Remember What We Are Called To

1 Pet 3 15

The Supreme Court announced their decision regarding state issued bans on same-sex marriage on Friday morning. Social media came alive with reaction; supporters changed their profile image to the rainbow flag and used the hashtag #lovewins, some angry Christians expressed despair in the collapse of America and quoted verses from Leviticus. But what caught my attention were the Christians that calmly reminded us we live in and also apart from the culture we are immersed in.

I pastor a small SBC church in the deep South. Below is my Sunday morning sermon, directed to my own congregation with all Christians everywhere in mind. Whatever your initial reaction was to Friday’s news, please prayerfully consider this position:

1 Peter 3:15 is the basis for Christian Apologetics. Apologetics may sound like apologizing but an apologist is one that defends the Christian faith. It’s about being prepared to answer questions about why we believe what we believe. One must be well versed in scripture and certain that his own faith has been built on a sure foundation. Apologetics may involve boldness, defending a faith that is not always popular, but care must also be taken not to offend. We will offend people by sharing the Gospel; but we must be sure is the cross that offends and not us.

We must remember what we are called to. (1 Peter 3:13-17) We are called to live differently than the world. We are surrounded by and active participants in society but our values and judgement system is different. We are called to walk circumspectly and to show our faith by living according to our principles. We are called to go into all the world and make disciples (Mark 16:15) to demonstrate our faith by the action of our good works (James 2:17) to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16).

We are called to spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-18 is all about putting on the whole armor of God, but pay attention to who the enemy is. We wrestle not against flesh and blood… The people you meet each day, regardless of the spiritual or moral condition, are your neighbors. They are the mission field. The spiritual wickedness in high places is not on Capitol Hill, it is cosmic forces in heavenly places. We do not engage the enemy in spiritual warfare by carrying signs in the streets, by arguing with strangers on the internet or contending in our nation’s court system. Our enemy is not made of flesh and blood – that is our mission field. Those are people made in God’s image and that Christ died to save.

We are not called to change the culture. Never be surprised that the world acts like the world. Romans 1:18-31 condemns homosexuality and a whole host of other sinful acts but look at the audience; Paul was writing to the church at Rome and not preaching a sermon on the street corner. Paul is speaking to Christians about the difference between how we live and how they live. In his missionary journeys throughout the Greek and Roman world he was surrounded by a corrupt culture that we in America can probably only begin to imagine. Research Greek bathhouses sometime or read up on the ancient Olympic games. Paul was well aware of what was going on around him in the culture but we don’t see him starting petitions are carrying signs in the streets. We see him starting churches and training leaders. We see him sharing the Gospel and teaching others to imitate what he did (just as he imitated Christ).

We cannot win the culture war. We have not been called to fight the culture war. Fighting the culture war distracts us from the things we have been called to. The president is not your pastor, members of Congress are not our deacons, the Supreme Court is not our final judge. The nations of this world will pass away, heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God will never pass away. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world looking for a kingdom not make by human hands. We will be judged based on whether we knew to good and did it or not. Look at Jesus as he was tried by Pilate and Herod. Look at Stephen as he is stoned in Acts 7. We do not win by winning. We do not win by being stronger. In our weakness, God is strong.

Barack Obama is the leader of our country – I am the spiritual leader in my home. I will stand before God and give an account not of how many petitions I signed, or which candidates I endorsed; I will give an account of whether or not I loved my wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; if I provided for my family; if I raised my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Did I rightly divide the Word of Truth? Was I faithful until the end?

Remember the Titanic? As that ship was sinking many perished needlessly because there were not enough lifeboats. This world is sinking. It will end in disaster, God has ordained it and prophesied it. The Gospel provides more than enough life boats for everyone. Our call is not to stop the ship from sinking, it’s to invite people into the boats.

Silent Wisdom

wise man

The verse of the day from Bible Gateway is Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Our Daily Bread devotional for this day is also focused on being still, quiet, and waiting for the Lord to act.

From deep in The Master’s Table archives: Jesus, often known for saying exactly the right thing at the right time, also knew when to keep silent. Click here for more.

Read James 3. Perhaps we would all be wiser to say less.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
-Proverbs 17:28

From the Archives: Pursuing Wisdom

originally published June 5, 2011

In the first Psalm, David contrasts the ways of the righteous and the wicked. In the first chapter of Proverbs, Solomon does the same thing between the wise and the foolish. He goes on to encourage his sons (and by extension all readers) to pursue wisdom.

David was a poet and a musician. He not only wrote songs and played instruments, but he made trumpets for the temple musicians. In Biblical times the Psalms were sung. Think of this book as their hymnal. Solomon was David’s son, and world renown for his wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings, some perhaps written by Solomon himself and others collected. In both cases, righteousness and wisdom must be pursued. One must seek after them, like walking down a path. There is more than one path, and we must think about which we are choosing.

David tells us the righteous are like trees planted by rivers of water. The tree roots dig in, firmly holding the tree in place while it is abundantly nourished. The righteous person digs into the Word of God the same way. By being firmly rooted in his Word, by meditating on it, the righteous person is not tossed about from one idea or teacher to another. The wicked are driven as in the wind. One might try a little of this or a little of that, looking for what suits them or provides answers. They might dabble in Christianity, a little Oprah, a little Scientology and so forth. Some arrive at the idea there is no God (Psalm 14:1). The righteous are firmly rooted in the truth, standing on solid ground, and hold fast even when the world falls apart around them. Righteousness and wickedness, and their ends, and compared so that the reader can choose wisely.

Solomon goes on in Proverbs 1 to personify wisdom as a woman standing in the street calling out seeking followers. Wisdom, like righteousness, must be sought after. The righteous meditate in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2) meanwhile the foolish despise instruction (Prov 1:7). No matter how “smart” one may naturally be, wisdom doesn’t just fall into anyone’s lap. I’ve heard it said that even when opportunity knocks we must get up and answer the door. Solomon has a lot to say about laziness as well. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; it is the first step in the right direction. The way to wisdom is a path one must choose to walk.

We often think of wisdom as coming with age and experience. There is nothing more sad than an old fool – wisdom is not guaranteed. The fool rejects instruction. Some will simply choose not to learn from their mistakes, and refuse to listen to wise counsel. They will grow old lacking wisdom despite the many experiences they had to learn from. Jesus tells his followers that if any lack wisdom to ask of God, who gives to all liberally. If we fear the Lord, meditate in his law and word, and ask him for it, we may become wise. It is a choice and a lifestyle. The path to wisdom and righteousness may be difficult, but we are promised the reward will be great. Laziness may appear to pay off right now, just as the wicked appear in this lifetime to prosper. But David also mentions the judgement. On Judgement Day Jesus will separate those that are his from those that not, like dividing the wheat from tares.

There’s a Reason He Calls Us Sheep

jesus_shepherdPsalm 23 is one of the best known and most often quoted passages in the scriptures. David plainly says “The LORD is my shepherd.” In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. The sheep know his voice and follow him, and he gives his life for the sheep. Isn’t that adorable? Continue reading

How to Read the Pew Research Center’s Published Findings

Screenshot 2015-05-14 at 6.38.58 AMThe actual title of the article published by the Pew Research Center is America’s Changing Religious Landscape. You can read that article here, at their own website, rather than second or third hand if you wish. The story was reported by media outlets, such as CNN, with attention grabbing headlines like “Millennials Are Leaving the Church in Droves.”

Russell Moore takes a different perspective, suggesting that actual faith is not in decline but rather the false pretense of it. People without true faith have quit going to church to make a show. He suggests people are no longer attracted to “almost Christianity” but that real faith is alive and well. There are not more atheists than there used to be, there are more honest atheists. Please do read his article here. 

Ed Stetzer posted a similar story in USA Today, arguing that while Evangelicals make up a smaller percentage of the population than they did a few years ago their overall numbers have actually grown. While I think Moore’s article is better written, both make the point that raw data doesn’t tell the whole story. How we interpret that data is equally if not more important.

Asking for It

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 1 Kings 3:7-9

Solomon was told to ask for anything and the one thing he asked for was wisdom. He was humble enough to realize the task of leadership was too great for him to bear alone and asked God for the wisdom and understanding in order to rule God’s people Israel. Think about the last prayer you prayed to God; what did you ask for? Continue reading

The Rain Falls on the Just and the Unjust

rainIt is a rainy morning in NW Georgia, just like it is in much of the South and just like it has been for many days. As a matter of fact it has rained every single day for the past week. That’s good for the water table and our farmers this summer but rain has never been my personal favorite. Continue reading