Archive for the ‘moralism’ Tag

Limiting Fellowship   Leave a comment

I believe, because I have seen it work, that limited fellowship should be extended to brethren who have drifted into the kinds of error we’ve been discussing.

What do I mean by limited fellowship?

In some instances the local churches these people are members of should discipline them and, if necessary, even withdraw fellowship from them. This is not done very often and, sadly, the congregations themselves frequently are led into the errors of these individuals.

But what can the larger Christian community do when a church will not discipline its wayward minister? Though formal withdrawal of fellowship is principally a congregational matter, fellowship extends further than the local church, so limitation of fellowship can also go beyond the local church.

When the Southern Baptist Convention voted to disfellowship New Heart Community Church it was withdrawing its financial support and disallowing its delegates to vote in the convention. While Pastor Danny Cortez had a point about churches that allowed their pastors to officiate at remarriages after non-permitted divorces, he had the Godly instruction backwards. We are not to embrace such immorality, but discipline it when it occurs in the churches. If churches would cease to support teachers who go into error, some of the rogues might be brought to repentance. Certainly their influence could be curtailed.

My husband Brad is a recovering alcoholic who will point out that Alcoholics Anonymous is not anonymous for the drinking drunk. If you’re not involved in AA, you may not realize that. If you’re off the wagon, they do not protect your anonymity. They will tell your pastor, your wife, your boss that you need help. They will call the cops if you’re driving drunk. It is only when you are sober that they will refuse to even share that they know you.

Churches really need to remember that. AA got it from us, by the way. Bill W. talked about it in his book. Yet, these days, when Christians face unsound teaching from the pulpit or Christian pen or open immorality in a church, we all get quiet and pretend it’s not happening. A form of discipline can be exercised by making the brotherhood aware of the sinful situation.

Christians have a right to know where a teacher or preacher stands on fundamental issues before they use his services. Some brethren complain about the “gossip journals” that are devoted exclusively to digging up church dirt and sometimes that’s justified, but more often than not, there’d be no muckraking if there was no muck.

If more responsible brethren would muster the courage to kindly and forcefully chastise erring teachers, there would be no need for the world to take Christians to task for our hypocrisy.

If Christian schools, churches, and journals would cease to use men and women who are openly known to advocate radical ideas or cause division, it would send a message. A preacher with no audience, or a writer with no readers, doesn’t have nearly the power of one who is being listened to.

This is not a call for head-hunting. We should not withdraw from every Christian who may disagree with us regarding various points of Bible interpretation. That’s a fanatical approach that has fragmented churches and made Christianity a reproach before an unbelieving world. But it is equally foolish to shut one’s eyes to blatant false teaching that undermines the spiritual and moral foundations of the churches. When the Bible says stay away from certain doctrinal aberrations, we should.

Church discipline needs to be exercised in love, but love needs to be tough. Discipline doesn’t need to be abusive, but it does need to interrupt the influence of evil coming from supposedly Christian pulpits and pens in the hope that it might lead to repentance or that the false teachers will at least be identified as false and no longer considered Christians.

If the churches truly want to be relevant in a sinful world, we need to start by taking the logs out of our own eyes before we try to deal with the dirt in the eyes of non-Christians.

The Temple of God   Leave a comment

My body (and the bodies of all Christians) is the temple of God. His home, so to speak.

I treat my home with a certain amount of respect because I care about where I live. In some ways, I can compare myself to my dogs. They don’t pee in their dog pen and they generally create a latrine for themselves in one corner of the yard. They do that because they don’t want to walk in what comes out of their hind ends. Similarly, I clean up around my house and keep my messier bodily functions sequestered in the “necessary” because I don’t want to live in the consequence of my humanity.

My body is the temple of God. I wonder how He feels about that extra 20 pounds I’m carrying? Does He object when His believers smoke cigarettes or drink to excess? What about when we have sex in ways that He has told us He does not approve? Does He look out of the windows of His temple (our eyes) and see what we’re doing? Does He weep?

In Romans, Paul talks about the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, about how we know what God wants from us, but we don’t do it. He corrected the churches at Corinth, Rome and Ephesus for not giving God His due in His temple. In Revelation, the apostle John warned that the churches were rife with apostasy. James, the brother of Jesus and pastor of the church at Jerusalem, was worried that the Christians didn’t know that God expected them to lead moral lives.

Christianity is an individual relationship with Jesus Christ as God and Savior. God has no grandchildren. My faith does not pass to my children unless I teach it to them and they accept it. If they live ethical lives based upon the moralism that I teach them, that is NOT to their credit. They must be born again — and that is something that happens 1:1 in their hearts, not in a congregation or a community or a nation. And, ultimately, we answer to God as individuals at the bema seat judgment.

If we’ve tracked the world’s mud through God’s temple because we loved the world more than we loved Him, we’re going to answer for it. Now you could argue that there are no consequences since Christians will not be denied entry into heaven, but consider this as a possibility. What if at the bema seat, God allowed you to see your sins as a Christian the way that He experienced them. This is God, Who abandoned Himself on the cross because He could not stand to look upon sin. Imagine what He experiences when you violate His laws, which He gave us for our own good, because you would rather scratch a physical itch than have full fellowship with Him?

We choose that and it must so incredibly disgust Him. Yes, He loves us, but not like some people dote on their cute little dogs. He loves us as a loving Father Who wants us to be better than we are, not for His sake, but for ours.

So, what do we do? We’ve taken a really long look at the sins of Christians. It’s easy to say “I should do better” and then just keep right on going. And certainly, there are Christians who do not believe that God cares that we’re engaging in certain activities. There’s no consequence. I enjoy my sin, so why stop?

What are the churches supposed to do about that? Frown at us? Make us feel bad? Keep opening the doors week after week in hopes that we will change? Get laws passed that outlaw our behavior?

No! The churches are supposed to discipline us!

When Christians are Of the World   Leave a comment

Ralph Seekins is a local car dealership owner and politician. Although I’ve met him, I can’t say I know him personally. He’s owned the largest car dealership (Ford) in Fairbanks since I was in college and he’s been in the State Legislature. I think he ran for Governor or Lt. Governor at least once. He’s a Republican.

He’s also a huge contributor to Young Life locally and is the most prominent member of the largest Assembly of God church in town.

He is a public Christian involved in business and politics.

There are significant numbers of Ford owners in Fairbanks who buy their cars in Wasilla or Anchorage (250 to 400 miles away) and drive there for service that you have to wonder why. I own a used Ford and take it to an independent garage. My experience with Seekins Ford is never good and that appears to be the view of just about everyone except the military, who are never here long enough to need any real maintenance. I can get a Ford part from NAPA for 1/3 of what it would cost me at the dealership and the longest I’ve ever had to wait is two days for shipping from Seattle. That same part will take two weeks if I order it through the deadership. I’m told by those folks who make that long drive to the Wasilla Ford dealership that you can get the same part there for quite a bit less than Seekins sells it for. In some ways,  the Fairbanks car market is a monopoly because of the distance to other locations, but not all local deaderships have this reputation.

Mr. Seekins is an important member of the Republican Party in Alaska, but it’s interesting how many of the folks who have had political dealings with him don’t trust him.

I think Young Life does good work and I have nothing against the Assemblies of God, but I know folks who will say both are phony organizations and they point to Seekins involvement as proof.

Here is just one example. A number of years ago, Seekins Ford donated a car for a Young Life raffle at the State Fair. Alaska has a weird state fair system where the fair is held in multiple locations a couple of weeks apart. Nobody won the raffle at the Tanana Valley State Fair. We were told the numbers were randomized and so the winner could be at the Palmer or Juneau fair. Nobody won there either. We discovered this because a reporter at the local newspaper decided to investigate. The promoter, apparently rattled by being found out, admitted  the winning number was not in the block of numbers available in Alaska. He pointed to Seekins’ manager making that decision. She obfuscated, talking about how this was standard procedure with raffles through out the country. Ralph said nothing — ever.

So all those people who bought tickets thinking they might get something for being generous to a good cause now have a sour taste in their mouths about Young Life and Ralph Seekins … and Christianity in general. Seekins talks a lot about family and he seems to have a good one. He speaks out against abortion and I believe he believes God cares if we abort our babies. He gives to the right causes. But he’s known as a crook in business and politics and even in charity and that speaks very badly for the God he says he serves.

I may be the only Christian someone else will ever know. I may be the only reflection of God someone will ever see. When I reflect the world instead of my Savior, I am misrepresenting God and potentially keeping people from coming to Him.

Think about that, Christians! What are you doing that misrepresents God?

Like it or not, you’re going to answer for it at the bema seat judgment, so you’d better ask yourself —

 

“Do I want to face God and explain myself over this?” 

In God We Trust   Leave a comment

Christians sometimes try to segregate God from areas that we consider to be “our” businesses. For example, we don’t think God really has much to say about the job we work in or how we conduct our businesses. I’ve heard Christian businesspeople respond when someone questions their faith because of dishonest business practices that “my faith has nothing to do with my business.”

Businesses exist to make profits for their owners/managers and to provide jobs for their employees that keep up with inflation and reflect the profit the employees help the company to make. You will get no support from me if you believe that profit is evil and that owners/managers should make less money than their employees. They take the risk, they put in the hard work of building a business, and in most small businesses the boss is the first there in the morning and the last to leave at night.

Jesus’ parables teach eternal truths, but they also offer surprisingly practical lessons into human interactions. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus taught about how we use God’s grace. We call the parable of the talents and it really is about spiritual matters. However, as with many of the parables, it teaches on more than one level. While it would be a mistake to brush aside the primary spiritual lesson Jesus was teaching, this parable also touches on the material world. It is a story about capital, investment, entrepreneurship, and the proper use of scarce economic resources.

It’s also a direct rebuttal of those who see a contradiction between business success and living the Christian life.

A rich man was going on a long journey. He called his three servants to him and told them to be caretakers of his property while he was away. He assessed the natural abilities of each. He gave five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to the third. He then left. The servants went forth with this capital. The servant with five talents went into business and doubled his investment. The servant with two talents did likewise. The servant with one talent hid his master’s property in a hole in the ground. When the master returned to settle his accounts, he praised the two investors. The one who “saved” the single talent, however, did not receive praise. The master wanted to know why he hadn’t at least put the money in the bank so that he could have gotten interest. He then gave the talent to the servant who had 10 talents.

Profit is not wrong! Using our resources, wit and labor to better our lives is not against God’s law. In fact, this parable suggests that passively preserving what we are given naturally is against God’s law. Jesus seems to be encouraging His listeners to face insecurity of life with entrepreneurship.

So what did Jesus mean when he said “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye?” First, you have to understand that the “needle’s eye” was a cultural reference to the man-door in a city gate. A camel could walk easily through an open city gate, but if the gate was closed for the night, merchants sometimes had to unload the camel of all of its goods and then the camel would crawl on its knees through the door. That seems less impossible than threading a camel through a sewing needle eye, but still a lot of effort.

The other thing to recognize is that Christian principles are often set in tension with one another. We have freedom in Christ, but also a voluntary obligation to avoid sin. We are to love sinners, but not excuse their sin. We may drink alcohol, but getting drunk is a sin. We are allowed to be angry, but not to let our anger become rage, which is sin.

Christians are allowed, even encouraged, to be in business and to make a profit. Our Savior said so. But there are some behaviors common in business that Christians should not be part of. And therein lies the discussion.

Posted November 24, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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It’s More Than Sex   Leave a comment

A lot of Christians pick and choose which sins they get incensed about and that is a problem for us that highlights what is wrong with the churches today.

I’ve spent a good deal of time dealing with sexual immorality within the churches. I’ve been careful to state that none of this applies outside of the churches. Non-Christians are already the walking dead. Christians need to be concerned with presenting the gospel to them so that they have an opportunity for Life. Until they are alive, we’re wasting our times (and more importantly God’s) by dealing with the symptoms of their death. Stop doing that and do what you do not want to do!

Look at yourself and ask “Do I reflect the Life that is within me?”

Before we can be good stewards of the ministry God has given us, we must make sure we are properly reflecting the Savior.

And, we’re not, folks!

Why are there ashtrays outside the doors to most churches? We don’t want cigarette butts on the steps, but let’s be honest with ourselves. If our church members truly believed their bodies are the temple of God, would we need those ashtrays? What about the pianist who is 100-pounds overweight? What about the businessman with the reputation for greed and fraud? What about the angry man who screams at the bank teller on his way to the building and grounds meeting? Or how about the gossip-mongers whispering in each other’s ears?

True, none of us is perfect and sometimes the world is just looking for our failures. And certainly the world loves to jump all over what it perceives to be failure when in fact it is pressing its phony standards of morality on us. And also sometimes the world redefines what is moral and then calls us evil for choosing to obey God rather than man. I’m not denying it.

I am pointing out that often Christians fail to live up to God’s standards, but then we love to point a finger at non-Christians and judge them for also not living up to that standard. Non-Christians (who are essentially spiritual zombies) are under no obligation to live under God’s standards. They’ll reap the consequences of rejecting God’s invitation to salvation. I think that status blinds God to whether they are sexually immoral. That’s the dirt on their feet when they have a stake through their hearts. Expecting non-Christians to care whether they are sinning is like expecting good table manners from zombies.

Christians, however, do have an obligation to at least try to live up to God’s standards. Jesus died for us. We accepted that gift. The least we can do is try to live our lives as accurate reflections of who God is and admit it when we fall short.

And we will fall short because we are human.

Your Morality Should Not Be Moralism   1 comment

There is a difference, but it is one that the modern churches don’t seem to understand.

Christians practice morality for two reasons.

The first is because we are grateful to God for His loving care toward us, for what He chose to do on the cross so that we could be right with Him. Our “good” behavior did not earn us salvation because there is no way we could ever be good enough to match the goodness of God. He did it for us because we couldn’t do it for ourselves. And it was no easy thing. The sinless God, Who absolutely hates sin, left the perfection of His spiritual realm to take on human flesh, struggle with the weakness toward sin, and then die on the cross and take on the sins of every human being that had ever lived or ever would live, so that every individual who chooses to accept that sacrifice can be forgiven and eventually enter into God’s eternal realm where there will be no sin. Imagine coating yourself in something you consider to be vile for the love of folks who mostly reject what you’re offering? That’s the love God showed toward us and for those of us who have accepted it, our applause for what God has done for us is that we make disciples for Him wherever we go. We do that in part by living moral lives by His standards of morality.

The second reason we live moral lives is that the world is watching us. Regardless of what the world says about our morality, make no mistake, they judge God by how well we keep that morality. Even as they say “Quit struggling and live like us”, they watch to see if what we believe has any positive impact upon our lives. When we live just like the world, the world judges that and finds God wanting. If God really has power to change lives, they think, then His transformative power would be evident in the lives of His followers.

Regardless of what they say, that’s what they’re thinking (I used to be one of them, I know).

BUT …

There is a difference between morality and moralism. There are things I don’t do because God has assured me they are not good for me and there are things that I don’t do because God has assured me they are not good for others. Conversely, there are things I do because God has assured me they’re good for me and things I do because God has assured me that what I do will be seen by others and have a positive effect upon them. That’s morality, which involves fleeing immorality to embrace Christlike living. Fleeing immorality can look different from Christian to Christian, which we will discuss later, but whenever the Bible speaks on something definitely, we should not argue with God, but do what we know to be right.

And, yes, sometimes God asks us to do things that are difficult and uncomfortable or to not do things that are pleasurable and fun. That’s another topic.

Christians live in this world, but are not of this world. We’re still human. Our flesh still desires the comforts and pleasures that our neighbors enjoy, but our God requires that we live different lives from the society around us. Why? Because it will be noticed, whether or not we are even aware of it. Jesus even told us in John that the world will hate us because we follow Him and if the world hates us for reflecting Jesus, we should not be ashamed.

For the first three centuries of Christianity, Christians understood this. Often persecuted, always considered less-than outsiders, Christians lived in this world but were not of it. During those 300 years, the Christian population grew from less than 200 in Jerusalem to more than one-quarter of the population of the Greco-Roman world. How? If you look at history, it was definitely not through the sword. Christians had no power. What they did have was love, but not the phony “love” today’s society wants to see. While not excusing the sin around them, they gave selflessly to the society they lived in.

An example? In Rome, Christians were accused of spreading the plague. They might have actually been partially responsible. When plague broke out, the Roman officials sealed off entire neighborhoods to try and control the spread. No food went in, no one came out. Christians would volunteer to go into these plague-ridden areas to feed people, to care for the sick, to dispose of the bodies. I’m sure many of them got sick too and as disease-transmission was not well understood at the time, they may have been accidentally responsible for the spread, but consider what they were doing. They were volunteering to go into a no-man’s land to carry God’s love into dark places — they were risking their own lives to care for others. Some of the survivors, impressed by this, became Christians.

This was how Christianity grew in the early days, before the Church had the power of the state behind it. Not only did it do charity among those society had written off, it rescued the children Romans abandoned to the element and lived lives that were different enough from those around them that some people found it attractive.

After the loosely affiliated churches reformed into the Roman Catholic Church, things changed. Instead of showing their light before the world so that the world either hated them or were attracted to them, the Church had the power to order people to become (nominal) Christians. Of course, they weren’t really Christians, because Christianity is an inward transformation that is evidenced by a moral life, not a series of rituals and regulations that your body follows to please some moral code. And, we’re still in that mode, folks! It’s been 1700 years and we’re still thinking we can change the world by changing how people act.

We can’t. Paul warned us that we can’t in Galatians, Corinthians, Romans and Philippians. You can’t make dead people alive by forcing them to live moral lives, because living moral lives is not what made us alive. The grace of God imparted by the death of Jesus on the cross did that. How can we believe that we are saved by grace through the blood of Jesus and not of ourselves (which would only make us boastful), and think that somehow we can set moral standards for the world around us and drag them along to heaven with us?

Worse, however, is that we think if we make the world just moral enough, we can mostly live like the world and that will be fine with God. Then we wonder why the churches aren’t growing and our children profess faith as children and then walk away from the church as young adults.

The churches today, in the United States at least, have become social clubs for prudes, bossy-bosses, and the unnaturally happy. We talk a good talk, but in reality, we don’t look substantially different from the world around us. We get divorced at about the same rate as the world. Our children have premarital sex at about the same rate. Our remarriage rate after divorce is actually higher than the society around us. Why are we shocked that there are churches that now think God is fine with homosexuality? Will we be shocked when in the next generation, churches begin to accept polyamory and, eventually, paedaphilia? All of these activities existed in abundance in the 1st century world that Paul ministered in — in the society surround the churches at Corinth, Thessalonica, and Rome. Paul, writing in God’s authority, told these Christians to flee immorality.

And, the churches grew by leaps and bounds even as the world hated them.

Why We Can’t Just Agree to Disagree   Leave a comment

The Southern Baptist Convention, which my church is a member of, made news earlier this year when the Executive Board voted to disfellowship New Heart Baptist Church in California from the Convention citing its recent decision to become a “third way” church on the subject of homosexuality. It’s not quite a welcoming and affirming church, but its members have agreed to disagree and not to judge one another on the subject of homosexuality.

There are several problems with this ideal … the first being that it denies the Bible.

“I am not writing these things to shame you, but to correct you as my dear children. For though you may have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I encourage you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason, I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christas I teach them everywhere in every church. Some have become arrogantas if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is willing, and I will find out not only the talk of these arrogant people, but also their power. For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentlenessIt is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-5:1)

The church at Corinth was richly blessed in gifts, but it was a young church filled with spiritually immature people (not many fathers in Christ). This immaturity grew all kinds of problems as they tried to be a light in a city that was the Las Vegas of its day. Paul told them — don’t boast of your freedom in Christ. You are leading others astray.

He uses a singular example of the need for church discipline. A member of the church was involved in sexual immorality. It doesn’t really matter what the sexual immorality was. Paul makes that clear latter in the larger letter. What matters was how the church dealt with it … or didn’t. This was apparently a well-known relationship within the church and Paul had actually heard report that the church of Corinth was proud of their enlightened view on this. They knew the behavior was unChristlike, but they felt they shouldn’t judge. In the words of a commenter — they wanted to extend grace.

Paul said they were wrong. They were excusing sin. They should immediately discipline this sinning church member because his behavior was reflecting badly on the power of Christ to transform lives. They had no business being proud of their affirming attitudes. They were sinning even greater than the guy who was screwing his father’s wife. Sexual immorality, Paul explained, was a particularly soul-destroying sin because it was something you gave your whole body to and it went against the metaphor of Christ and the Church as His Bride. Deal with it, he said, or I will come there and discipline the entire church!

He also completely reverses Jesus’ statement at the Sermon on the Mount — “Judge not or you will be judged.” Paul said instead “Are you not to judge those inside [the church]? But God will judge those outside [the church]Remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” he tells them in the same passage.

No, this is not a contradiction of Christ. You have to pay attention to who Jesus was addressing at the time He made the statement. Christ was talking about hypocrites judging others for their sins — those with a huge log in their eye trying to get a speck out of the eye of another. Christ was saying “You have a huge problem. Take care of your problem before you take care of the other guy’s little problem.” It’s important to recognize that Jesus was also speaking to unbelievers — non-Christians. Remember … the walking dead with the stakes through their hearts who think following a morality code will make them okay with God.

Paul, speaking to Christians who are enlivened in Christ, is saying, you with the dirty feet, wash each other’s feet. Police the church. Discipline one another for the good of the congregation and for the good of the individual and for the example the world will see.

We know from 2 Corinthians that the “evil one” was disfellowshipped, repented and sought readmission to the congregation. Paul gives advice on this that we’ll look at later.

Christians are meant to judge and discipline other Christians. But let’s be clear … if you’re a divorced and remarried woman, you are no better than the gay couple sitting across the way. If there is any shade of gray between your sin and theirs, it must rest in the area of repentance. You can be sure that the members of the 1st Baptist Church of Corinth had their own store of past sins. They’d grown up in Las Vegas. Many of them had come out of the society of sexual immorality that pervaded that community. There was no difference between them and the guy who was screwing his step-mother EXCEPT ….

They had repented of that lifestyle and were seeking to follow God and that made them eligible not only to judge the sin of this Christian, but also to discipline him for it — not to be cruel and legalistic, but for his own good.

So churches can’t agree to disagree, because God says we can’t. That’s not what the churches are there for. We’re not social clubs for getting together and feeling good. We’re schools for learning how to be better servants of God.

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

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