Friday, September 21, 2007

Tell the Truth?

Growing up we heard from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors that we should always tell the truth. And we should. We should always tell the truth. God commands us to tell the truth. It’s one of the Big 10 (Exodus 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”)

So, hear what I’m saying from the perspective that I understand that lying is not an option for a Christ-follower.

What I would say is that we need to understand that there is a difference between the “Biblical Truth” or “Gospel Truth” and our opinion of what is true.

Why would I say that? Why is there a need for the distinction?

There is a big reason and it has everything to do with being a God-honoring Bible obeying believer.

From time to time I hear people use the phrase, “I just tell it like it is.” That is even said of me on a regular basis. “Pastor, you just tell it like it is.” I take it as a compliment in as much as it pertains to Biblical Truth or Gospel truth I've shared. But it’s not a compliment if they say I share my opinion like it is. My opinion is not always like it is.

We must be very careful of how we “tell it like it is” because the way you think it is may not be the way it is. And even if the way you think it is, is in fact the way it is, the way it is may not need to be told by you in a tell like it is way, which can be a direct and condescending way.

Remember what God has told us in Scripture.

Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up Into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

It is more important that we give love, compassion, and grace than we give our opinion. There are certainly times when we must speak Biblical truth and the Gospel truth when it is hard for others to hear it. But that is a loving act. What Scripture teaches and what the Gospel is must be shared no matter what. Our opinions, however, are not that important.

So the next time someone tells you or you tell yourself, “Hey, I’m (you’re) just telling it like it is.” Make sure you are telling truth in love. Make sure you are telling it with humility and grace. Make sure your telling the Gospel truth and not just your opinion of the truth.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What Is A Christian?

I recently spoke on the campus of Western Kentucky University on this subject and was reminded of the vast differences of opinion on this question. There are said to be over two billion who claim to be Christians, but I am not sure they are all claiming the same thing.

For what it’s worth here’s what I see Scripture saying.

Christianity is a state of being that produces a way of life and a world view that is built on the person of Jesus Christ.

It is a state of being. A Christian is something you become. Being a Christian has nothing to do with the part of the world or nation you live in or the genetic line you come from. Christianity is a state of being and something a person can become through the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16).

From humanity’s standpoint it is as easy as ABC. We must Acknowledge our guilt before God Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We must Believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to provide forgiveness and the power to overcome sin and death. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." We must Confess Christ as Lord and live under His leadership. Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

To become a Christian you must Acknowledge your sin and need for forgiveness, Believe in Christ, and Confess Him as ruler of your life.

It is a state of being that produces a way of life. Early Christians were said to be a part of “the way” (Acts 9:2). This way of life calls Christians to give up on themselves and allow Christ to live in them. Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. " The old life is dead and a Christian is given a new life, which is beautifully pictured in believer’s baptism through immersion. Christ lives in believers through His Spirit. He is actively working to purify our lives and minds which are contaminated with sin. The Spirit of God is seeking to reduce the control of sin over a believer's life. This way of life is lived by faith in Christ and His love and sacrifice.

It is a state of being that produces a worldview. Everything is seen from the perspective of Christ - His life, death, resurrection, and future return. The Christian life lived from this perspective will have values that differ from that of nonChristians and will have hope that a person who does not believe cannot have. Philippians 3:7-11 "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." The hope and focus of a Christian is Christ and His presence in that Christian's life. Everything is lived in view of eternity and a the future judgment that Christ will bring when He comes again and evil is vanquished and believers are finally free.

The life is built on the person of Jesus Christ. When it comes to Christ you must confess Him to be only a legend (mythical character), a liar (a person who claimed to be God but wasn’t), a lunatic (deranged to think He was God and claim to be the savior of all who believe), or the Lord God of heaven and earth. The position you live with in life concerning Christ will be the position you die with and it will determine your destination in the after life. In eternity you will either be in heaven or hell based on your love or rejection of God’s love given to us through His Son (John 3:16).

Again, being a Christian is not about knowing information, having religious experiences, or being affiliated with a religious group. It is a state of being that transforms your way of life and the way you look at the world because of the relationship you have with the risen Christ.

What Makes Me Laugh The Most!

This is my 9 month old son Asher. He makes me laugh. This is him with his older brother Jackson and Jackson's friends. The universal sound that makes all boys laugh:)

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Satisfaction of Submitting

I am a leader. As a leader, I have responsibilities. These responsibilities, if carried by me alone, would be overwhelming and unbearable.

The work of leading me is a full-time job. I am a mess. I am prone to be lazy, selfish, greedy, gluttonous, lustful, and mean. Left to myself, I would cause harm to me, those I love, and those who serve with me.

The work of leading my family is quite a job too. My kids are great and my wife is not only smoking hot, but extremely wise and patient. They still need to be served by me and provided for financially and given a Godly model to follow. That’s my joy and my job.

The work of caring for my church is sweet, but serious. Each week I feed over two-thousand people the Word of God through my preaching. Through the week I lead our staff of twenty-something people and help make decisions that will impact people’s lives and eternities. I also pray, counsel, and care for needs constantly.

But I am not overwhelmed. Why? I do not carry any of these burdens alone. I have submitted my life to leadership and that leadership takes responsibility for me and for what I do.

Christ is my savior and leader. He makes the call for me in terms of what I think, how I feel, and the way I live.

I have also submitted my life to a handful of men who know my struggles as a man who is a leader, a dad and a husband. They guide me through decisions and help correct my bad thinking.

As a pastor, I am under the authority of a group of elders. These men serve along side of me in caring for the church, but they also are responsible for me. They help make decisions about the direction of the church and the function of my ministry. If I get out of bounds in any way, they have complete authority to put me back in place or even put me on a shelf until I’m fit to serve.

There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that I am not alone. I am responsible for many things, but I do not carry those burdens by myself. There are even some burdens I don’t carry at all.

I don’t carry the burden of my sin debt. Christ has paid that for me. I don’t carry the burden of my life’s direction. God has prepared my path for me.

Even the tasks in my life that I must tend to are done under and along with the help of others.

Life submitted to the authority and leadership of others is deeply satisfying. If I didn't have others taking responsibility for me and with me, I would bend and at some point break under the pressure. I'd be like a tree in an ice storm with branches unable to hold up. As the branches fell, it would cut off power lines and cause pain to others.

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