Category Archives: legalism

legalism

Being Judgmental of Angels

So often, when people do crazy stuff and have their actions questioned by a believer in Christ, they respond with the creme de la creme of rebuttals: “Christians aren’t supposed to judge.”

It matters not they usually have no earthly idea what they are talking about, or where they even get that phrase; they simply respond with a pious sneer and proudly shut down any criticism from those concerned enough to say anything.

Sadly, many Christians don’t even understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Therefore, as so often is the case, unbelievers, who only know enough about Jesus to use Him as an excuse, intimidate Christians into silence.

But what is really sad is when Christians REALLY do what we’re accused of (make assumptions from which we cast judgment).

It happens all the time… like when we see someone on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Will work for food,” or, when you are sitting in your car and a woman walks up and taps on the window, only to ask if you have some spare change.

Who are we to say that they are lying?  Is it possible they really do need money for a fan belt, a gallon of milk, or a bus ticket home?  Is it just possible the scruffy-looking, unkempt fellow or madam you’re looking at is, in actuality, a heavenly messenger?  An angel?

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hbr 13:2 KJV

During this time of world chaos and financial uncertainty, it is far more likely that the “bum” on the side of the road is actually homeless or out of work.  Who knows for what reason he/she is there?  Are we to pass judgment upon them?

Maybe we should just love them and do what we can to help when we are confronted – or before.  In one of the same chapters that talk about not judging another unjustly are found the following verses:

Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you. – Luke 6:30-31 NLT

By not giving that dollar or two to the one who asks, are we not, in actuality, disobeying a direct command of Jesus?

Really, by not giving, are we not committing two sins? One would be that we did not give when asked; the other that we judged them unworthy.  It would seem to me that it would be the better part of wisdom, not to mention a display of our faith in action, to entertain the “stranger.”

Who knows, he may actually be taking notes for his Boss in heaven.

God will be the Judge. Just be faithful.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Do not judge, General Observations, legalism, Uncategorized

Don’t Be Skeerd

OK, so if you don’t get it, “skeerd” is “scared” spelled that way we say it sometimes in the South.

My Nightmare 

A while back I was woken up by a dream – a bad one. In reality, I can’t tell you for sure if it was really even a dream – it might have been real. I was walking down a hallway (I don’t know where) when a deep voice spoke to me, almost speaking through me, getting my attention.

The hallway down which I was walking was lit where I was, but towards the end it was dark. I was walking toward the darkness. When the voice spoke, it said something like, “I’m here, too,” or “You’re not alone”… I just can’t remember. I looked to my left and there was a 3D shadow…a walking dark shadow of a body…walking beside me as I was walking, and it looked at me.

The next thing that happened was I fell to the ground and started saying, barely able to voice the words, “Help me, Jesus!”

Immediately I woke up.

Honestly, I was rattled. That scared me. My heart was racing.

Then I got mad. I hated being scared. I knew that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!”

So I tried to go back to sleep so I could get back into that dream. This wasn’t over.

But the dream never came back.

Don’t Let These Skeer You

The dream I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago. In it, I made a list of things of which Christian should not be afraid. Below is an edited version, including an addition.

8 things of which a Christian should not be afraid:

Dracula, or any other vampire that stalks you through your window.

Just show them your cross. If that doesn’t work anymore, then quote Scripture. Of course, if you are a girl, then you’d be better off to just call 911, or better yet, shoot the idiot trying to act like a character from Twilight.

Disclaimer – DO be afraid of Vampire Bats. They have rabies. You may be alright when they bite you, but then again, you may be wishing your church family had something else to pray for…(I ended with a preposition, see?).

Atheists

If they prove that there is no God, no reason for faith, and no reason for the forgiveness of sin, then you have nothing to worry about. They can’t prove there is no God, you know, but if they ever did, then you are free to whack them in the head with the biggest hardcover KJV you can find. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolutes or basis for morality outside of what makes you feel good. Make yourself feel better when they take away your hope by knocking the grin off their face…they should understand.

Crazy worship styles and screens on walls.

No reason to fear these things, people. As long as the worship is from the heart and it IS true worship, not self-satisfying, self-glorifying entertainment, then God will be pleased. On the other hand, if church attendance continues to decline in this country, you won’t be able to afford the electricity needed to run the projectors and fancy sound equipment used by many praise bands. Where two or three are gathered together, there the non-electric bluegrass will be in the midst of them.

Disclaimer – For the record, I love bluegrass gospel. Sorry. Wait, I’m not sorry. Scratch that. I love bluegrass and want to see the words projected on screens in church for all to sing along….with.

Stray dogs that wander in through an open door and listen to the church service.

Had it happen. Didn’t mind. At least when the dog fell asleep he didn’t snore.

Week-long revival meetings.

Where have these things gone? All we see anymore are the 3-day kind, if not the weekend ones that include Sunday, but not Friday.

Just think, if we went back to longer revival meetings, then……wait…..does anybody have revival meetings anymore? We must be too skeerd of having to get dressed up each night; miss some TV we could easily DVR for later; miss a ball game or party, or hear something from God that might convict us. THAT should scare our socks off.

Visitation

What is there to be scared of? Why do we hate knocking on doors, prayer-walking streets, etc.? As long as we’re not trying to sell anything, then most people are happy to meet someone who cares about them. Sure, there are the few vampires that don’t want you coming around, but most folks are at least cordial, at least here in the South. Folks don’t like being banged over the head with your Bible, but they do appreciate being greeted kindly and invited to someplace nice. Just invite them to the King’s house for a meet-and-greet (with a little sweet tea and love, they might just figure we’re not out to take their money).

Change

Some things remain the same, and they have stones above their heads. Now, when those things come back from the dead, you DO have something to be skeerd….of (one more preposition misplacement). Of course, it all depends on Who raises the dead, too. Are they being raised to “walk in newness of life,” or to eat the flesh of screaming movie-goers? Either way, just invite them to a homecoming dinner on the ground and they’ll be alright.

Bad Dreams

Yeah, nightmares are not fun. Heck, dealing with anything demonic is not fun, either. However, God is still God, even in your dreams. He is Sovereign, even over the thoughts and intents of the heart. Therefore, don’t be afraid to go to sleep, particularly if you know that the God who created sleep is ALSO with you in the dark.

The next time you encounter a walking shadow or monster of any kind, call out to Jesus for help – no joke. YOU decide how the dream is going to turn out by inviting Jesus – the Name above all names – to take over.

Darkness will flee and He will deliver thee.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, General Observations, legalism, Witnessing, worship

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Business meetings
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and keeping each other alive.

Does having things over which to argue make us more spiritual?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

What Kind of Friend Are You?

Do you consider yourself to be a good friend? What makes a good friend? More than that, what makes a real, true friend? I believe there is a difference.

A Good Friend

Good friends are the ones you have over to watch a ball game, but don’t worry if the house is messy. He’s the type of friend that you don’t mind bringing along to dinner with the family. She’s the one with whom you don’t mind sharing your gripes and complaints, like when your spouse ticks you off, or your co-worker make you jealous.

A good friend is one that remembers to invite you to a birthday party, a movie, or loans you a pick-up truck to move a piano (God bless’em). They’re the type of friends you get along with, even though you may have different tastes or opinions. You care about each other and say things like, “If you need anything, just let me know.”

Job had Good Friends

Job (as in the Bible, not to be confused with Steve) had some good friends. Really, they were not that bad. Just look at how they acted when they saw Job after the tragedies came about.

And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.” – Job 2:12-13 NKJV

Obviously, his friends cared enough about him to break down into tears at the sight of his brokenness. They were good enough friends to even tear their clothes, sit down with him on the ground, and weep with him for seven days. They even cared enough to keep silent seven days so Job could pour his heart out in grief. They were good friends.

Superficial Friends

If the friends of Job had only been the partying type, do you think they would have come to see him after hearing of his loss? No, if they had only been superficial friends, they would have stayed far away from Job and his problems. They would have said, “Oh, that’s so sad…we should send him a Hallmark card…Honey, where are my keys?…I’m going to be late to the gym.”

Religious Friends

Anyone who goes to church has these. Religious friends are the ones who always have a smile and a warm handshake, but never really want to hear about your life. These type of people give a bad name to church folk. Have you ever met any? If you have, you know. They ask, “How are you doing today?” Then, just as you start to give a response they say, “Great, great…love your heart…well, I’ll be praying for you, honey, don’t you worry.” Riiight.

User Friends

This is not a scientific assessment of friendship types, but sometimes I think most friends are only users. When you stop and think about it, how many friends would you have if you had nothing to offer? At least Job’s friends weren’t users. They came around when Job had nothing to offer but tears. They came to offer him something – if only judgmental advice.

True Friends

This may only be my definition, but I think it is a good one:  A real, true friend is one who lets you cuss, spit, and even question God when times are tough. A real, true friend is one who will not only cry with you when you hurt, but stand there by your side as you kick the furniture, throw the dishes, slam the door, or even ask, “Why?!

The truest test of real friendship is how he/she responds when you say things you may regret. This is where Job’s friends fell behind.

Job came to the point where he “cursed the day he was born,” and asked God, “What have I done to you? Why have you made me a target?” Job literally became suicidal and terribly depressed as he struggled with trying to understand the reason for his troubles. But instead of keeping quite, or simply saying, “It will be OK, Job,” his friends started accusing him of wrongdoing. They blamed him for the trouble he was enduring, even though they had no proof. All they could do was pour salt on his wounds.

When Job cussed and spit, these friends said things like, “How long will you speak these things, and the words of your mouth be like a bunch of wind (Job 8:2)?” They called his painful rants “empty talk” and “vain words” which proved he deserved God’s judgment.

A real friend will let you expose your pain in ugly ways, with ugly words. Job’s friends should have understood that his words were spoken in grief. They should have understood that sometimes we say things we don’t mean when we are hurting, but need to say them, anyway. A real friend would have taken it, listened, and given only kind words of encouragement.

To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” – Job 6:14 NKJV

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, don’t be judgmental – just love them. Even if they say things that are wrong, even vulgar, let God be the Judge – you just love them.

Job had to answer to God for the things he said, but the only ones who incurred the wrath of God were Eliphaz and his cohorts (42:7). As I see it, God understood Job, but He found no excuse for the response of his self-righteous friends.

Don’t just be a good friend – be a real friend. You may wish you had one, someday.

  • Friends (anotherchristianblog.org)

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Do not judge, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

God-Centered, or Christ-Filled (Pt. 2)

Continuing from last time, let me conclude my thoughts on the difference between being God-centered and Christ-filled.

The Realization

When contemplated what I had asked of God (to make me characterized by a God-centered life), the mental picture of a wheel came to mind. It was the picture of a wheel with a center hub and spokes, much like a bicycle or wagon wheel. As I thought about this, however, something seemed wrong. Something seemed almost selfish.

You see, when you look at a wheel, especially the kind with spokes and a hub, it may not be obvious at first, but there are parts. In such a wheel I can distinguish the spokes from the hub, and the rim from the spokes. I can even see that there are spaces in between the spokes that are empty and not attatched or filled with anything – just empty. If God is supposed to be represented by the hub, the center of the wheel, then the wheel is not really all about the hub, but the wheel itself.

It’s about Jesus

The Apostle Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:28) that in Jesus we “live, and move, and have our being.” In a letter to the Galatians he said “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). It would seem to me that Jesus should be more than our “hub.” He should be our “ALL.”

That is when I thought of a different picture. This time I imagined a solid circle – a disk. Unlike the other picture where God was the center of everything, yet separate, here was a picture of wholeness. In this picture, if my life is this type of wheel, people won’t notice anything about me, just Christ.

All of the spokes (my life, my dreams, my habits and hobbies, my talents, and my desires); the empty spaces (the areas of my life that seem irrelevant); and the rim (the total expanse of who I am – my identity, my sphere of influence); each part is now inseparable from the life and power of Christ who lives within me.

May they see Jesus

So, I no longer want to be characterized as a man with a God-centered life. I want to be a man characterized by the life of Christ. When people look at me, I don’t want them to say, “Hey, that guy really knows how to serve God,” or “Hey, that guy really loves the Lord.” Even though there is nothing wrong with those things, how much better would it be if they could say, “Hey, I met this guy… at first I thought he was that man they call Jesus.

Remember, it was to the Church at Corinth that Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” There must have been some hearing this letter read who were deceived. Don’t be like them. Make sure your life is in Christ, and He is in you.

May your activities be “God-centered;” but your life “Christ-filled.” May the world see Jesus in you.

For Discussion:

Can you distinguish between a God-centered and a Christ-filled life? What characteristics would you expect to see?

Do you think someone could live a God-centered life and still be unsaved?

Your comments would be appreciated. 

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God-Centered, or Christ-Filled? (Pt. 1)

The Prayer

Just the other morning I asked for the Lord to make me a “characteristic example of a life centered on God.” But as soon as I prayed that prayer, another thought came into my mind.

Maybe being “God-centered” is not enough.

God-Centered Living

You may be asking, “What is wrong with that?” Well, there is nothing wrong with living a God-centered life, generally speaking. On the other hand, there is more to being a Christian than being “God-centered.”

“Outrageous!” “That’s blasphemy,” you say. Well, is it? Stop and think about it for just a moment. Start with thinking about what being “God-centered” actually means.

Does someone have to be a true Christian in order to live a God-centered life? You may think so, at first, but there may be a few church folk fooling themselves. Don’t believe me? Read what Paul wrote to the Church…

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV

Why would the Apostle tell church people to “examine” and “prove” whether or not they were in the faith? Could it be that there were some who were going through all the motions, but were never converted, never born anew? Could it have been possible that there were some doing all the right things, for the right reasons, but not right with God? He says that the answer to the test will be whether or not “Jesus Christ is in you.”

Can people live God-centered lives and still be lost? To help answer this question, consider the following people (names are fictitious). Do their actions guarantee salvation?

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including every other function on every other day
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there is a need, ask Henry for help.
  • Margaret goes to a Fundamental church, has the right translation of the Bible, and never wears pants – ever.
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans on the streets of Mumbai, India.
  • Scott and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, and even have gold crosses in every room of their home, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler keeps all the commandments (not just the Big 10) from his youth.

If these people were to examine themselves, as Paul asked, what might be missing? Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Is it not possible that someone could do everything for God’s glory (live a God-centered life), but still die without Christ?

What are your thoughts?

Have you “proven” whether you “be in the faith?”

Do you know of Scripture that supports a “God-centered” life being proof of salvation?

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Filed under Christian Living, legalism, salvation, Uncategorized