Archive | Repentance RSS feed for this section

Should Christians be Welcoming & Affirming?

3 Jul

There is a lot push for Christians to be “welcoming and affirming” from inside and outside of church walls. Some use this exact phrase to make a particular point: “We are welcoming and affirming of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Other pastors and congregations speak more generally saying, “Come, just be yourself and journey with us. We do life together here. We’re not like traditional churches.” Then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum that are so inward focused and off-putting to any who darken the doors that they are neither welcoming nor affirming. Some even make the news for having such brutish tactics that they yell and picket at funerals so that people would be hard pressed to make it close to the doors of their church.

What stance ought we to take then as Christians? The extremes are not compatible, so is one to be preferred over the other? Is the middle ground the answer? Thankfully, God provides the Church with guidelines, instruction, and examples of how the Church should conduct herself. Since Scripture is divinely authoritative, completely without error, and sufficient for life and faith, let’s briefly consider what wisdom it offers regarding this topic. In order to do this, let’s take a look at “welcoming and affirming”, since it has become a common phrase in the U.S. and is more specific than the enigmatic rhetoric of the emergent-flavor churches where any definition, statement, or certainty is averted or outright rejected.

There are two unique ideas contained in this compound participial (verbal-adjective) phrase, so we will first considered them separately. Welcoming, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, means to “receive with pleasure and hospitality…to cordially or willingly permit or invite…to give a cordial greeting or hospitable reception.” To be welcoming, then, speaks of how one invites or receives an outsider into ones company at the outset. It is an initial interaction, often among strangers, that sets a hospitable, comfortable tone or atmosphere for the newcomer. Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be welcoming? Yes it does. Any number of passages could be referenced to support this: Jehovah God welcomed the Israelites though they were sinners (Deut. 9:5ff); Jesus welcomed the sinners and unjust tax collectors (Luke 5:27-30; 19); Jesus welcomed the adulterer (John 8); Jesus welcomed thieves (Luke 23); Jesus welcomes the weary and heavy laden (Matt. 11:28); Jesus welcomed Paul the persecutor and murderer of his people (Acts 9; 22; 26); Jesus welcomes all who truly come to him in faith and will no wise cast them out (John 6:37); Jesus welcomed me, a sinner loaded with sin. Indeed Jesus welcomes all kinds of people with all sorts of sin baggage. So too he commands his people to go and do likewise, to welcome the stranger, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the criminal, the brokenhearted, the sinner.

What about “affirming”? Affirming, according to the same source above, means “to declare positively; to assert to be true…to declare support for or belief in,” or according to Merriam-Webster, “to assert as valid or confirmed…to show a strong belief in or dedication to.” Affirming, then, is not how one acts toward another, but to gladly and willingly encourage, agree with, be committed to, and/or approve of someone or something. It is not about kindness, a willingness to listen, or a hospitable atmosphere. It is about upholding or encouraging certain beliefs, statements, thoughts, or actions. Do you see the marked uniqueness of the two words, welcoming and affirming? A person, or church, can be welcoming but not affirming of someone, affirming but not welcoming, both welcoming and affirming, or neither.

Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be affirming? Well, affirming of what? Affirming which beliefs? Which lifestyles? Which people? What state of people? Which statements? Encourage which actions? God’s Word does tell us to affirm the truths of his Scripture (Exo. 20:6, et al.). Paul says that he wants Titus to constantly affirm that believers should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, NKJV). He sends Timothy to the Thessalonians to encourage them concerning their faith (I Thes. 3:2, NKJV). But certainly we are not to affirm false teaching (I Tim. 1:7, NKJV) or anything contrary to truth or holy living. Job refuses to affirm the wrong assumptions of his presumptuous friends (Job 27:5, HCSB). David rightly attests that the wicked encourage one another in their evil ways (Psa. 64:5, NKJV); certainly they aren’t to be affirmed. It would then be unwise for a church to make a blanket statement that they are “affirming” without outlining what they affirm. That is why social groups, institutions, and churches often have statements of faith and why many creeds and confessions were composed, in order to affirm clearly what they believe, or in the case of Christian churches or groups, what they believe Scripture teaches.

Christians, therefore, ought not to be affirming of everyone’s beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes, thoughts, hopes, dreams, self-imposed identities, actions, or anything that God declares as sin. This too includes churches who specifically affirm any and all sexual identities and gender orientations, for God has declared throughout the whole corpus of Scripture that he has created and established only two unique, complementary genders and marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yet, though “welcoming and affirming” is often used to support the LGBTQ+ community, and so mentioned here, it is not the only reason to reject the “affirming” language. As noted above, affirming  should be limited to biblical truth and living. That should be implied in all areas of the Christian Church, in all congregations who take the name Christian. It is Scripture that is our final authority in all matters of faith and life, and it is the Word of God that centers in and focuses on Jesus Christ from whom all Christians take their name and find their identity.

Christians, therefore, should be very welcoming of all peoples, but not affirming. Christ calls sinners to himself, but he does not affirm sinners in their sin. He does not encourage their sin or support their sinful lifestyles. Instead the triune God says, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He calls us, sinners, to repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). He tells us to humble ourselves, pray, turn from sin, and seek the Lord (II Chr. 7:14). He commands us to put off our old man that is corrupt and filled with deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), and put on the new man of righeousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24ff). He encourages us to grow in our faith (Eph. 4:15; I Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). He commands us to exercise ourselves unto godliness (I Tim. 4:7-9). He tells us to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). We are not to remain the same as when we were welcomed as sinners, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2); our thinking needs changing. We are to forsake ourselves and obey God out of love (John 14:15). We are to be called out, separate from the world and its ways (II Cor. 6:17). We are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Jesus never affirmed sinners and neither should we. He welcomed them with love and the offer of a new life. He came for the sick, proclaiming that he was the great Physician that could heal and remove the disease that plagues us all. Yes, Christian, by all means, welcome all people. Grow in your welcoming of others. Pray that you will mirror the welcoming nature of Jesus Christ. Repent of any hardheartedness, fears, selfishness, pride, disgust toward others, or any other sin that is keeping you from truly welcoming others. But never water down the gospel for which Jesus came, bled, died, rose, and is coming again. A Gospel that does not affirm sinners, but calls us to repentance and new life in Christ. This is who we are to be.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Advertisements

Flawless?

10 Jun
We are bombarded with adverts focused on the flesh. Commercials promising products to make you look younger, others that supposedly make your visage “flawless”. So too, in many circles, including the Church, we are all to often trying to make our lives look “flawless”. Putting our best foot forward and striving after godliness gets twisted into, avoidance and fear of failure, forgetting our faults, and silencing our struggles. This can cause us to feel shame for receiving treatment or help. It can manifest itself in hypocrisy and pride in the Church. It can weaken our view on sin and need of repentance. Even if we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and clothed in his righteousness, as long as we live upon this earth, we will have flaws, struggles, and weaknesses. Those that cause us to remember our sin, cling to Christ, and yearn for Glory.
It is important to be honest with oneself and to examine our lives truthfully. To walk humbly before God and before man, remembering that God’s grace and mercy are given and flourish in the presence of brokenness not flawlessness.

What About the Law of God?

25 Mar

What about the Law of God?

The Christian who proclaims s(he) is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works, can become hesitant, confused, or even apathetic about God’s Law in Scripture. (S)he may think that because s(he) is not under the Law, condemned by the Law, or saved by keeping the Law, that it ceases to have value. This is not so! What practical value does the Law offer to the Christian?

The Law:

  1. Teaches us the heart of God regarding what pleases him.
  2. Shows us our sin and inability to perfectly keep the Law, which reveals both our need of a Saviour and continual repentance from sin. Conscious of our own sin, we also long for Christ’s return when we will no longer labour against sin.
  3. Reminds us that those who do not have faith in Christ are still under the Law and will be condemned by it. It therefore encourages us to love our neighbor, care about where s(he) will spend eternity, and share the good news of the forgiveness of sins.
  4. Points us to Christ since he interpreted and kept the Law perfectly; we have a model for our own lives.
  5. Given the above benefits, the Law spurs us onward toward holy living.

God is Not Santa

30 Nov

“He’s making a list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Clause is coming to town.”

This is the view many, MANY people have of Yahweh—a grand, jolly ol’ St. Nick who will save those who did enough good things. Without a doubt there are those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life and those who are not (Rev. 21.27), but who is and who isn’t is not based upon if you’ve been good enough, if you’ve done enough good deeds, if you’ve said a certain number of prayers, gave a certain percentage of your money, or think you are comparatively better than that other person you know who works with you.

Salvation from the captivity and power of sin and its consequences (death, degradation, and God’s just judgment) is only by God’s underserved love and mercy, according to his good and pleasure (Eph. 2.8; Eph. 1). He justifies sinners, who I am, you are, and everyone is, not based upon works, but by faith in the grace he promised and dispensed in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3.28).

Are works important? ABSOLUTELY. Scripture instructs us over and over again to not give up doing good works (Titus 3 et. al.). It teaches us that our good works are evidence of a true and saving faith (James 2). They are neither the basis nor the means of our being made right with God, yet they are a testimony and fruit that arise out of a life changed, and being changed, by grace through faith. We ought to adamantly, generously, sacrificially live out our faith with works, both to those within the Church and those outside of her. Christ is the perfect example of living a life of service; we are to model our lives after him.

Nevertheless, we must not be deceived; we cannot work our way into God’s favor and forgiveness. Rather, we must repent of our sin, believe that he has accomplished that which was necessary for our salvation in Christ Jesus, and live lovingly, gratefully in submission to him. Be completely enraptured by Christ and his love for you. Fall desperately in love with him and serve him and others always.

REPENTANCE—What is it?

18 Sep

Scripture shows us that repentance includes a humble, godly sorrow affecting the heart and mind as well as our actions. It is not just change, even if that is an outcome. Repentance, like all good things, should bring us closer in our relationship with God.

Repentance is a gift of God’s grace that involves:

1- conviction of sin
2- recognition of the sin
3- a contrite heart
4- a godly sorrow
5- a hatred for the sin
6- confession of the sin
7- a turning from the sin
8- a seeking after God’s face and will
9- trusting yourself to the mercy of God
10- striving after righteousness out of love for God
11- living for the glory of God

-see 1 Chronicles 7; Daniel 9; and others

Repentance is a daily, on-going discipline that is a necessary part of the Christian’s life in Christ lived before the face of Jehovah God. It recognizes God’s authority and has no part with pride.