Thursday, February 26, 2015

No Room for Pious Christians

               Feeling like you don’t measure up is an awful feeling.  At times one can wonder if they should just give up trying to measure up altogether. The desire for approval, acceptance, and to be loved comes natural and yet can be very frustrating if not experienced.  Once that feeling of being accepted and loved is experienced, it creates a special warmth inside of us all.  The danger is that we can then become an exclusive group of people, rejecting others until they reach the same standards that we have “attained” in order to accept them. 
                  Most people feel that their perspective on life, religious beliefs, and personal preferences is the only one that matters, although it may never be said.  Many people would consider themselves perfectly balanced and represent the center point around which everyone and everything else should be measured.  However, if I understand Scripture correctly, the only center point that matters is Jesus Christ and His righteousness for each of us, and we all fall far short of that standard (Rom. 3:23).
                  The apostle Paul wants believers to understand that the mystery of the Gospel is that Christ loves all men and women equally.  There is no preference or preferred standing when it comes to His love for our souls (Gal. 3:27-28).  No sinner comes more stained with sin than another or is harder to save.  Every sinner who comes to know Christ and puts his or her belief in Him alone is dressed in Christ’s righteousness.  There is no advanced standing for Jews over Gentiles.  God gives equal peace and righteousness to all men through Christ.  This is the mystery of the Gospel that believers are equal, and that they are united as one person through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The payment required was His blood.
                  The problem is that believers can and do at times represent a religious elitism that hinders and misrepresents the Gospel message.  This type of spirit actually preaches another Gospel (a false gospel) that is not Biblical.  God reached equal distance to save us as He does the worst of sinners, for which the apostle Paul called himself (Eph. 3:8).  Some Christians are ashamed of the Gospel and never share it with others, but are grateful that they have been blessed with it.  Paul said that he would not be ashamed of the Gospel because it was the necessary message (the power of God unto salvation) that sinners needed to hear for the sake of the salvation of their souls (Rom. 1:16). 
                  There is no room for pious Christianity in the church or outside of the church.  Rather, a life and spirit of humility that drives believers to want to share the transformational Gospel should be our focus each day.  Imagine what could happen if we as Christians welcomed people the way Christ welcomed and valued others.  There is no room for an exclusive, proud, or pious spirit in the Body of Christ.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Strangers from God

I just returned from Israel this week and if there is one thing that has been reinforced on the trip it has been the work of Christ's love for His people.  Love drove Christ to seek and save the lost.  It was love that drove Christ to act and serve in very unconventional ways towards others who despised Him.  It was through love that Christ set aside His glory in exchange for suffering.  It was through love that Christ humbled Himself as a servant in order that we could truly experience God.   The Apostle Paul says, "...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:12-13).

Many people are intrigued and want to know more about Jesus Christ and yet not everyone comes to know Him as Savior and Lord.  It is easy to lose sight of Christ and fail to remember why He came and the problem He solved while absorbing the landscape and adventures of Israel (where Christ walked, performed miracles, lived and died ).  Most Jews do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and are still awaiting the true Messiah to come and to bring salvation.  Most Jews are just as lost as the world around us and have a need for Jesus Christ.  All men are strangers from God and are brought near to Him in a relationship when they accept the gift of Christ and His forgiveness.  Jesus Christ is the only one who can span the chasm between us and God.  He draws us near to God and it demanded the blood of Jesus Christ on a cruel Roman cross.

Needless to say, Christ was nowhere to be found in Israel because He is risen and is presently seated at the right hand of God.  It is where we would expect Him to be!  Christ has gained the victory over death and sin and we can now enjoy a relationship with the God of the universe each moment of every day as a result of Christ's sacrifice.  It was indeed amazing to walk down many of the same roads that Christ traveled and to stand in synagogues where Christ would have once taught.  However, the greatest act of love was when Christ laid down on the cross and allowed the soldiers to drive the nails into His hands and feet in order to draw us near to God.  It was amazing to think that Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) walked this earth and lived with a purpose to redeem mankind.  The trip was valuable as it provided an incredible backdrop for interpreting Scripture.  The time in Israel helped me to understand the broader picture of Christ's mission and the impact that He had in such a short time of ministry on this earth.  The world is still talking about His love and faithfulness to the Father and His people.  I hope to revisit the Holy Land of Israel and to take many of you back with me to appreciate the depths of Christ's love and ministry.