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Christian-in-name-only

In the last few weeks following the shootings in California, I have read countless blog posts on Christian violence. They usually come with a message that goes something like this: don’t be too quick to judge because Christians are violent too. This sentiment falls in line with the beliefs of the new atheists such as Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. These gentlemen believe that not only is religion false, it is dangerous. To make matters worse, many violent acts have been committed in the name of Christ. Past abuses, and current hateful actions have been done with a prayer and a bible. Children have been kicked out of their homes and ostracized by their families for being gay. People with depression, addiction, and the like are said to lack faith. People come to the church broken only to be broken still further by unloving denizens of stained class houses. This is not Christ. This does not represent his body. These are Christians-in-name-only, and they poison the church.

To understand Christians-in-name-only you need to understand culture, namely a culture where being a Christian is popular. The first century church did not experience this challenge, because in that day and age Christians were thrown in arenas to die because of their faith. No one was a Christian because it was popular. When Constantine declared Christianity the religion of Rome in 313AD it became advantageous to be a Christian. It was both the best and the worst day in Christian history. On one hand Christians experienced the full blessing of Rome to preach and teach with impunity. On the other hand individuals entered into the church with political, social, and economical ambitions. I’m certain many were converted to the true faith, but wolves in sheep’s clothing were let into the church that had no real connection to God. They went to church to be seen, not to humbly bow in prayer.

The Bible predicted this by the way.

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:24-25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

There is another culture that has made Christianity popular. In the not so distant past political advantage could be had by simply sounding Christian in the USA. A bowed head could effectively hide a corrupt heart. A “Christian” man could pray on Sunday then dawn a white robe and hang an African American man on Monday without a bit of remorse. A “perfect” family could go to church and sound Christian on Sunday while engaging in the violist of perversions the rest of the week. The thought makes me shudder. If these tares existed in the church 50 years ago, how much more do they exist today. I flatly defy such folks. They do not stand for God. They are not Christian. They are Christian-in-name-only, and it’s time they were exposed. The recent abortion clinic massacre, the bombing of the Oklahoma City building, and many others were not done by Christians, they were done by Christians-in-name-only. Because of them my God is dragged through the muddy streets. People blaspheme the name of the one true God because of these men and women. It’s time to expose them, and as luck would have it, God gave us a way. We can know a persons spirit by what they produce, what the Bible calls fruit.

“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:17-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What are the fruits of a Christian? They are called the fruits of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What is the fruits of a Christian-in-name-only? It’s what the bible calls the works of the flesh.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:19-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

A Christian can be guilty of practicing some of the second list, and a Christian-in-name-only can practice some of the first. The question to ask is, were do they typically fall. If what they typically produce is from the second list, I have to question their claim of being Christian. Bear in mind that Christianity is not works biased, but the evidence for the spirit in a persons life is that they will produce the fruits of the spirit, and they will shun the works of the flesh. Someone who shuns the works of the flesh will not lynch a man for his race, or shoot up a business because they do not like what it does. If they practice such things, they are not of the faith. They are not my brothers and sisters.

So the next time you hear about Christian violence from our leaders or articles on social media, remember this. Those who practice such things are not children of God. They are unregenerate posers who need to repent. If they do not, a just God will ensure they are punished in this life, or the next.

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The Gospel

What follows is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is truth in spite of laws, opinions, and current fads. It is true because it is founded on the authority of God. This is not my opinion, it’s truth. I am not speaking for myself, I am sharing the Gospel.

Here is the bad news. We are sinners, all of us….(Romans 3:23) A sinner is one who has broken God’s law, and the penalty for breaking God’s law is death. (Romans 6:23) We can try to do good, to be a good person, but our best attempts fail. (Isaiah 64:6) In fact, we do not naturally move toward God, but away from him. We follow our hearts which lead us to evil. (Jeremiah 17:9) Our state is desperate. We cannot fulfill the law on our own nor can we change it through our intellect or wishful thinking, so we are doomed to Hell. (Matthew 8:12)

Luckily for us, the story doesn’t end there. “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” (‭I Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭9-10‬ NKJV) God knows our desperate state, and he does not want us to suffer the consequences of sin. He did not make us to be tormented in Hell, but to be glorified with him in heaven. Because we can do nothing to save ourselves God intervened on our behalf through his son Jesus. (John 3:16) Jesus was both fully God and fully man. He was tempted in every way that we are, but unlike us he lived a sinless life. This made him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. On the cross Jesus suffered under more than just the cruelty of the Roman soldiers. All of God’s wrath toward sin was poured out on his Son. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, then rose from the dead on the third day. The penalty was paid and we can now enter fully into the presence of God as adopted heirs with Christ who has conquered both sin and death. (Romans 8:12-17) This is the good news, pure and simple. All we must do is repent and believe in the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)

Do not be deceived. God provided one and only one way to Him. All other paths lead to death. (John 14:6) The God of the universe claims that there is only one way to Him. Who are we to claim anything else. Good works do nothing, spirituality does nothing, religion does nothing. Only Christ on the cross and the empty tomb gives us hope.

So what do we do with this knowledge? We can either accept it or reject it. If we accept it we are heirs with Christ. We inherit the kingdom of God and with it eternal life with Christ. If we reject it we will suffer the full wrath of judgement for our sin. (Revelation 20:15)

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is sheer joy for some and foolish to others. (1 Corinthians 1:18) Nonetheless, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Why did Christ have to die?

My grandfather was a good man. He had a way about him that was both blunt and loving. He said what was on his mind without a care in the world of what you or anyone else thought of him, but he always spoke out of love, and as best he could he always spoke the truth. In his later years my grandfather became a woodworker. He made some beautiful things with his hands. Many of which are cherished and priceless to our family. There is one in particular that makes me laugh every time I see it. It’s my grandfather personified in art. It’s a small wooden box with a cross on its top. On the box is written “Why did Jesus have to die?” When you open up the box there is a mirror inside. He handed it to me after he finished it. I opened it up, and when he saw my reaction he laughed in that deep throated laugh of his and he said, “Straight and to the point isn’t it.” You see, my grandfather understood something that is lost on my generation. It doesn’t matter what we think or feel. It doesn’t matter how much we wish something was not true. It doesn’t change truth. Christ had to die a terrible bloody death because of me, because of you. Because we have chosen evil and sin above our fellow man, above our creator. Not only have we chosen it, we are slaves to it. And that face looking back at me from my grandfathers mirror is a profound reminder of the necessity of the cross.

You see, a true look at scripture is at once a great inspiration and profoundly disturbing. To start with, we are all sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭23‬ NKJV) This means all of us have broken Gods law. We are all rebels in Gods kingdom. The price of rebellion, written in stone and unchangeable since the dawn of time is a hefty price, death and Hell. “For the wages of sin is death,” (‭Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭23‬ NKJV). To make matters worse, our best attempts to right ourselves in the eyes of God falls short. “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭64‬:‭6‬ NKJV). Man has tried time and time again, through knowledge, power, legalism, spiritualism, dogma, and others. He has failed at every attempt. The most recent attempt is a form of altruism. An idea that connecting with the earth and kindness to others is enough to earn us a place in Heaven, but even that falls short. The problem lies in our nature. We truly are slaves to sin. “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.'” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭34‬ NKJV) We are trapped by it and bound to its fate, and our situation is hopeless, or at least it was.

Into this bleak picture of man comes a savior, Immanuel, God with us. A perfect man, unstained by sin, and the righteous judge of the world. He is both fully God and fully man. With the power of God he has power over sin, and with the brokenness of his manhood he is the perfect mediator between us and God. He was tempted in every way that we are, but unlike us he fulfills Gods law to the letter. This perfect lamb of God then become our way back to the arms of The lord or all creation. He is our way home, but the way home for man is paved in blood. Jesus must die. Jesus said “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭17-18‬ NKJV) Laws are fulfilled through righteous judgement. Prisoners are put in jail, murderers are executed. That is how laws are fulfilled. Jesus, the one righteous judge of the world, the one worthy of meting out that punishment on us chose to fulfill the law through himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John‬ ‭3‬:‭16‬ NKJV) He took our punishment for us. His sinless life and brutal death on the cross fulfilled the law. Sin no longer holds sway over us. We are no longer its slave. All God asks is that we put our trust in him. We must believe that what is said of him is true. We must have faith in the saving power of Jesus.

This wonderful powerful act, as good as it is, isn’t the whole story. Not only did Christ die for us, he rose from the dead. Without it our faith is in vain. “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭13-14‬ NKJV) If Christ remained in the tomb then he was not God. If he had no power over death then he would not have fulfilled the prophesies written about him. He would have proven to just be a man. That’s why the empty tomb is of such great importance to Christians. The empty tomb proves our faith is real. Our salvation is assured for all eternity, and we can enter into the presence of God the Father as an adopted child of God.

You see Christ did not have to die for me. He wanted to die for me. He wanted to die for you. He has the power of God, and with that power he could have called his angels to save him from the cross. He could have sent them after the Sanhedrin and burned the Roman soldiers where they stood. He didn’t have to die, he wanted to. That reflection in my grandfathers mirror, weather it is you or me, kept him there.

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How to speak to the lost world

How to speak to the lost world

Have you ever felt that you speak a different language than the rest of the world when speaking about your faith? Have you been misinterpreted or called hateful for sharing your Saviors words? The United States has in recent years become a difficult place to speak about Christ. If we say that homosexual sex is sinful for example we are accused of hating homosexuals. If we point out that we all sin, it makes no difference because who are we to judge anyone. Christians are rightfully frustrated by this and often don’t know what to do. How do we make our message clear to people who falsely believe that they have us all figured out? If we are to reach the lost world, we need to ask the question. Do we ask the world to change so we can reach them, or should we adapt to the world? And if we adapt, how do we hold on to Christian values at the same time?

The lost world does in fact speak a different language. They have been speaking to us for many years in a foreign tongue that we have yet to understand fully. Their thoughts, actions, and words are often so outside our experience that we have virtually no common ground. We as Christians are called to learn their language, not try to force them to speak ours. We are called to speak to their heart, without taking on their culture. We must be in the world but not of it.

So how can we hold on to our faith while adapting to the world? I believe we must learn and speak two languages. One for the world, and one for the church. When speaking to the church we are to call out false doctrine and stand against heretical teachings. Both of which are essential to a healthy and vibrant church. It’s part of what sets us apart from the world. We have something different, we have something set apart or holy, and it must be protected. Take the Gnostics of the early church for example. A direct result of the gnostic heresy is the Apostles creed. A statement of official doctrinal truth. Gnostics were claiming to be the true Christian faith and had to be dealt with swiftly. If the Gnostics succeeded in spreading their doctrine, Christianity would look like a branch of paganism. It would look no different from the world around it. This is vital. Once we gain the attention of the world, we must have something new to show them. If we give in to political pressures and public demand the world will simply look at us and see themselves, and the church will cease to be holy or set apart. In contrast, the church is not called to direct this doctrinal power toward the world but is instead called to bridge the gap between itself and the world. We must not treat the world the same way we treat the church. We must learn a second language.

Paul demonstrated how this is done when he went to Greece. He said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:” (‭Acts‬ ‭17‬:‭22-23‬ NKJV) Notice that he started with common ground, not an attack. He sought to build bridges not win arguments. If we are to reach the lost world, we must find common ground. Notice that this was no compromise. Paul gave up nothing of his faith to reach the Greeks.

In Paul’s time the west was dominated by Hellenistic culture. Philosophy and worship of the pantheon dominated moral thought. A tiny upstart religion speaking about the fulfillment of the law through the death and resurrection of its messiah must have seemed far off field. To reach the philosophers of Greece, the church had to become philosophers without falling into the trap of paganism. The church had an uphill battle here. What little was known of Christianity in the Hellenistic world was often misrepresented, and false doctrines continually muddied the waters.

So how do we speak the worlds language in the modern day world? Before you speak a language you must first hear it. We must first listen to what they are saying, without judgement or argument. ( For the church in America I must also add this. Do not listen with a political ear. You must learn to hear the heart of tea party republicans and bleeding heart liberals with equal clarity. Remember that Christ died for them too.) If we listen, we will gain access to their hearts, and that is to what we speak. As to what we say…leave that to the Holy Spirit. Remember that what you have is vibrant and beautiful. The gospel message is of such beauty and significance that no other message comes close. It is relevant. It is vital. It offers something the world desperately needs. But before we speak, we must first listen.

So church, take the time to learn both languages. Do not allow the world to stain the church. It must remain holy. Stand up to heretical teachings. Do not allow them a foothold in the church, but do not forget those outside of your walls. They do not care about good doctrine. Their only care is what is in their hearts. Learn to speak to it by learning to listen. What good is it if you win an argument with an unbeliever if in so doing you push them away from God?

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Why We Call Sin by Name

There is a trend in the world today. One that as a Christian I find disturbing. It’s a common and pervasive thought. It goes as follows: If we as Christians call something a sin, then we must hate those that practice that sin. I understand where this thought process is coming from. Some folks who claim to speak for God spew hate from pulpits and judge behind stain colored glass, but Christ did no such thing. When he confronted sin he showed love to the sinner. Those few that have failed to follow Christ’s example have created a false narrative on Christian thought. So here is my humble (and possible feeble) attempt to set the record straight.

Who does the Bible label as a sinner?

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:21-24 NKJV)

All….. not some, not even most, but all. That’s you, me, and the rest of the world. We are all sinners. We have all broken Gods law. So when I call a behavior a sin, what I’m really saying is that its practitioners are human.

So why do we point it out? Why do we insist on calling sin what it is if no one lives a life apart from it. It’s like stating that a man breaths or eats daily. It has no bearing on day to day life.

Put simply, it’s an essential part of the gospel message.

So how does sin fit into the gospel?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 NKJV)e

This is the account of the fall of man. Adam and Eve were in the garden and were told they could eat of any tree in the garden but one. They disobeyed God (sin) and ate the forbidden fruit. They rebelled against God and his law. Man, at this turning point in history, developed a sin nature. Their relationship with God was marred. They could no longer stay in the garden. They would never be able to walk with God in the same way they enjoyed before.

God pronounced their doom.

In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 NKJV)

Or as Paul says “For the wages of sin is death..,…..” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)

Not only is death a punishment for sin, but those who die in their sins will suffer a second spiritual death.

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 NKJV)

The ultimate punishment for sin is Hell.

To top it all off, we can do nothing about it. We are who we are. We can live a life of sacrifice, of love and honor towards our fellow man, but God says, “but we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;……” (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

Here’s the kicker, as Christians we believe that we deserve this punishment. Not just the world in general, but me. The guy who looks at me through the mirror each morning. I deserve death and Hell.

This realization leads us to the thrown of God for mercy, and he gives it in spades. Not by rewriting his laws or compromising his statutes, but by sending his Son to take our punishment for us.

Why shouldn’t we then be focused on the mercy of God instead of sin?

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19, 20 NKJV)

Before we can reach out to God for mercy, we must first know sin. We must see the darkness in ourselves, and our desperate need for a savior.

As Christians we call sin what it is because we love sinners. There is no hatred or vitriol in this. We simply want the world to cry out for the mercies of God. We want the world to come to Christ and be saved. We want this because God wants it too.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3, 4 NKJV)

What if we didn’t speak about sin? What if we left it out of the equation? What would happen then? I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither do you, but here is what I think. No one would come to Christ. No one would realize how desperately they need him. No one would seek him out, and we all would be guilty before God as a result. Is it fair toward those who are lost to fail in telling them they are lost? Especially knowing the consequences of sin.

The Bible is very clear on what is right and wrong. To deny this truth or make exceptions because of political pressures is to condemn the lost to die lost. They don’t seek out help because they are still self reliant. We as a people need to be brought to the end of ourselves before we know we need rescuing. This is the purpose of the law.

So the Christian message is this. You are not Ok the way you are. You are a sinner. Death and Hell are your just punishments for sin. However, Christ has overcome the grave. He has risen. In so doing our hope remains. Our punishment was meted out on our Savior. He took the weight of the worlds sin and died for the redemption of man. Now all we have to do is believe.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18 NKJV)

Once we believe, he will neither leave us nor forsake us.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 NKJV)

But ……..Before these…. Before Heaven…… Before Grace, we must first know sin. We must first see our desperation. We must have the darkness before the dawn. That’s why we call sin what it is. You are in need of a savior. You are a sinner. God loves you in spite of your sin. He sees the darkest parts of your heart and loves you anyway. That’s the true beauty of the gospel message.

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The sad state of the Church

Do you want to know how Christ would respond to today’s society? Simply substitute a few words in the gospel. For prostitutes (a lifestyle that was shunned) say homosexual. For tax collector (the corrupt arm of the Roman government) say corrupt politician. For Samaritan (the race of people that were shunned) say Mexicans or Muslims. For lepers (the diseased and unclean) say special needs or mentally ill. For Pharisees (the legalistic religious leaders) say legalistic churches. On whom would Jesus show compassion? Who would he call hypocrites and white washed tombs?

Truth test 1

How did Jesus respond to the prostitute (Homosexual)?

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” ………………. “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” …………………… Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. ……………….He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11 NKJV)

He had compassion. He did not condone her actions, but He forgave her. The message is clear. When dealing with sinners, remember that you are one as well.

Truth test 2

How did Jesus respond to the tax collector (corrupt politician) ?

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich………………… (Jesus said ) “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. ………. Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NKJV)

Jesus ate with him. Notice that by simply showing him kindness Zacchaeus repented of his sins. He didn’t insult him or belittle him. He loved him. Tax collectors were hated in there day. Jesus ate with them and even made one his disciple.

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” (Luke 5:27 NKJV)

Truth test 3

How did Jesus respond to the Samaritan (Mexicans and Muslems)?

Did he shun them? Did he make jokes about them or belittle them? Lets take a look.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:7-10 NKJV)

His grace and mercy are extended to all. Race, creed, and color never separated them from his love.

Some might say “If you are replacing the word Samaritans with Muslims, then surely you understand that they are our enemy.”

What does the Bible say about enemies?

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 NKJV)

Truth test 4

How did Jesus respond to the lepers (special needs, mentally ill)?

When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:1-3 NKJV)

What is so amazing about this passage is he touched him. Many miracles were done in many ways. Some were done from a long distance. Others required that they simply stretch out there hand. Lepers were required to yell UNCLEAN when around others. Simply touching a leper could cause the disease to spread. Imagine a life where you could not be touched. What would you long for? What would you dream? He healed his body, and by touching him took away his shame. How do we treat the mentally ill? I’ll tell you what they report. They hear ” just get over it” or worse “your faking it to get attention.” People with special needs fair no better. A place is rarely found for them in a church. Families are asked not to come to church because “We can’t handle your child” or “Your child’s noises are disturbing our service.” Pastors are fired because a family member is mentally ill and spouses are forced to stay home with a special needs child because the church refuses to minister to them. In contrast, Jesus was willing to become a leper himself to show mercy to them.

Truth test 5

How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees? (Legalistic churches)

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:1-4 NKJV)

Jesus’s main issue with the Pharisees was their legalism. They were full of thou shalt not, but lacked mercy. They put the law on men’s shoulders but forgot forgiveness. Here is what he said of them..

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, “ But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:1, 13-15, 23-36 NKJV)

But you say, “This is too hard. The church is not like the Pharisees.” No it’s not, but the spirit of the Pharisees is creeping in among us like wolves in sheep’s clothing. We pile on rules and regulation on people and forget the law of grace. We sing “Just as I am” unless of course your gay. We scream at politicians when we should be praying for them. We make jokes about Mexicans and Muslims instead of reaching out to them. And we find no place in our churches for those different than us. Church…. Reconnect with God. Deal with the world the way He dealt with it, with love, peace, and grace.

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Alcohol

A few months after starting our new life group at church, the group decided to go to a pizza place here in town. Given that I can’t say no to a good pizza with friends, my wife and I happily joined the fun. Our waiter came to our table and we started ordering drinks. ” What would you like Sir?” “Water please.” “And you?” “Tea, thank you.” On and on it went until my turn. “Sam Adams please.” I would like to tell you that I ordered that drink as a thought out plan to educate my tea totaling Christian friends on the virtues of alcohol. In all honesty though, I just wanted a beer. To there credit, I didn’t get bombarded with sharp looks or awkward silence. What I got was a sigh of relief. When the waiter brought us our drinks, one of our friends who was with us said “I’d like a beer too.” Our host graciously trekked off to the bar only to return to hear, “I’d like one too please.” One at a time (I’m not kidding) we made this poor guy get all of us some form of alcohol. The result of our imbibing in frothy beverages……a greater and deeper sense of fellowship. We talked of our mutual love for the drink. Our favorite microbreweries were discussed in detail. In a literal since, the drinks loosed our tongues. It’s one of my favorite memories from that group.  I have since imbibed with them on numerous occasions. Alcohol and fellowship with these amazing individuals seem to go hand in hand. The real question though is why were we afraid to admit to each other that we enjoyed a good beer with our dinner? Christians are strongly divided on this issue. When we get together we are hesitant to even talk about it for fear of offending our brothers.  Lets set aside opinions for a moment and take the truth test. What does the bible say about alcohol? I do have a strong opinion on this, but I will try my best to push it aside. 

Truth Test 1  What does the bible say about alcohol?

Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. (Genesis 27:28 NKJV)

It’s a gift from God. 

Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. (I Timothy 3:8, 9 NKJV)

There are rules associated with its consumption.

Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. (Ecclesiastes 9:7 NKJV)

But it’s not forbidden.

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:33, 34 NKJV)

Jesus drank wine

The truth is the Bible says both good and bad things about alcohol. It says “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise”. (Proverbs 20:1 NKJV) It also says, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities”. (I Timothy 5:23 NKJV) How do we answer this question then? Is drinking alcohol good or bad? The evils of wine are in its abuse. Wine can make the heart merry, but it can also lead to drunkenness. On top of that, wine can be addictive. If a substance is abused, is the substance itself bad or is the abuser the one to blame? Abstainers and Prohibitionist would argue that even a little wine leads to drunkenness, so the substance is at fault. I would argue that sex is also addictive and can lead to abuses, but that does not mean that we should abolish or abstain from sex. 

Another argument frequently used by abstainers is the meaning of the word wine. Did it mean the same thing as our modern day wine or was it a weak or nonalcoholic drink? For that we need a historic perspective. 

Weak forms of wine, as well as grape juice is found in biblical times. The deluded forms were actually quite rare however and most wine at that time was between 5 and 20% alcohol. Plenty to get someone drunk. There also was a type of kosher wine  that was common in Israel during the time of Christ and was fermented. Also, grape juice naturally turns to alcohol due to the natural yeast found on its skin. The only way to get grape juice was to drink it freshly crushed. Modern pasteurization has made grape juice more prevalent. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_in_the_Bible) There stands a chance then that Jesus drank the rare grape juice or weak wine, but it seems unlikely. 

Abstainers are right on one point. To alcoholics alcohol is sinful. The Devil has made them a slave to it. To break free from that slavery, they must abstain. To deal with sin Jesus said 
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—” (Mark 9:47 NKJV) Jesus is not advocating self mutilation here. He is saying, be willing to take drastic measures to deal with sin. Abstaining from alcohol, a good and joyous gift from God, is drastic. Addictions happen when the love for creation exceeds the love for the Creator. The slave to the addiction is using the behavior as a means of medicating problems in their own life instead of truly trusting in God to help them deal with it. The advantage of alcohol is that it is not necessary for life. You can abstain from it and live. Those addicted to food and money don’t have the same luxury. 

Truth Test 2: How should we as christians respond to alcohol?

Paul sums it up nicely.

“I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. (Romans 14:14-17 NKJV)

To put it another way: If you are with a brother who is an abstainer (offended by alcohol), or they are an alcoholic (made to stumble by alcohol), then abstain yourself for the sake of your brother. If you are with like minded brothers, then eat and drink to the glory of God.

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