Do Not be a NameOnly Christian

This post is a bit about my story, my walk. I accepted Jesus Christ when I was 11 years old. I spend my early years wandering away from Christ. At 19 I began my walk with Jesus and it has been on and off. God has been with me the whole way even the many times I strayed and did not follow and had little faith.

I have generally had reservation about how boldly or forcefully I should be when talking about my faith. After all, we don’t want to offend, do we? We (I) therefore am guarded of what I say and where I say it when it comes to talking out loud to others or writing in my blogs or Facebook notes about what I believe and why I believe it.

Another factor that has added to my reticence is that I do not take criticism well. I do not take scoffing well. I do not take rejection well at all. I never have. There were enough occasions early in my Christian life that my effort to testify and witness to others met strong and even hostile resistance. That was never any fun. Often in those days I would try to engage a non-believer and it generally ended up that the ones I was able to engage were feisty people who enjoyed the battle of wits and enjoyed tripping me up with questions I could not handle. The result on my part was a feeling of failure, defeat, discouragement and inadequacy.

So, after a while I sort of eased up on my search for engagement about my faith. I would still encounter the opportunities but those times it was mostly because the other person knowing something about my profession of belief in God and Jesus Christ would initiate the engagement. These too generally ended up as arguments and battle of the wits.  I still would walk from these times feeling like a failure and defeated. I just did not have what it takes to be successful at “soul-winning.” And,  that of course simply added to my inadequacy and pushed me further away from trying.

Deciding that God had not called me to personal evangelism I settled on believing that he gave that gift to others.  It certainly was not a gift he had given to me so he must have given me something else.  After all, the Word says,  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  (Ephesians 4:11-12) 

I was not really happy with this conclusion because, at the time I was in school, a school that was founded by a robust evangelist and winning souls for the Lord was simply something everyone was expected to become proficient at. At every corner along my journey and several stops between the corners I would be reminded, encouraged, instructed, exhorted and simply told that the Great Commission was mine to fulfill so it would be best if I just got to it.

“What a kind of loser You must be?” That was what I would ask myself. My answer was simple. “Total loser” – especially when it came to cold calling, broadside witnessing. And it was not for lack of training or instruction. I had the best instruction from one of the best schools with tools and examples of successful soul winners all around me.  But all I got from all that was a huge fail and I got a gigantic pack of guilt strapped to my back. I started to dread anytime I would be in a class, service, meeting that was about soul winning and especially when I knew that we would have some practical Christian work to practice at the end of the session. We would split up in 2, 3 or 4 person groups and fortified with our Bible and pocket full of tracks we would be sent out.  I hated it. I became very good at letting whoever I was with do all the talking while I “supported with prayer” from the sideline.

I want to make it clear that I was not afraid to share my testimony. I was not afraid to tell another person what I believed and why I believed it. I even was good an admitting I did not have every answer and was still learning. I actually really loved sharing my faith in situation where I did not feel threatened. Given the opportunity to talk to one or more, even a congregation of non-believers I could do it with boldness and confidence. At least as long and there was no hostile heckling or scoffing or ridicule coming my way.  When that would happen, I would slam shut like an oyster ready to nurse the little grain of sand out of sight from everyone else. I developed techniques to avoid the unpleasant feeling of failure and defeat. I became quite good at them as well. Those methods actually helped me to gain a profound knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.

Sure, I knew the Bible and was on the way to becoming an in-depth biblical scholar. I would have too but I did not quite reach that goal and I watched others in my family and other of my friends do so instead. But that is a different story.

So what now?  Those days are nearly 50 years ago. In that span I have taught many hours of adult Sunday School classes and have filled the pulpit a good number of time when needed on Sunday Morning worship with a sermon.  While I was doing that, I knew I was doing my part. Maybe not winning the souls directly but I was doing the “make disciples” part. Or, was I? I could prepare insightful lessons. I cold deliver them in a way that engaged and did not bore the classes. I was complimented on a regular basis. I put 4X to 6X the hours in preparation for each hour in presentation.  And I loved it.

I began to question the fruit. Was it there? Were lives being changed and was that even something I should be concerned about? I just never really understood why after several years of teaching the same class of adults, I just did not see significant change in the class members lives. Was it something I was doing wrong? Doubt became a companion and when that happens, it stifles Joy. My joy and my enjoyment diminished but I pressed on and tried to shake it off. God was working but it was not in a way that was easily evident. Who was i to question how God uses me?

Then, in 1992 something went wrong. I was derailed. A near train wreck which was not fatal  exactly but I was off the track and I never really got back on. There have been a few exceptions over the years – especially when we attended a new church – but I have not re-engaged in even the “make disciples.” It is something that disturbers me. It creates questions and inner struggles but by now at 66 I have learned how to brush those nagging feelings aside. I do it very well. Just not well enough for them to go totally away.

At the same time, and all the time God has been faithful and He has never given up.  For over the past 18 months or so, I have have been on a new track, and progress is evident. I have become more bold to speak the truth out with confidence and without fear of scoffers or ridicule. I know that they might be there from time to time. In fact I know that the chance of it is far greater now than 45 years ago. The scoffers and naysayers have grown in number and bolder too. Respect for religious liberty is eroding away and today it is even more likely that if I speak the truth from the Word of God that I will offend someone. But, I do not shy from that as I did then. I still do not seek to offend but I do not care if I do offend when it is the truth that I am speaking or writing.

As believers we are entering a greater storm. We are facing a greater challenge. We are less accepted and there is far less tolerance from active non-believers. They have become more aggressive and while there is still much talk about “live and let live” and about “coming together on what we can agree” the reality is that Christian are becoming more hated in this country. The soft cushion of freedom granted by the Constitution is being stripped away. We do not have leaders who honor God or even pretend to for votes as we have had for so long.

As Christians we need each other more than ever and we need to shed the dependency we have had on a “NameOnly” Christian life. NameOnly Christians are people who profess Christ but have not accepted Christ in faith believing and surrendered to Him as both Savior and Lord. They have gone through the motions, the classes, received the affirmation and been through the ceremonies but they remain on the outside of the Family of God.  They say they are Christian but their lives manifest more affection for the things of the world and the ways of the world and the attitudes of the world.  They willfully tweak the meaning of God’s Word so that it will fit their lifestyles. They want the benefits of being called Christian but they do not want to pay the cost.

NameOnly Christians have not come all the way to the foot of the cross and looked up into the bleeding face of Jesus and asked Him to forgive them and cleanse them of their rebellion and rejection and sin.  They do not look to Him and His word for specific guidance in how they should think, speak and act. They want to mold their Christianity to fit what they want first rather than be transformed by the renewing of their minds. The argue for fairness and acceptance and love of others and it becomes their perceived way to the Father. But Jesus has said that there is only one way and that is through Him. He is the only way, the only truth and the only life. If the bible says something that does not seem fair, then it must not be right because Jesus would not be unfair. NameOnly Christians judge the Word of God by what fits their sense of fairness.

NameOnly Christians are dangerous as long as they cling to their own way and their own understanding and refuse to fully acknowledge God in all their ways. True Believers in
Christ are going to be tested. So will the NameOnly Christians. The test will result in a lot of pruning and casting aside. The world and the prince of this world has already organized his forces and incited the movements to persecute True Believers. God has already promised to be with us all the time and we truly do not have to be afraid. Some True Believer may pay the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. Many in countries run by Muslims have already lost their lives by losing their heads or being hung or burned alive or summarily executed just because they profess Christ and refuse to forsake Him.

As True Believers we need to recognize the world we live in and not adapt to it but to allow the Word to renew our thinking and our mind and and we must not not shy away from our calling. If we have been duped into believing and accepting what the Word of God clearly has called sin, we need to call it sin too. It is not about how much sense it makes or how it jives with our personal sense of justice. It is only about the absolute truth given to us from God in his revelation as recorded in the Bible.

True Believers need to cleanse themselves of all the effort to walk in the light and in the world at the same time. It does not matter if the world calls us haters and intolerant and whatever kind of despicable names. We do not return evil for evil but instead we love those who hate us and say spiteful and hurtful things about us and to us.   It does matter if we reject the pure Word of God and call it something else. What God’s word meant in 60 AD, it means in 2016 AD. It has not changed its intent and meaning. People have changed their intent and meaning so many times and have tried to justify it by rearranging what they say the Bible really means. The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of our God stands forever. Stand with it, stand on it, do not waver. God is with you True Believer and you do not have to fear what the world thinks of you or says about you.

America is not on a path to be Great Again. Actually it has not been so Great for quite some time.  The result of bad decisions to move away from honoring God and instead worshiping the created rather than the Creator has already transformed America so much we have two despicable fraudulent liars running to President. Don’t hope that we will return to something that has been gone for a long time and we are just now recognizing the seriousness of Godless leadership.

It will become more and more difficult to stand on the precepts of the Word of God.  It will become more and more challenging to hold fast your confession of hope and faith. God will always be with you and He will give  you the grace you need. Surely He will help you, surely He will uphold  you with His righteous Right Hand. Do not be afraid, God is with you wherever you go. He Himself has said that He will not desert you, nor will he forsake you.What can mere man do to you? Nothing. Even if they take you life and even if you are put to death because you profess and believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Creator of all things, you will not die for you possess Christ’s resurrected life that is eternal.  He died so that He could secure it and give it to you and secure you with His spirit.

Amen.

Hallelujah!

When I am Afraid

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

November 14, 2015

Where were you on this day? Where were you the day before in the afternoon when the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris came your way? How were you five minutes after you first heard the news compared to before you had heard them?  If you were like many of us, one of the feelings (among many) was probably fear. Fear that that can happen in our country. That has actually happened in our country so you probably did some mental comparisons with 9/11 and a few mass murders in our country.

How about now?  Are you still afraid? Did you do as I did and say something like; “Well, I’m never traveling to Europe, that’s for sure.”?  Maybe you are not afraid, or at least you are not willing to admit it even to yourself. But you realize the when this kind of attack comes closer to home than all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, you may then be afraid.

Fear is a normal reaction. It is expected and even a good thing to a point. It is good to fear evil and it is good to be afraid of danger – to a point.  God allowed us the ability to fear and then he tells us to not be afraid. Over and over again in God’s word we are told to not be afraid. Why? Because He loves us and wants us to love others. His love is perfect and perfect love casts out fear.  So the writer of Psalm 56 says, “when I am afraid this is what I do”.  He puts his trust in God and does not trust his own understanding of things or his own ability to manage the fear.  He praises the word of God. The result is that he understands that whatever man can do to him he will not be afraid but it will not ever, no never result in destruction.  Even if it ends in suffering and death.

If your trust is in God, then the outcome of terrorist attacks when they come will be inconsequential to your eternal state. If you trust God, then the result of persecution for your faith will not result in your perishing. You will live in the care of God because he has promised you that outcome.

Oh Absolutely I Will…or Will Not!

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)

If anyone was qualified to make this statement based on personal experience, it was certainly Peter. Peter, who had, of his own accord falling down under the attack of the devil and failed to keep his bold promise. Peter had promised in the most explosive terms his unfailing allegiance for Jesus Christ. 

At their last supper together Jesus spoke to Peter about what he (Peter) was going to go through and they had this exchange.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”  And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:31-34 (NASB) 

Jesus knew. Peter didn’t. Jesus cared. Peter didn’t understand.

The time may come for each of us to be tested just as Peter was and likely we will fail just as Peter did. But we don’t have to.  We will if we try, like Peter to be strong in our own ability. Because, we do not have the ability to stand up to and face the enemy of our soul and the enemy of God on our own effort.

You know, that soft buffer than has kept us comfortable in our country? That soft buffer called “A Christian Nation” which has made us soft. That buffer is gone. It simply is no longer there. Atheists are getting bold and striking out.  Just now we are waking up to the fact that being a Christian, a believer of Jesus Christ actually means some people will hate us and will persecute us and say false and evil things about us because of our faith because we say we believe the words of Jesus Christ.

It is only by the grace and power of God that we will ever be able to respond to the hater of God when we are their mark. It may never get as severe as having to refuse to deny God and risk death but such things are happening and the occurrences will increase. John Piper said in one of his podcasts the following when answering a question of whether one will have the courage to not deny God if threatened with death: Of course this is beyond us. None of us in ourselves will die for Jesus. This is a gift of grace if we are able to trust him and love him in that moment. So pray. That is the main thing here. Pray that you will not be like Peter who boldly said: I will never deny you (Matthew 26:35) and then he fails three times (Matthew 26:75). We need to pray: O God, don’t let me boast as though I could do this. Help me to depend utterly on you. http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/gun-to-your-head-will-you-deny-christ

There is so much in the word of God that can give us the confidence that whatever we may face because of our faith, God is always there. He never leaves us, He never fails us, He never forsakes us or deserts us, He is with us wherever we go and we do not need to be afraid.

Tough assignment but nevertheless absolute truth because it comes from God.