language was harsh for those who would dare lead a “little one” into sin. It would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea. Sounds serious! (See Matthew 18:1-9.)

You may not agree with me on all these, and that’s okay. What I hope we will all do is go to God’s Word to find His truth. But, let’s not ever settle for a “truth” we’ve grown accustomed to.

Have you ever said any of these 5 things? How do you feel about it now? What are some other things you hear often from Christians that don’t line up with God’s Word? Be sure to share what God’s Word says about it!

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6 Ways to Connect with Others for Jesus

evangelism We don’t have to travel to a foreign country to encounter a different culture. Not only has the world come to America, but also the American culture embraces values far different than the godly standards Christians seek to live by. How can we connect with others so vastly different than ourselves in order to share Jesus and His priceless gift of salvation?

The apostle Paul purposefully worked to fit into the culture where he ministered. He removed all the roadblocks he could and sought to build bridges to earn trust and to gain opportunity to share the Gospel. He kept his prime directive in mind: “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).

 

Paul did everything he could to open doors to share the Gospel. Most of us probably won’t be given the opportunity to talk to Greek philosophers about Jesus on a hilltop in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) or share our testimony with a king (Acts 26:1-32) like Paul. However, we can work to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means we (I) might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).

6 Ways to Follow Paul’s Example to Connect with Others:

  1. Find a common life experience or interest – In Acts 17, Paul the evangelist found affinity with the Athenian philosophers. They both liked to engage in deep, thoughtful conversation. Even if your new neighbor comes from the other side of the world you can find common ground. Maybe you’re both parents, or like to garden, or are both trying to get rid of fire ants in your yard. Whatever it is, it’s a place to start.
  2. Adopt their speech – As long as it’s not profane or “unedifying,” use their style of conversation. For instance, when I lived in the north, I said “you guys” and “soda” instead of “y’all” and “coke.” Paul used general sentiments and words his hearers would have known, understood, and accepted. Too often we use words and phrases that are very familiar to Christians, but they sound very foreign to the non-Christian (See “7 Churchy Words”).
  3. Compliment them – Of course, this must be genuine. Paul found something about which to commend the Athenians (Acts 17:22). Look for something about them on which to positively comment or admire. This small effort will help them understand you’re not “against them.”
  4. Find a launch pad – In Athens, Paul spotted an altar to “an unknown god.” This altar gave Paul the opening he needed to talk about Jesus. We may learn of a cultural idea we can use as a springboard to introduce spiritual truth. Or perhaps your new friend is struggling with difficult circumstances, and therefore open to words of spiritual encouragement.
  5. Respect their cultural mores –Paul did not demean or insult their culture or customs. He even conformed to them when they did not conflict with God’s holy standards. When Paul began ministry to the Gentiles, he began going by his given Greek name and did not stick to a kosher diet.
  6. Serve the truth with grace – Christians sometimes try to force God’s standards of values, beliefs, and behavior on non-Christians. We forget that to a person without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the things of God seem “foolish” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Our first priority should be to introduce them to Jesus. But honest, grace-filled conversations about “controversial” topics within the context of relationship can spark interest in Jesus (Colossians 4:5-6). So let’s always be prepared to lovingly, respectfully, and biblically speak to specific topics when asked (1 Peter 3:15). (See “Grace or Truth?”)

I would love to hear how you have purposefully worked to find ways to connect with the people around you to build relationships and ultimately share Jesus.

 

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Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

workMy Dad instilled a strong work ethic in me and my brother when we were growing up. First, he led by example and second, he made sure we got plenty of practice by giving us chores around the house.

Of all my family responsibilities, the task I disliked the most was sweeping the pine straw off the patio and driveway. The dozens of pine trees in our front and back yards dropped lots and lots of needles. Plus, the concrete of the patio and driveway wasn’t smooth. It had lots of little pebbles in it that caught the needles. It seemed I would never finish.

Although I hated that particular task back then, now I appreciate Dad’s purposeful training. He cultivated the patience required to stick with a tedious task and helped us experience the joy of a job well done. He not only equipped us to work, but he also prepared us to benefit from the God-given sense of fulfillment that comes from work.

Sadly, work is way under-rated today. It seems many in our culture view work as bad. Some try to avoid it as much as possible. Others merely endure it as a “necessary evil.”

God created work to be good

But “work” is not a 4-letter word. Although sin has made work more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19), God created work as good. Before the Fall, He gave work to mankind as a gift (Genesis 2:15). In its right form, work brings fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and joy.

Even this side of the Fall God declares hard work to be wise and laziness to be foolish (Proverbs 6:6-11). Those who work will have abundant food and those who “chase fantasies” will lack (Proverbs 28:19).

I know circumstances prevent some from working who want to. Who long to. But those are the exception. My purpose with this post is merely to get us thinking about God’s good purpose in giving us work and for us to evaluate our attitude toward it.

God wired us to work. He created us with a need to invest ourselves in something. To create. To form. To produce.

And the benefits are boundless. Not only do we reap the fruit of our labor and earn our keep, we also experience a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and joy. Yep. God really knew what He was doing. Work. It’s a good, God thing.

How do you feel about work?

 

 

 

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Should Christians be the Morality Police?

morality-policeThe cultural norm in America has shifted dramatically in the last few years. In fact, almost every day, another story pops up in the news revealing an ever-widening gap between the world’s values and God’s standards. Our culture glorifies and increasingly normalizes attitudes, values, and behavior that blatantly contradict biblical standards for godliness. But should Christians engage in this cultural clash? And if so, how?

A Christian’s Purpose in the World

Sometimes Christians get so distracted by cultural skirmishes we lose sight of our prime directive. A quick reminder of God’s purpose for Christians in the world will help us better determine how we should respond to our culture’s changing values:

  • We are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
  • We are God’s priests, declaring His praises to the nations (1 Peter 2:9).
  • We are Christ’s ambassadors, imploring the world to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

In Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul beautifully described this God-given task in the world as “testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” A Christian’s God-given purpose in the world is to introduce non-Christians to Jesus and His salvation. God has reserved judgment of the world for Himself (1 Corinthians 5:12-13), but we Christians often attempt to take His job. We expect non-Christians to share our standards, values, and viewpoints. When they don’t, we sometimes try to force them to accept and live by our Christian standards and worldview.

But forcing Christian morality on our culture focuses on the symptoms of the problem and not the cause – the need for Christ. It’s like a doctor prescribing aspirin for a brain tumor. We cannot change the world and its ways from the outside in. Non-Christians will naturally act like non-Christians. Without the indwelling Spirit, God’s standards seem foolish to them (1 Corinthians 2:14). A true change of values and behavior must begin with a heart change.

The Danger of Fighting Like the World

Christians often use the world’s tactics in an attempt to fight a spiritual battle. We flood our status updates and tweets with shock and indignation over the latest symptom of a spiritually dead culture. We demand a secular business conform to God’s standards with a boycott. The usual result? The culture labels us intolerant hypocrites and closes its ears to the message that can change their eternity.

Even if our efforts are deemed “successful” by the world’s standards, we must ask how a one-time temporary victory in a cultural skirmish impacts the greater spiritual battle. How do our efforts impact the name of Christ? Jesus invites the world to come to Him but we often throw stumbling blocks on their path. Rather than expressing Christ’s unconditional love for the sinner, our words and actions sometimes imply they must be “good enough” before they can come to Jesus.

Ed Stetzer describes this danger in a recent article at ChristianityToday.com:

Our desire must not be to prove ourselves right or to force our way on the world around us. Instead, our goal is to show Christ to be true and worthy. Just as wrong as running away from our culture is driving people away from the church. Countering culture doesn’t mean attacking it. Countering culture means engaging culture with conviction and compassion. We stand firmly on the truth of God, empowered by the Spirit, to extend the love of Christ to the world. Our desire isn’t to conquer but to redeem. It matters what we do, how we do it, and why we do it… A wrong response to culture is more than unhealthy or unhelpful. Engaging our culture is literally a matter of life or death.”

Christians Can Share Jesus and Counter a Godless Culture

Making the Gospel message our first priority doesn’t mean Christians simply go with the cultural flow. Armed with the proper goals, attitudes, and purpose, we can extend the grace of Jesus to the lost and stand firm on godly values and principles. Whether we’re considering a boycott, picket line, or social media statement, these guidelines can help us evaluate our cultural engagement:

  1. Keep the cause of the Gospel primary – Will our actions and words help or harm the spread of the Gospel? If I refuse to purchase Starbucks coffee or shop at Target will it help me engage my neighbor about spiritual things or hinder my opportunity to share Jesus?
  1. Model a godly lifestyle – When Christians refuse to conform to the world, the world notices. A Christ-like life points people to Jesus and causes them to glorify God (1 Peter 2:11-12). We don’t want the tone of our cultural engagement to negate our lifestyle witness. Will the way we choose to engage the culture foster respect or derision?
  1. Engage in gracious conversation – Public words of condemnation only hurt. Dogmatic diatribes close down lines of communication. But honest, grace-filled conversations within the context of relationship can spark interest in Jesus (Colossians 4:5-6). Always be prepared to lovingly, respectfully, and biblically speak to specific topics when asked (1 Peter 3:15).
  1. Do not support ungodly behavior –Sometimes Christians condone sinful behavior in a misguided attempt to be tolerant or relevant. For instance, after the Supreme Court’s decision last June to uphold same-sex marriage nationwide, many Christians added a rainbow to their social media profile photos.
  1. Do promote social change in positive, non-confrontational ways – Christians can vote, donate time and money, engage in politics, and support community efforts in ways that don’t invite confrontation and incite anger. Respectfully choosing to shop at a different store because of personal faith convictions elicits a different response from our culture than public words of condemnation. Supporting a crisis pregnancy center builds more relationships than an angry protest at an abortion clinic.

As we seek to share the Good News with the lost, let us be marked by our good deeds, not our opposition to the world. Let us be seen as for Christ, not as against the world.

This article first appeared at Crosswalk.com on May 18, 2016.

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