What are you for?
While studying for Sunday’s upcoming sermon, I came across an article in the Christian Post addressing what unbelievers would like to hear from Christians. The article stated that unbelievers would like to know what Christians are in favor of more than what Christians are against. As I thought about this introspectively, I realized that I struggled with navigating within the tension between the negative and positive descriptions of faith in God.
From the negative means that we primarily conceptualize, describe, and define Christianity by WHAT IT IS NOT. From the positive means that we primarily conceptualize, describe, and define Christianity by WHAT IT IS. When we list the sins that we are supposed to avoid and the habits that steal our affections from God, we describe Christianity from the negative. However, when we describe the promises of God, the blessings associated with knowing Jesus Christ, and how we participate in spiritual disciplines we describe Christianity from the positive. Why does this matter? Well… both are required of us!
In John 3:36 Jesus says, “Whoever believes (positive) in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey (negative) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him.”
The more I look at Jesus in His word, the more I see that Jesus perfectly navigated between the negative and positive descriptions of godly faith. However, the more I listen to how I preach and speak the more I realize that I primarily describe Christianity from the negative. On the other hand, I often hear people who describe Christianity exclusively from the positive. The danger is immense for both camps!
You see, for those of us who define and understand our faith from the negative, we fail to see the deep rewards, joy, and blessings that are found in Jesus. Our immense struggle against sin causes us to fail to enjoy the presence and work of God because. Conversely, for those that view Christianity only from the positive, they often lose a hatred for sin. That is, when one looks at only the blessings and promises from God, there is a tendency to forget and ignore the fact that God commands obedience and a rejection of sin. One camp loses joy. One camp loses holiness. The result? Neither truly represent the amazing saving work of Jesus Christ!
However, when we look at Jesus, we see a perfect harmony between avoiding sin (from the negative) and enjoying the Father (from the positive). This is why Christ is our example. We all fall, we all fail, we all lean to one side or the other—but Jesus is the absolute perfect example of resisting sin and abiding in fellowship with the Father. Bearing this in mind, let’s examine ourselves today in order to see where we are at on the spectrum between the negative and positive.
In our struggle against sin it is easy for us to lose our joy in Christ. In our desire to enjoy Christ it is easy for us to fail to struggle against sin. While we are on this earth, we live in a fallen and imperfect state. You and I will constantly waffle between the tension to abuse grace (indulging in sin) and the rejection of grace (legalism). The middle ground is where we must rest. It is the place where we believe in the work of God leading us to eternal life and we also adamantly reject the sin that God hates through the power of God. It is the place where we abide in the love of God and the holiness of God. So… how are you doing with this?
I hope this leads you to draw near to Jesus today! I look forward to worshiping with you this Wednesday at 7pm.
Why is the Christian life the way it is?
When surveying Christianity, have you ever wondered why it is so repetitious? Think about it, the Bible doesn’t change, the problems of humanity don’t change, the message of the gospel doesn’t change, the purpose of the church hasn’t changed, and God doesn’t change. Why? The answer is rather simple… Christianity remains changeless because it is supposed to change us!
The implications of this fact can be somewhat loathsome for us. On a daily basis as individuals, and on a weekly basis as a corporate church body, we are to expose ourselves to the same book, the same message, the same God, and the same work of the Spirit. 365 days a year for approximately 80 years (29,000+ days) we must hear the exact same thing! Why? Why this seemingly insane amount of repetition? If you think about it, there is nothing else in life that we expose ourselves to reviewing this much. We don’t review mathematics, the basics of our jobs, history, the rules of grammar, or anything else 29,000 times in our life! But we are to read the Bible and pray every day? Why?
There are three reasons we should look at Jesus every day through His Word and prayer:
First, holiness, righteousness, and godliness are not instinctive or inherent within us.
Romans 3:23 tells us we are all sinners. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways or thoughts (what we think and do naturally is not in accord with God’s standard). Proverbs 14:12 tells us there is a way that seems right to us, but it is death (what we instinctively do and value leads to our destruction and damnation). Consequently, we must constantly be fed, guided, and refreshed by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God if we are to walk in holiness, righteousness, and godliness (1st Cor. 6:11 & Rom. 12:1-2). If we do not seek the Lord daily, then we default back into our sinful ways!
Second, Christianity is a relationship, and relationships flourish through time and intimacy.
The reason we engage the Lord through the unchanging practices of Christianity on daily basis—even though we do not do so with any other subject—is due to the fact that our God lives and he relates to us through such practices. Sure, the Word of God does not change, nor does our God change… but He is alive and active. 1 John 1:3 tells us that we have fellowship with the Lord. 2 Cor. 6:16 tells us that we are the temple of the living God. 1 John 3:24 tells us that we know we belong to the Lord because His Spirit abides in us. These passages (and numerous others) serve to inform us that God is active among us and within us.
Consequently, we do not study God like an academic subject; rather, we routinely read, pray, and participate within the church body to know our God and enjoy His presence. In the same way that I cannot wait to get home from work each day to spend time with my family, we long for the opportunity to spend time with God each day. This makes Christianity a joy and privilege within our life that brings about our flourishing and God’s glory.
Thirdly, a failure to engage the Lord daily reveals that our heart does not belong to Him!
According the book of Hebrews, if we can go beyond (or past) Jesus, then we do not belong to Christ (Heb. 6:4-8 & 10:26-31). These passages serve as a gauge for identifying true believers. True Christians cannot go beyond Jesus, depart from Jesus, or ignore Jesus because Christ Jesus has captured their hearts and given them a new heart; that is, we are born again in Christ to an eternal life (1 Peter 1:2-4). Consequently, those who depart from the “faith” were never really apart of the “faith”; that is, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean that they are a Christian—endurance in seeking Christ proves that Christ has saved us (1 John 2:19). What this means for us is this: those who love the Lord and are saved by God seek Him daily. However, those who do not really love the Lord (and have not been saved by Him) fail to regularly engage Him because they have no desire for Him. The warning is simple: IF YOU DO NOT DESIRE TO SEEK THE LORD YOU ARE NOT SAVED BY GOD. John says if we say we have fellowship with God, but don’t walk with God, we deceive ourselves and belong to the darkness (1 John 1:5-6)!
So, what do we do with this? Well… we ask ourselves a few questions and then we seek the Lord.
If, for one reason or another, you realize that you are not faithfully engaging the Lord, we must understand that no amount of effort will solve our independence from God. Instead, we must ask the Lord for His strength and, then, seek Him—we do not have the ability to enjoy the Lord apart from the work of the Lord. It is God that guides us into His presence. So, let’s begin by prayerfully asking God to help us walk with Him, then seek to know Him through His Word and His church.