Stripping the Christian faith of its hard edges

“Master, are you aware the Pharisees were offended by (what you preached)?”  (Matthew 15:12)

The truth has a way of offending.

Those who preach the Word must keep a sharp edge on their message.

The typical “liberal” church in modern America has no problem offending traditionalists.  What it cannot do–will not dare do, not for all the world!–is to go against the conventional wisdom of the day.  If the culture decides a thing is wrong, the accommodating church finds a way to adapt its doctrine and practices to the prevailing whims.  And so we have churches that call themselves Christian and Bible-believing ignoring or twisting Scripture in order to justify abortions, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, and the LGBTQ agenda, while erasing from their beliefs and practices anything having to do with the necessity of being born again, the role of the blood of Christ in our salvation, or the reality of hell.

What’s going on here?

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How to be all things to all people

I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.  –I Corinthians 9:22

Imagine someone saying, “I’ve decided to become all things to all people.”  You would wonder if they had a) lost their minds or b) chosen a shortcut to losing same.

That’s quite an assignment Paul gave himself.  He would, he informs us, become…

–as a Jew in order to reach the Jews.

–as under the Law in order to reach those living under the Law.

–as without the Law that he might win those who are without the Law

–as weak, that he might win the weak

And finally, as though to throw the net over the entire lost population, he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”

How does he do that, we wonder.  Is the effective Christian worker to be schizophrenic, parceling himself out to this group and that group with the intention of winning them to Jesus?  And how does that work?

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Was Jesus God? Or God, Junior? Is the Trinity a made-up doctrine?

“The Word was God…..The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14).

“No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22.)

Try explaining God.

We’ll wait.  Let us know when you’re ready.

Oh, when you’re done with that, tell us how Jesus is both fully man and fully God.  And how God is One, but He’s also Father, Son, and Spirit.

If you decide to punt–and simply dismiss the entire discussion as man’s futile attempt to define an unknowable God–then the discussion ends there.  God’s people who love the Word and believe it want to understand how it all fits together, what each piece is saying about our Lord, and thus to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

We never go wrong trying to understand God’s Word.  And the best commentary on the Word of God is the rest of the Word of God.

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Jesus and only Jesus. Why is that so difficult?

Only Jesus.

–No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there.  John 3:13.  How clear is that?  He is the One who knows.

–No one can come to God the Father except through Jesus.  John 14:6.  How clear is that?  He is our Mediator.

–No one can know God unless Jesus reveals Him to them.  Matthew 11:27.  How clear is that?  He is the Revealer.

–There is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Only Jesus.  Acts 4:12.  How clear is that?  He is our Savior.

–Jesus said He was given authority over all mankind.  John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2 and Matthew 28:18.  How clear is that?  He is Lord.

Here’s an outline that sums it up for me. 

It got me out of bed in the middle of the night recently.  Use it if you can and if the Lord leads…

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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you wrote it, thank several.

Teachers. God bless ’em.

It’s the most demanding occupation on the planet, certainly the most rewarding, and unquestionably the most underpaid.

Teachers have a great role model in our Savior.

A quick Bible study.  The Lord Jesus is not called the Master Teacher without cause.  Take one chapter of the gospels, Mark 8, selected completely at random.  Note the questions the Lord asks…

v. 5 “How many loaves do you have?”

v. 12 “Why does this generation seek for a sign?”

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Expectations all out of kilter

The curse of modern Christianity is that we expect–

–little of the Lord

–too much of the church

–and nothing of ourselves

And because we expect LITTLE FROM THE LORD, we are powerless, prayerless, weak, ineffective, and defeated.

Because we expect TOO MUCH FROM THE CHURCH we are frustrated, demanding, self-centered, and end up church-hopping or pastor-terminating.

Because we expect NOTHING FROM OURSELVES, we are lazy and spoiled, passive and shallow, and get offended when asked to do anything outside our comfort zone.

Luke 7:18-35 deals with expectations in three areas: What we expect of Jesus, what we expect of the preacher, and what we expect of ourselves.

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The surprises of the prodigal

“A certain man had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’  And he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, where he squandered his estate with loose living….” (Luke 15:11ff.)

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is iconic. That means it is typical, well-known, an accurate depiction of a thousand things about this life.  Understand that story and you know a great deal about how life works and what God does.

If you knew nothing more about God than how He is depicted in this parable, you would love him with all your heart.

You and I are represented by the foolish, younger son.

That son, the subject of a few million sermons and the inspiration of almost as many conversions, received a lot of surprises in this story…

One. He was surprised that the father granted his selfish request. Some lessons we just have to learn for ourselves, and the Father was a good teacher.

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Be ready for anything: A theology of surprises

“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Anyone deciding to start following Jesus should buckle his seat-belt and prepare to be surprised. Nothing is as you expect it to be.

Consider such statements as…

–“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

–“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

–“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

When I asked my wife for the scripture that comes to mind on this subject, she said, “When Naomi returned from Moab widowed and childless, she said to Ruth, ‘I went out full but the Lord has brought me back empty.’ (Ruth 1:21.)  She had no idea the Lord was about to put her in the lineage of the Messiah, something far better than she could ever have asked or planned or imagined.”

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The one-word reason why we will not fear. Not now, not ever!

A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.”  The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.

Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now.  Not next week. But in the distant future.

Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with.  For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you.  For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).

Wonder why they feel the need to say such?

Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.

I suspect their ploy works.  If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.

But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.

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The burning eyes of the Lord Jesus

“His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14)

In a Harry Bosch detective story, best-selling author Michael Connelly tells of a murder victim who, while being hanged, had a bucket placed over his head. Connelly explains to the reader that killers who want to dehumanize their victims often hide their faces, perhaps blindfold them or in this case, cover their head with a bucket.

Rapists, says Connelly, will often blindfold their victims or place a pillow over their face.  They cannot stand the pain of looking into the eyes of one whom they are destroying.

The eyes tell so much of what the soul experiences.

A reporter was interviewing a medic who had  served during the Vietnam war.  “How,” he asked, “does a medic handle the constant suffering he has to deal with day after day?”  The man answered, “Never look a dying man in the eyes.”

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