Monday, January 30, 2012

Rules, Rules, Rules

Some people think that being a Christian involves nothing more than simply obeying the rules of a condemnatory and unfair God. They charge that Christians are nothing more than hypocrites, judging others for the same shortcomings they possess themselves, while breaking all the rules they profess to honor. Then there is the dilemma of how a loving God could sacrifice His only Son to satisfy His anger against a sinful humanity. “Forward thinking” churches chide those that continue to respect the authority of Scripture as Biblical literalists that use God’s word as a war club to disparage those that have an opinion contrary to their own. Modern “Christians” have become so smitten with the things of this new and enlightened religion that they fail to see the plank stuck in their collective eyes. Those that lift up the love of the neighbor above the love of our Lord have indeed blinded themselves to the cost of this misguided love. Without first filling our hearts with the love of our Lord and Savior, we will find only an imperfect and unwise understanding that is steeped in human selfishness.

By allowing their members to have their cake and eat it too, the leadership of the ELCA encourages its’ membership to place themselves above our God. If they could just understand how much harm they are doing by affirming sinful behavior. It’s not the point that God has prohibited certain behaviors. It’s the point that by disobeying we place our desires before God’s will. Disobedience is willfully placing ourselves above God, believing that it is man that is in authority. Our sins are no longer held against us because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins with His precious blood. So, even though we rebel and disobey, our Father still has a place in His heavenly home for those that have faith in the Risen Christ. When we sin, it is not about breaking rules. It’s about the chain of command. Every time we sin, our selfishness supersedes our Lord. We place ourselves in authority, rather than looking to conform to His will. We need to turn our lives over to our Savior and that means placing Him first. Without Him, we are the nonproductive branch that is pruned, left to wither and thrown into the fire. If left to our own designs, we consistently make a mess of things. Without our God’s guidance we are nothing but human animals, looking to satisfy every worldly desire without regard to our neighbor.

Every single one of us Christians continually fall short of the glory of our Lord by breaking the 1st commandment over and over. God made us selfish creatures and that is in stark evidence throughout our lives. There was once a little boy whose friend asked him, “If you are such a good Christian, why do you need to go to church every Sunday? The little boy answered his friend, “Practice!” We need to be regularly filled with the word of God and to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can come to better love and serve our Lord. We need to continue to meet with other believers and dwell in His word, to lift up, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The only time Scripture is to be used as a war club is when using it in battle with the evil one.

As for the vengeful God whose bloodlust cost His only Son His life, Jesus said in John 10:20, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is one with the Father. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and three, together, yet separate. Jesus was with the Father from the beginning, the word made flesh. When Jesus hung on the cross, God experienced every ache, every pain, suffering the punishment meant for a sinful humanity because He was on that cross. Tim Keller, from The Reason for God, “Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Forgiveness is the ultimate surrender. To forgive means relinquishing any claim of recompense, in fact refusing to accept restitution for any damage incurred. Rather than punishing those that wronged Him, God took upon Himself the punishment meant for us, His children. He took the bullet for us and forfeit His life in order that we may live. He is a loving God.

Once we come to realize that our selfish nature places us at odds with our God and decide to submit to His authority, our lives will start to fall into place. We will gladly obey, for that is what is pleasing to our Lord. John 14:23, “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” We will begin to transform our selfish nature into one who gladly serves the Lord and proclaims His glory. When we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction, we do so, not to call them out as rule breakers, but to save them from themselves. Our love of our brothers and sisters in Christ compels us to keep them on the narrow path. 

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