Wednesday, March 21, 2012

City on a Hill

Do you cuss? Do you get drunk? Do you think it's funny to entertain sexually explicit jokes? Do you easily blend in with American culture? Last question: do you claim to be a Christian?

Like the Cookie Monster points out: one of these things is not like the others. Cussing, drunkenness, sexual jokes, and today's culture do not jive with authentic Christianity. Yet I am seeing more and more people who call themselves Christians doing these things without shame. Now, I am a Christian and I am not perfect and am certainly guilty of doing some of these things at one time or another. But I make it a habit not to do them, and it seems many professing Christians have no problem with these sinful behaviors.

I don't know about you, but it is becoming a pet peeve of mine when I see Christians acting this way. Oddly enough, these folks don't typically hang around me very long because I tend to hold them to a Biblical standard of morality =). Why do I even care about the actions of others? Because the Bible spends a great deal of time talking about our behavior, and how we are to act in this life.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Ephesians 2 must be one of my favorite selections from Scripture. In these verses the Apostle Paul uses the past tense to describe how the genuine Christian used to be. Notice: "you were dead in your trespasses and sins," and "you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air," and "we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind." It is true that the Christian has been saved, once and for all, from the consequences of sin - verses 4-9 speak about this. But God's plan of salvation does not end there. Continuing to verse 10:
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Lord was kind and merciful towards His people in saving them from their sins because He loves them. But this is not the only reason He saved sinners from their sins. God's primary reason is for His own glory (Ephesians 1:6), so that in saving us we might be a testimony to His marvelous grace. This is done by good works. Do you remember what the Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, NASB).
Current statistics show that 1/4 of Americans consider themselves Evangelical Christians, which is the single largest percentage of any country in the world. Why then is the gospel not clearly known in our land? I would suggest to you it is because many of those professing to be Christians are not really Christians. For many people today Christianity is a social networking opportunity. Let's be honest: Christians are nice people to be around because they are accepting of all kinds of people. This is how it ought to be ... but with a clear and bold proclamation of the gospel calling people to turn from their wicked ways unto the only One who can save them from their sins and sinful lifestyle.

In my own personal experience, especially recently, I have met professing Christians who regularly do the aforementioned sins and have no shame whatsoever. It always leaves a bad taste in my mouth because instead of shining light for the world they increase the darkness. What angers me most of all about these kinds of people is that when they attach the name of Christ to these sinful behaviors it makes it difficult for those of us trying to set a godly example to further the testimony of the gospel.

What is our responsibility when we encounter these kinds of professing Christians? Should we say something? Should we offer correction? I believe the answer is a resounding yes! First, however, one ought to examine his own life to make sure he isn't guilty of the same thing. Second, we should approach the professing Christian in private and politely offer correction to our brother. Matthew 18 is the go-to passage for this.

How about when you do your due diligence to offer correction and it is refused? Thankfully, Matthew 18 also addresses this. You are to bring another brother with you to confront the individual. At that point if he still refuses to obey the Scriptures it could be that he is not a true Christian to begin with. The times I have corrected someone with Scripture and the response is vehement opposition I am left wondering about that person's salvation.

Ultimately it is God alone who knows the hearts and minds of people so I cannot make an infallible judgment about one's position before God. What Scripture does make clear is that we can determine whether someone is genuinely a Christian based on their works:
You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? (Matthew 7:16, NASB)
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10, NASB)
We cannot have an infallible or perfect knowledge of someone's salvation, but we can have a reasonable assurance one way or the other. So when you see someone comfortable in their sin, it is reasonable to assume they may not be truly born again. Prior to this, John makes the point that anyone who practices sin (as opposed to struggling against sin) is not truly a Christian (1 John 3:8-9). The Christian wants to live a godly life to please and honor God. He also loves his brother and should want to come along side to gently spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Correcting our brother should never be about boasting rights, neither should it stem from an arrogant attitude of superiority. Don't you want your brother in the Lord to likewise be pleasing to God in all that he does?

I was telling my wife the other day that I believe as time goes on, and our nation steps further into ungodliness, we will see many of these false Christians openly abandon the faith altogether. In the meantime, we should always be ready to stand firm in our clear proclamation of the gospel that has saved us from the consequences and the lifestyle of sin. We are a city on a hill that the world needs to see.

Thanks for reading,

1 comment:

  1. "... as time goes on, and our nation steps further into ungodliness, we will see many of these false Christians openly abandon the faith altogether."

    I totally agree with this sentiment. It's really sad that people like you and I who are not elders at a church have to call people out for this sort of thing. It should be done from the pulpit. Where are the Church leaders with some guts today?