Monthly Archives: November 2011

Turkey Day…Gobble Gobble

I had wanted to write a few thoughts on Thanksgiving Day.  You know, share a few things I’m thankful for, talk about how all those things come from God, relate it to the Gospel, and let that be that.  Easy, right?

Nope.

As I was thinking about what to say and how to word it and attempting to conjure up the motivation to get out of this turkey and football induced state of indolence I have worked myself into, I saw something on Facebook that got me thinking.  Somebody commented on somebody else’s religious status and said something along the lines of “Jesus had a problem with religious people.”

And it’s true.

That’s nothing new though.  I suspect that’s something we’ve all heard before, and probably like a million times.  Jesus had a problem with religious people.  But I recently started listening to a sermon series by my former RUF campus minister fro Ole Miss, Les Newsom, on Romans.  This time, when I read the statement “Jesus had a problem with religious people,” I had a bit of a revelation.

I am a religious person.

When I say things like “Jesus had a problem with religious people,” I tend to point fingers in every direction but towards me.  “Religious people” certainly applies to the nut jobs people on TBN (see, even as I am writing this and the term “nut job” comes to mind, I’m shown how true what I am saying really is of me), or the people that stand in front of abortion clinics with pictures of dead babies, or the people who think Jesus would vote Republican (or Democrat for that matter), or the people that I used to see at church who I KNEW were in there raising their hands and crying and getting super emotional and then going out and living anything but that.

But “religious people” also applies to “seminary student/aspiring campus minister who can incredibly easily list off everything he sees wrong with the church and somehow think he’s better than them even though he has plenty of his own struggles and abject failures though in his mind they are not nearly as bad.”

This was the conviction I was faced with today.  This particular passage from Romans stuck out in my mind:

“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” – Romans 2:17-23

I feel like, personally, I can switch out the name “Jew” with “Christian” and “Gentile” for whatever the accepted vernacular for people who aren’t Christians is.  I mean, the reality of the situation is those verses are a job description for me, more or less.  Guiding the blind?  Yep.  A light to darkness?  Uh huh.  Instructor of the foolish?  Sure.  Teacher of children?  Definitely.  That part doesn’t bother me so much.  The part that does comes right after that.

Do I teach others?  Yes.  But do I put the same amount of study, care, and preparation into my own personal study time that I do preparing a sermon?  Nope.  I don’t even have to think about that one.  I don’t.

Do I preach against stealing?  Again, yes.  And while actually stealing things isn’t really an issue for me anymore (Napster, anyone?), I have to check my heart.  Do I covet?  Do I want what others have, whether it’s immaterial things like a family or material things like a car or something?

Do I tell people not to commit adultery?  Of course.  Do I commit adultery?  Physically, nope.  Emotionally, spiritually?  Yep.  Every thought that goes unchecked, every “accidental” slip of the mouse, every lingering glance…adultery.  At least according to the words of Jesus.  And that’s what we’re all getting after here, right?

Do I condemn idols?  Absolutely.  But how many do I have in my own life?  Countless.

But the most discouraging thing is the last line – “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”  Even with the right intentions, even when I’m doing all the right actions, my best efforts are blasphemy to God.

The heart, my heart, is a wicked place.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand how true that is – none of us ever will.

But there’s a turn.  The first 3 chapters of Romans are tough to swallow until you get to 3:21 – “For the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.”  All have sinned and fallen short, but we are justified (not made innocent, but declared innocent before God) by his grace.  God put Christ forward as a propitiation – a wrath-bearing sacrifice.  Then Romans goes on to be, in my opinion, the most beautiful book of the Bible (they’re all good, but if I’m going to sit down and try to explain the faith to someone unacquainted with it, I’m going to start with Romans) and it’s precisely because of the ugly truth of our human state, our “religious” state, that Paul’s letter to the Romans is so beautiful.  There is a righteous wrath that God has every right to pour out on us that he poured out on His Son instead.

In one of his sermons on Romans, Les said something along the lines of “not only do we have to repent of our sins, we have to repent of our righteousness as well.”  And how true that is!  My prayer for the last few days has been for God to show me the areas of righteousness on my life that have been based upon me and what I have done.  Because before Him, my righteousness is but filthy rags.

So, I guess in summation, today I’m thankful for a savior who would sacrifice Himself for sinners and then invite me to stop trying to establish my own righteousness and live in His.  I’m thankful for a savior who, even though he may have had a problem with the religious, loves them anyway.

And, above all, I’m thankful for this:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

He did what I couldn’t.

And counted me righteous for it.

Amazing.

Thanks be to God.

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Enough Already

In the interest of full disclosure, I voted “yes” on Initiative 26. After a lot of thought and prayer, the issue boiled down to two questions for me. The first was “Do I believe life begins at conception?” Which I had to answer yes. The second was “Do I believe God is sovereign?” Again, the answer was yes. So I voted yes. I believe abortion is wrong, however, I was very concerned with the wording of the amendment, but I guess it’s a moot point because the issue was voted down. So goes the process of democracy.

But the thing I can’t get over is the response by believers. Particularly this comment released by the Mississippi Baptists:

We mourn with heaven tonight over the loss of Initiative 26, which would have provided the hope of life for thousands of God’s unborn babies in Mississippi. Instead the unborn in Mississippi will continue to be led down on a path of destruction to horrible deaths both inside their mothers and in laboratories. How much longer will God stand for this unprecedented atrocity in Mississippi and the United States? Time will tell, but in the meantime we will be marshaling our forces under God’s direction and deciding what’s next for this movement. – Jimmy Porter, director of the Christian Action Committee in Jackson

There are a couple of things here that bother me. And it’s something that has bugged me for a while. But the most shocking thing about this statement is “Initiative 26…would have provided the hope of life for thousands of God’s unborn babies in Mississippi.” I’ve said this several times over the last few days, but it is so saddening to me to hear things like that from Christian leaders.

I mean…a Christian leader. A CHRISTIAN leader. Saying hope for the unborn lies in…an initiative? Where’s the gospel? Where’s Jesus?

This whole process has reminded me that we, as the American church, have sold out to something less. We turn to the government to legislate morality because we don’t believe the gospel is enough. The fact is, this amendment would not have provided hope for anyone. Only the gospel is capable of doing that.

I don’t think Christians should remove themselves from political discourse and activity. On the contrary. I think Christians should be more involved than they are. I think Christians should be more informed than they are.

But what we also have to realize is that the government is not the solution to the problems that plague our society. Even if this amendment had passed, there would have been a long legal battle over the legality of it. People would still seek abortions. And, yes, it COULD have been abused to some extremes that it had been in other states. Even if it had passed, it wasn’t a done deal it was going to stay in the state constitution and who knows how the law may have been interpreted.

What IS a done deal is the gospel. It has to be central to everything we, as Christians, seek to do. Christ was crucified. Christ rose again. Christ is returning again. How we deal with that changes everything, in my opinion.

The other thing that bothers me about Mr. Porter’s statement was this line: “How much longer will God stand for this unprecedented atrocity in Mississippi and the United States? Time will tell, but in the meantime we will be marshaling our forces under God’s direction and deciding what’s next for this movement.”

The time is short. If abortion is the serious issue we believe it to be, and I believe it is, we don’t have time to sit around and “decide what’s next for this movement.” There are plenty of ministries and organizations that are understaffed and underfunded committed to fighting abortion on the ground level. Organizations like the Crisis Pregnancy Center (which seeks to counsel women during pregnancy) and Young Lives (a ministry through Young Life seeking to minister to young, unwed mothers) need people. They need money. There are already organizations in place, not to mention inner city churches that could use the help. There are other organizations that deal with kids that, as a friend of mine stated, their parents chose to have them but then chose not to parent them that need help. We fight abortion by bringing them the gospel and seeing the power of the resurrected and returning Christ break the bondage of sin that breaks those cycles.

That’s how we do it, and that’s how we move forward.

The United States of America is not a Christian nation. Only once in the history of the world has God made a covenant with a nation, and that nation was Israel. Not the United States. Yes, we were founded on Christian principles, but I don’t see that as the same thing. Yes, it is a travesty that abortion has been legal for as long as it has. Even “Jane Roe” realized how wrong it was.

But legislation isn’t the primary way we should fight it. Especially in Mississippi. I love Mississippi, and I want to see Mississippi be everything it can be. But we won’t get there through legislation or politicians.

We’ll get there through a commitment to the gospel and by living out the Great Commission. And when the opportunity presents itself to change the legal system, we should pursue it. But when those things don’t work out, we have to understand we haven’t been defeated.

And leave justice up to God.

But seriously…we all need to understand there are ways, day in and day out, to fight abortion in a real, practical way.