A key thing for me was their challenging the historic notion that given “enough time” an elaborate and lengthy set of conditions could come together by pure chance. Darwin’s analogy that given enough time a group of monkey’s sitting at type writers could eventually produce the collective works of Shakespeare. Just bang on those keys long enough and eventually the works of Shakespeare will appear.
Think about that analogy. Not all the keys on a type writer are letters that can begin a word. Some are not even found in words. So first the monkey has to randomly pick an appropriate key. Now that has to be followed by another random key strike that will produce the exact letter needed to follow that first letter. If that key strike is invalid, that page will never be part of the collective writings of Shakespeare. Ok, so the monkey tears that piece of paper away and tries again. Eventually he’ll get the second letter right but that assumes he first gets the first letter right. Since the monkey has no idea what he’s typing, he never knows when he’s right. It’s all “right” to him. He just types until he’s done with that sheet of paper then puts in the next. If he types a percent sign as the first letter on the page, everything he types after that is wasted because you can’t begin a sentence with a percent sign or have a standalone percent sign.
So we think it’s just a matter of time though until this group of monkeys gets it right. That analogy, though, is way too simplistic. It’s assuming they monkeys don’t break the typewriters before they write the collective works of Shakespeare. It assumes they don’t run out of paper or ribbon. It assumes they know how to load a sheet of paper into the typewriter and later take it out. It’s not just a matter of randomly hitting the correct keys. I assume his analogy included 100 monkeys because 100 could do it faster than 1. As soon as you have more than 1 monkey though, you introduce the problem of collation. Somehow this group of monkeys all have to hit the exact right sequence of keys, change paper, and all produce the exact pages needed to create the collective works of Shakespeare. When do they start over? After how many hours of typing do you say, “those pages are no good”, throw them out, and start anew? Who decides when their done? How do they even know when to stop typing? What about the billions or trillions of bad pages they produced? What happened to all of them? Let’s assume the collective works of Shakespeare would take up 5000 typed pages. Just a guess but let’s assume that. For 100 monkeys, with infinite time, to randomly produce the exact 5000 typed pages needed they would likely have produced trillions of wasted pages. Let’s say they eventually produced the 5000 needed then died. This all took place in a giant cave. Some future humans discover the cave and we’ll assume the pages have not decayed. How are they going to discover the 5000 pages that make up the collective works of Shakespeare out of those trillions of pages? Imagine the time that would take?
Well if you have infinite time one could say you will eventually do all these things. If we were to make some reasonable estimates about how quickly a monkey can type, eject pages, load new paper, and so on then we can begin to put some framework of time around this. We can also calculate probabilities. If there are X keys on a typewriter but only Y of them are legal letters then we can calculate the probability of a monkey hitting a correct key each time (not necessarily the needed key but at least an allowable character). Oh but we need to add in some probability around how many times the monkey hits 2 or 3 keys at once and not just one. One could easily imagine that for a single monkey to correctly type one page of Shakespeare might take tens of thousands of years. Now consider you need 5000 correctly typed pages. You can start to put some time boundaries on this experiment. If the analogy is that the collective works of Shakespeare correlates to a single living organism then you need all that time just to get the first single celled organism. That is still a drop in the bucket compared to all the complex organism that make up our world. That is like moving on from producing the collective works of Shakespeare to all the works in the Library of Congress. It gets worse. Even that first organism needed those amino acids to exist, in the right temperature range, etc, etc. That presupposes a planet in the right proximity to a star with those amino acids and all of that is the product of random chance. If that is not enough to exhaust your mind, let’s ask two more questions.
If the letters on the page represent amino acids combining in an attempt to create a protein how did those amino acids know to combine and form something? How did the matter, from which the universe was formed, know to behave? How did matter learn to do anything useful? How did matter learn to form stars and planets? How did matter know when to stop forming one thing and not just keep going past the point where something useful then became useless?
Secondly, where did matter come from? Where did the monkeys get the typewriters, paper, and ribbon from?
Back to our analogy again. We can imagine this would all take a very, very, very, very, very long time. How long is long enough? What are the odds that all this could take place in the 18.5 billion years we estimate the universe is old? We will assume there were failed attempts before the present working universe existed. We won’t count those against our 18.5 billion years. We’ll say the clock started ticking with the big bang that started the present universe. Then given all the trillions of things that had to happen after that moment in the exact right sequence (this is all by chance) that 18.5 billion years later we arrive at the universe we know today, is that even close to enough time? Back to our monkeys, if the monkey has say 40 keys on the typewriter (making a number up here) and only 30 of them are usable characters in English, his got a 3 out of 4 chance of hitting a legal character each time. Not bad odds. Now what are his odds of hitting the first letter of the first character in the first work of Shakespeare? He’s got a 1 out of 26 chance of picking the correct first letter but 1 out of 4 times he’s going to hit an illegal character so the odds are less than 1 out of 26. Now with each subsequent letter the odds get worse because not only does the monkey have to hit a key representing a legal character, but it has to be the exact character that comes next in that word in that sentence of that work. It’s one thing for a monkey to randomly strike keys and type “I” and “am.” He also has to get the order right. If the Shakespearean sentence is “I am” and the monkey types “am I” he has failed. Shakespeare had quite a command of the English language and many of his words were much longer than simple words like “I” and “am.” As the words get longer, the odds of randomly typing the right keys in order, get smaller and smaller. As the sentences get longer, the odds go down and down. Now multiply that times all the pages needed. Without calculating actual probabilities, one could imagine the odds of doing this with 100 monkeys is infinitesimally small. For all that to take place in 18.5 billion years, these monkeys are going to have to randomly do the right thing early on in each sequence of key strokes. In other words, to finish in 18.5 billion years, these monkey are going to have to be incredibly lucky. I mean so lucky that it defies credulity. Now you might say it’s possible to win the lottery on the very first ticket you ever buy even if the odds of winning are 1 in 1,000,000. So it’s possible someone could do it. What if I said a group of 100 people all had to win 10,000 lotteries one single ticket purchases in 1 week. We’ll assume there were that many lotteries to play. Now you would laugh at me. You would say that’s not possible. They would need more time than a week to each win 10,000 times! You can only physically walk into so many stores and buy tickets in a week. Beyond that you have to win! You would tell me it’s impossible. No human being could do that in a week.
That’s one of the problems with Darwinism. For pure chance to have produced this universe in 18.5 billion years is just not possible. The odds are so infinitesimally small as to be impossible. like to hide behind that ridiculous notion that somehow it all could just be correct on the first try of every of the trillion things that have to happen. Sure mathematically it’s possible but math is not always reality. In real life it is completely unreasonable to think that could all happen in 18.5 billion years even though that sounds like an awfully long time. Not when you start to grasp the number of things that have to happen, in the exact correct order, all by chance. To grab on to that belief, and treat it as fact, is insane.
We could all exist in a Matrix-like existence and our Matrix could be a dream of one person in another Matrix who is the dream of one person in another Matrix and so on. Sounds like a good movie but do you really think that is the case? Would you put any money on that in a bet (assuming we had a way to settle the bet?) If after the bet is made, the truth will be reveled, and if you bet wrong you will be killed, would you bet on that explanation? I don’t think so. So why are so many betting on Darwinism and a universe created by chance? Why are so many people completely close-minded to even considering any other explanation? Yeah, it’s insane yet that is precisely the state of our world today. We have to move beyond the real of pure theory and probability, into the rational world of reality. Just because something is theoretically possible does not make it probable. If these odds are so low that a trillion years would not be enough time, would you bet on 18.5 billion years? At what point would you say, “ok, that’s just not enough time?” At what point would you say, “that can’t be right?”
If you believe we all got here by chance, then apparently you are willing to wait for eternity before concluding that is just not the answer.
At some point, the rational mind must say, “this is not rational” and reject it.
In examining the difference between the Catholic understanding of James 2:24, and the Protestant understanding, I am going to begin by asserting that the Scriptures contain no true contradictions. We may see apparent contradictions (which atheists love to point out without sharing how those apparent contradictions are resolved), but if God is the author of Scripture (which both Protestants and Catholics affirm), then God does not contradict himself. If we think there is a contradiction, then the error is with us, not God. We also must admit that all of Scripture must be considered and we cannot pull one verse out and have it stand on its own. We must consider not only the immediate context but the context of all of Scripture.
Some people think they see a contradiction between Paul’s teachings and James’. They say Paul teaches salvation by faith alone whereas James says saving faith requires works. Who’s right? If we begin with our earlier assumption, that Scripture contains no contradictions, then we must dig deeper if we are to resolve this apparent contraction.
In Ephesians, Paul writes:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB emphasis added)
Here, Paul clearly states that we are “saved through faith”, and to further clarify salvation is by faith alone, Paul adds “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” His words are very clear as is his meaning. Salvation is by faith alone. Yet, in verse 10, Paul concludes that we (those saved) are God’s workmanship “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Why does Paul add this right on the heels of saying salvation is by faith alone? Why mention works at all? Paul does so to show that good works are something God “prepared beforehand” so that we would “walk in them.” In other words, God has prepared good works for us to do once we are saved. God does not save us and then leave us as we were. He gives us a new heart, a new nature, no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness.
“Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18)
As the saying goes, salvation is by faith alone but faith is never alone. In order for us to walk in those good works God prepared beforehand for us, we must first be saved and changed. God must swap our old heart dead in sin, for a new heart that is a slave to righteousness. Then, and only then, can we walk in those good works prepared beforehand for us.
In Romans, Paul spends a lot of time contrasting the Jewish understanding of salvation with true salvation. The Jews thought that works made them righteous. God gave them the law and they thought by keeping the law they would make themselves righteous. Yet none of them (or us) could perfectly keep the law. James writes:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
You don’t have to break every law. If you break even one, you are guilty of breaking all. It’s interesting that James (who some think is arguing for works salvation) would say this. If our works are necessary for salvation, what happens when we stumble on one point? We become guilty of breaking all the Law. Since none of us (save Christ) can keep the whole Law perfectly, how can we hope to be righteous on our own when even one failure makes us guilty of breaking the entire Law? Obviously, we can’t be righteous on our own.
Back in Romans, Paul anticipates the person who heard his words thinks that if salvation is by faith alone, by God’s grace, then why not go on sinning? After all, our sins are forgiven and covered by God’s grace! Paul answers that thought with an emphatic negative when he writes:
“Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Romans 6:15)
So, we are saved by faith, not works, and we are now slaves to righteousness but if we stumble in even one point of the Law, we are guilty of breaking the whole Law. Thankfully, Paul adds that we are now under grace and no longer under the Law. Therefore, we do not have to keep the whole Law perfectly. Does that mean the Law was pointless and of no importance? Paul answers this:
“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)
The problem, Paul writes, is not the Law but rather sin which dwells in us. The Law itself is holy and righteous and good. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus perfectly kept the Law and thus fulfilled it. When we believe, we receive the righteousness of Christ. We are justified. It is “just as if” we never sinned.
We already saw that Paul says that once we are saved, we are no longer slaves to sin. We are slaves to righteousness instead. He goes on to say:
“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
After having been freed from sin (a result of salvation) we derive a benefit namely sanctification (that change and the walking in the good works God prepared beforehand). The ultimate outcome is eternal life.
Given that, how are we to understand Jame’s writing?
If we return to our assumption that Scripture does not contradict itself, then there is only one possible way to understand James. He is writing to warn us, that true saving faith will produce good works. This should not surprise us, as early we read that we were to walk in the good works prepared beforehand for us by God. So works are a necessary and guaranteed outcome of saving faith. Only God can see the heart. Anyone can claim to have been saved based on a confession of faith. Faith though is not just a matter of saying certain words. You have to mean what you say and truly put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savoir.
People have all kinds of mistaken ideas about salvation. They think if you were baptized or if you attend church or if you “lead a good life” you will go to heaven. Other ideas abound. Yet none of these things save you. In multiple places in the NT, we are told to test or examine ourselves to see if our faith is genuine. There could be nothing worse than thinking you are saved when in fact you are not. Scripture does not give a list of required characteristics of someone who is saved, but by studying Scripture you can arrive at a pretty good idea of the kinds of that ought to be true of a believer, and if you see these things in your life, and you’ve put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you can know you are saved.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. ” (2 Peter 1:10-11)
Much of what James writes is about those marks of a true believer. James contrasts for us the true believer from the false believer. To quote John MacArthur “The error James assails is faith without works; justification without sanctification; salvation without new life.” (https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA81/does-james-2-contradict-romans-4)
Someone who thinks they are saved because they prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, or did some other religious act, will have to examine themselves by James’ words. They say they are saved. James said, show me your salvation by your works. James point is that faith without works is a dead faith because true saving faith will always produce good works as we saw earlier. God has prepared “beforehand” good works for the believer to walk in. If we are not walking in good works, then we have a problem and better be questioning our faith to make sure we have not deluded ourselves into thinking we are saved when we aren’t.
The issue between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics say salvation requires sanctification and thus is not by faith alone. Yet if we make sanctification a requirement for salvation then salvation requires works and Paul clearly wrote that salvation is a free gift of God based on faith alone (not on works that no man should boast…). At times I almost think Protestants and Catholics are saying the same thing but differently. Protestants affirm a saved person will show the fruit of sanctification by good works. If not, they presumably were not ever saved. The exception, of course, would be someone whose salvation happened immediately before death or some severe health crisis (a coma for example) and thus is not able to show the fruit of sanctification. Such a person is still saved. The thief on the cross is the classic example given. Thus, from the Protestant perspective, a saved person will be sanctified. It’s just that sanctification is a process that begins after salvation. Catholics say you have to have sanctification in order to be saved. They allow the exception of the thief on the cross saying he lacked the opportunity to become sanctified (sounds like he was saved by faith alone…). For them, sanctification must happen before salvation. So both say faith is required for salvation. Both say sanctification is a mark of a believer. The difference is when sanctification occurs. Does it come after salvation (Protestant view), or before (and a requirement for) salvation?
If Scripture contains no contradictions, then the answer must be after salvation or Paul’s statement that salvation is by faith alone, not by works, could not be true. To take the Catholic view, you must conclude Paul is wrong in saying salvation is by faith alone.
I don’t know why the Catholic church wants to add sanctification to faith (presumably their understanding of Scripture though to my mind it requires the belief in a contradiction in Scripture). I can see some human reasons why someone might want to add sanctification. One reason is that salvation by faith alone leaves man out of the equation. Since we are told that our faith is a gift of God, then man has nothing to boast about. He can’t say “I did my part.” He can’t say “my salvation is 99% God and 1% me.” No it’s 100% God. Human pride wants to believe we played some part in our salvation. In the Catholic view, you get this. Even though they say faith is from God and sanctification is from God, yet they believe that a single “mortal” sin is sufficient to completely kill all of the grace you possess and send you to hell. They believe you have free will to choose whether or not to commit a mortal sin so in the end, you could always say “I chose not to commit a mortal sin” and therefore I played a small part in my salvation.
I also think we like the idea because we want a way to measure ourselves. We want to make examining ourselves easier. If we can say, I’ve done good works and never committed a mortal sin, then we can feel good about ourselves. From the church’s perspective, it is a good way to keep the faithful in line. If you feel like you better have good works and need to avoid mortal sins, then you’ll tend to do as you’re told. Fear can be a powerful motive. That’s one thing I found sad about my Catholic mother and other Catholics I have known. While they all felt they would go to heaven, they were never totally sure. There was that fear that after leading a good and faithful life they might lose it all with a mortal sin or get to heaven and find out they did not have enough good works. The Apostle John wrote:
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:15-18)
Notice John says that “we may have confidence in the day of judgment.” He also says that perfect love casts out fear. We don’t need to be fearful about our eternal state. Or, as Paul puts it:
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
The word translated “know”, is in the perfect tense in Greek. That means it speaks of a permanent knowledge and the Greek word means to know with absolute certainty without a doubt. Therefore, if we can know with a permanent, absolute knowledge that we are saved, then there is no reason to fear and no chance we can lose that salvation which is an issue for the Catholic belief in a class of sins known as mortal sins.
So, in conclusion, if we can know now that we have eternal life, and have no reason to fear, then our salvation is sure. We cannot lose it. We are saved by faith alone, a faith that is a gift of God. That faith is followed by a lifetime of sanctification as we walk in the good works prepared beforehand for us. There is so much more than could be said, but I will stop here.
Why is this important? Paul said if anyone gives you another gospel, other than the one he delivered, such a person should be anathema (cursed or excommunicated). If we love the truth then we cannot tolerate a lie. A salvation that includes works as a requirement, is a lie. Some Catholics will say, they do not believe in works salvation but rather faith plus sanctification. They try to say sanctification is not a work. What is sanctification then? It is a process in which we live according to our new nature and walk in good works. What Catholics are saying, is that your faith must be accompanied by a sanctified life that produces righteousness. Not as a result of salvation but as a requirement of it. That is by works. If you read the anathemas of the Catholic Council of Trent, anyone believing salvation is by faith alone is to be anathema. According to the Catholic church, this is a grievous error. If so, then we must say their misunderstanding of salvation, and teaching others the same, is also most grievous. You cannot have it both ways. You are either saved by faith alone or faith plus works. Paul answered the question for us; salvation is by faith alone.
I grew up Roman Catholic. My Mom was a devout Catholic so I did it all from infant baptism to first communion and confirmation plus catechism classes every Sunday until I graduated from high school.
There was a kid at my high school who was in my class but I did not know him well. He approached me in the spring of my freshman year and asked if he could share the “Four Spiritual Laws” with me (Campus Crusade for Christ pamphlet). I said he could but would not have time after school until track season ended. With about 2 weeks left in the school year we met in a classroom after school. I can still picture the room. He went through the booklet and asked me if I wanted to pray to receive Christ into my heart.
Now after all those years of Catholic education you would think I would have told him I already had Christ in my heart. After all I had been baptized and confirmed. I had committed no mortal sins. Yet I wanted to pray that prayer. I felt no pressure. It was just him and me and God. I didn’t care what this kid thought of me. I knew, by the grace of God, that I needed to give my life to him. Those things I had done as a Catholic were just a matter of following the plan. You did those things because it was time and expected. I don’t recall the nuns ever saying confirmation, for example, was optional and we shouldn’t participate if we weren’t sure. I imagine my mom would have been perplexed had I announced I didn’t want to get confirmed and the nuns would have been talking to me… It’s not that I didn’t want to get confirmed when that time came but I did it because it was expected. I didn’t really feel like I was making a commitment or a decision. It wasn’t being done on my initiative. Now I was deciding on my initiative that I wanted to give my life to Christ. No one knew what was happening that afternoon except me, this boy, and God. So I prayed.
The heavens didn’t open and I felt no different, though I felt at peace. Yet what a change started in me! We had an over sized, soft covered, gold edged, Catholic Bible sitting on our coffee table at home collecting dust. My Mom had filled out the section at the front with birth dates and such but otherwise that Bible was never opened. No one told me to read the Bible. Not the kid at school, not the nuns or priests, not my parents. The Holy Spirit led me to pick that Bible up and start reading. I started in Genesis and over several months read to the end of Revelation. I became the first person in my family to read the entire Bible. Over the remaining three years of high school I read that Bible completely three more times. Not normal reading for most high school kids especially kids who went to the Catholic Church and had no one encouraging them to read the Scriptures. I learned so much. I quickly learned far more than I ever learned at church or in those Catechism classes. As I read, I encountered truths that did not agree with doctrine taught by the Catholic Church. Once you read the Bible for yourself, you realize it’s not that complicated or difficult to understand. A few things are, but not the Gospel and many, many other things. I didn’t need a priest to tell me what those passages meant. No priest or Pope could be a better teacher than the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.
My faith was now in Christ. He was my mediator. Not a church, not a priest or Pope. In time I left the Catholic Church after sharing the Gospel with a priest at the church. He believed that people were leaving the Catholic Church because they wanted something nicely laid out for them in black and white whereas in the Catholic faith you had to think for yourself and wrestle with the gray. I will grant there are some Protestant churches that overstep Scripture and try to run people’s lives, but most just teach the Word of God and let us pray and decide how to respond to it. Scripture is usually pretty clear. In the Catholic Church everything has to be approved and blessed. Priests read everything when saying the Mass. Other then their homily (mini sermon) the rest is all scripted. Altar boys and girls hold open books for them to read their prayers from. That seems a lot more black and white to me.
I have Catholic friends and it always strikes me how they talk a lot in terms of their church. It’s the church this and the church that. When they have questions, they don’t turn to Scripture, they go ask a priest. I was talking to a Catholic lady friend the other night, and she shared how she went to her priest to ask him about sex before marriage because a friend had asked her and she wanted to know for her and her friend. At first I was shocked she didn’t know the answer. She’s in her 50’s and been a lifelong Catholic. How could she not know? Then I was sad because she’s probably never read the Bible because if she had she’d know the answer. I asked her what answer the priest gave her. This was an 89 yr old man who had been a priest since his 20’s. Not someone you would expect to hesitate to answer such a question. His answer was not an answer at all but merely an irrelevant observation. He said that people today have a lot more sex than they used to. I asked her if he said anything else and she said no. She then added that “he didn’t say it was wrong.” True, but really he didn’t say anything. Perhaps she made that remark because that’s the answer she was looking for? I can understand her thinking that he is an ordained priest charged with shepherding the faithful so he would be obligated to tell her if something was sin even if he knew that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. Therefore, it was (in her mind) reasonable to assume his lack of prohibition against premarital sex was implied permission. Sad that a supposed minister of God could not give a straight answer or quote a single Scripture. Maybe that is what my old priest meant when he said people liked these Protestant churches because they made everything so black and white. What he should have said, is that they use the Bible to answer questions, and if the Bible clearly addresses the issue then there’s the answer. My friend’s priest left her with a non-answer, total murky gray.
When we stand before God, the question won’t be “did you believe in the church and put your faith and trust in her?” No! It will be “did you believe in Jesus Christ and put your faith and trust in Him?” Yet millions of Catholics are trusting in their church for their salvation. They don’t know the Gospel. I never heard it in the Catholic Church. Yes there are some Catholics who have come to know the Gospel and accepted it. Praise God! Some say they have stayed in the church hoping to reform it. How did that workout for Martin Luther? They will never grow if they stay in a church that won’t teach the Word. If I were to ask my friend why she didn’t just open a Bible and find the answer I am sure she would say it was quicker to ask her priest as after-all he has already studied these things. If she is depending on her church to teach her all she needs to know for life and salvation then her faith is in her church and not in
the Lord. Church teaching is all well and good but we are called to be like the believers in Berea who did not just take the Apostle Paul’s word but searched the Scriptures to see if he was teaching the truth. Do Catholics think their priests or even the Pope is greater than the Apostles? If Paul commended them to search and check the Scriptures for themselves would he not say the same to us today?
I am so thankful, God is His grace, gave me faith and led me to read His Word. What a treasure so many miss out on. How can we hope to obey and serve God if we don’t even read His words to us?
Here in the first world, we live in an interesting time in church history. I can’t drive a few miles without passing a number of churches. Even if I narrow the list to Christian churches, there are still dozens and dozens of Christian churches within a 30 minute drive of my home. These include both denominational and non-denominational churches.
Many of these churches only differ in superficial ways. Perhaps its their style of music, their informal atmosphere, or allegiance to a denomination. Some sing traditional worship music while others prefer contemporary. Yet we all preach from the same Bible and share the same fundamentals of the faith.
Having many churches is not bad. It does help keep the body sizes smaller and more intimate than having fewer larger churches. It also makes gathering together easier with less time spent driving. You might actually go to church with neighbors. Yet there are downsides to all these choices.
For one thing, there is a lot of money tied up in the many facilities of all these churches. Facilities that often sit empty and lightly used six days of the week. How many churches are in debt paying off building loans while other churches meet in school gymnasiums waiting to have enough money to buy land and build? How many pastors hold back in their preaching for fear of offending someone and seeing donations decline where the budget will no longer support the payments on the debt? One thing I will say for the Mormons (who I do not consider Christian), is their sharing of facilities. Often 3 wards, what we might call a church, share a single facility. Of course some churches have multiple services and use their facility quite a bit, but there are many small churches that have but one service per Sunday and could easily share with another church. Think of the money that could be saved and spent helping those in need or supporting missionaries?
Another downside, is the fracturing of the body. When we keep starting new churches around some non-essential doctrine or preference, it can lead to a judgmental attitude and a lack of unity among Christians. I know of churches, for example, who are opposed to age segregated classes. Parents keep their children with them in the service. After awhile it is tempting for families in such a church to think that their way is THE way and age segregation is anti-family and anti-Biblical. I’ve seen churches that will only sing Psalms and Hymns and only allow a piano or organ. I’ve heard comments like “That church sings contemporary music!” as though that marks them as a carnal church. Our distinctives start to become essentials of the faith. We become fractured and often look down upon Christians who worship in a different way than ourselves.
One thing that concerns me about the modern church is what I consider a confusion about it’s mission. A saying I heard many years ago sums up my feelings nicely:
The purpose of the church gathered, is to worship God and edify the saints.
The purpose of the church scattered, is to seek and save the lost.
In other words, the local body meets to worship and equip. It is our time to gather as a community of believers for worship, equipping, and to love and serve each other. The rest of the week, when the church is scattered, we are to be evangelists to our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We still worship privately and we still seek edification but we are no longer surrounded by our church family. We are being living witnesses in our jobs, our schooling, in our neighborhoods, at soccer games and Little League. We are all called to be evangelists in both word and deed.
Yet we live in a post-Christian society with declining church attendance. To combat this, many churches have tried to be more “seeker sensitive” and break away from what they see as traditional church to something more contemporary and relevant. The thought is that most people today don’t want that traditional, stuffy, boring, old time Christianity. They want something contemporary, alive, relevant, exciting… So we serve coffee, inject our services with drama, video clips, and large worship teams. We try to keep the preaching upbeat and practical. We want the unchurched (be they non-believers or those who gave up on church) to come.
I have one problem with that. While I agree the church should strive to be “all things to all men”, and adapt to the culture where Biblically permissible, it should not lose sight of it’s mission which when gathered is to “worship God and edify the saints.” Too often such churches serve only milk (i.e. elementary teaching) and never serve meat. The body never grows beyond adolescence. In seeking to keep the teaching upbeat and relevant, the pastor(s) pick and choose topics and never preach the “whole counsel of God.” Topics that might be taken negatively are passed over. Nothing potentially controversial or convicting is spoken of. Yet is not “all scripture” valuable for edification and reproof (2 Timothy 3:16-17)? Some such churches will explain that they have small weekday groups where more meaty topics can be discussed yet Sunday is the one day most people can attend and the number one teaching opportunity of the church. If we gear our messages to the unbelievers attending, we fail to equip the saints.
Everyone should be welcome and made to feel welcome yet the goal is to worship and edify from the whole counsel of God. That is why I personally prefer teaching that is verse-by-verse, and book-by-book. It is the only way to ensure you preach the whole counsel of God. It also has the added benefit of teaching everything in context as God’s Word was given to us as books and letters and not topically arranged. Such teaching helps you to understand the author, his audience, and the context of the passages. Such teaching though is difficult to find anymore. Topical teaching has all but taken over and having catchy titles for topical series is all the rage now. I’ve even seen churches advertise a series with a title like “How to have great sex!” The series was actually about how to have a good and loving marriage which in turn is the best recipe for great sex, but the title was chosen to be eye grabbing and elicit curiosity. Whose eyes are they trying to catch? I would think the saints would not need such eye glitter which is clearly aimed at those outside the church.
This also leads to the abdication of evangelism to the “professionals.” Many modern Christians think evangelism is inviting someone to church where the professionals can take over. Granted, it’s a lot easier to invite someone to church than share the gospel with them. Yet many will not come to church with you until and unless they see something different in your life that attracts them. Your actions and your words might be the greatest chance for them to believe. There is nothing wrong with altar calls or other forms of invitation at church services, but the primary purpose of our services should be corporate worship and edification, not evangelism. If we get to the point where everything about our church is catering to non-believers, we have missed the mark.
We’ve become too preoccupied with church growth as the measure of success. I would suggest that the true measure of success is the maturing of the body and that growth will be a natural outcome of such maturing. As the saints deepen in their faith, holiness, and are fully equipped, they will be busy seeking and saving the lost and we will see growth. Even if we don’t, that does not mean we are doing something wrong. If we are truly living in the End Times, as some believe, we may not see growth. We live in a post-Christian society that is growing increasingly secular. Our job is to find those whom the Lord has gifted with faith to bring into the fold knowing that the number may be dwindling. If we measure success by the maturing of the body, the numbers will not matter. If there is no turnover and the body just keeps aging, then we should re-examine that maturity and make sure the body is sharing it’s faith.
For me there is rest in the sovereignty of God. If we are doing our jobs and sharing our faith, and watering it with our prayers, then God will bring the harvest but according to His plan and will. We cannot make anyone believe. We can only share the Good News and pray. If growth comes, praise God! If growth is small, praise God! As long as we are being faithful we need not worry over numbers.
My fear is that many of these seek-sensitive churches are full of baby believers and non-believers. There is little maturing going on. We’ve made it so comfortable to be there and not change that there is little reason to change and little opportunity to do so. I appreciate those times I walk away from a sermon deeply convicted, even remorseful. I know the Holy Spirit is working on me. Churches that try to keep everything upbeat and positive and fail to teach the convicting things, are not doing their jobs.
We live in an age where opportunities to share the Gospel are like never before in human history. We have churches on every street corner, the Internet, TV, radio, books, magazines, … Yet I see a weakening church with members with little grounding. Christianity has become too easy, too comfortable at least here. There are places in the world where being a Christian costs a lot. Just to be able to gather to worship is huge in some places. Worrying about the style of music or age segregated classes are not even concerns. Perhaps we could learn from them.
This month is Pride Month and all around me I see rainbow colors. At the office I see signs saying “Pride” and there are various events around promoting “the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rightsmovements throughout the world.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_pride)
Now the term “queer” can be used as a term for non-heterosexual orientations. As a Christian I cannot support Pride Month. Let me explain. What I am NOT saying is that I support discrimination (with some caveats), violence, public shaming, etc, against the queer community. The caveats I have in mind is that I am opposed to non-heterosexual marriage or forcing faith-based organizations to employ those who oppose their faith. As Christians we are to “hate the sin but not the sinner.” Opposing homosexual behavior does not require hating, shaming, or discriminating against those who practice it. We should be like Jesus who, when left alone with the woman caught in adultery, told her he did not condemn her but to “go and sin no more.” He did not ignore her sin. He did not shame her in front of the small crowd of people. He did not yell at her or strike her. He showed grace but still instructed her to “sin no more.” I’m not suggesting that every time a Christian encounters a homosexual he/she should tell them to “go and sin no more” but if asked if homosexuality is a sin we should not shrink from saying what the Bible clearly declares.
I see no dignity in flaunting rebellion against God nor do I believe we are free to redefine marriage since God created and defined it. I definitely cannot celebrate sexual diversity as God only defined one type of sexuality. So I cannot celebrate Pride Month.
The queer community want the world to accept them as normal and as morally good. I can’t any more than I can accept adultery as morally good even if it involves a man and a woman. Sin is sin whether it involves heterosexuals or homosexuals. I cannot join in taking pride in sin. Not mine or anyone else’s.
Believe it or not I have friend’s who are homosexual and I work with people who are homosexual. Most have no idea how I feel. I don’t go out of my way to make my feelings known. Unless they asked they would probably never know. One good homosexual friend does know how I feel but we remain friends. My gay/lesbian co-workers like me and see me as nice and friendly. I treat them no differently than I do anyone else. However, I don’t condone their behavior or support their “right” to marry. I am not one to attend marches or rallies so they aren’t likely to see me at one.
What bothers me is how both sides tend to use unnecessarily negative language about the other side. Calling anyone who disapproves of homosexuality “homophobic” is not only wrong but a misuse of the English language. My opposition of homosexuality is based on my faith not a phobia. I don’t fear it. No one has called me adulteryphobic. The use of that term is just an attempt to cast those who oppose homosexuality for any reason in a negative light. Besides, phobias are usually irrational fears and my beliefs are neither irrational or fear based. If we ever hope to get along we have to avoid such terms. I try to be respectful in my language. I was very hesitant to use the term “queer” because for much of my life it was considered a derogatory term and it took a lot of convincing for me to accept it was now ok to use. I had no desire to use an offensive term although I know I can’t always avoid offending because sometimes simply disagreeing offends someone.
No amount of celebrations, special months, parades, influence in Hollywood or with the press, will change God’s truth nor my beliefs. Getting along does not mean we have to accept and support beliefs we believe to be wrong. We can “hate the sin but not the sinner.” We can stand up for the truth. Trust me I have been told I am a fool for being a Christian. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me or accept me. For the queer community to expect nothing but support is not living in reality neither should society expect no one to ever disagree with anything. If find it ironic that at the annual White House Press Corps Event, any dig on the President, no matter how mean, is celebrated and defended as freedom of speech. Say one word of opposition to homosexuality and you could loose your job at many companies. If you are in a public position look out. It might even be called hate speech even if there was nothing hateful about it. Plenty of people hate President Trump (I am no fan) and are protected by free speech no matter how vicious their attacks on the President are. Why the double standard?
Gnosticism has been around since sometime after Plato and well before the time of Christ. The Jews considered it heretical as did the early Christians.
The Gnostics considered the spirit good but the body evil. The incarnation, or God becoming a man, presented a problem for them. How could the good spirit of God be corrupted by flesh? Some Gnostics held that Jesus’ body was just an illusion. Therefore, God did not taint himself by becoming flesh. This thinking requires a total disregard of Scripture. According to the Bible, our sins could only be paid for by the shedding of blood. It had to be the blood of the Messiah who was fully God and fully man. Jesus was called the “second Adam” who, like the first Adam, was a representative of all mankind. In Adam, all mankind fell into sin. In Jesus we have salvation as he is the second Adam. If his body was an illusion then we are still in our sins. No blood (only the illusion of blood) was spilled. Jesus only appeared to die on the cross.
The second solution was the belief that God created a slightly lesser spirit into which he put his “divine spark.” That spirit in turn created another lesser spirit. This process continued countless times until somewhere along the line a man was created with the remnants of this divine spark. This succession of beings is called emanations. By having Jesus be a distant, distant, distant emanation from God it gets them around the problem of the good, spirit God, being tainted by flesh. Once again this contradicts the Bible which teaches that the Holy Spirit caused Mary to be pregnant with Jesus. No emanations. Such a distant emanation would not be fully God and fully man as the Bible teaches. Once again, we would be left in our sins.
These teachings were argued against in the New Testament and denied by the early church. The Gnostics formed communities away from mainstream Christianity. They created their own writings and tried to pass them off as being written by Biblical figures. Collectively they are referred to as “The Lost Books of the Bible.” One such book is the Gospel of Mary supposedly written by Mary Magdalene (the book refers to a Mary but does not say Mary Magdalene). A good portion of the book was lost but the Gnostics claim Jesus had a relationship with Mary and left her in charge of the church but patristic Peter (male chauvinist) silenced her and made sure no one knew of Jesus’ intentions. Thus, they had to preserve this truth. This “gospel”, though, dates to the late second century or early third century. Once again it contradicts the Bible. There is no Biblical account of Jesus having a special relationship with Mary (or any woman) or of his putting her in charge of the church. Instead he left the Apostles to lead the embryotic church. Why would Jesus appoint 12 men to be the disciples if he planned to put a woman in charge? Why not have a group of Apostles formed from both men and women? What evidence do they have that Peter was anti-women? Why would Peter disobey his Lord (in a major way) then go on an die as a martyr for him? Signaling out Peter to be the anti-Mary almost seems like something anti-Catholic as Protestants do not see Peter as having more authority than the other Apostles.
These books were never accepted by the early church nor written about. It is unreasonable to think Peter, or anyone, could so suppress the truth. Surely copies of the true Scriptures would have survived to testify to their failed efforts to silence the truth. Its fanciful story telling to try and support beliefs that are false. People have different reasons for accepting these teachings. Some see in them support for women pastors or priests. Some see access to “hidden knowledge” with a feeling of excitement at being among of small group of people who know the truth. Regardless of their reasons they are believing a lie which is leading them away from the truth.
Gnosticism, from the Greek word gnostikos (having knowledge), is a modern term used for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems dating back to the first and second century AD. These beliefs share the idea that the material world is evil and thus could not have been created directly from God. Therefore, there were a serious of emanations from the highest God, which trapped the “Divine Spark” within the human body. Many emanations from the highest God was the God who created the universe. This Divine Spark could be liberated by gnosis.
Gnosis refers to knowledge based on personal experience or perception. In a religious context, gnosis is mystical or esoteric knowledge based on direct participation with the divine. In most Gnostic systems, the sufficient cause of salvation is this “knowledge of” (“acquaintance with”) the divine. It is an inward “knowing,” comparable to that encouraged by Plotinus (neoplatonism), and differs from Christian proto-orthodox views. Gnostics are “those who are oriented toward knowledge and understanding — or perception and learning — as a particular modality for living.”
Gnosticism has two main tenants. The first is its believe that matter is inherently evil whereas spirit is good. Some believe that Jesus only had the appearance of a physical body because he could not have been good and physical in nature. Gnosticism teaches that anything done in the body has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only. The second tenant is their claim to possess an elevated knowledge, or “higher truth”, known only to a chosen few. They claim higher knowledge, based not on the Bible, but from a mystical higher plane of existence. Thus they see themselves as a privileged class, elevated by their higher knowledge.
Their proponents usually defend them by claiming they were hidden or surprised by the early church because their teachings were not what the church wanted (if true why wouldn’t the church want them?)
Among the Gnostics are those who hold to a theory that Jesus had a romantic relationship with Mary of Magdalene and that he appointed her as leader of the Christian church. This theory is held despite no evidence to support it. In 1896, the gospel of Mary, was discovered in the Akhmim Codex in Cairo, Egypt. It was not published until 1955. Ten pages are missing including the first six. Written in Greek and Coptic, the gospel of Mary codex is dated to the 3rd (Greek) and 5th (Coptic) centuries A.D.
Who the Mary of the text is, is not made clear. In the New Testament six women are named Mary including Mary, Jesus’ mother; Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany. It is assumed by proponents of this theory that it was written by Mary of Magdalene. According to the theory, “true” Christianity is exemplified by Mary whereas patriarchal Christianity is exemplified by Peter. No such teaching is found in the Bible and this writing dates to the late 2nd century at the earliest. Like the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Philip, and the gospel of Judas, the gospel of Mary is a Gnostic forgery, using the name of a Biblical character to give validity to its heretical teaching.
These Gnostic gospels contain teachings that are contrary to the Bible and hold different views of Jesus Christ, salvation, and virtually every other major Christian doctrine. Their teachings have no support from the early church fathers and the teachings of the Apostles. They were written by a heretical sect to support their teachings. Their only support comes from those sympathetic to their views.
As a Christian I have often been asked by well-meaning friends why I will only consider marriage or dating to Christian women. Beyond that Christian women with similar views to mine. To them marriage is about companionship. Finding someone to share life with who has similar interests and whose company you enjoy. While no two people are identical in every respect they don’t see why faith should be that big of a requirement. To them it seems unnecessarily unrealistic.
To understand marriage from a Biblical, Christian perspective we must first start with life from a Biblical, Christian perspective. Simply put a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. We follow in his footsteps. We seek to live life according to His will and with the purpose of glorifying Him. As the Apostle Paul wrote, our lives are no longer are own but we are Christ’s “bondservants.” In the Old Testament if someone was a slave, say because they were paying off a debt, when released from slavery they could offer their ongoing services freely as a “bondservant”, and if they did, their ear would be pierced on the doorpost indicating their freely chosen status as a bondservant. That is the word picture of what it means to be a Christian. You freely give your life to Christ in exchange for His forgiveness. It is an act of love not an act of coercion. A good definition for bondservant would be “devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” It means we are devoted to God and not ourselves.
Biblical marriage is when two such bondservants join together to more effectively serve God and to enjoy the intimacy that comes from such a shared purpose and life. Clearly that cannot be achieved if one party to the marriage was not a believer. The Bible commands us to not be “unequally yoked.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) The analogy is clear. A team of horses or oxen were often used to pull carts or plow fields. Two oxen would be joined by a heavy wooden collar or yoke. It was essential that the two would work as a team and work in unison. If one pulled to the side instead of straight forward the team would go in a diagonal and not a straight path. If one pulled and the other stood still they would go in a circle or nowhere at all. A good team was one where the pair learned to work in unison pulling in the same direction and the stronger adjusting for the weaker although the best result was achieved by joining to equally matched oxen. So it is to be in Christian marriage. If one spouse if following Christ and the other is going in a different direction that couple will not be an effective team. At least not in serving and glorifying God which is what a Christian’s life should be all about.
Some suggest we compartmentalize our lives and practice our faith in private and see no reason for it to impact a marriage. Such a thing is not an option for a Christian for to do so would be to stop following Jesus or only following him selectively. We are to love and serve God with every fiber of our being in every way on every day. Faith is not a hobby you can take up or put down. It’s not a club you visit when you want but spend time away from. It is a purposeful way of living. It is intentional. How could such a life not affect a marriage? How could a divided couple glorify God? Abraham Lincoln once quoted Jesus when he said “a house divided cannot stand.” His reference was to the country divided as it was North and South. Jesus’ words were in response to the religious leaders who accused him of performing miracles by the power of Satan. Jesus reasoned that Satan’s house could not stand were it divided so how could Satan be at odds with himself? It is equally true that a marriage divided cannot stand.
There are Christians living in unequally yoked marriages. Sometimes a couple marries then later one becomes a believer and the other doesn’t. In such situations the believer is called to live in peace with the non-believer in so far as they are able but if the non-believer leaves they are free to remarry. If you are a Christian though, entering into an unequally yoked marriage is not God’s will. You might make it work but it will never be the kind of marriage God ordained marriage to be. As followers of Christ why would we want such a thing? The message of 2 Corinthians chapter 6 is how Christians need to be separate from non-believers in our ministry. Not as neighbors or family members but in ministry we cannot be yoked. Christian marriage is a ministry. It is a ministry from one person for the other and from the couple to God.
Paul uses the analogy that Christ is the bride of the church. Marriage is a picture of what Christ’s relationship with the church is like. Is the church not made up of followers of Christ? How could that analogy hold true if God allowed for marriage to non-believers?
Marriage is not about finding a cure for loneliness or an activity partner. It is out finding a co-minister. A non-believer cannot co-minister with you. Such a union would also be a poor witness to any children that might be born of that union. What message would it send to them? Do you want to send the message that you are willing to compromise on your faith?
A final word, being equally yoked means more than just marrying a fellow believer. It means finding a fellow believer who will work with you as a team and not all believers would be a good match. Your calling, your gifts, your maturity level may require someone who is aligned with that. It is not a minimum requirement but something to be taken very seriously. It is a decision that will affect the rest of your life and have a profound influence on your ministry.
We live in an age and culture where tradition religion is being rejected along with absolute truth. I think this rejection has several aspects to it. First, we live in the entertainment generation who have short attention spans and want attention getting presentations be it audio, video, or spoken. We already have a million things in our lives vying for time and attention so the church has to step it up or not make the cut.
Second, while this generation of Americans may be the first to not be better off than their parents, still compared to 100 years ago or 1000 years ago we are much better off on average. Most of us simply have not lived a hard life. Some for sure but you don’t have to go back very far in history to arrive at a time when daily living was hard. A time when there were no grocery stores, microwave ovens, washers and dryers, cars, and so on. Putting food on the table, a roof over your head, and trying to stay healthy consumed most of your time. Life was fragile and realizing you were not in control came easy. Today’s generation though feel they have everything under control. They feel entitled. They have wants but few needs unless they live in poverty or have poor health. The idea of needing a Savoir is foreign to them. They don’t need anything and certainly not a savoir. Saved from what?
It is popular these days to be spiritual but not religious. Usually by “religion” people mean organized religion (i.e. a church or denomination). People cite numerous reasons they have left churches. Among them: schedule, boring, not wanting someone to tell them how they should live. They want everything catered to them from the teaching to the children’s ministries to the coffee. Being spiritual can mean anything. Often, it’s a hodgepodge of new age beliefs perhaps mixed in with a little Christianity but rarely anything resembling Biblical Christianity.
Christians are increasingly seen as narrow minded, bigoted, unscientific, close minded, and trying to force their beliefs on everyone. Outsiders believe Christians believe as they do only because they were raised that way and see themselves as more enlightened because they arrived at their own beliefs independent of how they were raised. Of course, this precludes the possibility that someone might do their own thinking and arrive at the conclusion that the faith they were raised in is the right faith. It is assumed that at some subconscious level they are biased by their upbringing.
Yet I believe the single predominant reason people reject Christianity is the propositional nature of it. We want a belief system that we can craft for ourselves that is positive and has no potential negative consequences. No one or nothing to judge us. No one or nothing to be accountable to. We want a philosophy to live by not a faith in a living God who commands us. It comes down to us wanting to be on the throne and not God.
We want whatever makes us happy. We want happiness without any effort. We expect God to give us that happiness requiring nothing from us in return.
The first great proposition of the Bible is that we are sinners separated from God
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)
Why do we need a savior? Because our end is death as the fruit of our sinful lives. This is not referring to our eventual physical death but rather our present spiritual death. We are already spiritually dead due to our sins and each breath we take is merely biding time until this life is over and then comes judgment. We are inmates on death row except we are already dead. Greater punishment awaits but we are already dead. We have rejected and sinned against a holy God and there is nothing we can do on our own to get right with God. Yet God, rich in mercy, provided us with a solution. That solution is Jesus. Probably the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:4-5)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)
So salvation is a gift from God we appropriate by faith. Such faith should lead us to repent and turn from our sins to a living God. That requires change. That means striving to live life God’s way not our way. It means being obedient to God. Jesus’ obedience led him to the cross. He died, according to God’s will, and resurrected to bring us victory over death both physical and spiritual. His disciples, particularly the Apostles, left everything to follow him. They left jobs, families, homes and followed Jesus for 3 years around a dusty countryside often sleeping outside at night. After Jesus returned to heaven they preached the Gospel (or “good news”) until their deaths. All but the Apostle John were martyred. Following Jesus was not easy yet not one of them regretted his decision.
No one wants to hear about repentance, sacrifice, denial. We want to indulge our flesh not deny it. We want to live as we see fit. No dusty roads and sleeping outside for us. No God does not require us to sleep outside but He does require us to follow him. To follow we must stop heading down our present path and turn and follow His. We don’t know what peaks and valleys that path will take us through but we know Jesus will walk it with us and at the end it will lead into eternal life.
God’s proposition is this: we are dead in our sins and He offers forgiveness if we will humble ourselves, believe, and follow. It means moving off the throne of our lives and letting God sit on it.
What say you to God’s proposition? Are you going to continue to follow your own path or God’s? Do you really think you can be happy leading a life that is not directed by the God who created you and loves you more than you love yourself? The choice is yours. In John 3:16 Jesus said “whosoever will come…” You must be a whosoever.
At church the gentleman who gave the communion devotion began with a story about a recent wedding he attended. When he arrived the various branches of the family were off by themselves and no one was intermixing. At the reception though there were not enough tables for each group to stay isolated. Families were forced to mix. By the end of the reception everyone was mixing, talking, and having fun.
He commented how meals have a way of bringing people together. Culturally we connect over food and drink. He made reference to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven. Predictably he spoke of communion as our meal with the Lord.
While I understand completely his point it also struck me how I could not relate to his analogy. I grew up in an alcoholic family where my Mom got drunk every afternoon. Dinner, while the whole family was gathered, was anything but a time of coming together. It was tense, unappetizing, and something to be endured. Due to my Mom’s alcoholism we never celebrated holidays or birthdays with family or friends. When I was married my ex-wife hated hosting anything at our house and hated holidays. Dinners were tense as she hated to cook and was never in a good mood.
I have been single now for years. To this day I don’t do much around holidays, birthdays, or other events. I take no special pleasure in food or drink. I “eat to live” not “live to eat.” Fine foods are wasted on me. I’m not into wine or beer the two most common social drinks in this country. I put as little time into preparing and eating food as I can. Going out to dinner or eating with others is not special to me. I’d rather go for a walk and talk to someone than sit and talk around a meal.
So where am I going with all this? I know I am different. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. Before his crucifixion he had the Last Supper with His disciples. He used bread and wine as symbols. He promised not to eat of the fruit of the vine again until with them in heaven. Our great communal gathering in heaven is described as a feast.So I know when I get to heaven I shall be changed and I will celebrate that feast as much as anyone there. It reminds me that we are not yet what we will be. We are imperfect with our scars and flaws. Things that should be common and natural are not always. In time though we will be changed.
There is much in life that is foreign to me. Experiences common to others that I know little of. None of that will matter though in eternity. I think I will enjoy connecting over a meal when we feast in heaven. Praise God for all He has in store for us.
I’ve come to a realization that has only taken nearly 56 years of life to come to. That realization is that no matter what has happened in your past you can’t get a do over but you can start over. The real significant part though is that while you can start over you can’t always erase the scars of the past. God can help you deal with them but He doesn’t always erase them.
I’ve heard and read amazing stories of people coming to the Lord from highly troubled pasts and instantly being healed of them (e.g. drug addiction). Praise God! If you know the Lord then you know He can do ANYTHING. Yet Paul prayed three times to have the “thorn in the flesh” removed from him and God did not grant him that desire. Whatever that was Paul had to carry it with him to the grave. What Paul learned was that when he was weak God was strong. He learned to lean on God and be content no matter what.
I’ve met many well meaning people who perhaps had some difficulties in their past who hoping to help me have told me I just need to make up my mind that I am no longer controlled by the past and everything will change. It did for them they say. Perhaps that worked for them and I’m not denying their claims but such thoughts seem inspired by the school of thought that says we are what we think and if we truly believe something we will have it. Christians know better. God is sovereign. Paul did not suffer from a lack of belief. His faith was amazing. The problem was not with Paul. The problem was Paul at first not seeing that his affliction was being allowed by God to bring about a greater faith and trust in Paul. God was using “all things” to work together for good in Paul’s life (Romans 8:28).
It reminds me of the gospel story of the military commander who sent word to Jesus through a servant that his son was dying and he wished for Jesus’ healing of his son. He added that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house. He believed that if the Lord would just “say the word” his servant would be healed. But it was “if” the Lord said the word. God is always sovereign. Jesus marveled at his faith.
Happiness is not having all our thorns removed. Happiness is learning to praise God and lean on His grace with our thorns. Happiness is a by-product of a right relationship with God. Think about that. Happiness is NOT dependent on our circumstances but on our relationship with God and that is something no one, no disease, no trauma, no tragedy, nobody, can take away from us. Thus we can be happy even in the midst of those things. That’s not to say we have no emotions except happiness. Tragedy still troubles us but we see those things through God’s eyes. We see the big picture; the eternal picture. We’ve read the end of the book so we know what will ultimately happen.
We can’t believe away our problems but we can believe our way to victory over them. God does sometimes take them away and what an awesome God we serve! Yet even when He doesn’t He brings about good (Romans 8:28). Faith is not asking why but saying why not? Why not me? Faith is growing through our trials not just asking God to remove them.
I can’t go back and make my past different as appealing as that seems. To be honest even if God gave me that power as a one-time gift I would not exercise it. I don’t know what I would be like today were it not for the trials in my life. Perhaps I would be an even better believer but perhaps I would take so much for granted and not have the battle tested faith I have. I would not risk that and I trust that God is causing all things to work together for good, that His preparing me for eternity, that my tears will be turned into joy, and that He who began a good work in me will complete it.
Starting over is realizing you have no strength in yourself but can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. It is learning like the Apostle Paul to be content no matter what our circumstances.
At the end of his trial Job received many blessings from God yet the family he lost was still gone. Gone at least until he joined them in heaven. Job’s memories of that trial did not get erased. Job though knew God better than ever before and saw his own limitations and foolishness. His ultimate act of character was to put his hand over his mouth acknowledging that he had no right to answer back to God.
Ultimately we have to trust in God’s goodness, love, and grace. If we believe in Him then we must trust Him. That means trusting our daily lives to Him and His will. Can we do it any better than to do it His way?
This brief statement is not meant to be complete nor cover all aspects of my faith. It is not my “Apostles Creed.” It is as simple and brief a presentation of my faith as I can make.
I believe that God created the heavens and the earth, the universe and all that is ex-nihlo (out of nothing). I believe that God is eternal without beginning or end and without creator. Nothing that exists, has existed, or will yet exists does so outside of His knowledge and will.
I believe God is holy and just – without sin. Because of this an unholy, sinful man cannot long stand in the presence of God nor dwell with Him. Only by the cleansing of our sins and the taking on of the righteousness of Jesus Christ can we abide with Him.
I believe God exists in three persons an inadequate word used by finite beings to understand an infinite God. These persons are ways in which God manifests Himself. God the Father is spirit without form. God the Son proceeds from the Father and became a man through a virgin birth and will forever have a body. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to in-dwell the believer and work in the hearts of men. Together these three persons are known as the Trinity.
I believe that Adam was the first man and Eve the first woman. They did willfully disobey God and their sin has been passed on to all future humans in what is known as original sin. We are born in sin already enemies with God. We possess neither the will nor the power to become God’s friend. It is only through the gift of faith (given by God’s good will and pleasure) that we can receive salvation. Salvation is an act of that received faith in which we acknowledge our sinful state before God and receive forgiveness for our sins through faith by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and are declared righteous by the imputation (accrediting to us) of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Apart from faith in Jesus there is no salvation. Thus salvation is wholly a work of God, not due to any goodness or merit in us (we have none) and none without this salvation will enter into heave but will instead dwell apart from God and His faithful in hell for eternity. Hell is a real place with real suffering and from which there is no escape. There will come a day, yet future, when all men and woman of all ages will be judged by Jesus Christ after which this earth and this universe will melt and vaporize and a new universe and earth will be created by God.
I believe that while salvation does not rest in any way upon our acts, our works, good works, are a fruit or sign of our salvation. Salvation is by faith alone but saving faith is never alone (i.e. it is followed by good works). In this life I will never attain perfection or cease from sin by my sins have already been paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ (even those I have yet to commit). I do good works now because I love God, want to obey Him, and have been given a new nature by which I am now capable of pleasing God.
Being a Christian is being a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. To follow Christ you must know Christ. Not just know of Him but know Him personally. Such a relationship is built on reading His Word (the Bible), praying to Him, and obeying Him. All such followers are part of a new, heavenly family. Going to church is going to be with our new family and to rejoice, celebrate, confess, worship, and learn together. We are not saved by attending church and not all who attend church are true followers of Jesus Christ. Churches are full of imperfect people and are themselves imperfect. A truly bad church that is not faithfully teaching the Word of God should be shunned but the lack of perfection in a church (or any and all churches) is not a reason to avoid church. Just as among non-Christians, Christians can be hypocrites. They can say one thing and do the opposite. As Jesus told His sleeping disciples in the Garden just prior to His death, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” While such hypocrisy is sinful and regrettable it is not necessarily evidence of a false faith nor reason to conclude all Christians are hypocrites. Christians are not perfect but forgiven. The measure of one’s faith cannot always been witnessed in one moment or even one year but over the course of a lifetime and sometimes hidden in the heart. What marks a true follower of Jesus is not the absence of sin in their lives but the refusal to give up and give into their sins. Ours is a lifetime struggle against a tireless foe but a battle we do not fight alone as God gives us strength.
We share our faith not to judge others but out of compassion and by the very command of our Lord as He (and we) do not wish any to perish but for all to come to saving faith (John 3:16). We desire that the incredible joy we experience be experienced by everyone. To live life without Christ is like using a new phone ignorant of how it works and the proper way to configure and use it. Without reading the manual we are unaware of many important and helpful features. We struggle in our use of the phone because we are ignorant. At times the phone is absolutely amazing yet we do not realize how much more amazing it could be if we but availed ourselves of the knowledge of its full use. To live life without Christ is to not know where you came from, where you are going, why tragedies, wars, suffering, and the like occur. It is to be without divine comfort. It is to live with guilt perhaps never receiving forgiveness. It is to not know why you were created and what God’s plan for your life is.
I am but a flawed follower of Christ but one striving to be more and more like him. I accept I will at times be ridiculed, laughed at, called names, considered ignorant and even persecuted. If the world can reject a perfect man full of love like Jesus Christ what hope have I to avoid persecution if I follow in His footsteps? If I am persecuted for doing good then such persecution I gladly accept. My greatest desire is to be an example of Christ to those I encounter. That in some small way they may see a difference in my life. Through my prayers and God’s sovereign grace I hope they will join me in living life to the fullest and knowing eternal forgiveness, peace, joy, and fellowship.
I think the #1 reason people refuse to follow Christ is a failure to grasp the holiness of God and by contrast their sinfulness. We compare ourselves to an arbitrary standard, pick out the worst in society or history, and judge ourselves to be “pretty good.” Therefore, if there is a God (not that they need one), then surely he would not reject a “good person.” Yet our righteousness is like a dark cave compared to God’s which is like the blinding sun at noonday. Stare at the sun too long and you will blind yourself. Our eyes simply cannot handle that much pure light.
Imagine a man who lived his entire life from birth in a dark cave with seemingly no way out. A stream trickles through with some fish and the climate is warm enough that he does not die from exposure. His eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness of the cave. He can’t really see much but his eyes, accustomed to the extreme darkness, can make out a little. Then one day some cave explorers find a way into his cave and discover him. They have bright lights on their heads that blind him. He has to look away as he’s never seen such brightness. He can’t understand their language but they seem trusting and he allows them to lead him. Realizing his eyes aren’t ready for the full light they put a bag over his head as they approach the exit. At first he is frightened why they would do such a thing but suddenly he senses he is in more light than he thought possible even with a dark bag over his head. It takes months of gradual exposure to the light for him to get to where he can open his eyes fully outdoors. Finally he can see and a new world all around him. A world he could never have imagined. Yet compared to the brightness of the pure sun he is still limited in what he can see as are all the others there who never knew the darkness he did. He can though see more than he could have imagined.
We are spiritually born into utter darkness like the man in the cave. All we know is darkness yet are convinced we can see as our eyes have adjusted to the darkness and we can dimly make out a few things. We have no idea that such brightness as the sun exists! Indeed it is so foreign to all we’ve even known that we cannot even imagine such a thing. We have no idea what we are missing outside of that cave. We don’t even realize a world exists outside that cave. We don’t know we’re in a cave. The cave is our world, our universe. We have no idea how we got there or what awaits us.
One day someone comes into our cave and through sign language communicates the idea that there is a whole wide world outside the cave and that there is light in that world. We have to choose though if we are willing to leave the safety and comfort of the cave (at least it feels safe and comfortable to us) or venture outside into the light. Scarcely believing such a world exists and feeling we already have all we need we decline to follow. Why go we reason? There is nothing more to life than what we have. This person is deluded. Logically they are either a liar, a lunatic, or highly unlikely are correct. We don’t trust them. Even if they are correct how do we know what the outside is like? What if they make us a prisoner or make us live a miserable life? Why risk so much for the unknown that really doesn’t make sense to us? So we stay (John 3:19).
Jesus Christ is the man coming into the cave to lead us out into the light. Yet we love the darkness more than the light. God the Father is the sun. His holiness is SO bright our eyes cannot look upon it. We will need new eyes if we ever hope to gaze upon such light. If we follow Christ out of the cave our eyes begin to adjust to the light slowly over time. We begin to see our sin but also the greatness and grace of God and the beauty of all He has created. No longer hidden away in darkness we now marvel in the light. Such beauty! So much to marvel at! We are aware though that compared to the brightness of the sun we are still in relative darkness but for the first time in our lives we understand that there is more than the pure darkness. There is a marvelous light. We cannot fully gaze upon it yet but we look forward to the day we can.
Praise God that He sends His Son (John 9:4) to us in the darkness of our sin and leads us into the light and into a life we never knew possible! Those in the darkness think they are the ones having all the fun with absolutely no idea how much they are missing out on. Non-Christians think Christians lead boring lives not allowed to have any fun. How little do they realize that true fun is not in license to do whatever we want (which in their case is controlled by their blindness) but in the freedom to be whom God created us to be. We are not slaves or handcuffed. We are living the life God designed us to live.
If you are wealthy enough you can buy a sports cars capable of hitting speeds of 260 mph. Yet if all you do is drive it around town in 25-45 mph zones you have no idea what the car is capable of and the feeling of opening it up wide and feeling the hum of the engine as the car rockets to its maximum speed. You will never know the thrill or riding a bike until you take the training wheels off. Those in Christ are living life to the full. Their engines are running full throttle. Those who reject Christ are driving that expensive sports car at 35 mph having no idea what more that car could do.
Too many are born, live, and die in the cave never knowing the light. When their eyes are finally opened it is on Judgement Day and it is too late. The passed up on their opportunity to leave the cave preferring the darkness. Given their choice God rightfully sentences them to eternal darkness. That is after all what they wanted. They had a chance to step out into the light and see but they preferred the darkness. Their lifetime passed without ever choosing to leave the cave so now they will dwell in eternal darkness. Yet now, for a time of judgment, their eyes are open and they are startled by what they see. Yet all too quickly they are taken back to the darkness from which they will never leave. The greatest suffering they will experience is having glimpsed the light and now with understanding realize their doom. Oh they will curse God and hate Him for not allowing them into His light! Yet for a lifetime they refused Him. He sent many to their cave to rescue them but they refused to leave. They were told about the marvels that awaited them outside the cave yet still would not leave. The rejected everyone who ever came to them. So now God has given them an eternity to live out their choice. They got what they spent a lifetime wanting. Yet somehow God is at fault!
No God is not at fault. We must take responsibility for our choices. Faith is when we do take responsibility for our sin and acknowledge it to God and ask for His forgiveness, His grace, and ask Him to lead us to the light promising to follow Him. The choice is ours. Do we stay in the cave of eternal darkness or do we step out in faith and embrace the light? Do we believe we are already living life to the full or do we trust God to show us how to really live life to the full? Do we accept our car can only do 55 mph or trust that it really can do 260 mph and even more?
That is the question. That is the choice. How will you choose?
In the ongoing discussion about same-sex marriages (now decided by the Supreme Court) I keep hearing two charges against Christians that are misunderstandings of Biblical teaching. Most of those who spout these things are just blindly repeating what they have heard others say making no attempt to understand the Christian perspective. We live in the age of Google and other search engines so it’s not very hard to search the topic and get some different perspectives.
The first charge I hear against Christians is that we are not to judge anyone. They know that somewhere in the Bible is a command to not judge.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.… (Matthew 7:1)
The problem with the use of this verse is that it needs to be understood in it’s context. This verse deals with situations where we judge either with improper motives, without knowing someone’s heart, or by making up a requirement and then expecting others to live up to it. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were famous for this. To apply Scripture and call something sin that God has called sin is NOT judging. That is simply applying Scripture and standing up for right and wrong. We are called to be light and salt to our generation and we can’t fully do that if we never speak out against sin or evil.
Although the origins of this quote are still under debate, this famous quote (though not from the Bible but certainly based on Biblical principles) applies here:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Winston Churchill used this quote during WWII. As Christians in an increasingly secular and godless world we must “do something.” That “something” is to proclaim the Gospel and at times to confront sin and evil and call it what it is. Our aim should always be to lead men to repentance not to just go off on them and then feel smug and superior. At the same time we live in a world that puts tolerance and acceptance about all else. We are turning perverse into diverse. Perversity into diversity. If we fail to (lovingly) proclaim the truth soon there will be no one doing so. Society is like the frog in the water that is slowly heating up until it’s boiling. The frog’s body adjusts to the increasing temperature to a degree then suddenly it is killed by the boiling water. The more sinful actions are accepted as “normal” by society the easier it will be to get new sinful actions accepted.
Jesus told us to count the cost and that devotion to Him would at times lead to persecution. We should not be surprised then if we are attacked for opposing things like same-sex marriage. We will be told we are ignorant, bigoted, intolerant, hateful, etc. We may lose friends over it or customers. It is precisely at this time that we cannot fail to be a witness and stand up for what is right no matter what the cost. I love how Billy Graham recently put it: “Our society strives to avoid the possibility of offending anyone – except God.” How true.
The second misconception is that Christians are to love everyone. That IS true but you can love someone and still believe they are living in sin. In fact sometimes the loving thing to do is to warn someone of the consequences of their actions. Parents love their children yet at times must deny them things or make them do things they don’t like. We do it out of love for our children because we know what’s best for them. Likewise we have to sometimes pull a friend aside and share something about them that they may not like hearing but we know they need to hear. Just avoiding anything someone might not like to hear is not love. Love wants what’s best for that person not just what they want. We are to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” Love does not mean condoning any action anyone takes. You can love your neighbor in many ways yet still disapprove of his actions.
When Jesus was left alone with the woman caught in adultery He showed grace and forgiveness and love yet He still told her to “go and sin no more.” Likewise Jesus told the woman at the well that the man she was living with was not her husband. He did not stay silent on that. Jesus got violent when confronting the money changers in the Temple. Was that a failure to love on Jesus’ part in any of those 3 situations? No!
We must gently correct those who throw these charges around. We must do a Peter wrote:
“always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Peter 3:15)
Let us be loving yet firm and stand up for the truth. Let us remind the world that God is still on the throne and will be The Judge.
I have read many impassioned pleas by those who feel Christians are to blame for them not having the right to same sex marriage or abortion. They ask why we can’t just let it go and if they are wrong then let God show them. As one woman on Facebook put it:
You are going to be just fine should I choose to marry a woman…you really don’t need to be in control of who I choose to be with … no matter how you feel about homosexual unions… it is not really important for you to control it. If you really feel it is a “sin,” then let God teach me…that is His/Her/whatever you believe’s job, not yours. LET IT GO!!!
While I know she writes with great passion for her beliefs I must point out a few flaws in her logic. First, we live in a democracy which means we all have equal rights to voice our opinions and beliefs and support the candidates we want and vote according to our conscience. We believe in the First Amendment which is why there was such an outcry when the French satirical journalists were killed by Islamic extremists. So I have just as much right to oppose same sex marriage or abortion as she has to support it. What she wants is not really free speech. She wants a world in which no one will stand up for what they believe if it might impose on someone else’s choices. Yet is society acted as she wishes we would have very few laws and soon lawlessness would reign. Why have a speed limit if it imposes on someone’s joy in driving 120 mph? Our founding fathers believed that we each have a voice and it is by engaging those voices and debate that we often arrive at the best decision. We should not silence those whose beliefs might oppose other’s beliefs.
Second she fails to understand Christianity although that is not her sole focus. Her statement implies it is only God’s role to teach. Hebrews 5:12 says “by reason of time you ought to be teachers.” Teacher is a role and gift listed in Scripture. God teaches us by His Word (the Bible) and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit yet gifts some with a special talent for teaching. Parents are to teach their children in the ways of the Lord just as those with the gift of teaching are to instruct the church. This writer has failed to consider that God may be trying to teach her through the voices she so opposes.
This generation has mistakenly made tolerance the highest moral value. Live and let live some say. Yet at times opposition is a gift from heaven to keep us from harming ourselves or others. Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse.” A true friend will not be afraid to tell it like it is even at the risk of offending you. Would you prefer your doctor not to inform you that you have cancer because that might upset you? Would it not be better to know the truth as there might still be time to treat the cancer and live? We value a friend who can correct us when we are wrong and change the course we are on. If we tolerated all our children’s selfishness and disobedience they would grow up to be selfish, entitled adults expecting the world to bow to their will. Parents are not always and at all times their children’s best friends.
The Bible tells us that absolute truth does exist and is defined by God. We may live in a pluralistic society with all sorts of beliefs but for the Christian there are absolutes and we must always uphold them. It is clear from my reading of the Bible that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman only. Not two men or two women. Sex between two men or two women is likewise condemned. I realize not all agree nor care what I believe but my highest allegiance is to God and as long as my government allows me free speech and to vote my conscience I will oppose same sex marriage. I don’t hate same sex couples but I cannot agree that what they want is marriage. Certainly not as God defined marriage and He is THE author of marriage. I would lovingly call them to consider God’s purpose for their lives and for marriage. I am though but one voice and ultimately the majority will likely prevail. I have no doubt in time that same sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states. That does not make it right. Nearly all of Germany supported Hitler yet that did not make him a good or moral man.
God calls us to be His witnesses for the truth. We have voices and must use them. Whether we carry the vote in the end or not we are to speak the truth in love. I’m sorry this woman cannot see that. She thinks us as mean spirited or controlling. Is a parent who forbids their child from playing with matches being controlling? Perhaps but that control may just save their child’s life. God gave them the role of parenting their children teaching them right from wrong. Likewise God has given His children the role of standing up for good and truth in this world. We cannot fail Him. We must speak the truth no matter how unpopular and if we are the only one. That is not control it is love.
According to Dictionary.com, a preacher is “a person whose occupation or function it is to preach the gospel”. Sounds right. Now what is the gospel? The word “gospel” comes from two Greek words but in essence means “to bring the good news.” The same words were used to describe a messenger or runner sent from the front lines of battle to deliver news of victory to the King. So a preacher is someone who proclaims the good news. Now I come to the crux of the purpose of this article, what is the good news? What victory was won? What great thing happened?
Good news is good exactly because it is not bad. The military messenger’s message would not be good news if the army lost the battle. It is good news because there was an alternative and that was bad news. In the case of the gospel the bad news was not just a potential outcome it was a reality. Every human being is born under the outcome of the bad news. The bad news is that we are all born in sin separated from a Holy God. Theologians call it original sin. It is the sin of Adam and Eve and their disobedience applied to all mankind. When they fell (sinned) in the Garden we (all mankind) fell with them. It was a representative judgment where a group is judged by the actions of one or a few. As a result of that original sin we are born with a sin nature. By nature we are in rebellion against God, against His authority over us. We want to make our own rules, decide our future. We want to be our own man; our own woman. We want to judge for ourselves what is right and wrong. We don’t need God or at least we don’t need a God who is going to tell us how to live and stifle our fun. At least while life is good we can ignore God or at most look to Him as a cosmic vending machine who dispenses only the good things want. Leave religion for the fanatics, the foxholes, the dying, and anyone else not strong enough to stand on their own two feet and thus in need of an imaginary crutch to help them stand.
The Bible describes this state we are born into:
Romans 3:10-12, and 23
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.(NLT)
So Paul’s letter to the Romans informs us that “no one is righteous” (i.e right with God). “No one is seeking God” (i.e. we are not searching for Him). We have all become useless. We have all turned away. No one does good. Not a single one. That is part I of the bad news. All means all as is in everyone! No one means not a single one. There are no exceptions. This is who we are in our natural state which we were born into.
In case you think Paul was not inspired and misrepresented Jesus then hear what Jesus had to say:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Jesus describes a narrow gate through which we may find eternal life and “few who find it.” We’ll come back to this but that doesn’t exactly sound like the universalist approach that there are “many paths to God.” If that were the case then the gate would be wide yet Jesus said the wide gate “leads to destruction.” Christians are often accused of being narrow minded precisely because we don’t embrace universalism (in case you are not familiar with that term it is a belief that all religion is equal and all bring man in harmony with the divine.) Christians are labeled intolerant because we don’t believe all beliefs are equal. Instead we believe in absolute truth (i.e. that their are absolute truths that cannot be violated and that two “truths” cannot coexist. Buddhism cannot be the path to the same “god” Christianity is. They are not different but equal paths to the same end. They are different paths to different ends.
So where does this leave us?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)
Wages are something you are owed for services rendered. You sign an employment contract and you perform your work as instructed then your employer owes you wages as agreed upon in the contract. If not there are laws to protect you and enable you to recover your wages. So you earn your wages. Romans 6:23 says the “wages of sin is death.” What kind of death? Physical death? No worse. Spiritual death. Yes we will die physically and that is part of the punishment of the fall of Adam and Eve but note in this verse death is being contrasted with “eternal life.” Eternal life is eternal life with God which goes far beyond the physical.
There is another critical contrast apparent in this verse. Not that our sin is due wages (i.e. we are owed death) whereas the contrast is the “free gift of God” – eternal life. Can you earn a gift? Dictionary.com defines a gift as:
“something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned”
People give gifts not out of obligation nor expecting repayment. They are unmerited, unearned. Don’t confuse gifts as used in the Bible with our human institution of gift giving. We might withhold a birthday gift from an unruly, or ingracious child saying they don’t deserve it. However that is a contradiction. It would not be a gift if it had to be deserved. Gifts are not earned or owed. A good word to introduce now is the word grace. In the Bible grace comes from a Greek word meaning “unmerited favor.” If God gives a free gift it is pure grace.
So in summary here is the picture. We are born in sin. The wages of sin is death. The road to eternal life is narrow and few find it. The only way out is the free gift of God of eternal life. There you have the bad news. We are sinners deserving hell. There is good news though too! God offers us a free gift of eternal life. How do we get that gift?
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
How many ways are their to God? Jesus said He was the only way. Can Buddhism lead you to God? Can Hinduism? Can Joseph Smith? Can your own spiritual beliefs? Nope. Is that narrow minded? Sure. Is it narrow minded to say “2+2=4” and not 5 or 3? Is it narrow minded to say water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? No those are absolute truths. Too many people today throw around the term “God/god.” “God” can be anything to anyone. So when I speak of God I mean the God of the Old and New Testament. I mean Jesus Christ. I mean him and him alone. I have run into spiritual teachers who say they believe in Jesus but they also believe in Buddha, Confucius, and a host of others. No Jesus said He is the only way. He is not a path he is the (one and only) path.
Now some of you may have been reading earlier in this article and raised an understandable question. Why should I be born in sin because of what Adam and Eve did? That doesn’t seem fair. Shouldn’t I stand or fall on my own? Hmmmm…ok do you really think you could live a lifetime and never sin? Have you ever even made it through a day or a week? You’ve never lusted in an improper way? You’ve never had hateful thoughts toward someone? You’ve never lied? Never cheated? We live in a world today full of temptation. We have Internet porn, unlimited access to entertainment of all kinds not all of which are good, streets full of sights and sounds meant to entice us to sin. Now think about Adam and Eve. They lived in a beautiful garden. No tv, no radio, no billboards, X rated movies. Just the two of them and God. Plus they were born without original sin. So they had a nature that could truly chose between right and wrong. Yet what happened when temptation came in the form of a snake but in the person of Satan? They caved in minutes. Do you really think you could have done better? Really? Ok so maybe you do. Maybe you think you could have lived a lifetime without every once sinning. If so you would have then been very lonely in heaven as I don’t think anyone else would be joining you! Was it really unfair of God though to judge us through Adam and Eve? Consider the flip side of that coin. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Paul refers to Adam as the “first man” and Jesus as the ‘last man.” Remember the story of David and Goliath? The Philistines had this giant of a man that no one could defeat in battle. There mere sight of him put fear in men’s hearts. Goliath taunted the Israelites offering to fight their best man winner take all. It was really psychological warfare as the Philistines knew nobody in Israel would dare take on Goliath with the nation’s fate riding on the outcome. What they were proposing though was representative form of war. We each pick our best warrior and let them decide if for the rest of us. We should be able to relate to that. Many of us live in democratic countries where we elect our representatives. We don’t get to vote on bills they do. On a much larger scale our military represents the whole country. During WWII the US had approximately 16 million men and women serving in the military in some capacity. That represented about 11% of the total population. In subsequent wars the percentages have been much smaller. Still 11% represented 140 million.Had they failed out country might have eventually fallen. Let’s go back to the free gift of God or grace. God could have left us in our sins, sent us all to hell, and we would have had no right to complain. Instead He freely gave of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus was our David. He took on that giant of sin and through His death on the cross and His shed blood he won the victory. He sacrificed Himself for us. Except His death was not the end as death had no hold on him. 3 days later her rose from the dead. All we have to do is accept his death and victory on our behalf and put our faith and trust in Him and Him alone. That sounds like good news to me! If you don’t like the good news and think you can do better on your own then I hope you can lead a sinless life. I’m sure it’s already too late for that though. Plus we are born in sin so you are born condemned and incapable of leading a sinless life.Jesus is the way. The only way.
Would the Good News be good news if you did not know the bad news? Imagine the king when the runner appears and announced we won the battle and the King says “what battle?” “All my troops are resting and none are at battle so I don’t know what you are talking about.” Until we realize we have a sin problem that has eternal consequences we are tempted to think we are fine. We think we are a “good person” and therefore surely God will let us into heaven. We don’t, nor could, understand the absolute holiness of God. He cannot allow sin in His presence. Not any amount. No one can be good enough.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You can’t earn your salvation. As we saw earlier it is a gift not something you earned and God owes you. It is “not as a result of works.” This is a stumbling block to the pride of man. We want to believe we are good. We want to believe we contributed to our salvation. It is a blow to our ego to admit we can do nothing to save ourselves. God has to do it all. Yes when we truly understand the “bad news” we are so grateful that God made a way. He could have left us in our sins but chose to send His Son to die for us. We can be washed by His blood and have our sins erased. We marvel that God would save us.
I took pains to explain this because in my next post I want to address the trend today to ignore the bad news and even aspects of the Good News. Many pastors/preachers today are motivational speakers rather than preachers of the Bible. They are more Christian Tony Robbins. Yes there is tremendous motivation in the Bible but Christianity is not about being healthy, wealthy, or being positive all the time. God wants something greater for you. He wants to give you spiritual health, spiritual wealth, and an eternal perspective that allows even the negative things to be seen as part of God’s great plan.
I’m not sure there has been a greater hijack in history than the holiday of Christmas. Name another holiday whose meaning has been so taken over by secular culture and turned into a major world event? Is Hanukkah celebrated outside the Jewish community? How about Ramadan the great Islamic holiday? Nope. Those holidays are celebrated largely within their faith communities or countries largely dominated by those faiths. No holiday has gained such universal stats as Christmas.
Yet Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many who celebrate it could care less about Jesus or his birth if they even believe in his existence. Perhaps a parallel, though on a much smaller scale, can be found in Saint Patrick’s Day named after an Irish saint. Here in the United States many people wear green on March 17th, drink green beer, and otherwise make merry. Yet most aren’t Irish nor know a lick about Saint Patrick. Really it’s just an excuse to party!
Christmas has become that. Some staggering percentage of retail sales take place during the Christmas season. Lights go up on houses, trees are decorated, plays and musicals and parties are held. People sing, bake cookies, and especially SHOP. The funny thing about the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is that on the first Christmas the gifts were brought by the Wise Men and given to the baby Jesus. They were gifts from men to God. The Wise Men did not celebrate the birth of the Savior by gifting each other or their friends and loved ones. They gave gifts as an act of worship and celebration to God. Now granted we don’t have the same opportunity they did to literally lay gifts at Jesus’ feet. If we wanted to give gifts in the spirit of the Wise Men we would give to the less fortunate, the needy, and we would give in Jesus’ name. We would have our children save a little allowance or do something to earn a little money to then give to the less fortunate. Yes that spirit does live and charitable giving is undoubtedly highest around Christmas but we are not generally jamming the malls and lining up hours early for the doors to open on Black Friday to buy gifts for the needy. We are buying for ourselves and generally family and perhaps friends who may not be at all needy.
What never ceases to amaze me is how stressed people get around Christmas. So many school events, parties, cookies to bake, decorations to put up, and shopping to be done! No wonder New Year’s is such a huge party. It is almost that great sigh of relief that Christmas is over! We survived the season and now let’s party. We agonize what to get Aunt Gretchen or if Tommy has enough presents already or you should get him more. We go into debt and spend money we should not.
As heartwarming as it is that people donate presents to Toys for Tots or to needy military families those children would not feel left out if they did not receive presents if presents weren’t what Christmas was all about! I’m not a scrooge and against brightening a child’s eyes with a shiny new toy but doesn’t it seem like the true meaning of Christmas has gotten lost in all this shopping and feasting and tradition?
Thus we have sayings like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Most hear it and ignore it. The ACLU fights over public nativity scenes yet you can’t fail to hear songs on the radio or in the shopping malls full of Christian meaning if you but listen closely. Of course we have Santa Claus, and Frosty, Rudolph and so forth. We love the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. Yet do we recall that at the end Linus read from the Bible about the true meaning of Christmas?
Much good happens at Christmas and many families are reunited and spend meaningful time together. That is good. I have mixed feelings about the hijacking of Christmas. On one hand I regret the meaning of Christmas is lost on so many. They may sing carols that praise God yet in their hearts they do not know Him. For many their celebration of Christmas has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ. His name is not even mentioned except in the name of the holiday itself. In fact it is become more common to say “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas” so as not to offend someone who is say Jewish or Muslim. That in itself demonstrates how completely Christmas has been hijacked. No one tells me “Happy Holidays” around Hanukkah or Ramadan. No sadly we have all but lost what Christmas is all about. As a child the big debate was always whether we got to open our presents before church of after. If after then church had better go fast!
On the other hand I am thankful for the spirit of giving to the poor and needy even though it represents a tiny fraction of what we spend on the non-needy. In an odd way I am thankful that over 2000 years after his birth Jesus Christ is still being sung about and the world eagerly anticipates the day we celebrate his birth even if it does not believe in him. His impact on history is undeniable. For those who think him a myth or just a plain man I dare them to name any other myth or mere man who has impacted the world anywhere close to what Jesus has.
My prayer this and every Christmas is that some will remember what Christmas is really all about. God gave us a gift by sending His son Jesus Christ. That was really the first gift and it was given to the spiritually needy which is all of us. Our response should be worship and thankfulness. We should celebrate God’s gift to us as the Wise Men did. We should remember too that God’s gift would not long later give his life for us. He would die a terrible death to shed his blood to wash away our sins.
Yes Christmas is all about giving. It is all about God giving hope and forgiveness to mankind. It is about the greatest story ever told. A true story. As the prophet Isaiah prophesized hundreds of years earlier:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
Now that is something worth celebrating! That is Christmas.
I’ve been on an online dating site and in filling out your profile you have various choices when it comes to your faith. A common one I see chosen is “spiritual but not religious.” That of course could mean just about anything.
One woman I corresponded with reported one night that she had just returned from a run in the foothills and added “that is my church.”
I get it how being out in the beauty of nature can move you, touch you, and be a spiritual experience. In fact that is very Biblical with the qualification that the “spiritual experience” should be your being moved to praise the Creator for His creation. Nature is God’s creation. When in nature we are in the presence of God but not just when we are in nature.
Even the unbeliever has a soul meant for fellowship with God. What they are feeling in nature is the awe of God’s creation but instead of worshiping the God who created nature they worship the creation. Their “spiritual experience” is not with our Creator. They are not praising Jesus Christ.
Church is the gathering of God’s people to worship Him. Church is a group of believers not a building but experiencing the awe of God’s creation is not church. As a believer you can and certainly should worship God when moved by the awe of His creation but that is still not church.
So sad though that people experience the awe of creation yet do not know the Creator. The handiwork of God lies before them and they do not realize it. Romans 1 says they are without excuse. If they can look at the universe and the vastness of God’s creation and not believe in Him then they are blind.
Usually when people describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” it means they have no concept of a personal God. They feel something spiritual but not toward God. In a few cases it may be believers that have had bad church experiences and for now are not attending church. To me it’s a red flag. Asking what they mean by it is always interesting.
The second attribute of love Paul gives us is that love is kind. He began with love is patient and now moves on to kindness. Kindness could be described as an example of love in action. What is wonderful about kindness is that it originates from within us. You can command someone to be kind but if it is not natural for them to be kind the command will have little impact on them and their attempts at kindness will be forced. Yet through the working of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be kind.
I should backup though and first define love. In the Greek language of the Bible there were three words all translated as “love” in the English. Two should be familiar to us. The first is phileo from which we get the word Philadelphia. It speaks of a brotherly love. It is a love two friends or siblings might have toward each other. The second is eros from which we get our word erotic and refers to the physical love a husband and wife would have for each other. The less known word is the Greek agape which is the kind of love God has and is also known as unconditional love. Only God naturally possesses agape love. As believers, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can possess agape love but it comes from God.
Throughout his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul exclusively uses the word agape. So he is telling us what God’s love is like and what it should be like in the life of a believer – a follower of Jesus Christ. So agape love is patient and it is kind.
The word “kind” is the Greek word chresteuomai, which means to be adaptable or compliant to the needs of others. This kind of love does not demand that others conform to how we want to love but rather goes outside itself to love others how they need to be loved.
It is a willingness to serve and to change in order to meet the needs of others. By nature we are selfish. We want easy love. Easy love is when you love in a way that is easy and convenient for you. Kindness is when you do something for someone for no other purpose then to love and serve them. Kindness comes from a soft and tender heart. It is able to put the needs of the other above our own needs. It also speaks to the way we treat others. Acts of kindness touch other people’s heart. It makes them feel special. They recognize that you are showing a compassionate, self-sacrificing love.
Gary Chapman wrote a best selling book called The Five Love Languages in which he posits that we each speak one or more of the following types of love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
According to Chapman we don’t just speak one language but we may speak one or two stronger than the rest. These love languages address how we feel loved and how we express love. The point of his research is to help a couple understand themselves and each other. Once you understand how your loved one experiences love you then endeavor to love them in that way. That may not be natural for you. They may desire words of affirmation and you don’t naturally think to affirm them through your words. Or they make value physical touch but you are not a hugger or expressive physically. This is an example of where love is kind. Because you possess an agape love that is kind you change in order to meet their needs. Your love motivates you to love them in the way that is meaningful for them. The easy love would be to love them as you like to be loved. If you love gifts then giving them gifts would be easy for you. Sometimes we make the false assumption that everyone is like us.
We’ve all have heard of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. While completely good and true we need to put an asterisk on the end. In doing unto others as we would have them do unto us we need to add a footnote that what we really want is for them to love us in a way that is meaningful to us. So doing the same for them means loving them as they need to be loved. It involves kindness. I don’t think any of us would apply the Golden Rule to say that since you’d love everyone to give you hunting related gifts for Christmas that “doing unto them” means giving everyone on your list hunting related gifts. Some may have no use for such gifts. In that application “doing unto them” would mean giving them gifts that were as meaningful to them as hunting gifts are to you.
agape love involves going outside ourselves and doing kind things for others. Simple acts of kindness, even to a total stranger, can convey love in a most powerful way. Christ set the example. It is a Divine act of kindness to save lost sinners. It is agape kindness that says to “Do good to those who persecute you.” Jesus showed kindness on the cross when He prayed to the Father to forgive those crucifying him as they “no not what they do.”
There are many ways to express kindness. It is not the act but the spirit in which is is carried out and our willingness to change to meet other’s needs. To be known as a kind person is a great testimony to agape love working within you.
I truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote that it is “better to give than receive.” Giving is self-sacrificing especially when we do not receive in kind. It is giving out of pure love for the good of the other expecting nothing in return. It is a desire to bless another with nothing in it for you. agape love is not a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement. It does not expect an equal amount of love in return. agape love loves purely as an act of kindness toward another.
I try to practice kindness with everyone I meet. I think it is one of the most powerful testimonies I can give to the love of God within me. It’s not forced though. I don’t practice kindness because I think I should. It just flows out of me because the agape love of God is at work within me.
So if you want to practice the Golden Rule love with great kindness. Some think kindness a weakness. No it takes more strength to be kind, to change for the sake of another, than to not practice kindness. If we possess the love of God then our love will be kind.
Recently my local Christian radio station encouraged listeners to call into their listener line and comment on their best Christmas memories. I have yet to hear any on the air but I imagine the stories will have to do with family reunions, loved ones returning safely from war, a last Christmas with a loved one, or just great fun times. As I thought about it I could not think of a single meaningful Christmas memory. For various reasons I won’t go into holidays in general have never been much celebrated in my life and I have no traditions around any of the holidays. While others are madly dashing to stores in December and attending all sorts of holiday parties and events my Decembers tend to be pretty close to any other month. This Christmas, like some past, I will spend alone yet I can’t say that bothers me. Oh I would love to spend it with someone but at the same time I don’t find it depressing that I will be alone.
Not having traditions has it’s advantages. For me Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I am not distracted by all the gift giving, events, and family gatherings. At the same time I know December 25th is just a day picked by an ancient Emperor since we don’t know the true day on which Christ was born (probably not in the winter though). As a believer I celebrate the birth of my Savior every day. So while it is nice to gather with other believers in a community celebration Christmas is not that unique for me.
What I told the radio station is that I don’t have any wonderful Christmas memories but perhaps this year will provide one. This might seem backwards but my dear sister is dying of pancreatic cancer. She has fought bravely since March but at this point the cancer has won and her days on this earth are nearing their end. It could even come during this holiday. While it saddens me to no end yet it is a powerful reminder of why Christmas is such a wondrous celebration. We would be without hope had Christ not been born. He came into the world to bring us the Good News and then to pay the price for our sins on the cross. Through His death and resurrection we can live eternally with God in Heaven.
For many the loss of a loved one at Christmas can forever dampen the holiday for them yet for me it will be a celebration of the birth of my Savior and my sister’s Savior. Though we mourn the death of a loved one because we will miss them so badly yet when they know Christ we know they’ve graduated to glory. We cry because we miss them and feel the loss of them in our life yet we cry not because they are without hope and we will never see them again. Now we look forward to that day we will be reunited with them for all eternity in the very presence of God Himself.
To me the story of the birth of Jesus overcomes our human affairs. In the future my celebration of Christmas will come with the glorious reminder that the birth of our Savior means I will see my sister again.
There is nothing wrong with gathering with family and friends to celebrate Christmas or to attend events and such. As Christians though we need to find our true meaning in what the birth means. Hope was born that night!
Paul’s great discourse on love, found in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, begins with “love is patient.” What does it mean to have patient love? First remember that the Greek word Paul uses here for love is agape. If you recall there are three Greek words all translated “love” in our English Bibles. Agape is the word used to describe God’s love. It is a supernatural love that is not native to us but can be practiced by us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Patience is not a natural virtue in many of us because patience requires self-sacrifice. It means putting the good (or perhaps the laziness) of someone else ahead of ourselves. If we are selfish then we will not be patient. Yet as we read the entire text of Paul’s discourse on love we will see that agape love is a self-sacrificing love and therefore incompatible with a lack of patience.
John Piper wrote:
“Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life the purity of the beloved” (John Piper, Desiring God, 206-207).
Patient love is other-directed love.It is a love rooted in desiring the happiness of the other as more important than our own happiness. In fact is a love that finds it’s happiness in the happiness of another. Think of an earthly example. How often must parents be patient in their love for their children? Raising a child takes tremendous patience as we are born immature and rebellious. If our parents ceased to love us the moment they grew impatient their love would be very short-lived. Patiently loving a child though is often easier than patiently loving an adult. The child is our off-spring and their selfishness is regarded as part of their immaturity and thus to be expected to some extent. We still hope for their maturity and our love for them enables us to persevere through much.
When it comes to a fellow adult though, be it a spouse, a boy friend/girl friend, a friend, a family member, a co-worker or neighbor, then we are far less understanding as we believe they are mature enough to not try our patience. Suddenly we become selfish and our needs come before their needs. We run the risk in our divorce friendly society into becoming cynical about relationships and we put our needs first and determine we will never let someone else’s needs trump our own. We look for a partner who will allow us to keep our needs first. If they will do so and your feel compatible then you seek a relationship but protecting your needs is always foremost on your mind. You’ve been burned before so no more.
Yet paradoxically such an attitude really undermines love and lessens the chance at future success. As soon as needs come in conflict, as often they do, then the solution is often another divorce. What makes love work between two people is when they put each other first and learn to find happiness in serving the other. If that brings you happiness then you will never lack for it. If the other person loves you the same in return you will both overflow with happiness. Both will have your needs met yet not in a selfish way.
Happiness is elusive in a sense. If you seek it you won’t find it but if you seek to give it you will find it in return. When you are not at the center of your world, but God is, then patience will go with the territory and you will possess a patient love.
Patience comes from God:
God’s patience give us time to repent and time to grow in our faith. Patience does not mean inaction but rather faith that our actions will be used by God for good (Romans 8:28).
We all know deep down inside that we are imperfect. We desire that others show us patience. Nothing is worse in a relationship than fearing that one wrong slip up and the other person will dump you. You know you will make mistakes but if they have a patient love they will allow you to grow through your mistakes having faith in you.
Consider practicing a patient love towards all. Remember too that our call to love patiently is not conditional upon being loved patiently in return. As followers of Christ we are to love as He loves. Agape love is unconditional love.Since it seeks not it’s own reward it does not matter how the other responds.We find love in giving love.
A final thought. That does not mean we should enter into a relationship with someone who does not love us.We can love them unconditionally but it would be unwise to seek a marriage with such a person. However we can and should always love patiently and especially in those relationships we already have.
May God grant us the grace to love with patience as He has patiently loved us.