God’s plan is simple, but it’s not easy.
I ran across several articles in my social media/email this week which were thought-provoking, frustrating, maddening, and challenging. They cover a wide range of topics: an article about the church where some of my kids attend, why the Church (of Christ) shouldn’t seek a return to the 50’s and 60’s, and articles dealing with dressing for worship and whether Christians can have tattoos. While they seem to be wildly different, they all have one common thread: How should Christians and the Church look and act?
I don’t claim to have THE ANSWER. The title of the blog should tell you I am searching just like everyone else. Like Paul, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13-14). My real purpose for this blog is to share my journey and struggles in the hope that someone else may find some value here.
In studying the Bible over the years, I have discovered God’s plan for us is simple. Some of Scripture is deliberately obscure, but the parts dealing with our obedience and worship are specific and clear. The consequences for failing to follow God’s plan is also clear. It is simple and straightforward, while being demanding but fair.So what’s the problem? How can Christ’s church be so divided, weak, and messed up?
The problem is us. Although we like to think of ourselves as being enlightened, more intelligent, and more “evolved” than our ancestors, basic human nature hasn’t changed. Solomon recognized it, even in his day: “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which shall be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). We confuse technology with advancement, and claim our problems are so complex that the “old ways” no longer apply. But we still have wars. Murder, hatred, greed and lust are as old as mankind. The Old Testament book of Judges ends this way: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Moral relativism…nothing new under the sun. If there is such a thing as original sin, it is this: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Pride is Satan’s oldest and most effective weapon.
Sadly, this pride may even find expression in followers of Christ. We can claim absolute correctness in faith, doctrine, worship and practice but fail to demonstrate Christ’s love for the lost. If in our pride we see ourselves as pretty good people but are barely saved, it becomes tempting to think that those who are different than us are beyond the reach of God’s grace. On the other hand, pride may lead us to falsely believe that some parts of Scripture (usually those that support our own chosen beliefs) are more important than others, and we accept the former as authority while downplaying or rejecting the rest. We like the idea of Jesus as Savior but not so much as Lord. We look for loopholes in Scripture so we can live and worship as we choose but still claim God’s salvation.
Whenever we make the statement, “Well, the Bible doesn’t specifically say that I/we can’t do this”, it reveals that pride is still lord of our lives. We show our rebellion when we expect God to accept however we choose to live or worship Him, while we argue like trial lawyers that we’re an exception, we’re doing the best we can, and what He really wants is for us to just be happy and love each other, most likely in that order. We give lip service to being new creatures, even if the new looks a lot like the old. What we really want is just enough of Jesus to feel good about ourselves, but not enough to make us uncomfortable or change anything.
I apologize if that sounds harsh or unfair. We live in a world that dismisses and mocks Christianity while desperately needing what God has given us to offer them. While salvation is a free gift, it comes with a cost. God paid an awful price for us with the brutal, shameful death of His son, and He has the right to demand everything from us in return. First and foremost God demands we be holy. As Peter reminds us, “but as He who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy for I am holy’“(I Peter 1:15-16). Holiness means “set apart” for a special purpose. It doesn’t mean running around like little tinpot gods acting like we’re better than everyone around us. But it does mean being something so unique, so attractive, so different from people in the world that they are drawn to us and our message.
We are called to a high standard, that of servant, slave and sacrifice, because the Lord whose salvation we claim was exactly that. Whenever we justify an illicit relationship, worship designed to entertain us rather than praise God, or any behavior designed to satisfy our desires rather than glorify Jesus Christ, we deny our confession of faith, open ourselves to a charge of hypocrisy, and destroy the influence we may have had on those around us. Why should they listen to a “Christian” who is just like them?