04 March 2010

The Christian Mulligan?

1 Corinthians 15:31
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

How many times have you been faced with circumstances in your life where you throw your head into your hands and think, "man, if I could just do that over". If you are like most of us, it has happened more than a time or two I'm guessing. My point; we all have things we wish we could have done differently. The good news is that God can use even our foibles for good, but will we?

Our Wednesday night bible study is going through 2 Samuel. In there we see David make mistakes, Amnon make mistakes, Absalom make mistakes and others as well. Bad choices are not limited to the Old Testament either. Most of the disciples fumbled from time to time. Paul fought God's will in his life and tried over and over to take the message of the Gospel to the Jews, when God had given that responsibility to Peter. Peter tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then later denied Him three times (not bad for the first "Pope"…), and was later restored. Judas gave Jesus up to the enemy, and in spite of feeling remorse, did not repent.

Mulligans are something we'd all like to have in life, not just golf. Yet as bad as we want them, would we really do things differently if given the chance?

God is a God of mercy. He is a god of second, third and forth chances. But He is also a God of justice, and we are fallen, sinful creatures pushed and pulled by the world, the old man, and by our human nature. But being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, each believer has been given authority and power over sin, the world and the old man. Our problem is that we give in to him too often. Our Spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. Scripture proves we are not alone in this position. This being the case, how many of us really would do things differently if given the chance? I'm going to probably shock you and say, not many.

Sure, it's easy to say, "I would do things different", or to look at a decision we made and failed our faith or offended a brother and say, "I've grown a lot since then", or "I'd never do that/act that way if I had a second chance". But let's be honest with ourselves and examine our hearts, and our actions, because God has surely already given you a second chance at a behavior, or a choice. Just because we do not physically go back in time like some ethereal 'slider' from some late '80's TV show, does not mean that God does not give us second chances.

How many times have we mishandled a corrective action with our children only to repeat it the next day? How many times have we been course without spouse one day, and do the same thing the next? How many times have we made a decision to do something, say something, think something ~ knowing that it is not God's intended best for us (His will), and then done it again sometime later on?

You see, God is a God of second chances, but we are children descendant of sin. Born as sinners, we are indwelt with the Spirit of God at our conversion and instantly and permanently forgiven of all our sin, past and present. We are given the power to overcome sin in all circumstances, and yet we still choose self over God over and over. We need to make sure the old man is dead. We will have failings, and for them we are certainly forgiven, but if our heart does not seek to please God rather than ourselves we will not change. We can never make the wholesale change in our life towards choosing God, until we have made the fundamental change in our heart. That change; Die to self.

Each day when the sun comes up, God has given us another chance. Each day we much choose to live for Christ and die to self. Stop thinking the 'what if I had a second chance', because you do. Even is an offense has been made yesterday, you have today to make it right. No, words cannot be taken back once they have been said, but appeals can be made and love can be shared. Make today the day that you decide to choose the Spirit over self. We are refreshed daily, why not die daily? To stip ourselves OF ourselves is perhaps the single most important thing we can do in practical Christian living.

Thanks for reading, and have a nice die… I mean day. J

02 March 2010


Standing firm against the world and tradition.

Mark 7:8
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

Funny how things work like this. I was reading to my lovely wife in bed the other night, something we'll do for each other from time to time, and the book I chose to read from was an all time favorite of mine titled, "Practical Christianity". The book is written by William Wilberforce whose life story was so brilliantly told a few years back in the movie 'Amazing Grace'. Something that I read there struck me, as it always does when I read this book. In spite of the fact that this book was written in the mid 1800's its content is still true today. The next night, I reached for a different book for my nightly reading, and the same theme is brought up again, this time by another author in a book that was just published in 2009. Funny as in God is orchestrating this in His sovereignty so I need to be paying attention.

The theme has to do with compromise. It's about allowing ourselves to get to the point spiritually where we begin to allow ourselves to slip in our convictions, allowing more and more of the world into our lives; he whole boiling of a frog issue again. Turn the heat up slowly and the frog will never jump out. He'll feel like he's in a hot-tub and the next thing you know he's cooked. The problems with compromise are that it is almost always done with our knowledge, and yet we allow it just the same.

Today I applaud the leaders of the new North American Lutheran Church who, acting as righteous dissenters, left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who last August voted at the national assembly to formally allow pastors in committed same-sex relationships to lead their congregations. At some point one has to say enough is enough, and choose the unchanging dogmatic absolute truths of God as given to us in scripture. Several hundred congregations of the ELCA have been functioning as rogues refusing to submit to church authority, as they should in such a case where church or secular law comes into conflict with God's law. Now, they will have their own denomination submitted to the Lord's authority on this issue.

But consider this: for this event within the ELCA to take place, someone had to stand firm on God's word, and stop the compromise. And compromise is exactly what it was.
William Wilberforce wrote: "Their standard of right and wrong is not the standard of the Gospel: they approve and condemn by a different rule: they advance principles and maintain opinions altogether opposite to the genius and character of Christianity." This is compromise. As we begin to give a little, the enemy takes a lot. In an explanation as to how we allow ourselves to get to that point, author Graham Scroggie said of compromise, "It causes us to be silent when we out to speak, out of fear of offending. It prompts us to praise when it is not deserved to keep people our friends. It prompts us to tolerate sin and not to speak out because to do so might give us enemies".

Let me be perfectly clear. The gospel is an offense to some people. Yet to those people whom are offended by it, they need salvation as much as the ones who are not offended but are still not believers. Galatians 5:11 states, "And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased." Paul is himself aware that there are people who will be offended by the truth because it goes against their traditions. In regards to people's faith, the truth often times goes against the traditions that people have known all their life. Truth often times finds itself in opposition to what we 'know' or have been taught. What we sometimes do not consider is this: We do not like to compromise, but the truth CANNOT compromise.

What does this mean? In the end we can 'think' or 'feel' whatever we like, and sincerely believe that we are right, and yet be just as sincerely wrong. We HAVE to give, because the truth is always right, the truth in uncompromising, and the truth is unchanging. And Jesus IS the truth. So to choose our ways, our traditions over the truth of the scriptures because it makes us 'feel uncomfortable', or because we are somehow 'offended', we are looking Jesus in the eye and saying one of two things:
  1. I'm offended by the cross, and I'm walking away.
  2. I'm offended by myself, and walk towards Him.
I'll close with another quote from William Wilberforce.
"Bountiful as is the hand of Providence, its gifts are not so bestowed as to seduce us into indolence; but to rouse us to exertion; and no one expects to attain to the height of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory, without vigorous resolution, and strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance. Yet we expect to be Christians without labour, study, or inquiry… The diligent perusal of the Holy Scriptures would discover to us our past ignorance. We should cease to be deceived by superficial appearances, and to confound the Gospel of Christ with the systems of philosophers; we should become impressed with the weighty truth, so much forgotten in the present day, that Christianity calls on us, as we value our immortal souls, not merely in general, to be religious and moral but specially to believe the doctrines, imbibe the principles, and practise the precepts of Christ."

[note: By the way, to my critical proofreaders, those are not misspelled words in the quote, it's the King's English!]