Thoughts on Christian Culture 3: What’s LOVE Got to Do With It?

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Everything, actually.

*For the commandments…are summed up in this word; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.* ~Romans 13:9-10 (ESV)

Love is a topic that has continually made itself at home in my mind for more years than I care to admit. And, the more I consider what it ought to look like, the more I have to admit that we human beings tend to have a very skewed, self-centered understanding of what it means to love someone. Not everyone, of course…and not always. But, even the most dedicated disciple of Christ probably struggles to perfectly live out genuine love for their neighbor at some point.

If I’m understanding scripture properly, Love involves acceptance, honesty, kindness, patience and forgiveness. It affirms the value of all human life. (re 1 Corinthians 13).

It is not limited to just the things/people we like a lot. Nor is it entirely synonymous with the attraction involved with a romantic connection. It is not primarily an emotion, yet affects the emotions. It is not primarily action, but motivates our behavior. It is not primarily about what we can get to make us feel “happy”, but what we ought to be giving to ease the burdens others must carry.

Love is more a state of being, which empowers us to set aside selfish desires and focus on contributing to the eternal well-being of another person. For instance, love always should encourage others to pursue a vital relationship with Christ. It does not take pleasure in seeing others suffer (even if they might “deserve” it).

Love is protective in nature, and would never knowingly encourage someone to sin or approve of sin as a beneficial “lifestyle option”. In fact, love should be willing to do the unpopular thing and risk being hated for pleading with an individual to rethink any potentially devastating choice they may make. It doesn’t force people to stay against their will, yet will also welcome back those who repent of their mistakes and truly wish to engage in a God-centered relationship.

When we say “I love you” to someone, it should in some way reflect the pure, honest and unselfish nature of God.

This is just me thinking, again. I appreciate input from others, if anyone is so inclined.

Thoughts on Christian Culture 2: The Lawless Ones

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So, Paul’s 1 Timothy 1:8 statement about “lawful use of the Law” is rather intriguing in light of current disagreement over what is the proper place of the OT legal code in Christianity.

Of course, when the immediate view is expanded to include v 9-10, it becomes apparent that Paul said the Law was given not for the just, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, etc… In other words, these rules were intended (at least in part) to bring order to an unregenerate society that would surely destroy itself without them.

Me: The Law highlights the fact that human beings are sinners who tend to do things that are contrary to God’s nature. We need outside help because our natural, internal moral compass doesn’t work so well.


This also brought to mind Jesus’ Matthew 7:21-23 declaration that there would be many who one day would come to Him with both recognition of accountability and lists of things they believe should gain them sure reward and welcome into His presence.

Only…it doesn’t work. And He said He will dismiss them with what I believe is the most terrifying sentence in all of scripture; “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Workers of lawlessness. But good deeds done in His name don’t count?

This gets more interesting when we consider that Jesus’ audience included Jewish religious teachers who adamantly claimed to love GOD, to honor the Mosaic Law, and  had a thing for making even more rules to ensure that they looked extra good.

These people had Guidelines. Structure. Order. Religiously enforced. And they had penalties for breaking prescribed ordinances.

They were Law Keepers….right?

Wrong.

They were the false prophets, wolves and diseased trees that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 7:15-20.

Why?

Because the Mosaic code also told of a Chosen One who would come and fulfill their beloved Law in order to lift the curse attached to our inability to personally attain the perfection that is necessary to safely enter God’s presence.

They rejected their designated Law Keeper who is to be welcomed by faith in God’s goodness toward us (Matthew 5:17; John 4:39-40; Romans 3:20-26). And they led others away from the Truth, as well.

They were then warned by God Himself to repent of this stubbornly destructive, imagined sense of personal goodness. It is a very harsh-sounding reprimand, but I do believe it was actually done out of love for these people.

Me: To “keep” God’s law is not to simply follow a prescribed method of scripturally-founded ethical improvement. Neither does it involve the diligent consultation of a mutually agreed-upon set of church by-laws, for that matter. If a professing Christian is relying heavily on such things, then it is entirely possible there is still a need to attend the business of repenting of a rebellious, self-indulgent, God hating attitude. 

To keep the Law is to gratefully honor the One who embodies the Spirit of the Law, has freed us from the consequences of our sin, and who now teaches us what it means to love God and others from a renewed heart, the way the Law originally outlined.

Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29 ESV)

As this is the result of my own study, I highly recommend that readers check my references and consider my words in light of the overall message of scripture before accepting or rejecting my conclusion. Thank you.

Don’t Kick ’em While They’re Down

This is interesting.

Zechariah 1:14-15 (ESV) So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

Me: these verses are a partial answer made by God to the question posed in v 12. “How long will You be angry and withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah?” (Paraphrase).

The Israelite people of Zechariah’s day were experiencing the predicted disciplinary response for having turned away from following God (read Leviticus 26:27-46). Specifically, they would be subjugated by the surrounding pagan nations whose ways they chose to adopt in spite of receiving strict instruction to the contrary.

Verse 15 (above) indicates that the civilizations which the Hebrew people were subjected to took full advantage of the national disgrace of the Israelites…that they actively abused the people in a way that far exceeded the authorization God had given them.

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It left me thinking that God is always good to correct us and allow us to experience the well-earned results of our disobedient choices…for our good, to encourage repentance.

And sometimes, the temporal consequences we bring on ourselves are extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

However, it is a very bad idea to recognize that someone is being chastised/humbled and take it upon one’s own self to add a greater load of pain or shame to their burden through mockery, looting of their possessions or physical abuse.

Thoughts on Christian Culture 1: Gospel Saturation or Moral Paganism?

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The Gospel message (including the books of Acts, Hebrews and the first several chapters of Romans) is for the entire world (Mark 16:15)
The NT Epistles are written instruction to members of the early Church. From them, we may continue to glean godly insight and wise instruction as we await Christ’s return.

~Everyone, regardless of how long they have claimed the label “Christian”, can benefit from hearing the true Word of salvation. (Revelation 14:6-7)

~It is acceptable to help others see their need through “lawful” use of the OT Law (Romans 7, 1 Timothy 1:8) …maybe will come back to this thought, later

~It is acceptable to (respectfully) share with an unbeliever the reason for your faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). Personal experience can be very convincing evidence. The OT narrative offers a record of our tendency to be wrong. Paul provided an explanation of our desperate spiritual need in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans.

~It is acceptable to work out God’s love at a social level to help counteract the injustices of society (Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:5; Romans 13:7-9)

~It is not remotely helpful for Christians to attempt to direct the behavior of the unconverted through external moralization which is based on Christian principles. In fact, Jesus soundly condemned this practice when He spoke “woes” over those who traveled land and sea to make a single convert…only to sink that person even deeper into a state of spiritual lostness (Matthew 23:15).

Worship Around the World (Newsboys, founded: Australia)

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: To shew forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night

~Psalm 92:1-2 (KJV)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet and there were loud voices in heaven, saying the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

~Revelation 11:15 (ESV)

Someone Said (Who’s the Boss?)

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“Men must choose to be governed by God or condemn themselves to be ruled by tyrants.”
– William Penn

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

*My commentary Happily, God did not intend to leave Israel in this horrifying situation. The disciplinary response was intended to bring the people to a place of repentance for_
1. Disregard for God’s authority and
2. Ingratitude for His goodness to them.
(See v 48, above, Genesis 3 and Romans 1:21)

2 Chronicles 7:13-14, 16 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

Jesus the Christ is the designated Head of the favored household (John 6:27-29)….When we properly acknowledge Him as such, we are made right with God.