“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2
Having lived on both sides of the Mason Dixon line I got to learn a few things from society. Both sides had different views about the civil war. This verse brings to mind two granite statues I've stood before, one in the South, and one in the North, one of a confederate soldier, and one of a union soldier. Both statues had inscriptions relative to their view of the Civil War of 1861. The North viewed that war as the “Great Rebellion”, hence the reason the Southern forces were called, Rebels. The South viewed the war as “The War of Northern Aggression”. Both sides went into a war that produced nearly 850,000 deaths believing they were fighting for what was right.
As Christians, we can only be right about those things that are clearly understood in Scripture. Let’s just face it; there are grey areas that good men on both sides disagree on. Arguments and discussions will abound till Christ returns. I’m all for one having his or her opinion, but lets be sure of a few things before we spout our opinions openly.
1) That we first possess enough discernment to differentiate between what is clear and what is not.
2) That our disposition even when we are relating our view of an issue pertinent to Christianity is given in the right spirit of love and grace.
3) That we are careful to not cause casualties. There is a time and place for opinions, and there are ears that are not ready for hearing them.
Nobody likes a good fight as much as I do, but as I learn more of Jesus I pick my battles and consider my hearts attitude carefully lest I shoot my own.
The early church did not give their lives because they loved the Law of Moses. They didn’t die a Martyrs death over church standards that they believed should be adhered to. They willingly accepted death because of their love for Jesus Christ and for who He was and is.
It is the same now, and will be in the future as well. Men and women will not die over standards. They will however, die for Him; that is if they truly know Him in intimacy like the disciples before us knew Jesus. I am not referring to lost people, but rather we who are saved. We are not to suppose that every truly born again Christian will choose death in an era of persecution.
Unfortunately, a turn for the worse took place in the free world some years ago. We have departed from the theology of men like C.H. Spurgeon who understood the application of the Gospel for not only lost men, but also for the saved. That change has been revealed by:
1) A shift from a Christocentric position to a performance based position. Like the Galatians, we believed that the Gospel of the grace of Christ began and ended with salvation. Once saved, it was back to living under a standard, whether it be the Ten Commandments or a set of indefinable list of do’s and don’ts.
2) The church became the believer’s goal and not the means of attaining that goal. A person’s “Spiritualality” is based on how many times per week he or she attends church, or by how many ministries he or she is involved in within the church.
3) A horrible lack of application of the “new law” that Jesus gave. I’ll let you look that up. Get your concordance out.
4) A poor understanding of missions giving has killed the budget of many churches who hang onto some magical idea that God will continue to bless their lack of common sense. We have come to believe that missions are more important than the local church in some cases. We have also come to think that the local church absolutely has to support missionaries.
5) Doctrinal impurity – I’m not referring to the doctrine of other churches and denomination. I’m referring to teachings in our own house. Law and grace, justification and sanctification, and the believer’s positional standing are just a few areas that have been abused, perverted, and wrest over the last almost 100 years.
This list is only the beginning and each point can be elaborated on to great depth, but a generation has past and the churches weakness, influence, and slow demise have been the result. Many Bible-believing churches are now populated with more woman than men and older folk than younger people. For the younger generation, “going to church” has lost it’s relevance to them. This is why I’m convinced that if God were to send a persecution to America, so few would accept death.
The good news is the tide is changing.
A few weeks ago, March 28th. to be exact, a Facebook friend who often post scripture references posted John 11:7, 8.
“Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?”
Deb and I had been praying about going back to Maine to pastor a church in Perry. This verse spoke to me. Now as far as I know, no one in Maine is waiting to stone me. I’m not facing what Jesus faced by going back to Maine. Sure, I don’t like snow or the cold and South Carolina has Maine beat in the weather department. Financially we will tuck the belt in a bit. We’ll eat "in" more than out, but if Jesus can face those that hated His so much that they sought to kill Him, surely I can give up a few pleasures of this temporary life to serve Him who did indeed die at the hands of all humanity.
I decided that if I hear or read something good, I will post it on my blog, with permission, of course. Today’s post is from a friend, a brother in Christ, that Deb and I met at a flea market. Pastor Manning Strickland was pedaling his wares and had a book he wrote also on his table. We spoke with Manning about his book and he graciously gave us a copy. The book, AND GRACE WILL LEAD ME HOME comes highly recommended by both my wife and I. Read brother Strickland’s Facebook post of 4/7/14 below and I’ll tell you how you can get the book.
“Grace is either completely understood and grasped or absolutely misunderstood and criticized. Seems that the Apostle Paul had the same problem with people misunderstanding his grace message that we have today. Grace is radical or it isn't grace. Grace doesn't do away with the law. It simply shifts our motivation for obedience from a "list/have to" motivation to a "heart/want to" motivation. The moment you add a "but" to grace, you destroy grace. No "buts" are necessary if you understand that, as Paul said, "sin has no dominion over you if you are under grace". Only grace can tranform a person from insecure to God secure. God's grace is as unconditional as His love. The moment we add the "but" conditions, the only alternative is a system of "maintaining by works". That which was begun by the Spirit can never be made perfect by the flesh. God doesn't clean me up so I can be saved. He saves me so that He can clean me up. The same power that saved me keeps me. No action on my part can ever un-do what Jesus accomplished on my behalf. Sin does not change my new nature back to the "old man". My justification by grace is settled. It is called my standing with God. My sanctification may fluctuate. It is called my state before God. My justification is not interrupted every time my sanctification is. If it was, I would never have any assurance of my relationship with God. Confusing justification with sanctification produces a discouraged believer. Confusing conversion with discipleship produces a "what's the use, I can't do this" believer. Paul's term, "falling from grace", does not imply the loss of something you once had. In its context it means trusting in another means of salvation than grace...that is works. It isn't falling from salvation. Paul never says that. It is falling away from the "means" of salvation. There is no other means by which we are saved except by grace. I have discovered that it isn't the "Greasy Grace" crowd who are the meanest, most self-righteous and judgemental Christians. It is the "Stop in the name of the law" crowd who get their religious thrills by performing "citizen's arrests" on those who are committing sins that they don't themselves commit!” – Manning Strickland
Here’s how to get a copy of pastor Manning Strickland’s book, AND GRACE WILL LEAD ME HOME.
Those who sit in my small group class on Sunday mornings know that my teaching style includes a lot of verbal interaction. It is my style because people need an opportunity to comment, ask questions, or relate what they believe, etc. I find that people who verbalize their thoughts seem to learn more. Even the listeners learn more as they may hear something that they didn't consider about the topic at hand.
I’m teaching through the Song of Solomon, and I’m teaching it from a literal interpretation, which I believe is the only way to present the book, rather than the more common allegorical interpretation. Because the book deals with the sensitive subject of sex within a heterosexual union, I have to adjust my lessons from class to class. For instance, my first class was a group of young married couples who spoke openly, and were very open minded as they would discuss anything, within the scope of our lessons, regarding sex. As I moved from class to class, (we do a teacher rotation as opposed to student rotation in our small groups) the age groups grew older, and the interaction between myself and the classes became less and less.
Now my present class is made up of folks from 55 years and upward to 70 and older, and surprisingly, the interaction has been pretty good. Comparing the older generation to the younger is often revealing. For instance, while the younger group thought within the subject matter, that is, a physical sexual relationship, the older group thought beyond the physical relationship to what our relationship with God should be. While we discussed “sex”, and explored the reasons God created it, (procreation, enjoyment, oneness), one dear lady in the front row commented that this idea of oneness should define the relationship between God and his bride. Each individual should strive to be wholly given to God. We as Christian individuals should forsake any and all that would keep us from being experientially, one with God. God should be our enjoyment.
Though this comment deviated from a literal interpretation of the Song of Solomon, I do believe this sweet saint of a lady was absolutely right.
Could it be that one of the greatest challenges to pastors in evangelical churches today is that the pharisaical mindset far outnumbers those that possess contrite hearts and broken spirits?
As a Christian, I should settle first and foremost what my purpose is as a believer. Many Christians will struggle with this thought, perhaps because they have been taught that their purpose is to obey the Word, to be a moral person, win souls, be a testimony, keep the commandments, and be faithful to church. All these things are good things, but they fall short of the real purpose of Christianity. If our goal is any of these things, it won’t be hard to become proud of our accomplishments, or feel guilty over our failures.
My son was telling me that in his church men receive award pins for faithful attendance to wear on their lapels. Some of these men were so proud of their faithfulness that they not only vocalized their accomplishment, but also looked down on the less faithful souls. We can also see the pride and isolation that takes place in those who pride themselves on their separation from the world. Some don’t go to movie theaters or restaurants that serve alcohol and they make that a standard of righteousness, and again, look down on those who do differently. This is a horrible end product!
Pride can run deep in scriptural matters too. The Ten Commandments are a good thing. Paul the apostle said that the commandments are “righteous”, but the purpose of the commandments was to show us, among other things, our inability to keep them. God isn't interested in creating a moral society. Morality breeds pride rather than a love for God. The commandments are God’s “means” to bring us to Himself, not an “end” in itself. The Pharisees had it wrong. They were righteous in the law, but inwardly sinful. They took great pride in their morality, and great offense at Jesus when He tore down their weak foundation of legalism.
God is interested in our hearts, hearts that love Him and others unconditionally. This kind of heart leaves no room for pride, discord, disdain, and disharmony. God wants us to see so much more than just His commandments. He wants us to see Him in all His beauty. The commandments are good, but the commandments are the “means” that draws us to the beauty of God’s grace and mercy. When we are drawn to God like this, we will extend grace and mercy to others making Christ known to a world that needs Him. This "end" (purpose) is far greater and much more rewarding than what many of us have been taught.
Thoughts to Ponder
Tom Genovese, Sr.
What you read in these pages comes from my contemplation, meditation, or just plain thought about for no specific reason. I am the author of these pages unless otherwise specified.