Thursday, August 15, 2013

Known for Christlikeness...

In our Christian version of the American dream, our plan ends up disinfecting Christians from the world more than discipling Christians in the world...Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good.  In this strategy, success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us.  When someone asks, "Where is your church?" we point them to a building or give them an address, and everything centers around what happens at that location.  When we gather at the building we learn how to be good.  Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world.  We are holy because of what we don't participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don't do).
-David Platt, from his book "Radical" pages 104-105

This is an extremely sad, but true statement.  If you haven't read this book...I highly recommend it.

The issues these words bring up have been a huge issue in the church for far too long.  We live in our "Christian" boxes and stand as far away from the world as possible.  We listen to the right music...wear the right clothes...talk the right way...don't go to the movie theater...etc, and we look down our noses at those who do not do the same.  We communicate by our actions that if you want me to talk to you you need to fix up your life first.

Is this what Jesus taught and lived, though?

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off,would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

When we live in the way I spoke about above...are we not behaving like this Pharisee?  He defined himself as being right before God because of all the things he did and didn't do...but we should all be broken before God knowing that we are wicked sinners before our God...worthy of no pride in ourselves!

All throughout His ministry, Jesus did not spend time with the religious ones, but with the sinners.  He went to those that were rejected by the religious ones.  Don't think this means that I'm preaching an acceptance gospel.  People argue that because Jesus ate with sinners, that meant he was accepting of their sin...but that is not what Jesus taught...

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
John 7:53-8:11 (ESV)

Jesus does not condone the sins of the woman, he tells her to go and sin no more.  He loved them and fellowshipped with them, but he did not tell them that their sin was okay.

Now...does this mean that I think Christians should go into the bar on Friday night to share the gospel with people?  No, I don't think so.  This is flirting too closely with dangerous temptations.  But it does mean that as we go throughout our day we should reach out in love to whomever we meet, no matter how "bad" they might look.

So...what should we believers be known for, if it's not to be known by what we don't do?
We should be known for Christlikeness!  A Christlikeness that comes from an intimate fellowship with our Lord...not through external changes.  It's a work that God does in our life, not a work we do for ourselves.  We read the Word and allow God to use it in our lives to make us more like Him.

We need to see ourselves rightly before God...sinful people saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul said of himself that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)...we should view ourselves before God as being the chief of sinners as well.  When we view ourselves like this...how could we ever look down our noses at the "sinners" around us?  The man who is hooked on drugs, we should not look down on...because, but for the grace of God, we could be right where they are.

So Christians...humble yourself before God...reach out in love to those around you...share Christ with people, and do it with zeal, because we serve an awesome God...

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