When we backslide, a dozen things happen, all of them bad

“The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15)  

What started this was a note from a fellow who took issue with something I said about the church.  He had no use for the church, he said. Every church he’d ever attended preached a shallow message, the sermons were mind-numbingly boring, and the people were dull and listless.  After venting, he wondered if I’d be interested in some essays he’d written about the church.  I declined.

In our exchange, I said, “Could I tell you something that happened to me?  IEven though ‘ve been preaching for over half a century, at least twice during that time, I have gotten out of fellowship with the Lord.  What we call “backsliding.”

And when that happened, I noticed something surprising.  I became negative about my fellow church members and critical of the other ministers.  Then, when I humbled myself and repented, I saw them in a new light and found myself loving them. That was a fascinating thing to learn.

This was as gentle a way as I could find to tell the man that my money is on his being in rebellion against God. In his backslidden state, he is down on the Lord’s people.

Backsliding.  Interesting term, isn’t it?  It says what it is, and needs little explanation.

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Rescue your life from bondage to your emotions

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”. ” (Galatians 5:16)

Brothers and sisters.  If you would be spiritually mature and successful in the Christian life, you must rescue your spiritual life from bondage to your emotions.”  –J. Sidlow Baxter, speaking to Mississippi Baptists in the mid-1970s.

She said to me. “If I don’t feel like doing something, my heart would not be in it, and the Lord said we are to serve Him with all our heart. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

I said, “So, if you don’t feel like reading your Bible or going to church or apologizing to a neighbor, you don’t do it.  Right?”

She: “Right.  It would be hypocritical.”

Me: “Well. May I ask you, do you ever wake up on Monday morning and not feel like going to work?  Or, when you were a teen, were there early mornings when you did not feel like getting up and going to school?”

She: “That’s different.”

Me: “How is it different?”

She: “It just is.”

Her name is legion.  A million clones believe as she does.  And the most telling thing about her lazy philosophy is how she refuses to examine it to see if it might be flawed.

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False guilt: How to inflict it; How to safeguard against it

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home.  So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the door way, and He was speaking the Word to them” (Mark 2:1-2).

The pastor walks to the pulpit, opens the Word, and reads that text. Closing the Bible, he peers over his spectacles at his congregation–filling perhaps half the pews in the auditorium–and begins.

“Did you see what happened here?  The word got out that Jesus was in town and people rushed to hear Him.  You don’t read anywhere about them being told to come. There are no commands given here for those people to assemble together.  And yet, they came. They overflowed the house, so eager were they to meet Jesus and hear His Word for them.”

“Now, contrast that with people today.  They just don’t come to church like that.  If they did, we would not have room in this building to hold all the people.”

From there, this man of God who holds a black belt in guilt, slams the people who did get up and come to church today because some did not.

This is the cheapest kind of preaching.  And the easiest.

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The church’s dirty little secret

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there…” (Ephesians 4:14).

“Church is the only place on earth where people can throw hissy fits and get away with it.”  –a friend serving his first church after seminary.

I told my minister friend I was sorry he had to learn this dirty little secret about church life.

I asked for his story.  He had two.

A church member attending his class complained because she could not find her workbook. The pastor told her he had borrowed it for another class, and she was welcome to use his.  She said, “Okay. I’ll go home then.”

And she stalked out.

The minister said, “Would she have done that at work?  At the doctor’s office? I think not.”

But she had no problem with putting her immaturity on full display at church.

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Regaining the swagger

Swagger: To carry oneself–walking, talking, daily activities–with an attitude of confidence, even boldness.

Here is our Scripture for today, class:

“Be strong and of good courage. Do not fear them. The Lord is with you. Since God is for us, who can be against us? I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!”

There!  That’ll put the iron in your backbone, Christian.

Three quick little incidents need relating here….

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Remedial studies in the work of the Lord

“By this time you ought to be teachers (but) you need someone to teach you again the first principles…” (Hebrews 5:12).

Sherrie Waller, a member of our church and wife of one of our deacons, teaches math at the local Baptist seminary.

She’s training the next generation of preachers and missionaries how to count the offering, I suppose.

One “school” in our seminary is Leavell College, where people can get a four-year bacculaureate degree.  And one aspect of that, as with any college in the land I expect, is that students/graduates have to have a certain amount of proficiency in a wide range of disciplines, math being among them.

I can appreciate that.

Most of what Sherrie covers is taught in high school, had these future preachers and missionaries been paying attention.

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What those who are in the flesh resent

“For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not subject itself to the things of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7).

It’s not that believers and unbelievers think in different ways.  Rather, it’s that spiritually-minded Christians and carnally-minded church members (Christians? Let’s assume they are, but it’s hard to know) think and act and value in opposite ways.

Let the church take notice.

In an article on sacrificial giving, I made a statement that attracted some attention: Those who are in the flesh resent being told they are in the flesh.

More than one reader reacted to that in anger.  (Thus proving the point, some might conclude.)

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Some things the New Testament does not tell us

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.

Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.

Is there a verse of Scripture on that?

Stay tuned.

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Why race issues are so difficult for most Christians

“Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you…and pray on its behalf. For as it prospers, you will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

America is having a racial crisis.  Again.  Or, perhaps more accurately, the same crisis we have had for decades continues to the present day.

Here are some thoughts on the subject regarding the Lord’s people….

1) If you and I are of different races, we will see racial matters differently.

2) If your racial group is dominant and mine is in the minority, expecting us both to feel the same about racial matters is unrealistic.

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Every pastor ought to see a counselor occasionally.

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life” (Proverbs 19:20).

You need a counselor.

Particularly if your work is demanding, the stress heavy, your schedule filled, and you’re finding the needs around you overwhelming, it would be good to sit down and unburden yourself with a friend with gifts for wise counsel.

I don’t mean a shrink necessarily.  Perhaps it’s only a friend who knows the Lord and His Word, and has insight into human nature with a gift for discernment.  Usually, that means a professional counselor, whether they call themselves “pastoral counselor” or “adolescent therapist” or something else.

Don’t get hung up on titles. And don’t be overly impressed by framed certificates on the wall.  Wisdom is where you find it.  “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1).

I tease preachers about getting pedicures.  I’m in favor of it, by the way.  Some of them tease me in turn, saying I have to turn in my “man card” as a result of my monthly visits to the nail parlor in our neighborhood.

But I’m serious in saying every pastor would benefit from seeing a counselor from time to time.

So you will know, I came to this position late.

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