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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Why aren't Christians sometimes not Nicer than Non-Christians?

Why aren’t Christians sometimes not Nicer than Non-Christians?
Jesus said that if you put yourself in His hands, if you believe in Him as Savior and Lord, that He will change you and make you perfect, as He is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48) Jesus promises to cleanse us and makes us fit for heaven. Of course, that will take time. The change will not be completed in this lifetime. Death is an important part of the treatment.
But after death we will be perfect!  We will be changed!  We won’t be just nice people, but we will be new people! Scripture says that “We will be like Him (Jesus) for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2) We will be like Jesus!  Can that be?  Can we even imagine what all this means?
We will be in heaven in God’s presence.  And no sin can exist in God’s presence. (Habakkuk 1:13) Not only will all sin be banished from heaven, but everything bad that happens now because of sin’s grip on this world will finally be gone forever.   
Since Jesus is working on us Christians now toward the goal of making us perfect, why then aren’t we Christians often not nicer than non-Christians?  Even if we are not perfect yet, shouldn’t Christ shine through our lives for others to see? We can see Christ shining through the lives of many Christians, but why not all? 
 When we Christians behave badly, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.  The non-Christian is right to judge Christianity by its results.  Jesus told us to judge by results.  He told us that a tree is known by its fruit. (Luke 6:44, Matthew 12:33)
But we are also commanded not to judge one another.  That job belongs to God. Only God can see the true picture.  We see through a glass darkly. (1 Corinthians 13:12) What can we know of other people’s souls – their temptations and struggles and their personal demons?  Miss Smith who is a Christian may have an unkinder tongue than Bill Jones, who claims to be an atheist.  Why isn’t Miss Smith, the Christian, nicer than Bill Jones, the non-Christian?    
Bill Jones’ was born with his placid temper and friendly disposition.  He inherited these healthy traits and he was raised in a loving functional family.  So much of his niceness is God’s gift to him. Bill Jones is quite satisfied with his bank account and his sound nerves.  And he’s proud of his intelligence, health, popularity and good upbringing.  Why drag God into his life when he feels he has it all?  He feels that his niceness is all his own doing!  He doesn’t recognize his need for Christ.  Scripture says that it is hard for those who are ‘rich’ in this sense to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Matthew 19:23-24)
It’s a very different story for the nasty people – the little, low, warped, timid, thin-blooded, neurotic people.  Or the sensual, unbalanced, mentally ill people - if they make any attempt at living a good life, they quickly learn that they need help.  It is Christ or nothing for them.    
They are the lost sheep that Jesus especially came to find, I believe. The ordinary peasants, without education, the poor, the unwashed – they were mainly the ones who were attracted to Jesus when He walked the hills of Galilee. The ones He blessed and healed when He lived on earth as a man.  The Pharisees criticized Jesus for hanging out with the ‘awful set’ and of course modern Pharisees still judge Him because of that.  ‘If there were anything in Christianity those ‘awful’ people would not be Christians.’   
Our Miss Smith is one of those ‘awful’ people.  Heredity and natural causes working in a world spoiled by centuries of sin have produced in Miss Smith the narrow mind and jangled nerves which account for most of her nastiness.  Also, Miss Smith’s father was never there for her when she was a child, and her mother was addicted to drugs and neglected and abused her.  Miss Smith endured a sad and dysfunctional upbringing.  
But God intends, in His own good time, to set that part of Miss Smith right.  Someday Christ will change us and clothe us in His righteousness.  Scripture promises that Miss Smith and all believers will be victorious through Christ on the other side of this life!  (Revelations 20 and 21)
Scripture says: “Behold, I show you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible.  And we shall be changed.  For this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  Oh death, where is your sting?  Oh grave, where is your victory?  Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 57)  It doesn’t get any better than that!
Most of the ideas here were taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity”




Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Wisdom is Calling

Wisdom is Calling
In the Scriptures Wisdom is personified as a woman inviting all to come and listen to Her!   Proverbs 1:20-33
“Wisdom is standing on the top of the heights and beside the way, where our paths meet.  Also, she stands at the gates of the entrance to the town, and beside the doors of our homes.  She waits and cries out to us. 
 Wisdom is calling loudly in the streets and raising her voice in the public squares: At the head of the noisy streets she begs us to listen, and In the gateways of the cities she stands and makes her speech. 
But how long will you simple ones love your simple ways?  How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?  If you would respond to My rebuke, I would pour out My heart to you.  And make My thoughts known to you.
But you reject Me when I call, and no one gives heed when I stretch out My hand,
In turn I will laugh at your disaster:  I will mock when calamity overtakes you.  When calamity overtakes you like a storm and when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelms you.   
Since they will not accept My advice, and spurn My rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their own ways. And be filled with the fruit of their own schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.  But whoever listens to Me will live in safety.  And be at ease, without fear of harm.”
In our Scripture reading today we see Wisdom calling out to everyone, but many are refusing to listen to her.  Refusing to take the gift of life that Wisdom will give. They want to do it their own way.  I see here in Proverbs the idea of Wisdom standing at every crossroad and every place of decision in our lives, calling out to us, “Follow Me.”  But are we listening?   
All through Scripture we find that God is behind the scenes waiting and calling His children to listen for His Voice.  To allow Him to direct them.  To allow the still small Voice of the Holy Spirit to lead them.  God is there and He is not silent.  But are we listening?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Let's Pretend

Let’s Pretend
We are presently going through C.S. Lewis’s famous book, “Mere Christianity” and touching on some of the highlights.  This book is all about describing Christian beliefs.  And today we will touch on the Christian belief of what happens to us when we accept Christ as Savior.
Scripture tells us that when we believe in Christ as our Savior, that we are “righteous”. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 4:5 and 13, Romans 9:30, Romans 3:22, and Romans 1:17) Christ’s righteousness has been wrapped around us!
But even though the Bible says believers are “righteous”, doesn’t it mean we “will become righteous” in heaven?  No Scripture says we “are” righteous right now when we know we are still sinning! When we say we are “righteous” aren’t we just pretending?  We still have ungodly thoughts and we still get angry when we shouldn’t!  What goes here? 
C.S. Lewis suggests that when you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do is to put on a friendly manner and behave (or pretend) as if you are a nicer person than you actually are.  And guess what?  In a few minutes, you really will be  feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to feel friendly or loving is to start acting friendlier and more loving.  Behaving as if you already felt friendlier and more loving.  And soon pretending becomes reality!  Christ Himself, the Son of God, is actually at your side and is already at that moment turning your pretending into reality!
If you ae seriously trying to be like Christ, there are lots of things that your conscience may not call wrong, but you feel that you cannot go on doing.  You are no longer thinking as much about right and wrong as about doing what pleases God.  The real Son of God is at your side, and He is beginning to turn you into being more like Himself.  He is speaking His kind of life and thought into you. 
You may be thinking that you have never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ.  We see the person who helped us without seeing Christ behind him or her.  But if there were no help from Christ there would be no help from other human beings.  Christ works on us in all sorts of ways. He works through His Spirit speaking to our spirit.  He works through nature and through others.  Through books and our own experiences.  And ways that only He knows.  We must go on to recognize the real Giver behind every good gift we receive. (James 1:17)
The Scripture speaks of “being born again” and about “putting on Christ” and “Christ being formed in us”.  This isn’t just a fancy way of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out.  It means so much more. 
The Bible means that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in the room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you.  It is not a question of a good person who died two thousand years ago.  Christ, the Son of God is the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (ending) of time. (Revelations 22:13)   He is alive today and is coming and interfering with you.  Killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has.  If all goes well, He will turn you permanently into a new little Christ, an eternal being, something we can only imagine!
We cannot by direct moral effort, give ourselves new motives.  After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can only be done by God.  We think we are doing everything to change ourselves, but of course it is God who does everything in us.  But we at most allow it to be done to us.  Jesus became a man for no other purpose but to draw people to Himself.  The whole universe was made for Christ and everything is to be gathered together in Him. 
You might say that it is God who also does the pretending.  God sees before Him a self-centered, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human being.  But He says, ‘Because of her faith in Me I am her Father’.  She is My child- My righteous child!
  God looks at you as if you were righteous.  And Christ stands beside you making you righteous, His righteousness covering you.  Scripture says that we will never sin again after we die and go to heaven. Christ will have finished the job on us by then. God who see the beginning from the end can see us now as we will be in all eternity – a righteous saint.
  The idea of divine make-believe sounds rather strange.  But is it so strange really?  A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does.  And we treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’ and that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end. 
The ideas in this blog were taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, “Mere Christianity”.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hope and Faith

Hope and Faith
We are presently going through C.S. Lewis’s famous book, “Mere Christianity” and touching on some of the highlights.  This book is all about describing Christian beliefs.  And today we will touch on the Christian beliefs concerning hope and faith.
Today the definition of “hope” means “wishing or wanting something to happen”.  One might say that he or she hopes their football team wins.  This is not what the word “hope” means in Scripture.   For Christians, hope is one of the Theological virtues.  The word “hope” in the Bible means “a continual looking forward to the eternal world”. 
Scripture says: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He (Jesus) shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  Everyone who has this hope in him, purifies himself, just as he is pure.”  (1 John 3:2-3) These verses seem to imply that when we look forward to or when we “hope” for our eternal home, that our hope has a purifying effect on our souls!  Our hope in God changes us?  
In the Old Testament, hope is expressed by words meaning “safety”, “security”, “trust”, and “refuge” and “waited for”.  Scripture says that the coming of the Lord is called “the blessed hope”, that is, the act of expecting our future victory in Christ in heaven gives joy to the Christian.  (Titus 2:13) 
Most of us find it difficult to want ‘Heaven” because we have not been trained – our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world and not the next.  Heaven is present in us, but we often do not recognize it.  If most people would look into their hearts, they might find out that they do want something more that cannot be found in this world! 
Perhaps there is something we humans grasp at when we are young and idealistic that later never turns out quite as good as we had dreamed!  Never becomes as fulfilling as we had hoped!  Some put the blame on the thing itself.  If he had only married another woman, or gone on a more expensive trip, or made more money – then he would have caught that mysterious something we all seem to want.  Some spend their lives running from woman to woman (or man to man) or from job to job, always hoping that the latest is the “real thing”. And always becoming disappointed.  And others solve the problem of their disillusionment with life by telling themselves not to expect too much.  That some things are too good to be true.  
But what if it’s true and there is perfect love and joy and goodness in heaven?  And just suppose infinite happiness really is there for us? The Bible teaches, and Christians believe that we will live forever!  Forever in glory and our future in Christ will be more glorious and victorious than we can ever imagine. (1 Corinthians 2:9, Isaiah 64:4)   That hope is surely enough to make our earthly life joyful.
If we find ourselves desiring something which no experience in this world can satisfy, could it be that we were made for another world?  We must keep alive in ourselves the desire for our true country, which we shall not find until after our death.  And we must help others do the same.
We now turn to the subject of faith.  Faith simply means belief – accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith.  (Hebrews 12:2)   And Scripture also tells us that if we believe in Christ as Savior we will be saved. (Acts 16:31, John 3:16)   And without faith it is impossible to please God.  (Hebrews 11:6)
Because our faith in Christ is so precious and so important – (without it we would not have salvation) we need to take care of it.  Nourish and feed it by prayer and praise, following Christ, Bible reading, helping others, giving to the needy and fellowshipping with other believers. If you look at people who say they have lost their faith in Christianity, it seems that some of them didn’t hold on to their precious faith tightly enough and when troubles came along their faith simply drifted away.
 Faith is the art of holding on!  Holding on in spite of your changing moods.  And holding on when there is bad news, or when you are very sick.  Or when false teachers or heresies try to tempt you away from Christ as Lord and Savior.  Holding on when your church throws you out or fellow Christians turn against you. And holding on when you are living among a lot of people who do not believe.  Holding on when all at once your emotions rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on your beliefs.  And holding on when you want to sin and find it would be more convenient sinning if Christianity wasn’t true.  Yes, the troubles and temptations will come, and the storms of life will blow on your little house of faith.  But faith is the art of holding on.  “He who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)