I'm sick of hearing, "I take a stand" from people who need to take a walk. Standing is idleness. While they proudly proclaim that they take a stand for or against something or someone, they are in essence, stopped dead and going nowhere. TAKE A WALK!!! Put feet to your stand and see if you can change, by the grace of God, what you're for or against.
Today I was contemplating what “church” should be like. Where does it all begin? Salvation? No, before that. As a lost person, my first experience with a New Testament Bible-believing church began with a co-worker. Reggie (I mentioned him in a previous post) was a great employee, a sweet Christian, and genuinely cared about me. He was my experience with church long before I took him up on his invitation to visit the church he attended.
That is what church should be like. It should not be a bunch of people who find things to criticize, while sitting back in their comfy pew, songbook in hand, waiting for people to come to them. The world needs to see the church long before it sees their building, and that means hitting the pavement, getting in their zone, loving them regardless of their sins (like Christ loved us while we were yet sinners), sacrificing whatever you have, and giving whatever it takes, to see that soul enter into the Kingdom of God.
As C.H. Spurgeon put it,
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
This should be the first impression of “church” people see. Sinners who passionately love sinners, sinners who have experienced the joys of the grace of God, having no greater desire then to see other sinners enjoy that same grace is what church should be like, and what the world should see.
The other day I came across a cartoon that unfortunately depicts the mentality of much of today's church. Well, here's the picture.
For some odd reason, it reminded me of a picture I took about three years ago in Lubec, Maine outside the Dockside Restaurant. I better show you that picture as well.
The Dockside Restaurant welcomed everybody to their good food and I know someone is going to think, well of course, that's how they make their money.
How about the church. Sure we gain nothing monetarily by inviting people, all people, everybody and every one regardless of their past or present, but look what is gained if their future is changed in an instant.
The church needs to stop hiding in between the walls of their building and reach out to a lost and dying world with the only message that is worth eternity. The church needs to leave its comfort zone and meet the worst of the worse. Yes, that means loving prostitutes, thieves, abusers, druggies, child molesters, and you name it. Jesus welcomed all and while His disciples marveled that Christ would so lower Himself to even talk with a whorish woman, the woman ended up being a blessing to the Kingdom of God. Who wants to be like Jesus? Here's a good start; Go to the worst of sinners. Jesus didn't pick men like Himself. He picked sinners to reach sinners. So, here's the sum total of this post.
The church should be a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints!
Here is another "borrowed" posting. This one is by my friend, Manning Strickland. Manning is a pastor in Spartanburg, SC and has written a book entitled, "And Grace Will Lead Me Home", which I recommended in the past. You can buy the book here. Here's what pastor Manning had to say today.
"Salvation, from beginning to end, is not about my doing. It's about Jesus' dying. He did not sin in order to become sin. He committed not a single sin. I must not commit righteousness in order to become the righteousness of Christ. Not a single act of righteousness can justify me.. Yet, Jesus became what I was so that I may be what He is. This is the Great Exchange! In the Old Testament, the priest did not examine the person who brought the lamb to see if they were acceptable. He examined the persons lamb. God has already accepted Jesus, The Lamb, as my offering in my place. He is not examining me to see whether or not I am acceptable. I am forever accepted in the beloved because Jesus , my substitutionary Lamb was accepted! Until you realize this truth, your performance will never match your identity in Him. Oh, you may "do right", but your very attitude that your doing and performing makes you accepted by God will frustate the grace of God and it will frustrate you too. It will make you a self-righteous Pharisee rather than a humble recipient of free grace. On my best day, the law still condemns me. On my worst day, grace still saves me. During my best performance, works still will not justify me. On the day when my performance fails miserably, Jesus' finished work on the cross is still applied to my account. Thank God, Jesus traded places with me on the cross."
Yesterday morning during our small group time at church (some call it Sunday School), prayer request were taken prior to my teaching/discussion time. One gentleman asked prayer for a young man from China who is living with them while he’s still in school here in the U.S. This young man recently became a believer, but is asking questions about the various “Christian” denominations here in this country, like “Why do the different Christian denominations have different beliefs?” This young man, being new to Christianity, was most likely labeling anyone that named Jesus Christ as part of their religious system, “Christian”. He was questioning how would we know the difference between a real Christian and false Christian organization. Those of us who are familiar with nominal Christianity understand that not all who name the name of Christ are Christian. The request was for wisdom in answering this young man’s questions.
I thought for a moment and asked, how I would answer this young man. Perhaps we should all ask ourselves that question. It would be easy to answer it with, “A real Christian will see change in his life.” Well, that’s true, but I’ve met men whose lives have been changed through Alcoholics Anonymous. Sure, Christ can deliver a man from a drunken lifestyle when this man places his trust in Christ finished work on the cross, but AA has had a pretty good success rate too. OK, well how about this one? “Real Christians will die for their beliefs.” Surely Christianity has seen a number of martyrs over the years, but others have also died for their false beliefs, and continue to do so. That too is not a good indicator of what is true and what is false. OK, how about, “Christians are moral people.” Opps, someone doesn't read their Bible. There are a number of men and woman in the Bible that God claimed as His but went and did some horrible things, so that doesn't cut it either.
I finally interjected and suggested how I would deal with this young Chinese student. I told the class to consider what separates them from us, the real from perception, and the true from the false. There is one thing that stands out when you compare true Christianity from nominal Christianity. For that matter, there is one thing that stands out when you compare true Christianity to any belief system in the world, and that is, law verses grace.
Now, this may sound heretical, but just hang on and you'll see where I'm going with this. One cannot enter into grace except by the law. WAIT!!!!! That does sounds heretical!!! What I mean here is that no one understands the grace of God without being first, condemned by the law. You can not be a real Christian without the law doing its work of conviction and condemnation. When the Holy Spirit of God drives the law home to our senses and we are found in utter despair by this, it is only then that we run to Christ and embrace the cross of grace. The law has a purpose and will do for man one of three things.
1) The law will encourage a person to strive to keep it. These people see the letter of the law but ignore the spirit of it and pride themselves in their ability to keep their understanding of it. For instance, they read, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” And pride themselves on being true to their wives on a physical level. However, they ignore the spiritual level and don’t have a problem lusting after other woman.
2) The law will discourage a person and they will give up on it. When this happens, a person will become apathetic about the law. This person may become lawless or just go about life without bucking the established social system. Neither person cares one way or the other, though one may remain moral within himself, while the other becomes lawless.
3) The law will convict a person of his or her inability to keep it. The difference here is that this person wants to be delivered from their conviction and condemnation caused by the law. When they realize that Jesus died to deliver them from the penalty that the law demands, they cleave to Him, accepting His gift (grace) of eternal life.
So, what does separate them from us, the real from perception, and the true from the false? True Christianity abandons a life of legalism that attempts to please God by self effort. Instead it embraces a life of grace. It worships the one that has fulfilled the law entirely yet took upon Himself the penalty for its disobedience. True Christianity does not attempt to please God legally. No other denomination in the world today can claim this. All other sects, religions, and denominations believe that God cannot be pleased with us except by some means of self effort. True Christianity understands that we are incapable of pleasing God by our efforts and sacrifices and so simply rest in the redemptive and propitiating work of their Lord Jesus Christ.
This morning before I headed out to church, I got on Facebook and wrote, "THOUGHT OF THE DAY - Salt is of no use inside the shaker."
I wanted to elaborate on this thought, but didn't have time, so I'll do it here. Jesus told His people that they needed to be the "salt of the earth". His people needed to make an unsavory world palatable to God by going into the earth with a message of grace. That message of Christ's love for sinners, as exemplified on the cross of Calvary, would transform a man or woman bringing him or her from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, but the salt had to be poured out in order for this to happen.
Today, we fail miserably in the seasoning department. The salt wants to stay in the shaker. In the shaker, the salt is useless.
Now, I'm convinced when God has a plan and He tells us to execute His plan, He will see that His plan is carried out willingly on our part, or unwillingly. We are to Go into all the world and salt it with His Gospel. That was the initial order. When the disciples failed to do that, He still got it done.
In response to my post on Facebook, one friend wrote, "Also, there's usually some
shaking involved to get the salt where you need it." That is precisely my point. When Christ's disciples refused to go and preach, God sent a persecution.
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." Acts. 8:3, 4
How much better is it to be in the place of loving God intimately and loving sinners passionately.
FELLOWSHIP – Two fellows in a ship going in the same direction.
Actually, fellowship in the Bible is more than that. It certainly can involves more than two people. True biblical fellowship has an object that it is fixed upon. That object is Christ. Because we, as Christians, have fellowship with God, we can also have fellowship with each other. True biblical fellowship mandates that we first know Christ as savior, and that we understand the gospel, and by that understanding, we are traveling in the same direction.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” I Cor.1:9
The words, "sing unto Him a new song" have been floating through my mind this week. I love music, but than, who doesn't. Being somewhat of a musician intensifies that love to some degree. Having a piano and guitar at hand allows me to be creative at times. Although I am no Dan Forrest, I've enjoyed writing a few songs.
Though I don't often get strictly topical in my study and preaching, I decided to look up the words, "new song". Most appearances show up in God's songbook, the Psalms.
"Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise." Psa 33:3
"Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!" Psa 96:1
"A Psalm. Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him." Psa 98:1
"I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you," Psa 144:9
"Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!" Psa 149:1
There is also a verse in Isaiah and The Revelation.
"Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants." Isa 42:10
"And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation," Rev 5:9
I love new songs. Even in the Christian realm in special and congregational music, I love new songs. Don't get me wrong, I do not like cheap, repetition, and theologically mud puddle deep Christian music. I want to listen and participate in biblically sound music.
Having said this, I believe that God likes a new song once in a while. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit. "We've always done it this way" is the church's favorite verse from the book of Complacency. We want new cars and the latest gadgets, but want "old" church with old bible versions, and old music and often to the detriment of young people. Again, I'm not referring to compromise of biblical principles in order to get the kids in, but rather a church that changes within biblical and uncompromising principle. Believe it or not, there is plenty of room for change.
Yes, it appears that God likes a new song once in a while. God will accept any song that is sung or played from the heart, but God is not concerned with that old time religion. We don't worship like they did in the early church. This will come as a shock to some Christians, but The Old Rugged Cross wasn't sung back then. Times have changed and the music has as well.
OK, enough ranting. I have decided that God is worthy of a new song from time to time. I do have some musical ability, so I will write songs as God works in my heart. I will sit at my piano, or pick up my guitar and creat a new song just for Him, because He is worthy.
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.