Over the past several weeks I have been wrestling with the concept of what it truly means to live as a follower of Jesus. I find myself thinking that it does not look anything like the life of the average American-Labled-Christian. I’m afraid, at times, that it does not even look like the lives of my friends. And then I realize it does not look like my life either.
I truly believe that we have redefined the Christian life to be whatever is better than the average. If I am a Christian who “actually reads my Bible”, or if I am a Christian who attends church regularly, or if I am Christian who is in seminary, or reads spiritual books, or talks about faith, then somehow that is enough. It seems we take society, throw in a little Scripture, and call it the Christian life. It seems we should take Scripture, find the model of the Christian life, and live like we really believe in the Jesus who asks us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.
I do not believe denying ourselves means filling our free time with whatever is convenient. I do not believe taking up our cross includes countless hours in front of a television screen. I believe it is a hard, challenging, daily decision. And I believe it is worth it.
I am a magazine flipper. I am that person that will turn the magazines backwards when with my brothers or brothers in Christ. I have been disgusted by guys walking through the store and stopping with a gawking look at the cover of a magazine with a scantily clad woman. What the model found perhaps artistic in posing with more skin that fabric showing has in turn made her the object of lust in the minds and hearts of men.
There was a truth I did not begin to understand about myself until a few years ago. I, too, am effected by what I see on the covers of magazines, in movies, on TV, and anywhere the media infiltrates my life. When I see what our world considers perfection in a woman, I begin to lust as well. I am not lusting in the same way a man does when he sees the same image. But I am allowing my view of beauty to be shaped by the world’s standards.
Even if I am looking at what is deemed handsome by the world, I am allowing myself to be drawn towards that definition of attractiveness. I can assure you that a photo on the cover of a magazine cannot begin to capture true godly masculinity. The strength of the heart cannot be captured in a photograph.
We do need to fight temptation at its source. We need to avoid situations that will cause us to stumble. We need to flip magazines at times and help guard the eyes of our brothers, but we also need to guard our own eyes and hearts. The Lord’s standard of beauty is far different from the world’s standard. We can look around and see the Creator of all life- who declared His creation good- and know that He sees beauty in various colors, shapes, and sizes. His idea of beauty is not limited to what makes the cover of a magazine.
Have you ever noticed that some modern day worship services seem to be more about bringing glory to the preacher than glory to God?
I am so saddened when I hear speaking that comes so close to the truth but leaves people with such confusion.
I just listened to a message like this, and I am confused. It incorporates Scripture but is not founded on it. In fact, it incorporated almost as much about a popular television show as it did about the Bible. That is scary.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 ESV
Christianity Today has an interesting article called Speak the Gospel. The premise of the article is that the quote, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words” was not an actual reflection of the supposed originator Francis of Assisi. The goal of the article is to point to a rephrase of the quote, “Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.”
At first glance, this rephrase sounds grand. It encourages speaking the gospel versus the obscure nature of showing the gospel through action. Some of the comments on the article make a great point. Our actions should accommodate our words. There are many examples I can give of sharing the gospel with words that were falling on deaf ears. An action that accompanied the words made all the difference- be it a cup of coffee or a generous tip. The actions paved the way for the words to be heard.
We see this example in Jesus and His disciples when they fed people and healed people and also spoke the truth of the gospel. Actions are often necessary.
I do not think the purpose of the article was to minimize deeds done well for the Lord. The purpose was to counteract the rather cop-out statement that it is sufficient to live out the gospel and only use words when necessary. Perhaps the quote should really be, “Preach the gospel boldly and use your actions as tangible demonstrations of the gospel you present.”
HT: Between Two Worlds
Coldplay has offered their latest album LeftRightLeftRightLeft as a free download. I was intrigued as I listened to a few of the tracks. The song 42 has the following line:
You didn’t get to heaven but you made it close.
The line caught me by surprise. It is very true about our society, our churches, and our country. There is so much truth mixed in with the false teachings.
The problem is that getting close to heaven is not getting to heaven. And any gospel besides the full gospel is a false gospel.
The caution is that we can look around us and see many people who are so close to heaven. They may be sitting next to us in church. They may be in our own family. And the truth is that they are lost. They are breathing down the neck of truth without it actually being a part of their own lives. The important distinction is that there is only one other option besides heaven- and that is hell. People who “made it close” are in hell. There is no making it close. There is one way- through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross making atonement for sin that can open up the door of heaven to us. The closest we can get to heaven without the Savior is hell.