What is Biblical Social Justice?

Let’s talk about social justice.  What exactly is social justice?  Depending on who you ask you might get any number of definitions.  But we see that justice ministry is an important subsector of the historic Christian church, and an important teaching in the pages of the Bible.

From the book of Isaiah chapter 1 verses 16 and 17: (NIV)

16 “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Again in Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

These old testament scriptures are telling, and we also see modeled by Jesus in the New Testament, his seven woes to the pharisees (Matthew 23) and his teachings to care for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37) and to be salt and light to civilization (Matthew 5:13-16).

Justice ministry is certainly a biblical practice.  But what exactly should it look like?  What issues should we speak out on?  And how do we go about doing it?

Historically in the church, Christianity has in the protestant vein been a force for liberty and freedom for the western hemisphere. God given rights were enshrined in the American founding, as well as other similar democracies throughout the west. The freedom of religion, the right of assembly, and other personal liberties were largely fought for and enshrined in law by Christians active in human history.

Christians were on the front lines of justice conflicts like the fight to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom, with William Wilberforce successfully defeating the slave trade.  In the United States abolitionist societies cropped up everywhere, and produced the underground railroad, ferrying escaped slaves to freedom.

Today justice ministry continues in many ways. Many churches practice these ministries, including pro-life causes, religious liberty groups, feeding programs, utility assistance, child care, hospitals, and orphanages.

If I were to apply a simple definition to Christian justice I would define it as: “The process by which the body of Christ tactfully advocates for the lost, hurting, and marginalized of society, by activities that preserve, protect, and build up human civilization.”

Justice ministry, however, in the past 10 to 20 years has morphed slightly into “social justice.” In the recent past we’ve seen the growth of “social justice warrior” culture on college campuses across the United States and Europe.  We’ve seen these social justice warrior groups holding protests, preventing certain ‘controversial’ speakers from visiting campuses, and promoting ideas like “wealth inequality,” “rape culture,” “institutional racism,” and “white privilege,” among other things. We see the concept being taught that “white supremacy” is a growing danger in the west.  We see concepts like “intersectionality” being taught on college campuses.  We see a sort of political correctness taking hold in these institutions.  We see the curtailing of freedom of speech and the development of hate speech laws that often target people with viewpoints that dissent against the current prevailing orthodoxy.  The west’s academic institutions have increasingly become places where things like trigger warnings and safe spaces are overriding freedom of speech, and free thought.

So we see these more secular social justice concerns have increasingly migrated from the universities, and have taken hold and been institutionalized as justice ministries within many churches and evangelical/mainline protestant movements.  So we see this wider umbrella ideology of social justice being intertwined with Christianity, and then we see churches beginning to advocate in similar ways to social justice warrior culture.  Is this a good thing?  Should we thoroughly embrace these secular social ideas?

The important question to ask ourselves is: Are these ideas truly Christian and biblical?  Or are they rooted in something else?  Unfortunately, many of these ideas are not rooted in historic Christianity. They are not rooted in natural law, or in any sort of underpinning of a worldview that sees God as the creator, and truth as inherently objective.  Instead, these sociological theories of oppression and systemic racism and intersectionality are rooted in a contrary worldview, that of cultural marxism.

This is not to somehow label all those who espouse such beliefs as “marxists” or “socialists.” This is simply to recognize the reality that these theories are based in general viewpoints of the world as fundamentally a struggle between oppressor and oppressed. This is to recognize the reality that these viewpoints see the story of civilization as power struggles between groups of people vying for dominance.

The vast majority of those who espouse viewpoints within this realm are not bad people.  They are good, decent people who are trying to improve the world for Jesus Christ.  They are simply taking what they were taught in the universities and attempting to apply it to Christian faith and practice.

These people should not be demeaned or mistreated, or told that they are socialists or feminists or marxists.  They are using information they were taught, to try to make the world a better place.  What we do need to do however is take time to sit down, and process a lot of these ideas and viewpoints, and test them according to the scriptures, according to prayer, and according to their results.

Do these viewpoints like intersectionality, white privilege, institutional racism, and so on really bring people together?  Do they bring people closer to Jesus Christ?  Do they bring about racial reconciliation?  Or do they in fact actually drive people further apart?  Do they bring about Christian love, or do they stir up increased hatred?  That is the real question.  Would Jesus Christ if he were physically on Earth right now be asking people to “check their privilege?”  Or would Jesus Christ be more concerned with me checking myself, and me actually loving people and serving people, instead of me telling others to check themselves?

We need to have a conversation about social justice, and how Christians should live out justice in the world.  And we should recognize that if we want a fair balance of Christian justice practice, we have to be willing to think outside the box. We have to be willing to talk about issues that are not just sanctioned by the culture, but also issues that political correctness tell us we can’t talk about: Yes, like abortion.  Yes, like biblical marriage.  Yes, like human trafficking.  And yes, like racial reconciliation.

We need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Are these Christian practices we see in the realm of social justice? Or are they something else?  Are they really biblical, based in humility, love, kindness, and truthfulness?

When we get up on the stage at the conference and tell people about how racist they are, and how hateful their ancestors are, and how awful their country is, and how their culture is virtually beyond redemption, honestly, is that really a humble, loving, reconciling Christian way of speaking and living?  When we get up there and virtue signal about how we have all the culturally-correct viewpoints on race and class and gender, is that really helping anyone?  Or is it just making us feel morally superior?  Maybe we need to talk less about justice, and get out there and do more of it.

So what is Biblical Christian justice?  To me, it means yes, some of the flashy topics like human trafficking and abortion and fighting racism, but it’s also a lot of other less glamorous causes to fight, like advocating for the rights of the elderly, and making sure orphans are cared for properly, visiting those nursing homes, visiting those orphanages, and visiting those at-risk youth centers, and sitting down and talking with those addicted teenagers.  It’s about setting up those food pantries and soup kitchens. It’s about developing educational and after school programs.

Is it super glamorous? Probably not as much.  But it sure is biblical Christian justice, straight out the Bible.  Does it mean we get to speak out and call out injustice verbally? No, I suppose it doesn’t. But it does mean we get to serve people in love.  Does it mean we get to jump on stage and talk about how mean Donald Trump is, and how racist and evil the border wall is?  No, I suppose it doesn’t.  It doesn’t get that controversial when you visit some old ladies at the nursing home, and tell them that Jesus loves them.  It doesn’t get that political when you stop over at the at-risk teen center and tell the kids about how Jesus changed your life.  But boy is it beautiful, full of love, and a glorious, quiet, humble expression of biblical Christian justice.

I know Christians with a desire to promote justice and equality have a lot of passion to speak out and fight the man, and we can do those things in proper biblical ways.  But we should also focus in on how we do those things, and if we’re crossing the line from Christian justice, and into partisan politics.  It can easily go both ways sadly. In a rural community it can mean pretty soon a church is becoming increasingly right wing in their ‘justice causes.’  And in the urban context it can look like ‘social justice’ causes that look pretty left wing in their political agenda.  We have to avoid both of those extremes, and walk the narrow way of biblical Christian justice.

I’m the first one to say that we need to speak out on controversial issues like racism, abortion, human trafficking, religious liberty, and marriage.  But let’s consider our methods.  Is it better to love, or better to stir up dissension and anger?  Is it better to mock and ridicule, or better to understand?  Will racism be destroyed by dividing up people based on the color of their skin, or by bringing people together as one body, one people, united in Christ Jesus?  I’ll let you make that determination.  Let’s consider our ways carefully, and let us return to the Lord, in love, in truth, and in great humility, great compassion, and yes, a great zeal for justice to be done.

“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” -Haggai 1:5-7 NIV

Spiritual Fullness in Jesus Christ

Spiritual Fullness in Jesus Christ


Audio Message:

I’m going to share my testimony, briefly of how I got saved and how I got called to ministry. I was raised as a catholic and as a green bay packer fan. I took to the second much more than the first. I was a very good kid until about 10th grade. My parents started having problems, and they began a divorce process when I was about 15 and concluded that when I was 16. I struggled a lot in school and was bullied a lot.

During this time of struggle I turned to prescription drugs and alcohol to make the pain go away. I quickly became addicted, and these drugs led to different drugs. I crashed a car, and ended up involuntarily confined at a mental hospital. I was expelled from high school as my drug use spiraled out of control. Later I got drunk driving charges and possession of marijuana. I was put in jail for 30 days. After getting my second DUI I went to treatment at the age of 22. I stayed sober about a year. But relapsed and things got worse. For three years I continued to use drugs, going in and out of rehab, and ended up in jail and on probation repeatedly. Around this time my mom and grandpa both got saved in a small Baptist church. They began attending a group where they started praying for me. My grandpa witnessed to me in 2011, and gave me my first Bible and I started reading it constantly. My cousin got me a copy of a movie called the Life of Jesus, which was the gospel of John in movie format. For another year I continued in drug use, until in 2012 I ended up in the emergency room twice for overdoses. I almost died in the ICU one night with my mom present. But finally at rock bottom, I cried out to Jesus Christ, and He transformed my heart and life. I got clean, I got sober, I was brought into the body of Christ, and later I graduated liberty university with a bachelors in religion. 18 months later I started attending the Salvation Army after getting a job at the local homeless shelter in my hometown of Wausau. Two local officers saw the call God had on my life and encouraged me to consider officership. After much prayer, and attending several SA conferences, I realized the Lord was calling me. I decided to test that call, and my DYS’s set me up for a 2 year internship, which I did in Escanaba Michigan. I loved my two years there, and was accepted as a cadet to CFOT in 2017. CFOT was challenging and rewarding in many ways. But I gained a lot of good experiences there. So recently I graduated, and here I am at my first appointment.

I’m very passionate about theology, doctrine, and the truth of God’s word. I’m passionate about personal holiness. I’m also passionate about Christian apologetics, as a way to evangelize the lost. I’m passionate about evangelism and street ministry as well. And obviously I’m very passionate about ministry to drug addicts and alcoholics. I really believe God’s gospel is for anybody and everybody. I came from the bottom myself, God still wanted me. So, that’s a bit about me.

Today as we open the scriptures we consider the theme in Colossians chapter 2 of Spiritual Fullness in Christ. And I want to point you specifically to this theme within a theme, of continuance. Continuance. This idea is simple, we keep going. We keep marching forward in our journey. We don’t stop. We keep going, week by week, month by month and year by year. And that is our ultimate goal as Christians, we want to continue all the days of our lives, to follow Jesus, until we die. That is the plan, that is the mission.

It reminds me of a story of a man who went to alcoholics anonymous meetings regularly to stay sober. He’d been going to several a week, for years. One day he was at a family event, and his wife’s sister looked at him and said, “Why do you keep going to those aa meetings haven’t you learned how to stay sober yet?” And he sort of gave her an angry look, but didn’t know how to respond.

Naturally he spent a great deal of time thinking about the nasty remark, and he remembered that this woman was very religious. And he finally figured out what he should’ve said,” Why do you keep going to church haven’t you learned about Jesus yet?”

If that’s all it took to be a Christian, just show up a few times and learn who Jesus is, and then we just stopped going, would we be very good Christians? No. Not at all. Because we need a consistent input, week by week, every Sunday, to keep us plugged in to the message of Jesus Christ. That’s why we pray in the morning and at night, because we need to stay plugged into the message. That’s why we read our Bibles everyday. That’s why we attend a Bible study during the week, and why we hold each other accountable. It’s all for the greater purpose of staying firmly footed in Jesus Christ.

Because there is another message being communicated to us. It’s the message of the world. It’s the television commercials that tell us if we just buy this product, we’ll finally be fulfilled. It’s the billboard telling us to visit the gentlemen’s club and flash dollar bills at young girls. It’s the bar we pass on the way to work promising a “good time.” It’s television shows, internet websites, friends, even family members who communicate to us about the luxuries and pleasures of this life.

That message competes in our minds and hearts with the message of Jesus Christ. So I want to challenge all of us today, myself included, to change our inputs.

When we drive, let us listen to Christian music, or a Christian audiobook. Let us be steadfast to read a good morning devotional book, and pray in the morning to start the day right. Let us be steadfast in praying before we eat our meals. Let us turn off the television and turn on a good podcast from a Christian minister or Christian apologist. Let us switch over from the secular media websites, to Christian websites. And the whole idea being, that we begin to shift our input from the messages of the world, to the message of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. Rest assured that these cultural messages do impact us more than we might realize. Why do businesses spend millions on 30 second advertisements during the super bowl? Why do businesses pay monthly for bill board ads, radio ads, television ads, and internet ads? Because those advertisements stay in our minds, and affect the purchases we make. They impact our worldview. So we want to careful to make sure we are nurturing a Christian worldview, and not a secular worldview.

Colossians 2:6-8 say this: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Let no one take you captive in this world. No corporation. No government. And no news media. Or political party. We must keep our minds steadfast in all the spiritual fullness found in Jesus Christ.

Verses 9 and 10 say this: “9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”

In Jesus, who is our risen savior, and who is literally alive right now in the eternal reality, beyond this physical reality, you have been brought to fullness.

Jesus Christ is God almighty, all the Deity, capital D, lives in bodily form in Jesus.

And then we find a bit of a paradox in that it says in verse 10 Christ is the head over every power and authority.

Now this is interesting because we often find ourselves seemingly subject to human authority. We find ourselves in job environments that require a great deal of us. We find ourselves sometimes persecuted by people and by their systems of control. We find ourselves seemingly completely subjected to the authorities of this world, paying taxes, carrying around cell phones, purchasing food at the grocery store, driving the speed limit, and so on and so forth.

Yet we know that ultimately we only have one true king and leader, King Jesus Christ. Ultimately Jesus has final authority over every power and authority. Which goes to our current situation. We’re kind of like resistance fighters in France during World War II. If you recall they called themselves the maquis. The maquis were scattered throughout France during the Nazi occupation of France. Now the true French government was a government in exile, in Great Britain. The Maquis would receive orders from the government in exile, and then conduct hit and run attacks on Nazi units, waging guirella warfare.

That’s much like me and you. We’re resistance fighters against the kingdoms of evil and darkness that rule this present world. Our king Jesus is our leader, who is seated in power and majesty in heaven. We know that Jesus is coming again, returning to rule and reign on this Earth. That is our coming D-day invasion, when Jesus returns. But for now we’re under enemy occupation. And our job is to be subversive in winning others to Christ in this world. OF course the weapons of our resistance are not physical, but they are spiritual. We fight our battles by praying, by loving people, by asking the person in the check out counter how they are doing, and blessing them. We wage our battles by sharing the gospel with our friends, coworkers and loved ones. Each of you are under cover, we’re princes and princesses of a coming kingdom, currently in the rags of this world, quietly sharing the gospel, praying for the lost, and winning people to Jesus Christ.

But if we don’t live out our Christian worldview, and we don’t remain steadfast in Christ, there is always the danger of sort of slipping back into the ways of the world. We can very easily just skip praying, skip the bible reading, just worry about ourselves and our own families. Just you know, take vacations, go buy all the stuff we want, and watch movies, and just live for ourselves. I’m sure many French people did that during the occupation, they thought well it’s too dangerous to try to fight the Nazis, we just have to accept this reality, and they probably just went about their regular business. And there are Christians who are like that, Christians who are lazy, and don’t really live for Christ. And Jesus will deal with them directly on the day of judgment. Don’t be one of those Christians. Be a real Christian, who really, truly lives it out.

Remember, that your old lives, before you became Christians are gone. Your old self is dead.

Our scripture today puts it this way: “11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

I used to live a life ruled by the flesh. That’s just a fact. I did what Justin wanted. If Justin wanted drugs, fine. If Justin wanted sex, fine. If Justin wanted to go to college here, great. Whatever Justin wanted, the flesh ruled, all my wants, I lived to fill. But now that old guy is dead. Dead and gone. Buried with Christ in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I died that day I cried out to Jesus Christ. And then the Holy Spirit raised me up in my faith that Jesus Christ really saved me. Really is real. See, just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the father across the cross, and is alive right now, that’s just how we share in Christ Jesus, we’re born again, of the Holy Spirit, and alive because Jesus conquered the grave.

The scripture for today concludes in this way, and this will also be our altar call for today: v.13-15 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Now that is the gospel right there, if you’ve never heard it before, there it is. Today, if there is someone in this room who doesn’t have Jesus Christ as their savior, I want to tell you today, you can receive Him right now. Right at this very moment.

Are you dead in your sins? Do you need forgiveness for your sins? Because Jesus Christ is here right now, in glory, with His angels, and in power, and His holy spirit is here waiting to come upon you. Come to the altars right now. Declare your need publicly for Jesus. And if you want to recommit your life today to Christ, please come forward as well.

Jesus Christ was slaughtered brutally on the cross, God on the cross, for the purpose of cancelling the charges against us. We were legally in debt, with a long list of our sins over our lives condemning us before God as sinners, as traitors to God, and as those destined for the fires of hell.

But Jesus Christ, our God, decided it would not end that way. He decided to take the punishment for our sins for us, on the cross. So if you believe in Jesus Christ, and repent of our sinful ways, and put your full faith in Christ, and give your life completely to Him, He will make you born again.

Count the cost wisely friends. Because we must completely give our lives to God, to do with as He desires. We yield our lives to Christ, and we begin to live for God’s will and not our own will. That is not easy. But it is so worth it.

For those who need Jesus and want to claim Him as savior today please pray with me. And if you simply want to reaffirm your commitment to Jesus and give it all over to Him once more, please pray with me, as we close today.

When Political Activists Take over your Church

The views in this article are solely of those making them, and do not represent any organization or institution.
Have you ever noticed how ministries can become politicized over time?  It’s a real concern in our day and age, where political ideology has the country polarized, that same political activism can push its way into the church.
I’ve noticed this particularly in inner-city churches, where political ideology begins to take over as the driving force behind the church, and the Christian faith begins to take a back seat to the latest political cause or social theory that is going around.
It’s ironic that churches in the heart of major cities, where hundreds of thousands of people don’t know Jesus lose their way in this manner. It’s a sad irony that churches positioned so perfectly for ministry to so many lost souls would instead focus their attention on identity politics, dividing people up by skin color, presidential politics, perceived wealth inequality, war of the sexes, racism, sexism, and all the various isms of secular-progressive political discourse.  With so many millions without the light of Christ, shouldn’t evangelism, discipleship, and worship be front and center for these inner city churches?
Unfortunately, it seems that political activists often work their way into churches, organizations, and institutions. Indeed, in the area of social work, many social justice and socio-political activists get involved to distribute social services, and advocate for victim groups and so on.
Oddly enough, over time we find that many people in key leadership positions will use those positions to advocate not for the proclamation of the gospel, but for the proclamation of their political beliefs.
With evangelical Christians there is always the danger of moving too far conservative on the political wheel.  So it becomes more about patriotism, presidential elections, campaigning for candidates, or worse: The gospel can be drowned out over time.
With mainline protestants, it’s moving in the other direction, toward secular progressive ideology. Soon ministry becomes more about political ideology. Instead of the gospel it becomes social justice, racial identity politics, liberal feminism, wealth redistribution, attacking traditional culture, gay pride, and fighting perceived power structures.  The gospel gets drowned out, it’s a secondary concern to the political ideology.
I just want to raise a warning flag for people out there who may have noticed this activism begin to take place in their church, or in their church headquarters.  I want to indicate some warning flags to watch for, and I want to indicate some ways to push back against it.
Let’s look at three warning flags:
1. Buzz words like “Intersectionality, multiculturalism, micro aggressions and trigger warnings.”  
These sort of social theory buzz phrases are appearing more and more in church movements.  These ideas are a mixed bag, there are some good points to them certainly, but also some negatives.
Overall diversity is a good thing.  But enforced diversity is something different all together.  When quotas are being instituted, and when the language becomes more and more about politics, power structures, and “white privilege” then it’s fair to recognize that secular social theory/ideology has begun to infiltrate the church.
In the Bible, in the New Testament, do we ever see God dividing people up in this way?  No.  God’s body is a unity in diversity of different peoples and nations all coming together to form one unique body, the body of Christ.  One of the strengths of the body of Christ is diversity.
Multiculturalism, once again, not an inherently negative concept, churches are very often self-segregated, and multiculturalism is the idea of bringing various cultures together, and different ethnicities together in a single church, to worship together.  That’s biblical!  It’s definitely a good thing.  But once again, there are excesses to multiculturalism, like the idea of rejecting any assimilation to American culture, or the idea of blending disparate cultures together on a political level through mass immigration, has been in some cases disastrous for different parts of the world.
2. Dividing People Up into Groups – When people are divided up into groups, and then pitted against each other, you are beginning to see something called “identity politics” at play.
This is an ideology where white people are pitted against black people. Women are pitted against men. Black people are told they are victimized by white people.  White people are told they’re racist and privileged.  Hispanics are told Americans hate them, young people are told old people are the problem, the economically impoverished are told that rich people are the reason they are poor.  It’s all about dividing people up, and pitting them against each other.  And it leads to division, anger, and even violence.  But it’s part of something called “community organizing.”  Community organizing is something done in inner cities by some organizations. The goal in community organizing is to gather people together in outrage against perceived injustices.  They look to the concept of “self-interest” that these groups have interests that are common, and they need to be organized to fight against systemic oppression.
Now the scriptures do talk about advocating for the poor and the powerless, but I don’t think God had in mind dividing people up into victim groups and turning the oppressed into the oppressors.  God’s purpose in society is that we would do justice, and show no favoritism for or against any people.  (Deuteronomy 16:19).
“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” – Leviticus 19:15, NIV

3. Theology and Doctrine begin to be changed – This is really more than a warning sign, it’s a sign that the end is near. Your movement or denomination is now openly changing their viewpoints on key concerns, and even core doctrines of the church are suddenly thrown into question by these political / social justice activists.  Their concern for the Bible and theology is secondary to their political ideology, that is the main issue. They don’t care about historic doctrinal views or even about what the Bible says, what they care about is their social ideology and their political positions.  If the Bible conflicts with their ideology, it has to be changed.
Those are three common warning signs, but there are many others.  Watch the publications of your movement or denomination.  Watch their magazines and online articles.  Stay up to date with the leaders of your movement and what they share on their social media accounts.  And keep an eye on what is being taught at your denominational conferences.  Often times political activists who are at work in your organization are strategic climbers, they know how to get into positions of authority, and use those positions to bring in more like-minded individuals to push their agenda.  Often times these sort of mass-changes in church movements will manifest from the top, and be forced downward from there.
Now let’s look at three things you can do to make a difference.
1. Write a Letter or Email to your Leadership – Write out a well thought out letter, and make sure you use clear evidence when you are detailing what you’ve noticed.  Maybe you’ve noticed something at a conference, or something at your local church, or something on social media, and you’re concerned.  Document your evidence, write out a letter, and send it to your leadership, either at your local church, or to your headquarters.
Believe me, there are a lot of good people out there in high up positions who just don’t know what they don’t know.  They haven’t noticed the activism.  They don’t deal directly with that person or ministry.  Let them know!  If you’re afraid to go down on record, send it anonymously, but I think it’s wiser to go down on record and show them you’re a caring member of a body of believers.  Just remember to be kind, encouraging, and detailed in your communication.
2. Organize with like-minded individuals – It’s important to organize in your own denomination when you find yourself threatened by political activists. Gather together in your community or if necessary on a Facebook group.  Discuss what is happening, share information, get organized, and begin to speak up for biblical truth.

3. Become a Leader Yourself – You can make a difference as a leader. Of course this is a calling, it shouldn’t be done for any other reason, but as a calling to ministry.  But perhaps you are called for just such a time as this. We need godly Christian leaders who love the word of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But even if you aren’t a leader, you can still speak up.  If something bothered you at the conference, or event, let leadership know.  If something seemed wrong, or unbiblical, communicate with your pastor or leader, and ask them to pass your concerns on to their leaders.  If you’re in a break out session or group and something non-biblical is being pushed, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask a question, or if necessary, simply walk out.
In conclusion, we have to be very cautious in our current age of moral relativism, post-modernism, and political polarization that the ideologies of the surrounding culture don’t take over and subvert our churches. Our mission is too critical. The world needs Jesus, all peoples, of all cultures, and all nations. We can and should engage in biblical justice in society.  But that should always be secondary to the gospel.  Don’t ever let politics, ideology, or social theories separate you from the holy love of Jesus Christ.

Related Posts:

  1. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  2. Israels flight from Egypt to the Promised Land
  3. A Heart of Love: What am I seeking in Life?
  4. The Forgotten Teaching in the Church: Holiness
  5. The Army of God will have Victory after Victory
  6. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
  7. How Holiness Theology Transformed My Understanding
  8. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  9. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell 
  10. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life

Can One Sin In My Life Lead Me to Hell?

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” –Romans 13:13-14 ESV

In our modern day we as Christians can assume that we’re fine with one foot in and one foot out.  We’ve got the whole grace through faith in Christ equation going in our lives.  That’s what it’s really all about right?  I mean, if we have some active sins in our lives, no big deal right?  I mean, nobody can be perfect.  Especially if it’s just some of the ‘small sins.’  After all we’ve got grace, right?

Part of the equation of salvation is the recognition that we’ve set aside our old selves, which were corrupted by sin, and we’ve “put on” our new selves which are being built up in righteousness.  Indeed, the equation of salvation is fairly simple, as Jesus put it, “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)

And again, “Be holy as I am holy, for without holiness no one will see the Lord” 1st Peter 1:15-16.

Also it is written: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” -Hebrews 12:14

So, let’s say I’m a Christian, and I live my life in service to God, preaching the gospel, and living a set apart life.  But during my life I never repent (turn away from) the sin of stealing.  I occasionally download music illegally from the internet.  I do that in my life, then I die, and face God in the judgment at the end of the world.  Do I go to heaven or hell?

Another example, we have a woman, shes a Christian, lives for God, and serves in lay ministry.  But there’s a sin in her life that she treasures, it’s the sin of gossip.  She loves to speak about others, and share details about their lives, and she can sometimes be harsh and cruel in her private judgments.  So she dies, and she goes to face God on judgment day.  Where does she go?

Another example, we have a man who is a Christian, but he holds out a fair amount of unforgiveness toward people who have hurt him.  Other than that, he leads a pure life, but he feels justified in not forgiving others who have sinned against him.  He dies suddenly, and goes before God.  Where does he go?

Still another example, a man struggles with pornography and masturbation.  He’s a minister, and he preaches to a large congregation.  He gives a good witness, but has a private addiction that he never addresses despite the Holy Spirit prodding him to do so.  Where does he go when he dies and faces God?

One final example, a godly Christian woman has led dozens of people to Christ, she’s done great deeds in His name, but she hangs on to a certain habit.  She asks a friend at a local pharmacy to get pills for her, and give them to her, for a sickness she has, which she could pay for, but since her friend works there, she gets them for free. The Holy Spirit has convicted her many times, but she refuses to set those things aside. As she passes away, and faces God, where will she go?  Heaven or hell?

The truth is that each of these people in these scenarios would not go to heaven, they would go to hell.  Can a Christian end up going to hell?  Yes they very much can.  We each have a requirement in our personal lives of living in holiness and purity before God.

This is a high standard of living, but it’s quite thoroughly livable in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Thankfully for each of us, the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, convicting us, rebuking us, comforting us, and helping us live out our Christian walk.  But we have the choice of resisting the Spirit’s leading, and clinging to our old sins.  And if we don’t “repent and believe the gospel” but remain unrepentant (unwilling to change) we shouldn’t expect to inherit eternal life.  Instead we’ll inherit condemnation.

Ephesians 4:30-31 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Our sins are washed away by the powerful blood of Jesus Christ.  He has paid our debt of sin.  But it was a high, high cost to pay.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross, so we could continue sinning in our earthly lives, and use him as a constant damp rag to wipe off our own sin over and over again.  Sadly, we often have a cavalier attitude toward sin in our day and age.  We comfort ourselves with catch phrases about grace, grace, and more grace. In fact it seems as if many of these grace-junkies in the church worship the idea of grace more so than God himself. Now grace is absolutely a central theme of our faith. But it’s not the end all be all. Many have used the concept of grace as an excuse to live in sin, not realizing that the scriptures clearly tell us that we’ve been called to live pure, holy, set apart lives.

If you are caught in a sin in your life right now, realize this: Jesus Christ will set you free.  The Holy Spirit is right there with you, willing and able to set you free.  Follow His leading!  Any sin that we commit on Earth, as long as we come to Christ in prayer, confess the sin, and repent (turn away from it) we know we will be forgiven.  The important thing is to move into the future and not continue to habitually commit that sin again and again.

Our God is a God of great love.  In fact the word of God tells us God is love.  But our God is also a consuming fire. Heaven and hell are both realities.  We should live in light of that, trembling before our Heavenly Father, and learning to fear Him and as such, live holy lives of reverence and awe for God.

Sadly, this is a somewhat lost teaching in the pulpits of modern day Christianity.  Pastors don’t wants to offend anyone.  Pastors don’t want to risk losing church members by preaching on those pesky “sin and judgment” verses.  After all it’s the message of love that will get people saved right?  Well, yes and no. Love is very important, yes.  But often times we need a good dose of some raw facts about sin and hell, to motivate us toward repentance and change.  Should we share about these things in order to scare people to change?  Not at all.  But people should be taught, and should be warned about the many messages about purity and holiness in the scriptures. We’re abdicating our duty if we ignore them. We can’t ignore and minimize the warnings of hell and eternal torment in the scriptures.  We can’t just write these things out because we don’t like them, or think they might offend someone.

Holiness is our calling.  And holiness we must have, in order to see God.  We all struggle, and stumble in many ways. But in the journey of our lives, as the Holy Spirit convicts us, and calls us out of sin, we should be quick to respond, and quick to repent, realizing that to remain in sin, even as a professing Christian, is to leave our souls in great danger.  God loves us.  Jesus will help us be free from sin.  But we have to take dutiful action as the Spirit convicts and leads us.  But please don’t be afraid.  As it is written, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” -Philippians 1:6.

But I will remind you, that this is not a message that you will hear from many pulpits in our modern day and age of feel good worship experiences and self help sermons.  Which is why it’s more important then ever that Christians read the Bible for themselves, carefully, and understand everything that is written.  Don’t trust in theological systems, don’t trust what the pastor or priest says, trust what the Bible says, line by line, and carefully studied.

I’ve made the mistake in the past of clinging too closely to a preferred theological system, whether it be Arminianism or Calvinism or whatever. Don’t make that same mistake.  Hold closely to the word of God, and hold lightly to the theological systems of man.  I had noticed over the years of my faith that there seemed to be a disconnect between what I heard in pulpits and what I was reading in the Bible.

But I comforted myself that the preachers must know better than me about the word, and theology.  But often times that’s not the case, and if we see something in the Bible, we should study it and learn it, and follow it to it’s logical conclusion.  Heaven is real and hell is real.  Jesus Christ is real.  Everything hangs in the balance.  Don’t let any man or woman deceive you with empty words or hollow philosophy.

As it says in Galatians: “We are each responsible for our own conduct. Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” -Galatians 6:5-8 NLT

So what is the final answer? Can one sin in my life lead me to hell? The answer to this question is yes.  One sin that the Holy Spirit has repeatedly convicted you of, and you’ve consistently resisted that call to change, throughout your whole life, to the moment of death (which is an unknown moment for each of us) can and will lead you to hell.

Our God is a holy, pure, perfect, righteous God of love, grace, and mercy.  He has given us everything we need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  But if we snub the Lord, living with one foot in holiness and one foot in sin, we shouldn’t expect for the outcome to be heaven, but instead hell and punishment.  I’m sorry, I know, it’s a tough teaching, but that is God’s standard.

There are no big and small sins, to sin by breaking one command is to break them all.  But thankfully we have a great savior in Jesus Christ who actively walks with us through this life, and His Spirit is within us, helping us to grow further and further away from sin and deeper and deeper into righteousness.  If you walk with Jesus Christ, He will make you to be holier and holier day by day.  Do that carefully, giving consideration to your ways, and you won’t have to worry about falling short of eternal life.  But if you resist the Spirit of God and lazily allow sin to prevail in your Earthly life, realize that the word says you’ll reap what you sow.

Trust in God, brothers and sisters, and give no provision for the flesh to obey it’s desires, but live instead to obey the Spirit and fulfill His desires in you.  Amen.

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  6. The Church of Laodicea & The Church of America
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Everything a Christian Needs to Know about Sex, Gender, and Marriage

How can a Christian live out sexual purity in a relativistic world?  And what should Christians believe about issues like sex, gender, and marriage?  We’ll delve briefly into an array of issues, looking at how we can live out a holistic worldview of Christian purity.

The goal of living out the Christian ethic in this area is holy wholeness, of embracing healing, life, integrity, peace, joy, and truth in the areas of sexuality that we navigate through in life.

Sexuality is a gift from God to humanity.  That much is quite certain from the scriptures.  One need only read scriptures like the Song of Solomon, that depicts the intoxicating romance between Solomon and his wife to realize sexuality is a good and holy thing.  God designed humanity in a basic format, as male and female from the beginning, which is shared with us in Genesis.  And God commands the first humans, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful, to have children and fill the Earth with their descendants. Jesus himself quoted from Genesis, in the book of Matthew when questioned about marriage and divorce.

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV) “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

God designed marriage from the beginning to be a bond between a man and woman that would never be broken in this life.  But of course we know that things went terribly wrong in the garden, and humanity turned against God. Humanity betrayed God, embraced the lie of Satan, and as a result creation was cursed, human nature became fallen, and humanity was expelled from paradise.

Thus we face many situations where the good, holy, and blessed gift of sexuality becomes distorted, misused, and even used for evil.  Yet in our lives as Christians we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out sexual purity.  The gift of sexuality is still a free gift from God, and we can actively participate in it, assuming we are willing to navigate the world carefully.

First we consider marriage.  Marriage is a sacred union of one man, and one woman, in which two people become one flesh.  They join their lives together, and this joining cannot easily be broken. Sadly, divorce is a common occurrence in our society.  The Bible says that God hates divorce, which is very strong language.  But one can see easily the terrible effects a divorce has on a family, for the reasoning behind why God hates divorce.  Divorce causes great sorrow, pain, and brokenness.  Marriage is not a simple contract, but a permanent bonding.  And there is only one biblical mandate that allows for divorce, according to Jesus, that is adultery.  Leaving a marriage in divorce just because of disagreements, or stresses, or because we “fell out of love” is worldly madness of the most foolish kind imaginable.  It’s based in selfishness.  Of course there are situations, like when abuse is taking place, when one should meet one on one with their pastor/minister and discuss reconciliation and intervention.

The act of sexual intercourse between husband and wife is a sacred act, by which male and female become one.  This union is powerful and not only emotional, but physical in nature.  This is why sexuality is meant to be practiced only in the context of marriage.  You’ll notice that those who practice sexual intercourse with many partners will often appear disgruntled and empty.  When one unites with many sexual partners, one leaves behind pieces of themselves.

Often today we treat sexual intercourse as a try out while dating.  This is not a wise or biblical practice for sexuality.  While sex with multiple partners is harmful emotionally and spiritually, it can also be harmful physically.  Many STDs are rampant throughout the human population, along with HIV.

Of course of utmost concern is the chance of becoming pregnant.  It’s ironic, that we as humans treat sex so cavalierly, as if it were some sort of sport, yet when the realization of pregnancy comes upon us, and the testing stick shows the red lines, we suddenly wake to the realization that sex is actually a sacred act, that produces a sacred God-given life, and we’re shocked with the reality that we’ve treated God’s gift of sex as if were some damp rag to be used to get our jollies off.

What about masturbation?  Surely if a Christian must refrain from sexual intercourse outside marriage, and given that young adults are getting married at later and later ages, surely God must allow for masturbation as an antidote for those pesky lustful desires?  Fortunately God is much wiser than us.  And masturbation ought to be considered clearly outside the defined boundaries of biblical sexuality.  And masturbation, far from being an act that drives off the lustful desires of youth, actually intensifies them, and as masturbation is practiced, the lustful desires become stronger and stronger.  Interestingly enough, as masturbation is refrained from, the lustful desires lose more and more power.  Eventually their power is defeated, and God’s victory is declared in your heart and life.  If your caught up in masturbation, pray constantly to the Lord about this issue, and He will set you free.

Obviously as we consider masturbation the issue of pornography instantly comes up.  What you’ll notice, and what I’ve noticed more and more over time is that these sexual issues in our culture are all connected to one another.  Pre-marital sex to abortion, masturbation to pornography, pornography connected to human sex trafficking, and so on and so forth.  It’s all a tangled web, intricately connected.

Pornography is the act of watching pre-recorded materials of two or more human beings, created in the image of God, engaging in sexual intercourse.  Pornography is obviously a destructive perversion of God’s will for sexuality.  Sexual activity is meant to be between two people, and when another person enters as an onlooker the sacredness of the sexual act is lost.  Often times the argument for pornography is simply this: “Everybody is doing it, and if you say you don’t, your lying.” This is a lie.  Many, many people don’t use pornography in any form.  This is a bandwagon fallacy, suggesting everyone is doing it (which is false) and thus you should do it (which is also false).  Even if every single human does something, I still have a choice as to if I’m going to do it or not.  And the truth is, many, many people don’t view pornography.  As such they shouldn’t, because it’s simply evil.  Many of the actors and actresses in the pornography business may actually be sex trade victims themselves.  Pornography fuels lust, pornography fuels the sex trade industry, pouring money into it, and thus those who view pornography inevitably end up supporting sex trafficking in some form.  Don’t be part of that.  Cry out to God for freedom from it.  Pray against it.

Human Trafficking is a great evil of our time, in which women, men, and children are kidnapped, coerced, or groomed into the industry of sex slavery.  Women are used as sex objects, repeatedly raped, until they die, and all of this for the purpose of making money.  Sex tourists travel, and use these men and women as sex objects for their own gratification.  Human trafficking must be prayed against, spoken out against, and stopped worldwide.  Human trafficking is evil.  And victims must be rescued from the sex trafficking industry, and traffickers must be stopped, healed, and delivered to healing as well.  Pray hard. Human trafficking is ultimately a consequence of the fall of humanity, and the desire of humanity to play god, and redefine sexuality to suit our own desires.

Abortion is another consequence of humanity’s fall, and a consequence of seeing sexuality as a sort of sport arena for engaging in fun and conquest. Those pesky unborn babies end up showing up on the test, and humans are painfully reminded that sexuality is directly connected to procreation, not just entertainment.  Abortion is a sacrifice of a sort, in which an unborn child is sacrificed on the altar of expediency, on the altar of sexual fun, and tossed aside as a non-human being, a clump of cells, to be discarded based on convenience.  Abortion denies the sanctity of human life, and destroys a human life.  Abortion very simply is murder, and on a larger scale, is genocide.

Next we consider the issue of homosexuality.  What is a biblical understanding of homosexuality?  Clearly, from a plain reading of the scriptures, we understand that to practice homosexual activity is sinful (Romans 1:24-29).

1st Corinthian 6:9-10 states, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Now it’s important to remember that this scripture says “the practice of homosexuality.”  To have temptations toward homosexual behavior is not blameworthy in itself.  It is not sin to be tempted.  All people are tempted in various ways, I may be more inclined to certain sins, others have their unique temptations, and that is the way of things on Earth.  But one’s willingness to abstain and resist temptation is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you struggle with temptations toward this sin, God is calling you to celibacy and abstinence from the practice of this sin.  God may remove the temptations over time, or they may not be removed.  It’s same with any other sin.  Sometimes we find we are no longer tempted through prayer and scripture study, other times our ‘thorn in the flesh’ remains.

There is never any excuse to treat someone who is homosexual, abstaining, or active, with any less dignity than you’d treat any other person.  We are all made in the image of God.  And we are called to love people, and help them to find the love of Jesus Christ.  Of course we also can’t encourage homosexuality as a positive good, for that would be encouraging sinfulness.  And as teachers and leaders, and people of the body of Christ, we will not be held blameless if we lead others astray in this manner.  So the equation is to show great love, mercy, and dignity to those who struggle in this area, while also guiding them toward the truth found in the scriptures and the freedom found in Jesus Christ.

More and more so, we find that those who embrace homosexuality, more so than just embracing a preference in sexuality, are placing their whole identity in that lifestyle.  And we have to help people understand that their true identity is in Jesus Christ, not in sexual desire.

Lastly, we consider the topic of gender.  There is an increasing amount of confusion about gender in our society today.  Might you be wondering why this is?  Well, one of the ideologies prominent in our society today is post-modernism, which brings with it relativism, and naturalism.  These ideologies look to deconstruct in many ways preconceived notions about society and how we live.  They are essentially working to overturn many of the assumed Christian beliefs that had informed western civilization in the past.  So if the only basis for gender is found in the Bible, and in historic civilization, they look to deconstruct that, and change that if some people are being left out, and so on.

Thus we find ourselves with many new genders being created, seemingly out of thin air.  I’ve read that something like 56 exist, with more being created over time.  The basic idea is that “gender” is a social construct, meaning to them: It’s not really real.  Thus they believe since it’s simply a social construct that they can take it and adjust it to fit the needs of less fortunate individuals. If someone thinks they are gender fluid, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming, then that must be true, because in post-modernism the desires of the individual are king.

As Christians we know that gender is not simply a social construct, but the way in which God created us, male and female, from the beginning. As it says in Genesis 1:27 (ESV) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

As people are increasingly confused about gender and what it means, we as Christians can be a prophetic voice to the lost people of society, calling them to embrace the truth of God’s word, and understand that gender is not simply a human construct, but a divine gift of God.  Once again in gender confusion we find people are put their whole identity in their gender, in transitioning from male to female, or female to male, they place their whole identity their.  And we must help people to see that their identity is rooted in Christ, in the divine image of God, and the hope of eternal life.

Thanks for reading, and please be in prayer for those who struggle in many of these areas, from families ruined by divorce, to those addicted to pornography, and those struggling with the results of human trafficking and pornography, and of course those who struggle with homosexuality and gender confusion.

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The Exodus from Egypt: The Golden Calf at Mt. Sinai

Audio Message:

The desert air is cold. A wind blows through the camp, and the smell of frankincense hints in the air from some distant shrubs along the arid landscape. You stand outside a small tent, and in all directions tents dot the landscape, beyond your vision. You’ve woken up early, and darkness still covers the land, with just a few hints of sunlight in the far distance. You look down at your hands, to the scars of the shackles you used to wear in Egypt. Now your free, or so it seems, but something in you longs for the slavery again, yet this raw excitement fills you, because you’ve found something greater, a whole new way of life, with a God of the universe. You smile looking up at the star filling the sky. Then you gaze at it again, a giant beam of fire licking the night sky, standing there like a pillar, unfueled, yet ceaselessly burning. You watch, as the first hints of the light of the morning touch it, and the pillar is suddenly replaced, by a strand of cloud, as the morning roosters start crowing.

Imagine it… 2 and a half million people traveling through the wilderness, they must’ve looked like a mighty stream from above. And now they’d come to a stop, around an ancient mountain.

Today we’re talking about The Exiles at Mt Sinai. We’re going to consider concepts like being set apart by God and the high cost of sin. So the Israelites had been delivered by God from slavery in Egypt, and they’d traveled for some time in the wilderness.

Soon God had led them to make camp near Mt. Sinai. And we see here an amazing close encounter happen between God and man. The culmination of these events is that the Israelites and God enter into a binding covenant, based around the 10 commandments, and the rest of the law. God says, I’ve called you to be set apart as holy, different, starkly different from the world. And this is how you do it, you live by my laws.

Notice the order of events: Did God come to the Israelites while they were slaves in Egypt and say, alright, here are the laws you have to live by, and if you can measure up, then I’ll set you free. No. Freedom comes first, then comes holiness.

Similarly, today, God has saved each of us, before we were holy. We come to Jesus Christ completely helpless, sinful, a hot mess and he saves us like that. And how is he able to do that? God takes all that sin upon us, and he transfers it to Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross. He deletes our sin, with the heavy price of Jesus own blood, the blood of the son of God. Then our sins are gone. And much more, we are reborn, given the Holy Spirit, and set on a course of progressive sanctification. Have your sins been crucified with Jesus? Take a moment now to receive that.

We see Moses repeatedly acting as a mediator, between God and man, as one who intercedes for the people, and stands before God as a representative of the people. Does that remind you of anyone from the new testament? Jesus.

Next Moses is called up to the mountain top to meet with God. Has God ever called you to the mountain top? Is he calling you today, to come to the mountain top, and receive something from Him? A gift? A freedom from sin? A new cleansing in holiness?

But while Moses is high up with God, time passes, weeks and weeks go by, and the people down below become impatient. And they appeal to Moses’ second in command, Aaron, to make them a god to go before them. Something physical that they can see, so they can worship God in such a way. Aaron gathers gold from the people, and they fashion it into a golden calf, set up an altar, and they even declare a day “To the Lord” in which they bring their burnt offers to the calf, and make sacrifices to God, mediated by this gold idol. Then after this solemn time of offerings, they throw a party, and everything goes crazy from there.

Today when we study this story, we think to ourselves: How foolish could these people possibly be? They’ve personally seen God split open the water, and they walked on dry ground. How could they do this!

But how often do we do the same thing in our Christian life? We saw God deliver us from sin. He gave our lives meaning. We were out there chasing after sin, sinning in all sorts of ways, lying, stealing, enslaved to lust, manipulation, and God didn’t hold that against us, He saved us anyway. We saw the transformation. We saw our lives go from darkness to light.

But one day we see one of those old sins, and we jump right back into the mud pile. And once that first compromise is made, it so quickly can become a new habit of behavior. And Satan has just built a beachhead in our hearts.

If we allow sin to live in us too long as Christians, it begins to separate us from God. Instead we must allow the Holy Spirit to convict us, and cooperate in His process of change in us. Early in my walk as a Christian I struggled with just such sins in my life, and I had to dig into Christian books, and prayer, and accountability relationships. And I had to fight those battles, to be free from sin.

Maybe we aren’t so different from the Israelites and their golden calf. Maybe our golden calves are just a bit more modern, and socially acceptable.

So as the golden calf rises up in the camp, God tells Moses what is happening below, and He says, “I see what they’re doing.” And Moses is led to intercede for the people, and ask God for mercy, which God grants. Did God really change his mind? I don’t think so. God wanted Moses to learn to intercede for his people in that moment. And he did.

So Moses goes down with the stones tablets, and Moses is so upset at what he sees that he throws down the tablets, and they smash on the ground.

Moses asks Aaron, “What is going on?” And Aaron is like, “Bro, I swear, the people threw their gold in the fire and out came this calf. Isn’t that crazy?” So Aaron lies, and Moses goes to work.

Exodus chapter 32:26-29 says, “Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

What do we do with all of this? What most scholars believe is that this was dealing with the instigators behind the golden calf incident. Possibly some of them were Egyptians who had gone with the Israelites into the wilderness. These corrupt leaders of the people had been the ones orchestrating this rebellion. And God ordered their deaths to prevent sin from infecting the camp once again. This is where we struggle to understand the seriousness of sin. We’re appalled at the slaughter of three thousand people, even if it’s ordered by God. But maybe that’s because we don’t take sin seriously enough. Sin is like an infectious disease, that spread so quickly, and ruins people’s lives. We’re pretty tolerant of sin in our day and age. But God isn’t. God knows sin must be confronted and dealt with, or it will spread, and lead to more chaos, sorrow, and suffering for humanity.

How do we understand these events in our modern context? Obviously God doesn’t order us to go and kill false teachers. That’s not how things work in the new testament period. We are told as Christians to pray for those who persecute us, and love our enemies, and to speak out against false teachers. We know that ultimately God himself will deal with false teachers at the last judgment at the end of time.

To us today, three thousand years later, these events seem alien and difficult to understand. But maybe it’s because we tend to be pretty cavalier about sin today in the modern church. God isn’t so cavalier about it.

These events give us a stark contrast, the contrast of the way the modern church sometimes portrays God, as a god who doesn’t care about sin, and just wants to bless us, and the God of the Bible, who is much more complicated than that. The real God of the Bible cares about things like justice and truth, and goodness and holiness! God is pure love, and full of mercy and grace, yet also a powerful mighty Being of glory, sovereignty and judgment. He is so infinitely beyond us that we can only glimpse a mere image of His expansive omnipotent nature. To exclude the aspects of God we don’t like, or find uncomfortable, is to make a false god in our own image, in fact, it is to make a golden calf of a sort, and call it god.

In the incident of the golden calf, we see a tragic event for God’s people. They’ve failed God already, and it seems like they’ve only just begun their journey. In fact, we know that they will continue to fail God in various ways throughout their wilderness trek. And at the end of Exodus 32 we see that God even strikes some of the people in the camp with a plague as punishment for their sin.

Have you ever had a time in your life when it felt like God was disciplining you? I’ve certainly had those times in my life. But thankfully the story doesn’t end with discipline and punishment. The page turns, and things get better.

Flip the page in your Bible, to chapter 33. Despite all the Israelites have done, once again God and Moses speak. And God still promises, verse 3, You will go to the land flowing with milk and honey. But Moses insists, “Lord we need you to go there with us.” And God replies, verse 14, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And again in verse 17, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” And Moses asks God to “Show Me your Glory.” And God shows Moses his glory. Basically he is asking God: “I need to know who you really are.” Have you ever asked God that? Do it. I dare you. You won’t be disappointed.

In the final analysis, despite everything that had happened, Moses interceded for the people, and the covenant that was broken was restored. And today in the same way, when we fall short, when we fall into sin, when we set up our golden calves, the very best thing we can do is come to God, ask for forgiveness, and repent. Then we begin to move in a new holy direction. We ask to see God, and God shows us his glory.

One of the greatest things a saint can do, is go even deeper with God, to a new level of intimacy. Make a declaration before God: I want more of you. Lord, show me your glory. Lord, break every chain of sin in my life. Lord, I confess my need in this area. Lord, I throw my golden calf into the fire and I repent.

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The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: The Character & Personality of John



He was the sage who wrote the most beautiful, eloquent, and theologically deep description of the life of Jesus. He followed Jesus all the way to the cross when the rest of the disciples fled. He was so humble and self-effacing that he only mentioned himself in his gospel account as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (John 13:23 NIV). And at the end of his life he encountered the risen Christ once again, and was given an extended vision of the end of the world (Revelation 1 NIV). Today we are looking at the character and life of the apostle John.

The Apostle John was one of the sons of Zebedee, a fisherman, along with his brother James (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1982). John was most likely the younger brother as he is always listed second to James (Chadwick, 2017). John was on a boat fishing with his father Zebedee when Jesus called him to “come and follow me.” Before following Jesus, John and his brother had been followers of John the Baptist. His mother was Salome. He was one of Jesus’ inner circle, being present at the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the transfiguration. John and his brother James were referred by Jesus as the ‘sons of thunder’ perhaps because of their passion and zeal for the faith (Chadwick, 2017). It is traditionally believed that John’s mother Salome was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, which would make him and Jesus cousins (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1982). John authored the gospel of John, as well as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. According to most traditional sources, the apostle John is the same “John of Patmos” who recorded the book of Revelation, though some dispute this claim (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1982). The author of Revelation claims to be “John” though no further identification is given (Walton & Keener, 2016, p. 2216). The apostle John’s authorship is generally supported by early church tradition (Walton & Keener, 2016, p. 2216).

Let us consider the Apostle John’s character. He was certainly prone to error just as any of the other disciples were. Him and his brother desired to be the greatest in the kingdom of God, and requested Jesus would do it for them (Mark 10:37 NIV). He forbade a man to cast out demons in the name of Jesus because he was not a follower with them, but was rebuked by Jesus for doing so (Luke 9:49-50 NIV). He had also desired to cast down fire on a village that rejected the teachings of Jesus along with his brother James (Luke 9:54-55).

Yet we see the apostle John is a thoughtful, deep thinker who followed Jesus faithfully as one of the inner circle of disciples (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 5:37 NIV). In his gospel he refers to himself rarely, and quietly accounts the fact that he stayed with Jesus all the way through the crucifixion when the rest of the disciples fled. He was trusted so thoroughly by Jesus Christ that when Jesus was upon the cross he looked at John and his mother Mary and said, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27). His love and devotional to Jesus seemed to go beyond Peter, James, or any of the other disciples, as he loyally followed Jesus through his passion and to the cross itself. This would’ve taken great courage and fierce loyalty. Later in life John would be the one whom Jesus would trust his revelation of the end times to through a vision. John would record Jesus’ instructions to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation as well.

Beyond what is recorded in the gospels and epistles, John’s history and actions outside the scriptures fades into myth and legend (Chadwick, 2017). Polycrates and St. Irenaeus, early church fathers indicated that John died in Ephesus and that his tomb was there (Chadwick, 2017). During the second century it was reported by Tertullian, another church father, that John was dropped into a giant pot of boiling oil but miraculously came out unburned (Chadwick, 2017). Other legends went around that John was martyred in some way (Chadwick, 2017).

In conclusion, the apostle John famously wrote in his gospel account, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). John’s gospel gives us a look at the life of Jesus in deeper theological context. It gives us a greater understanding of God’s love, the hope of everlasting life, and brings out the fullness of the passion of Jesus Christ. He was a zealous and devoted man, though not immune to error and sin, he was part of Jesus’ inner circle, and entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother Mary. Overall, the Apostle John through his simple, yet provocative life gives us a picture of a quiet, thoughtful, yet imperfect man made into a hero by the power of a loving God. 



References

Chadwick, H. (2017, August 29). St. John the Apostle. Retrieved January 25, 2019, fromhttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-John-the-Apostle

Silva, M., & Tenney, M. C. (2009). The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume 3, H-L. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (1982). Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Pub.

Walton, John H. Keener, Craig S. (2016). Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Harpercollins Christian Pub.