Incidental Contact

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If you’re a Christian, God has given you a special affinity for other Christians.

There is this immediate bond that follows when you, a believer, meet another believer. Think of the times you discover when someone you’ve just met follows Jesus. There is this immediate sense of familiarity. As if you are naturally a brother or sister of this person, only better.

That’s something that is latent in all Christian relationships, but it needs to be developed.

Going to church on Sunday and brushing up against other Christians on your way out to the parking lot is not going to do it. All of these brief contacts, at church, at work, on the ball fields, are great.

But they amount to nothing more than incidental contact. They are like a sip from the water fountain when you are dying from thirst.

All Christians are united together as one body. Christ is the Head and Christians the members. And just as in a natural body all the members are ready to serve one another, so it is in this spiritual body. (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-13)

  • The hands serve the rest of the body.
  • Our ears, eyes and feet all exist to serve the rest of the body.
  • And if the head is dishonored, watch out!- the whole rest of the body springs into action to prove it wrong.

If we say we are Christians, but deny this kind of community, we are being too selfish.

But it’s a community that’s going to require more than a sip.

Developing that natural affinity is going to require that we drink deeply of it. Only then will we be satisfied and find the true community that we were designed for.

Uncomfortable Gospel

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Secular culture is devolving into a polarized us vs. them mentality. Blue versus red versus Fox versus CNN. Don’t fall into elevating politics above the gospel.

Theology does not overlay politics anywhere near perfectly- and even worse is when we reverse it and overlay politics over our theology.

The worse thing we can do is hunker down in our silos with people who look and think exactly like we do.

Because there is no us vs. them in the gospel.

We are all image bearers desperately loved by God. The gospel is designed to bring natural enemies together under one roof. People you would never hang out with, let alone call a brother or sister, if it wasn’t for the gospel.

Having the gospel in common and wanting to spread the gospel, “trumps” political affiliation, what we look like, how we do church, what language we speak, our age or what income bracket we are in.

It’s completely natural for gospel principles to make us uncomfortable with the people we are hanging out with. It’s when they don’t that it’s a problem. 

Hollywood: the New Moral Majority

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2017 is the year that Hollywood got religion.

What they are learning the hard way is that only he who has not sinned can cast the first stone. And that’s precious few in Hollywood. It’s a slippery slope when people who abuse women call out other people for abusing women- or- when sinners call out sinners. So let the Torquemada-style Inquisition begin. Circular firing squad anyone?

So is it time to go back to the good old days of the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic?

Although that sounds attractive, “the good old days” didn’t work in the old days, either. The one thing that Hollywood and the Moral Majority have in common is a set of rules that they can’t live by.

The Moral Majority had its own Harvey Weinsteins. So maybe setting up a bunch of rules isn’t as effective as it sounds. That’s just religion.

Religion is a set of rules by which we are accepted.

Hollywood and the Moral Majority are religions. And rules can never change us in a way that makes a difference.

The Moral Majority made flabby, cultural Christians. And that doesn’t always make you a true believer. You like the rules, the Christian concepts that are part of God’s common grace- they certainly make the world work better- but even you’re not able to do them in way that really makes you different from the other rock throwers.

Any set of rules, any morals- without the gospel, is just religion. Throw in God and you have theism- a general idea of God- with a strong moral code.

Trying to be moral in a way that is culturally influential- even when it makes intellectual sense- won’t last for long- apart from the real heart change brought by the gospel.

It’s like asking an ant to carry a boulder on its back.

When you know that you have a Savior in Jesus who was moral in every way that you have failed to be- and who took the penalty for that failure for you- that should be doing something to your heart.

If its not- if your not interested in where true moral authority resides- and how you can please the one who did what you couldn’t- the One who loves you despite your failure- you should be worried.

Oftentimes, when Christians have power- we focus on the morality part- on Christian culture- rather than the actual gospel- rather than in the weakness and love of a Savior- who if you love him- and you really get what he did for you- brings morality- and “doing the right thing” into your life anyway- through the heart change that only the Holy Spirit can bring.

So not only do we know what’s right, we genuinely want to do it, too.

Cold Affections

Micah exclaimed, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

David, the famous adulterer, said the same thing: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Ps 32:5).

You’re a Christian so you think you’re OK. Maybe your not “as bad” as David. So you’ve stopped bringing your sin to God. Stuffing your sins in the closet rather than dealing with them has a lot of practical consequences.

One of them is that Jesus becomes less and less an object of our desire and delight. As Christians, when we pass on the forgiveness and restoration offered by Christ, our desire and delight in Him waxes cold.

And, as Octavius Winslow wrote:

If there is coldness in the affections, if the mind grows earthly, carnal, and selfish; dark and gloomy shadows will gather round the character and the glory of God.

AND

Where there is but little dealing with the atoning blood, leaning upon the righteousness, drawing from the fullness, and bearing daily the cross of Christ, the love of a believer waxes cold.

And you’ll never suspect it. You’ll never see it coming. You’ll look just as holy outwardly- but have a lack of joy inwardly.

You’ll do all the same things you always do: go to church, your Life Group, serve occasionally- but there will be a lack of joy in any of it.

  • Do you lack joy?
  • Has gathering with God’s people and listening to His Word become a boring chore?
  • Would you rather take a pass on worship (or at least skip the first few songs)?

Our view of Jesus is affected by the state of our affections towards him.  Winslow said that we can judge the depth of a person’s Christianity, by the reply to the question:

“‘What think you of Christ?’ Is he lived to, or is he lived upon? Is his name your delight, his cross your boast, his work your resting place?” 

Or is he just a decision you made long ago?

Benchmark Disconnect

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Why is there sometimes a disconnect between our situation and our happiness? We’ve got “the job,” the kids are getting straight A’s, we had a great family vacation. But we’re still not happy. So its onto the sports car, 401K and beach house. If we achieve it, why do we still feel blasé?

True happiness is not achieved by meeting a life benchmark. Because God has connected our happiness to Himself.

The grace of God’s love is the spring-head from which all other graces flow:

  • joy at work,
  • in parenting,
  • relationships and anything else that’s important to us.

It’s only when we do these things in the context of Him that we will feel fulfilled.

If you’ve never given your life to Christ, if you haven’t taken Him up on his offer to reconnect you to God, you’ll just keep chasing what’s next. Because we’re designed to be connected to God.

Unfulfilling=disconnect.

If you are Christian, you can get stuck chasing what’s next, too.  And it’s because you’ve made your benchmarks the same as everyone else’s: perfect parenting, big promotion, fat 401K, and lake house with a boat out back.

Unfulfilling=disconnect.

Or instead, your benchmarks are based on being good. But in benchmark obedience, we obey, but our reaction time is sluggish, its not as complete as it used to be, and our attitude is a little off.

Unfulfilling=disconnect.

For the Christian, in both cases, we’ve reverted back to benchmarks to gain acceptance, rather than knowing we’ve already been accepted.

And when that spring of grace seems to dry up, it sends sickly and sluggish waters through the spiritual system, clogging your spiritual life.

Sure, you’re connected to God by Jesus, but its rabbit ears instead of FIOS. You feel something is missing.

Only in remembering the grace by which Christ saves us can the channels of grace to your heart be unclogged.

Connection reestablished… via the gospel.

Gospel Rescue

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In Galatians, the apostle Paul describes how the gospel is actually designed to “rescue us from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:3).

But a false gospel will throw you into confusion (1:7). It will cause you to be disturbed, troubled, and will take away your peace.

The gospel that saves us from this present evil age saves us from having to figure it all out, and rely on on ourselves, and society’s false promise of “doing whatever you want.” God has given us his way, and it leads to freedom. And true freedom is not a response to your own sense of lack of worth. Because we can’t even live up to our own demands.

And when you throw in with the issues of the day, wherever it is you land on the scale will still not be far enough for anyone, because people on either side of an issue- which is everyone else besides you, will always want you to go further.

Conversely, your worth isn’t in routines, religion, or even law following. The evil age will always say you can do it, so pat yourself on the back. But you can never be good enough apart from Christ- out of the sight of Jesus.

The true gospel is is a thing of rest and peace, while the false gospel will keep you up at night.