His Death, My Life

September 28, 2012

His death, my life.

In my place, He stood.

Advertisements

One at a Time, Thanks

September 26, 2012

The Key to Any Effective Ministry

I never thought I would utter these words from the pulpit: only one male at a time in the restroom, please. This is what ministry is like for our church. We had to remove couches from the auditorium because folks were making out on them during the sermon. We had to insist that parents stay for church after dropping off their children, because some were going up the street and using us as babysitters. And once we had to ask a drunken man to please stay off the platform during the worship music set. Needless to say, I don’t serve at your typical church.

Our small church plant is entering its fourth year, and it’s been a difficult process. We minister largely to a drug and rehab culture in one of the worst cities of our state for that problem. About 70 percent of those in attendance on any given Sunday night are currently or have recently been addicts. This important ministry comes with a unique set of challenges. And the key to it all has been patience.

If ministry teaches you one thing over and over, it is that you must have patience to be effective. Change rarely happens quickly, and when you are working with an addiction culture, it happens even more slowly. I realized this recently when I sat with a group of pastors from our area talking about church growth. Each of them had wonderful stories about numerical growth, conversions, and baptisms. But I simply didn’t have many stories like that. We have had a few guys come to the gospel out of rehab; they are struggling to stay clean and follow Jesus, and that makes what we do worth it. But they are exceptions, and even their growth is slow. It would be very easy to get discouraged. After all, the guy that I prayed with on Sunday may abandon rehab this week and never come back. Ministry can often be depressing.

Growth from God

But then I am thankful that growth ultimately comes from God. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” There’s a freedom that comes with knowing that it’s not all up to me. I have a responsibility to be faithful. I am not absolved of my duty. But only God gives the growth. My role, then, is to work and to wait on God.

Maybe you don’t have drunk people talking through your sermons, or visit members in prison, but I bet you know many Christians you wish were growing more rapidly. I bet you have a church you wish was farther along in the process of change. I bet you wish that you yourself could overcome that sin clinging to your bones. Patience is the key. We work for change, but we do so with the humble knowledge that ultimately we depend upon the Spirit of God.

When I am patient I am doing several important things. First, I am extending grace to others because I am not demanding a perfection in them that even I can’t obtain. Second, I am humbling myself. I can’t create the change I want to see. Third, I am committing to ministry for the long haul. Rarely, if ever, does real transformation happen overnight. It takes long-term work and consistent faithfulness. Impatience simply isn’t compatible with change—not with me, and not with the people I serve.

I don’t know what those guys were doing in our bathroom for 45 minutes during corporate worship. I’ve asked myself if it would be worse for them to be selling drugs or engaging in illicit sex. I’d rather not dwell on it. Often I am daunted by the questions of how to help our community. I am humbled and more often frustrated. But I love these people, and I trust God’s Word, so I keep pressing on. I believe that Spirit-fuelled patience will make the difference for us, and it will make the difference for you too.

Dave Dunahm serves as associate pastor at Revolution Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. He blogs atChrist in the City.

Relax

September 21, 2012

Now he could relax

“About fifteen years ago I was sitting at the dining room table looking out the window and watching five boys fooling around with a BB-gun and wondering a little to myself how long it would be before one of them shot another in the eye. Finally one of them grabbed the gun to shoot at a little sparrow sitting on a tree just outside the dining room window through which I had been watching this whole performance. I could see the whole action unfolding before my eyes; it seemed almost slow-motion, uncanny, inevitable. The boy aimed deliberately at the bird, shot at the bird, missed the bird and put a hole in the window right in front of me, and away they all ran with me racing out of the house after them. I didn’t catch any of them!

In a few days I had found out that a boy named Dave White had pulled the trigger. Also in a few days I had the window fixed and paid for. Then I began to think about Dave. He was evading me at every turn. He would not face me and he had no notion of confessing. In the meantime the other boys had floated back to games in the vacant lot and in the street in front of the house, while Dave, the guilty one, was on the outside of all this, ‘weeping and gnashing his teeth.’ He would have none of us. So I went after him, not to punish him but to save him. He had to face me in judgment, then in grace; only thus could we renew our fellowship, only thus could I bring him back to the gang.

I caught him alone. Now we stood face to face to have it out. The boy was rebellious, tense, tight, ready to fight me, ready to run away again. He admitted he had wronged me but I gave him the surprising message that the window had been paid for, that I had no notion of collecting anything from him, that what really interested me was to know how we could get him to come back to be one of the gang again. . . . I told him over and over again the same old story: the price has been paid, it’s all over; let’s be friends. What a time I had getting that message through to him. Why? Because he didn’t believe me. There is always an unbelievable quality in the wonder of what we call grace. But I wish you could have seen him when he finally did believe me. What a wonderful look, what a release of tensions, what a rolling away of the burdens, what a newness of life. Now he could quit running. Now he could relax. Talk about peace of mind; you should have seen that boy. What total commitment he offered me henceforth, and by no request of mine! There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me.”

Addison H. Leitch, Interpreting Basic Theology (New York, 1961), pages 113-114.

Reminders for Worship

September 20, 2012

The principle of walking in line with the gospel (Galatians 2:14) in corporate worship looks like this: In grace consider others enough to refrain from distracting them, and extend grace to those who you find to be distracting. Here are a few suggestions for how to think well of and for others in corporate worship.

1. Arrive early.

Not only does early arrival keep you from distracting others by coming in late after the service has started, but it also enables you to greet others and extend to them a welcome as they arrive. Ain’t no shame in coming early for some social time. God’s happy when his children love each other.

Also, arriving early (rather than late) helps us remember that the whole service is worship, not just the sermon. Even though we’d never say it, sadly we sometimes function as if everything before the sermon is some added extra or just the warm up for the preaching. The worship really begins when the preacher ascends to his pulpit. It’s fine if we miss the first few minutes of singing. No big loss.

2. Park far, sit close.

This is one practical way to count others more significant than yourselves, and look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Parking far leaves the better spots in the lot for those arriving after you, and sitting close leaves the seats near the doors easily accessible.

3. Participate heartily.

“Heartily” is an attempt to communicate a balanced kind of engaged participation—not being a mere spectator and not being that guy singing with the out-of-control volume. The problem of over-participating speaks for itself (quite literally), but in regard to under-participating, note that you are actually robbing others of the value of corporate worship when you don’t engage. Your presence is a part, and your voice is a part as well. The experience of corporate worship is enriched when all the attendees participate.

4. Smile.

I’m not counseling you to fake it or put on airs. Corporate worship is a time for gladness and excitement, not dourness and mere duty. Try to make the most of your morning before attending corporate worship, and let your gladness be contagious. Like George Mueller, seek to get your soul happy in Jesus, and ask God for help to spill over some of your soul satisfaction on others.

5. Stay late and engage others.

Come on the look for people, transition Godward in the worship gathering, and leave on the look for others. Some of the most significant conversations in the life of the church happen immediately after worship gatherings. Relationally, this is one of the most strategic times during the week to be available and on the lookout for

new faces you can make feel welcomed
old faces you can connect with
hurting people you can comfort
happy people you can be encouraged by.
Sometimes you just gotta go after a service. We get it. That’s okay. There are special events, or unusual demands, or seasons of life with small, antsy children. But if you’re bouncing out the doors every week as soon as possible after the services ends (or even before it’s over), you’re at least not making the most of corporate worship.

7. Come to receive from God and give to others.

This is the banner over all the other charges. Come to corporate worship on the lookout for feeding on God and his grace, and on the lookout for giving grace to others. Come to be blessed by God, and to bless others. Receive from him, give to them.

We’re prone to get this backwards. We come to worship thinking that we’re somehow giving to God, and we subtly expect we’ll be receiving from others. We desperately need to turn that pattern on its head.

The God we worship is one not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). And when he came in the flesh, he did so “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Beware coming to corporate worship to serve God. But by all means, come on the lookout to serve others. Worshiping God and building up others aren’t mutually exclusive but come to their fullness together.

We give to one another as we together come to receive from God our soul’s satisfaction. We kill both the vertical and horizontal of corporate worship when we come looking to give to God and receive from others.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Twin Cities, and executive editor at Desiring God. He writes regularly at http://www.desiringGod.org.

1554

September 19, 2012

In early 1554 Queen Mary I sent John de Feckenham to seek to persuade her 16-year-old Protestant cousin, the Lady Jane Grey, of the truth of the Catholic faith, thereby avoiding execution. Feckenham was unsuccessful, and she was beheaded February 12, 1554.

After dialoging about justification by faith, they turned to the subject of the sacraments:

Feckenham. — How many sacraments are there?

Lady Jane. — Two; the one the sacrament of Baptism, and the other the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Feckenham. — No, there are seven.

Lady Jane. — By what scripture find you that?

Feckenham. — Well, we will talk of that hereafter. But what is signified by your two sacraments?

Lady Jane. — By the sacrament of Baptism I am washed with water, and regenerated by the Spirit, and that washing is a token to me that I am the child of God. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper offered unto me, is a sure seal and testimony that I am, by the blood of Christ which he shed for me on the cross, made partaker of the everlasting kingdom.

Feckenham. — Why, what do you receive in that sacrament? Do you not receive the very body and blood of Christ?

Lady Jane. — No, surely, I do not so believe. I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine, which bread, when it is broken, and which wine, when it is drunken, putteth me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross, and with that bread and wine I receive the benefits that came by the breaking of his body, and shedding his blood for our sins on the cross.

Feckenham. — Why, doth not Christ speak these words, Take, eat, this is my body? Require you any plainer words? Doth he not say, it is his body?

Lady Jane. — I grant he saith so; and so he saith, ‘I am the vine, I am the door’: but he is never the more the door nor the vine. Doth not St. Paul say.
He calleth things that are not, as though they were? God forbid that I should say that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ; for then either I
should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and if they did eat another body, then
had he two bodies; or if his body were eaten, then was it not broken on the cross; or if it were broken on the cross, it was not eaten of his disciples.

Feckenham. — Why, is it not as possible that Christ by his power could make his body both to be eaten and broken, and to be born of a woman without man, as to walk upon the sea having a body,and other such like miracles as he wrought by his power only ?

Lady Jane. — Yes verily. If God would have done at bis supper any miracle, he might have done so; but I say that then he minded to work no miracle, but only to break his body, and to shed his blood on the cross for our sins. But I pray you to answer me to this one question. Where was Christ when he said, “Take, eat, this is my body”? Was he not at the table when he said so? He was at that time alive, and suffered not till the next day. What took he but bread? What brake he but bread? Look, what be took he brake, and look, what he brake he gave, and look, what he gave they did eat; and yet, all this time he himself was alive, and at supper before his disciples, or else they were deceived.

For an introduction to the moving story of this young woman’s life and testimony, see Simonetta Carr’s new Lady Jane Grey. You can see a brief overview below, along with some of the artwork from the book.

Preaching

September 18, 2012

I want you to do something strange. Something we usually don’t do in 21st century American Christianity. Are you ready for it? Here it goes, try to remember all the details of the last sermon you heard! I know, Sunday is over, it’s time for the real world. But give yourself a few moments to get back to your last sermon.

Do you remember how the pastor got started? If you’re the pastor, do you remember how you got started? (I’ve been there too if you’re struggling) Many times an introduction will include a personal story, a connection to the topic, a “hook” to get everyone to realize this sermon is worth listening to and it’s for me.

Most preachers will then enter into the body of their sermon. This can be an exposition of a passage of Scripture, or an exposition of a certain biblical topic. Most sermons in the “body” section will usually have a few main points. Can you remember all of them? Can you remember at least one of the points? The last sermon I heard was focused on finances, certainly a topic discussed frequently by Jesus. Have you recalled the last sermon? It’s cheating if you say, “The sermon was on the book of Mark.” Come on, you gotta try harder.

I’m going somewhere with this, hang with me, your memory of the last sermon could make a drastic impact on your life and the life of your church for generations. I know, a big promise, let’s see if I deliver.

Now, how did the sermon end? In preaching lingo this is referred to as “bringing it home” and/or “landing the plane”. Many times this will be a time when people are most challenged to live out the main points of the sermon. The pastor may provide a creative way for you to remember and live out the sermon. In many churches, also, the glorious Gospel will be proclaimed. People will be told of their need for Jesus and be given an opportunity to put their trust in Jesus as their Savior. Do you remember how the last sermon ended?

Ok, here is how your memory of the last sermon could make a drastic impact on your life and the life of your church for generations. One more question, take a step back from the trees and look at the forest. Was the main focus of the sermon morality or the person of Jesus? Think it through, was the pastor focusing on: getting you out of debt; making you more generous, improving your marriage; reducing your anxiety; increasing your joy; getting you to be more involved? Or was the sermon about Jesus?

Here’s a getting-out-of-debt sermon outline Preaching Morality:

I’ve been in debt and it stinks. So many of us are in debt, listen to these statistics about debt. Here is what we have learned about the stress debt places on our lives. Do you want that stress? Let’s look what the Bible says about debt. God doesn’t like debt so we need to get out of it. Let me help you with some time-tested principles. Here are 3 main points about getting out of debt. Dave Ramsey has some great ways to help us get out of debt. Let’s pray for Jesus to help us get out of debt. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, please trust Him today.

In contrast, here’s a getting-out-of-debt sermon outline Preaching Christ:

I’ve been in debt and it stinks. So many of us are in debt, listen to these statistics. We have a debt problem but trying to fix it will only treat our symptoms. We have a greater problem. Jesus is not the center of our lives. If we are in debt it is because “things” have become the center of our lives, not Jesus. If Jesus is our passion, “things” are no longer our passion. Now that we have lost the appetite for things, let’s get out of debt so we can be more free to live for Jesus. We desperately need Jesus as the center of our lives every day. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, please trust Him today, He is the only hope we have. Now that things no longer control us, we want to clean up the mess we have made. Dave Ramsey can help us with that.

Do you see the difference? Both sermons are about finances but the first one is mainly focused on helping us be moral people, the second sermon is centered on Christ. The first sermon could be preached almost anywhere. 99% of the sermon would be acceptable at a mosque, synagogue and universalist church. Have the pastor leave out the conclusion and the new ager will consider you a friend.

The first sermon is focused on a concept, the second sermon is focused on a person. The person of Jesus is offensive and a stumbling block to those outside the faith. The second sermon could cause riots.

Do I think churches who typically preach morality should close their doors? Absolutely not. If Jesus is preached, even if He is only preached for the last 60 seconds, I rejoice that He is preached. I do believe, however, people may one day start a movement away from your church. Let me explain.

One of the hallmarks of great reformations and/or revivals throughout church history is they started from an atmosphere of Preaching Morality. Here’s how it works. People grow up hearing about morality. They want to be moral people. They sincerely try all of the 3, 4 and 5 point sermons about living a moral life. People, however, do not find ultimate success, satisfaction and peace in morality if it is done for the sake of morality. They are empty, even if they look on the outside like good moral citizens.

This was the atmosphere leading up to the Great Reformation of the 1500′s. This was the atmosphere leading up to the world-wide Great Awakening of the middle 1700′s. Here is what happens. Jesus will build His Church. People will meet the person of Jesus. When people meet the risen Lord, bowing their knee to Him, they will rise and live a life with His light burden. They will find rest for their souls.

Here is my warning to those who are Preaching Morality and also to those who are currently Preaching the centrality of Christ. If it is not obvious that the person of Jesus is the central focus of your church, people will one day reform against your church. This happened in the 1500′s, the mid-1700′s and it will happen to your church. When people meet Jesus and you have stopped focusing on Jesus, people will start churches and movements helping others meet Jesus…not morality.

It is rare for any movement of God to continue in its fervor for more than 3 generations. If the living person Jesus continues to remain the center you have a fighting chance that everything you’ve righteously worked hard to build may continue for many generations. The foundation is secure. This will require, however, constant reformation on your part. This is why the reformers of the 16th century believed in semper reformanda (always reforming). We continually need to make adjustments to keep Jesus the center of our sermons, church, and our very lives. Thankfully, we do not have a far away God, we have a near God with a living Savior.

Let us all, no matter where we are right now, preach Christ and not settle for just morality. If you are currently in a church characterized by preaching morality, please set up a meeting with the pastor and privately with a heart of respect and love discuss these concepts with him and see what the Lord may do in the life of your church for the sake of many generations.

If you are a pastor who has been preaching morality let me first say that I trust you are doing a lot of things well and please don’t take my post as a condemnation over your whole life. But like any of us when the Lord convicts us of a certain reality in our life that needs to change, please don’t resist the Lord’s work. You’ll never regret preaching Jesus as the center of your ministry. I’ll leave you with a quote from Charles Spurgeon, the man known through church history as the Prince of Preachers:

No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. – C.H. Spurgeon

Beware of Delusions

September 17, 2012

I wasn’t consciously proud. Maybe most proud people aren’t conscious of how proud they really are. But I felt that I had arrived. In ways that now shock and embarrass me, I thought of myself as a grace graduate. I didn’t minister out of my own need. I had done very well in seminary. I had planted a church in a very hard place. I had founded a rapidly growing Christian school. (Both the church and also the school were founded with others, but I didn’t look at it that way.) I was getting invitations all over the place to speak. I often looked at the people I was ministering to with a self-congratulatory pity—assuming, of course, that they were essentially different from me. No, I didn’t make fun of people, and I didn’t spend my time bragging about my accomplishments, but an attitude of arrival still shaped my ministry.

I was incredibly impatient and often quietly irritated. I found it hard to delegate ministry to others. I wanted more control than was actually necessary and productive. I gave my opinion way too often. I treated the ministries God had called me to as if they belonged to me. I wanted people to quickly sign on to support my brainstorms. My sermons were rather arrogant lectures—you know, the final word on the topic or the passage. I once preached what I thought was the ultimate sermon on pride that was actually a living example of the same! My preaching and teaching was more law than gospel. This is typical of people who think they are law keepers.

Mistaken Self-Assessment

As a pastor, I was making a dangerous self-assessment mistake. I had bought into a fallacious, distorted view of my spiritual maturity. This view is both tempting and comfortable for people in ministry. Rather than looking at myself in the accurate mirror of the Word of God, the only place where you will get both an accurate definition of spiritual maturity and a reliable read on your own spiritual condition, I looked elsewhere. I looked to excellent grades and student prizes in seminary. I looked to ministry skill, forgetting that God gives gifts to whomever he wills. I looked to my ministry experience; the years of labor made me feel spiritually seasoned and mature.

Rather than humbly standing before the honest assessment of the Bible mirror, I looked into carnival mirrors. The problem with the carnival mirror is that it really does show you, but with distortion. You don’t actually have a 20-inch neck and a 6-inch torso. Yes, it’s you in that concave mirror, but it’s not showing your actual appearance. Everyone in ministry must confront the danger of self-assessments that say you’ve “arrived.” The danger that you would quit thinking of yourself as weak and needy is always near. The danger that you would see yourself as being in a different category from those to whom you minister is right around the corner. This danger greets you every day, because there are carnival mirrors all around you. And when you think you’ve arrived, when you quit being convicted of and broken by your own weakness, failure, and sin, you will begin to make bad personal and ministry choices.

The reality and confession of personal spiritual weakness is not a grave danger to your ministry. God has chosen to build his church through the instrumentality of bent and broken tools. It is your delusions of strength that will get you in trouble and cause you to form a ministry that is less than Christ-centered and gospel-driven.

What about you, pastor? How does your view of you shape ministry to those God has placed in your care? Does pride cause the “what you should do” to overwhelm the “here’s what you’ve been given”? Remember, the tender ministry of grace grows in the soil of constant awareness of your need for grace.

By Paul Tripp

Christian Values

September 14, 2012

A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.”

The idea of a 16-year-old atheist in the house would be enough to alarm any Christian parent, and rightly so. The thought that a secular advice columnist for The Washington Post might be the source of help seems very odd, but desperation can surely lead a parent to seek help almost anywhere.

You usually get what you expect from an advice columnist like this — therapeutic counsel based in a secular worldview and a deep commitment to personal autonomy. Carolyn Hax responds to this mother with an admonition to respect the integrity of her daughter’s declaration of non-belief. She adds, “Parents can and should teach their beliefs and values, but when a would-be disciple stops believing, it’s not a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ to ‘reject’ church or family or tradition or virtue or whatever else has hitched a cultural ride with faith.”

RELATED POSTS
It’s All Relative? A Homosexual Revision of “Biblical Family Values”
Values and Moral Truth are Not the Same
When Morals are Reduced to Values
When Morals are Reduced to Values
Jimmy Carter’s Endangered Values
That is patent nonsense, of course. Declarations of adolescent unbelief often are exactly what Hax argues they are not: rejections of “church or family or tradition or virtue.” Hax does offer some legitimate insights, suggesting that honesty is to be preferred to dishonesty and that such adolescent statements are often indications of a phase of intellectual questioning or just trying on a personality for style.

Hax then tells this distraught mother that she “didn’t throw out what my childhood, including my church, taught me; I still apply what I believe in. I just apply it to a secular life.” In other words, Hax asserts that she maintains many of the values she learned as a child in church, and simply applies these values now to a secular life.

“How can I help my daughter see that she is making a serious mistake with her life if she chooses to reject her God and her faith?,” the mother asks. Hax tells the mother to accept the daughter’s atheism and get over her “disappointment that she isn’t turning out just as you envisioned.”

What else would you expect a secular columnist who operates from a secular worldview to say?

The real problem does not lie with Carolyn Hax’s answer, however, but with the mother’s question. The problem appears at the onset, when the mother states that she has “tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with.”

Christian values are the problem. Hell will be filled with people who were avidly committed to Christian values. Christian values cannot save anyone and never will. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Christian value, and a comfortability with Christian values can blind sinners to their need for the gospel.

This one sentence may not accurately communicate this mother’s understanding, but it appears to be perfectly consistent with the larger context of her question and the source of the advice she sought.

Parents who raise their children with nothing more than Christian values should not be surprised when their children abandon those values. If the child or young person does not have a firm commitment to Christ and to the truth of the Christian faith, values will have no binding authority, and we should not expect that they would. Most of our neighbors have some commitment to Christian values, but what they desperately need is salvation from their sins. This does not come by Christian values, no matter how fervently held. Salvation comes only by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Human beings are natural-born moralists, and moralism is the most potent of all the false gospels. The language of “values” is the language of moralism and cultural Protestantism — what the Germans called Kulturprotestantismus. This is the religion that produces cultural Christians, and cultural Christianity soon dissipates into atheism, agnosticism, and other forms of non-belief. Cultural Christianity is the great denomination of moralism, and far too many church folk fail to recognize that their own religion is only cultural Christianity — not the genuine Christian faith.

The language of values is all that remains when the substance of belief disappears. Tragically, many churches seem to perpetuate their existence by values, long after they abandon the faith.

We should not pray for Christian morality to disappear or for Christian values to evaporate. We should not pray to live in Sodom or in Vanity Fair. But a culture marked even by Christian values is in desperate need of evangelism, and that evangelism requires the knowledge that Christian values and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not the same thing.

I pray that this young woman and her mother find common hope and confidence in the salvation that comes only through Christ — not by Christian values. Otherwise, we are facing far more than a young woman “making a serious mistake with her life.” We are talking about what matters for eternity. Christian values cannot save anyone.

-Albert Mohler

Treat Your Spouse Right

September 14, 2012

I ask you to think carefully about this timeless advice from author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar:

“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. But I do know that if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. It is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person.”

Near Beliefs

September 11, 2012

Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
2 Timothy 3:14

I’m afraid too many of us Christians don’t know what we really believe. Like a cork in the ocean, driven and tossed by the waves, we bounce from opinion to opinion, influenced more by the last book we read than by a lifetime of biblical study. We’ve become activity junkies, seldom stopping long enough to decide what really matters to us, too busy to determine what’s really worth living for, let alone worth dying for.

As a result we live our lives based upon “near beliefs.” Near beliefs have just enough truth in them to sound strangely familiar to convictions, yet they’re too weak to inspire us or our actions. Too anemic to influence us to make a decision that demands a sacrifice.

Near beliefs wimp out when a teenager is pushing you out of his or her life. Near beliefs won’t keep a marriage together when romance fades. Near beliefs almost always fall silent on such issues as same-sex marriages and homosexuals adopting children. Near beliefs don’t inspire the courage to change a behavior or to press on against disapproval or opposition from “the herd.”

Near beliefs are to blame for a new brand of Christianity that is epidemic in our homes and churches—a faith that has little flavor, little light and little influence. When near beliefs are our only source of motivation, tough stands are never taken, feathers are never ruffled, and absolutes are held very loosely. Without core convictions to help us navigate, we stand uneasily on shifting sand, and we lack the solid footing with which to stage a life of principle and character.

Today is a call to biblical conviction. A call to spending time studying the Word. A clarion call to challenge you to determine: What do I believe?

What is needed today is a battalion of believers who follow Christ and stand for Him and His truth.

From Dennis Rainey