She Must Not Be Silent


It seems to me that 21st century Western culture says that the church may be fine, but should stay in its own sphere and not really effect public life.  By contrast, God says that the church is His instrument of salvation and reconciliation in the world, and that, however much Hell would like to triumph over her, she will stand forever.  

Two very different views.  

Our day and place seem to view the Christian church with ambivalence mixed with a smidgen of scorn.  I argue that the Bible paints her as a blemished but divine sword, being forged (and slowly refined) in a fire to cut through Hell and sin and death and damnation.  She is an imperfect instrument being used perfectly.  She is a flawed body whose Head (Jesus Christ) knows exactly what He is doing.  The church is not a joke.  She is not irrelevant.  She should not stay in her Sunday school room and leave the world to do what it thinks best.  

She has the only message of freedom to an enslaved world, and she should not stay silent, no matter what the world says.  

“But we don’t want you speaking about that sin.”

You mean that thing over there, the one that will kill you and those around you?  That evil that promises God’s wrath on you and will afflict our fellow human beings and will bring judgment on our nation?  That’s the one you want us to pipe down about?  Well then I dare say our finger is actually on a very important nerve there, I’m afraid.  For I venture to say there is a reason you want us to stay quiet about that sin, as opposed to others.  

“But you must not carry that into work or public life.”

You mean I should check my Savior at the door, then?  I’m sorry, but that’s the very thing I must not do.  Both for your good and for mine.

“But you churches don’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

In some ways and in some things we don’t, it’s true.  But if we believe and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are a part of His massive body, His Church.  And He is faithful to help us speak His Word, albeit imperfectly, for the salvation of souls and the blessing of the world, even though each of our individual churches or denominations is almost certainly honestly wrong about some things.  The beautiful thing is that His Word is clearest where it is most crucial, and so Gospel-preaching churches will always be able to agree where it matters most:  The sinfulness of man, the perfectness of Christ, His death and resurrection as God and God’s Son to save those who will believe in Him, and His future return to make all things right.  

The church of Jesus Christ should not seek to be as harmless and quiet as our present culture would like her to be.  True, she is not a belligerent Bride, but she absolutely shares the convictions and the mission of her Husband:  The rescue and repentance of sinners to the glory of God.  

Christian churches, we are not to stay in a corner and do our best to not to bother anybody.  Read the book of Acts.  We have a grand mission.  And though it will frustrate many who are hardhearted (like our Savior frustrated many who were hardhearted), it will transform the lives of many others forever.   

We have a calling that only we can perform.  

And we cannot perform it by being silent. 

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60 Seconds Exhorting You Not to Complain


Ultimately, complaining is you indicting God. 

And that is neither a safe nor a wise thing to do.  

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.  Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity?  Curse God and die.’  But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Job 2:7-10

When you complain, at least 2 sinful assumptions in your heart are being revealed.  

  1. You believe you deserve better than the thing you’re complaining about.  This is sinful because you are denying God’s pronouncement that you have sinned gravely against Him, and the only thing that you truly deserve is His eternal wrath.  You are indicting God’s goodness.  
  2. You believe you know better than God.  After all, you certainly would not have chosen this thing that happened, which is of course why you are huffing and puffing about the fact that it did.  This is sinful because you are placing your own wisdom above God’s.  You are indicting God’s wisdom.  

For a complainer, the chief problem is not the thing he is complaining about.  The biggest issue at hand is the sin in his heart that his complaining is revealing.  

To complain is to indict God for not being good enough and not being wise enough.  And the fact that we are not right this moment in His Hell, the place our wickedness and selfishness merits, is proof that He is plenty good.  And His rocksteady Word and the fact that in contrast to Him I am a fickle, petty, shortsighted man remind me He darn sure is wise

So the answer to the bitterness and anger and fear and rage that swirl around your complaint is not merely to fix what ticked you off.  That won’t fix the underlying cause.  That’s just treating the symptom.  

Ultimately, the solution you need in the midst of your complaint is repentance, followed by wholeheartedly casting yourself on the mercy and wisdom of the God of Jesus Christ.  You must call your sin sin and then entrust yourself to the undeserved love of Jesus Christ.  

But don’t ever think that getting rid of the annoying or frustrating thing will be the ultimate answer.  

Complaining is the symptom.  

Sin is the disease.  

To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

Long, Long Shadows and A Light


Sin never stops where you think it will. 

Your repeated anger leads to latent bitterness which leads to relationship-destroying gossip.  

Your pornography-viewing leads to unmarital sex which leads to one parent raising a child in isolation which leads to crippling resentment.  

Unchecked sin always spreads, and kills where it does.  Like cancer.  

But one of the beautiful mercies of God is that He has given us a community where sin and its scars can be dealt with.  

The church.  


Churches are little cities of imperfect people, people who have been miraculously remade and who, by the grace of a very real and very compassionate God, continually confess and continually turn from the sins they still commit.  They know who they were (spiritually dead evil people), they know who they are (spiritually alive people being slowly made more and more like Jesus), and they know who God is (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who love to save sinners).  And because of these 3 things, these little collections of Gospel people are able to bring wicked and broken and scared and angry humans into their midst and minister to them.  Serve them.  Help to stop the bleeding in their lives.  

The world is home to all stripes of sinners who are in different stages of the pain or disarray or death that sin brings along as its trail.  And there is no one else who can get to the root of the chaos or who can apply supernatural salve to the wounds of all this sin like the church can.  She has been given the Good News that can heal and can save people from their evils, and from the evils that were committed against them.  She can rescue them from the worst of the violence and the trouble and the affliction of this world.  

Which is great, because this is not Mayberry.  This is a world of adultery and ulterior motives and hearts who will cast those they love aside for pleasure or power.  This is a world where sin has left some long, long shadows.  Sons deserted by their fathers, marriages in flames because of selfishness, grown men and women who don’t know how to be men or women.  And there in the heart of this world stands the church, giving the hope and the truth and the life that only she can give.  

This world needs her.  The single mothers and the heroin addicts and the workaholics and the shallowest of womanizers need her.  She is a city on a hill.  

She is where they can come for possibility.  For hope.  For adoption into a forever family.  She is where they can sojourn for all of the things that only Jesus can hand over.  

For everyone trapped in what sin has spoiled, churches are households of transforming mercy.  They are families of forgiveness.  They are little peoples of honest confession and honest love and honest Gospel.  

This is a world of long shadows.  Because sin never stops where it whispers it will.   Sin never keeps that promise.  

But the God of the Cross has given a light that can beat those shadows back.  His church holds that light in her hands, for any and all to come see.  

The Only Good Christmas

  
If you think you can do life and morality on your own, if you think there is some native ability in your own soul to please God, Jesus’ Christmas won’t be the good news for you that it can be.  

If you think you’re ethical enough or strong enough on your own, then God becoming man to rescue you and invite you into His family won’t sound like the incredible happiness it’s being offered to you as.  

If you’re trusting in you, Christmas as Christmas can’t be a joyous message for you at all.  The holiday trappings may still be nice, but what the day was created to commemorate will go right over your head. 

There’s a parable Jesus told about trusting in yourself.  It applies to a Christian whose confidence is in his theological precision, to an academic whose identity is in her degree and high-minded dialogue, to a social reformer who finds his value in being on the cutting edge of a societal revolution, to a cultural conservative whose sense of achievement is in her being different from most of 2015 America, and to a liberal Christian whose meaning comes from being (in his own estimation) beyond the other Christians around him in his day and place.  It applies to every heart that trusts in anything other than the free righteousness of Jesus Christ, offered only by grace through faith. 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed:  God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:9-14

God having come to rescue us from what we deserve is startling and beautiful, but only if you’re like sinner #2.  Only if you realize how wicked and helpless you are and call upon the sole person with the authority (and willingness) to forgive you.  

If you’re heart is hardened like sinner #1, it doesn’t matter what else is on your resume.  You’ll miss the point of Christmas.  God’s Gospel won’t break you and put you back together, like it did the sinner Zacchaeus in the chapter after the one this parable is from.  If you’re trusting in you, in any way, you’ll miss the point of Christmas.  

And, on a much grander scale, you’ll miss the point of life altogether:  Worshiping the glory and beauty of the Jesus Christ who offers pardon.  And for broken-hearted wretches, that’s ultimately why Christmas is a happy and hopeful day.

30 Seconds on the Right Kind of Compassion

  
It is not compassion to be vague on that which God is clear. If you speak with great clarity and force on the parts of the Bible our wider culture likes (mercy, the sinfulness of oppression, etc.) but suddenly find yourself hemming and hawing when it comes to clear teachings of God our culture doesn’t like (that sex is meant for Godly marriage, that repentance is necessary for salvation, etc.) you’re probably not being governed by compassion. You’re probably being governed by fear of man.

That kind of compassion, the kind without conviction, is usually cheap veneer covering a heart that craves fitting in.  It’s misguided, self-seeking, and it doesn’t usually accomplish much eternal good.

But compassion made strong by the truth of God and love for God?  That is kindling and spark for a world freezing to death.  

Jesus spoke unimaginably hard words from a heart of unimaginably deep love.  Real compassion is like that, like Him.  It can wound temporarily so that it can heal eternally.  The fake kind can’t even tell you where your problem is. 

This Thing On My Back

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The beauty of the Good News of the crucified and risen Messiah is that it’s for bad people. People like the sexually immoral Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. People like the thief and traitor that Jesus called into the Kingdom and into ministry in Matthew 9 (Levi/Matthew). People like the man being fairly executed for his real crimes right next to Jesus’ cross who repented and believed just before dying.

This thing on my back is my imagined righteousness. Or in different light under a different moon it might look like excessive shame.

I alternate between periods of trying to furiously earn the respect and admiration of a God I wrongly believe is cold and distant and an intense loathing of myself for past sins (or even imagined sins).

Instead of following a Jesus who has freed me, I’m tripping over my own feet trying to impress a Jesus I think wants me to free myself before He’ll have anything to do with me.

You can be a minister of the Gospel and forget it. It works like this: 9:30 in the morning rolls around, and as you’re doing your normal workday tasks the ways that you’ve failed and the sins that you’ve committed leak into the back of your mind. And instead of proclaiming the Gospel of God’s grace to yourself, you try to prove that you can be better. You try to balance the scales. Today, you think, I’ll be better… That is the answer to my guilt and shame and failures. And so instead of putting your hope in the finished work of the Lion of Judah, you put your hope in your own abilities and good works. Instead of seeking peace in the unsearchable, unfathomable love of God in His wrath-absorbing Son, you look for peace in your own newly-charged resolve to be a better person.

It is a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and despair or of spiritual blindness and arrogance. If you and I think we can impress God or that ultimate hope or peace can come from our good works, we will not walk in the humility, love, joy, and worship of the healthy Christian. We’ll be self-absorbed, self-pitying, self-righteous, or self-loathing. And most of all self-deluded.

The beauty of the Gospel is that it’s good and that it’s true. It’s far more good than any righteousness we can eke out on our own, and it’s far more true than any transitory illusion we might have of our own ability to impress God and man.

This thing on my back? It’s of my own making. And it crumbles and falls to the ground when exposed to the Gospel. Like sin, it’s power is less than the Messiah’s.

Look over your shoulders and see if you have one like mine. If so, join me in turning from sin and trusting in the Son. Our shoulders are weak and burdened with depravity; His are holy and strong as steel.

We can’t carry the weight of our own sins; He can carry the world’s.