Many students are finding it difficult today to represent Jesus in a loving way on campus, when their faith is being increasingly framed as “hostile” to those who identify themselves as “gay”. Christians don’t want to be unkind, but they don’t want to surrender their Bible to popular review, either. Add to that, the compounding influence of misquoted Scriptures by both those who think they understand the Bible in its context, and those who have no interest in fairly portraying it… and flawed Bible materials flood the internet for any who will look for them. The result can be a confused teen who desires to live a life of passionate surrender to Jesus Christ – but is feeling beat down and doesn’t want to come off as mean spirited at all.
Some guidance may help. I want to offer three things that may sort out some of the issue for you:
• First, I will seek to briefly pose the “clashing world view” problem that all of us are facing as the moral climate of our nation changes – I want to explore specifically “Why God looks mean” to an unregenerate world. The critique of our faith from the school classroom to any discussion on Facebook or comment on YouTube is obvious and unavoidable –a collision Christians cannot elude in the modern world without leaving civilization and moving to a desert monastery.
• Second, I intend to address some sample cases of: “When God Looks Mean” in the Bible that are often cited by people as examples of the “mean God of the Bible”. I want to offer a few thoughts and a bit of Bible context to each.
• Finally, I want to offer specific action steps to help Christians address this argument – offering practical ideas as to how to live in an environment increasingly hostile to the Biblical world view – and still have love for lost people and a passion to walk with God.
Guard your heart
First, a warning is in order. To begin with, it is essential that we recognize the now open attack on the Bible without losing our understanding heart for lost people. We have to recognize the reality that when we uphold a Biblical standard some will feel we are personally attacking WHO THEY FEEL THEY ARE. When we read of a standard of behavior in the Bible, our same sex attracted friend may think that we are speaking words of hate, when that isn’t what we are saying at all.
Biblically speaking, their feelings started with a lie – that “I was BORN a certain way” and that justifies behaviors that I choose to engage in. That isn’t entirely false – the Bible agrees that all of us were born BROKEN, and it agrees that my desires are strong within me. Yet, the ancient text goes on to explain that my choices, apart from the moral parameters of the Word, will not lead me to true and lasting fulfillment. The Bible says my heart is not the barometer of TRUTH and RIGHT – no matter how moral I feel I am or who I feel attracted to sensually. The idea that man is a sinner is at the foundation of our Christian message. That idea has been muted and changed in the modern world to blame SOCIETY and ENVIRONMENT for the “ruining” of “innocent” people. When man isn’t viewed as essentially depraved, too much faith is placed in his ability to act in a “good” or “moral” way.
I am continually amazed at the inability of thinking people to grasp the basic Biblical notion that evil dwells powerfully within us – even in the “good people” of our community. I know of no one who does not have the capacity to do incredible harm, no matter how long they have lived on the planet. Even the most pious among us, if they tell the truth, will note moments of a most vile thought that pops up inside and must be forced back down to the pit from which it came. Demonizing people because of attraction isn’t the point – telling men and women they are all broken is. That is in the heart and soul of the Christian message. I am not condemning a same sex attracted person more or less than I am condemning any other person. From the standpoint of the Bible, my friend’s main problem isn’t being gay – it is being lost – separated from a holy God. I wasn’t attracted to the same sex, but I was every bit as lost. I needed a bridge to God, and so do they – but that message is offensive. The Cross offends – the Bible declares that it will, so I need not be surprised.
What that means is that I don’t want my heart to be angered by the attacks, but to love people in spite of the sniping they will do at me and at my faith. I want to recognize that THEY feel attacked by the Bible – as I did when I wanted to live life on my terms. I am a lifelong, card carrying member of the fallen club – but Jesus saved me. He did so, not because I am good, but because I am not. I was drowning – and that is the only kind of person the lifeguard makes the effort to swim out and rescue.
Let me place two world views in contrast. If I believe I was born broken – a sinner – as God’s Word says it… then I cannot trust how I was born and any desires that come from that state as the absolute rule of right and wrong.
On the other hand, in a world that rejects the total depravity of man, they will press to find scientists to offer evidence that people are “born with certain desires” so that they can ingrain that lack of acceptance of a behavior is like hating a race – standards of behavior, then, form a sort of “bigotry”. One problem is the premise: Men and women are basically born good and their instincts reliably determine proper moral standards. That is modern thinking, but it isn’t Christian thinking – because it is built on a premise the Bible calls “false”.
A second problem with making sexual behavior choices equivalent to race is this: Being a person of color is not a choice of any actions the individual engaged – it is a statement of identity. Being a person with the DESIRE to behave in any certain way is NOT THE SAME THING. All of us have desires that have the potential to lead us in harmful ways. To license behavior as equal to a racial statement may look like a “civil right” – but it is constructed on a morally relative premise. The fact is, whether I feel a desire or not is not the issue – morality is about chosen actions. I can’t choose to be another race today than the one that I “am”, but I can choose not to exercise a desire sexually – no matter what I desire to do. Race and chosen behavior cannot be logically lumped together. All races must have equal rights in a moral environment – but not all preferences, feelings or longings need to be accepted by a community as equally valid or morally correct to avoid incivility.
Believers aren’t saying we don’t recognize the value of a person who feels attracted to the same sex– because the Bible forbids people to demean or devalue other people. As the Creator, God holds the sole right to judge man’s intrinsic value. Every person ever made, according to the Bible, was made by GOD, and on that basis alone has great worth – no matter whether they love God and agree with me, or don’t believe in God and hate me. At the same time, the Bible constantly addresses the BEHAVIOR of people – choices they make to DO THINGS. If God offered a message of condemnation to someone, it was always framed from His knowledge and for His purposes – not those of His followers. I am called to love people, but not to bend morality to ever changing popular sentiment. For a Christian, morality isn’t democratically determined – it is God revealed.
Christianity teaches that God is God and I am not. I am the clay; He is the Potter. In the end, that makes His Word more important than my feelings and His glory more important than my comfort.
That won’t matter to my friends who care nothing of God or the Bible, but it should stand uncontested among people who recognize Jesus is Lord. Believers don’t make our own rules. Maybe an example will help…
An Absurd Illustration
Let’s look at the world, for a moment, as a godless man or woman who has decided that how they feel is the standard of right and wrong. Let’s imagine that we have dismissed a Sovereign Creator, and replaced Him with ourselves as the standard of morality and truth. Now let’s apply that thinking to a cause we have decided to be against.
I have chosen GRAVITY. I am hereby announcing that I am against GRAVITY. I feel it may be seen by some as the norm, but we have been able, with extreme effort, to break it’s strangle hold on our lives. We can fly, albeit with a propulsion system. We can even blast off and find places where weightlessness and gravity are not an issue. That proves that gravity is not universal, and therefore is a made up standard… so here’s what I have decided:
• First, I don’t think gravity is good, and I think that those who think it is don’t understand how it limits us. I call gravity EVIL, and people who accept that it is something from some sort of “god” are small-minded, and don’t see the benefits of our newfound “freedom”.
• Second, I have formed groups across America, and even around the world that have committed to stand with me and “take a stand for atmospheric and magnetic freedom”. I pose my message in such a way as to make those who disagree with me look like THEY are negative and restrictive, while I am for FREEDOM and MAGNETIC EQUALITY. If you try to get in the way of our message, we will hack your websites, protest your businesses and demean you with open vulgarity, all for the sake of “freedom”. Of course, our freedom to believe is more important that your freedom to disagree. We frame the problem as though YOU are against freedom, while we try to limit what you can say about our position.
• Third, we have begun legislation to mandate all people to believe the limitations of gravity are morally wrong, and are going to forbid anyone from teaching that gravity is good. They are freedom haters. If they think gravity was created by a “god”, they are religious bigots, and we won’t allow bigotry (that is, unless it supports our position).
• Fourth, we will embed in one television show after another the notion that gravity is evil and freedom from it is good. Comedians will make fun of anyone who believes that gravity is a good thing, while we make one movie after another highlighting the “freedom of weightlessness”. Any celebrity who does not agree with us will be attacked relentlessly and pushed aside – they are freedom killers and bigots and they don’t deserve to be paid entertainers.
• Fifth, when people accept our premise and fling themselves from high places destroying their lives, we will make sure to bury any data that doesn’t support our freedom. Medical data, insurance and economic impact data will all be set aside in service to our freedom. Anyone who points out the drag on our economy and the dangers medically will be castigated and ridiculed as a freedom hater.
Now, come back to reality.
Look at the premise. It is based on the idea that truth is formed by our opinion – not by an Intelligent and Personal Creator and His revealed truths in His Word. Let’s flip the gravity problem over:
• Let’s first assume there is a Sovereign God who created all things in the world, and in Whom all things consist.
• Let’s further stipulate that this Creator has set rules about how He wants His created beings to operate, and He has made GRAVITY as part of a protective covering and system that pleases Him.
• Let’s assume thirdly, that He has made known His deliberate love for us, and the intention that we would follow Him and know TRUE FREEDOM. We are to do so accepting His rule of His universe.
• Finally, let’s listen to His Word as it says that even our lives, and our freedoms are not our own. We were redeemed – bought with a price. We belong to Him. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus faced Satan and offered the words: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God.” He made the simple point that it is God’s Word – not man’s hunger – that is supreme. What a statement! Jesus literally said that what was more important than what He wanted at that moment (something to eat and drink) was subservient to the Word of God. That is Christian thinking put succinctly and powerfully. Christian thinking is thinking that recognizes His Word moves me to place second my desires.
Step back for a moment. Can you understand why someone who doesn’t believe in the Creator cannot accept moral constraints on their behavior, but rather views them as something created by other people and designed to limit their freedom?
Here is how God revealed what you see happening around you:
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
Romans One Follows the Seven Steps from Light to Darkness:
1. Don’t take God and His Word seriously. God became agitated and revealed our foolishness because we: 1) increasingly took him less seriously; 2) acted in injustice toward others and did not correct it; 3) deliberately held back on the truths we knew about unrighteous and unjust activities. (1:18)
Romans 1:18-32 “For the wrath (or-gay’: anger, movement or agitation of the soul) of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (as-eb’-i-ah: want of reverence towards God, impiety, ungodliness) and unrighteousness (ad-ee-kee’-ah: injustice, a deed violating law and justice, act of unrighteousness of men) who suppress (kat-ekh’-o: to hold back, to restrain, hinder the course or progress of) the truth in unrighteousness,
2. Blame God for making thing so unclear and hiding from us – even when you know it isn’t true! We attempted to make it God’s fault that He was not clear, but we knew Who He is, and no such excuse is or was valid (1:19-20).
Romans 1:19 because that which is known about God is evident (fan-er-os’: apparent, manifest, plainly recognized) within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
3. Dismiss serving God and actively take His place as the Lord of our desires. Our self-willed nature, our desire to control everything and be responsible to no other drove us to displace God and any corollary truths, and left us empty, uncertain about everything and covered in darkness (1:21).
Romans 1:21 For even though they knew (ghin-oce’-ko: to learn to know, come to know, to perceive) God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks (dox-ad’-zo: to think, suppose, be of opinion to offer praise, to honor), but they became futile (mat-ah-yo’-o: to make empty, vain, foolish from mat’-ah-yos: devoid of force, as a result useless) in their speculations (dee-al-og-is-mos’: the thinking of a man deliberating with himself – inward reasoning; deliberating, questioning about what is true), and their foolish heart was darkened (skot-id-zo: to cover with darkness, as heavenly bodies as deprived of light).
4. Find experts that will espouse the truth you made up. We became experts and followed experts that acted like fools, creating an alternate “truth” that celebrated the created things and drew from “natural observation” (1:22-23).
Romans 1:22 Professing to be wise (sophos:experts) , they became fools (mo-rah’-ee-no: to be foolish, to act foolishly), 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
5. Allow any practice that matches what people want, no matter how costly to the society and how perverted it once seemed. Fully committed to divesting ourselves of truth and of any God that we should worship or serve, in judgment God turned custody of us over to the prevailing animal instincts of our bodies that strongly pressed us to do things before thought to be degrading and insulting (1:24-25).
Romans 1: 24 Therefore God gave them over (par-ad-id’-o-mee: to give into the hands (of another); to give over into (one’s) power or use; to deliver up one to custody, to be judged) in the lusts (ep-ee-thoo-mee’-ah: desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden) of their hearts to impurity (ak-ath-ar-see’-ah: uncleanness in physical or moral sense), so that their bodies would be dishonored (at-im-ad’-zo: to dishonour, insult, treat with contempt whether in word, deed or thought) among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
6. Create one golden rule: Do what feels good to you – not what makes sense for society or fits what has been in the past. Once our enlightened and unrestrained selves denied the truths that held us from unbridled self-centered behaviors that we were not designed for, we became subject to disgraceful fallen passions – women no longer seeking men; men now deriving sensual pleasures from other men – an error that is paying due dividends in many of their bodies (1:26-27).
Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading (at-ee-mee’-ah: disgrace) passions (path’-os: passionate deeds); for their women exchanged the natural (foo-see-kos’: inborn; agreeable to nature; governed by the instincts of nature) function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
7. Open the flood gates as the values of the society plunge into darkness. Caught in this lie, they did not seek the God of the Bible, but He turned custody of their minds to base and self centered thoughts and unleashed the restraining influences across society that kept “decency” in place (1:28-32).
Romans 1: 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” NASB
Let’s summarize what we have seen with just two thoughts:
• Our feelings about gravity does not change the fact that gravity does exist, and flinging ourselves and our children into the air is ultimately dangerous and destructive. That will still be true even if people say it isn’t.
• Even the most conservative among us would not argue that there are times we can avert gravity within obedient principles of God – but ignoring God’s rules is morally wrong if God communicated those rules – and the Bible doesn’t “skimp” on details about morality.
Remember this: in a conflict between pagan thinking and godly thinking – pagans will chop away at God’s Word and eventually frame the God of the Bible as both limiting and morally evil. Let me say it this way:
“When WRONG is licensed as RIGHT in a society, in very short order RIGHT will be outlawed as WRONG.”
We are facing three problems, then, as it relates to the MEAN GOD:
• First, America has another god, the “Santa god” and the God of the Bible looks mean when set next to the Santa god. Our God does what we want, blesses us, and expects no obedience that offends whatever we happen to feel strongly about right now. Morality is like nailing jello to a wall – it is slick, changing and never certain. What is wrong today, might be a civil right tomorrow.
• Second, we have deconstructed truth and exalted feelings in our culture. We have come to believe that our feelings are the most important faculty for decision making in areas of right and wrong. “How can it be wrong if it feels so right?” Seriously?
• Third, the Bible is undergoing critical attack of the modern algorithms that make our arguments look antiquated and falsified. Google is not a friend to the Bible because the best articles on the Word were written long ago – while the “trending” articles of today are written to free our culture from the restraints of things like the Bible.
Five Examples from the Bible
Let me offer just five quick selections from the Bible as examples of the places where God looks mean to the average American non-believer:
• Job and the problem of modern arrogance: Sometimes God is working on a level that far exceeds our ability to understand the whole problem, let alone the answer. Yet, we have been trained to believe that because technology is advancing, we are actually smarter, and can grasp everything from origins to destiny.
Most any believer knows the story of Job. In the opening chapters he was a good man doing right things, but Satan was given permission to wreak havoc in his life and reduce him to a boil infested pile of dirty humanity scraping his skin while sitting in ashes. He was made pathetic. Most of the book recorded a series of three discussions between three companions and Job. Three debates are 1) Job 4:1-14:22 First Debate; 2) Job 15:1-21:34 Second Debate; 3) Job 22:1-26:14 Third Debate (incomplete – missing Zophar!). Throughout, Job’s spoke on his own defense (Job 9-10; 12-14; 16-17; 19; 20-21; 23-24; 26-31). Finally a young servant named Elihu weighed in (Job 32-37). At that point God stepped in and revealed the truth (Job 38:1-39:30). The end of the book is the key to understanding a God who looked mean enough to let a faithful man get beat up by Satan. God’s answer: You wouldn’t understand what I am doing, because you don’t understand enough to frame even the question properly.
When we believe we know what we need to know to understand the boundaries God places on our behaviors and the results of our temporal efforts, we betray our arrogant spirit within.
• Genesis 6 and the problem of evaluation: Sometimes what looks like cruelty is actually a saving work of God.
Genesis 5 contains a selected genealogy that offers important clues about what God was about to do among men. The names: Adam – Seth – Enosh – Kenan – Mahalalel – Jared – Enoch – Methusaleh – Lamech –Noah when strung together offer a Hebrew sentence. Translate all ten names and the sentence reads as follows: “Man (was) appointed mortal (and) sorrowful. The blessed God He shall come down. With the commencement by His death He shall bring the despairing comfort.”
Why a flood? There appears on the scene a group referred to as the “sons of God” (bene Elohim: sons of the strong ones). Various understandings have been offered about who these are, but in my view the oldest understanding still makes the most sense. In the same way that the enemy used the body of a serpent in the Garden of Eden, the evil spirit hoards of the enemy began impregnating beautiful women of the human line for the purpose of destroying God’s plan to redeem mankind through a woman, as revealed in Genesis 3:15. When people were spread out and didn’t all live together and know each other, the enemy devised a plot to destroy the blood lines. They began to take the women as they chose, a violation of their own place of habitation in the spiritual dwelling. Satan did it imitating an animal, and his followers did it embodying the human form, at least in respect to sexual characteristics. The flood killed off an infected race, and saved humanity by eliminating the compromised ones. It wasn’t cruel, it was necessary to save us!
• 1 Samuel 15 (Saul) and the problem of perspective: Sometimes the test of obedience has far bigger implications than we can recognize at the time we are taking it. Our window may be too small and our ability to excuse ourselves from the standard too large.
Saul killed the people as instructed, but did not kill Agag the tribal chief, nor the best of his animals (15:8). Little did Saul know that the enemy of the people of God would use this time to revive the battle between God and Satan in the people. Agag evidently used the time in captivity to procreate and leave a line on the earth that would come back to haunt Israel in the future (Esther 3:1). The delayed obedience nearly cost Israel elimination in the end (15:8-9). Not following instructions that looked mean nearly cost the Hebrew people their future, and the world their Redeemer.
• Ruth (Naomi) and our problem of poor judgment: Sometimes the problem is that we only see a small slice of the truth – but we are ready to judge a God that is too large for us to understand.
God took Elimelech and Naomi from their farm by a drought, then took Mahlon and Chilion (“wasting” and “puny”) in death. Returned to Bethlehem with Ruth the Moabitess, Noami (“my sweetness”) felt God dealt bitterly with her. Yet, the emptying of her hands led to the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, which led to King David…whose line led to King Jesus. Naomi didn’t live long enough to get the full picture of what her experiences were FOR, but God was at work!
• 1 Samuel 1-3 (Hannah) and the problem of mismatched timing: Sometimes what we long for is right, but mistimed for God’s purposes.
All Hannah wanted was a child, and she wept before God. He wasn’t saying, “No!” but rather was saying, “Wait!” It was a matter of timing, not cruelty. Samuel was born at the perfect time for the story of Eli, Hophni and Phineas – as well as for his hurting nation. God knows timing issues we cannot comprehend.
• The Crucifixion and the problem of replacement: The meanest God could ever look to a pagan mind can be seen in God wanting to KILL His Son to “make a sacrifice”. What kind of God would be so cold as to kill a child of His – even if it was to help others. Such a god is cruel, and either morally clueless – because He doesn’t have the love of a Father, or tiny – because He couldn’t find another way to save men. This is a prime example of modern thinking: God is subject to my sense of morality, and follows rules that suit me.
I want you to recall that Philippians 2 calls a believer to BE LIKE CHRIST, Who surrendered even His life to His Father’s will. It didn’t matter what Jesus wanted – He wanted to please His Father MORE.
I don’t want to seem indifferent, but in light of how Christians are called to live: “What difference does it make “what you feel attracted to” if it conflicts with the Word of God?” Why would I spend my time trying to carefully dissect and discern my feelings instead of simply asking what the Master has said will please Him? Is not greater sacrifice the platform for greater joy in the time of reward? Are we not told to be like Jesus Who surrendered His desires, blessings and comforts to serve His Father’s end? With that in mind…Does not God have the right to call you to celibacy if he chooses? Can He not call you to childlessness – regardless of what you feel you desire? When did God give up being in charge of His own plan? Self-centered Christianity isn’t Christianity at all – it is a religion cloaked immature selfishness – and we need to see it for the bankruptcy it is.
My point is that it is ONE THING for a pagan to reject denying their desires for a God they do not know and love – but quite another for a Christian to do so.
Five Practical Steps to Seeing God’s Work and Person Correctly:
• Break the World Mold: Learn not to trust my sensual faculties of feeling and experience. Learn the pattern of prayer Jesus showed us in John 18.
Romans 12:1-2 warns believers that they are being pressed into the mold of the world, and that their mind can and must be renewed by the transformation of the Spirit through the Word. John 18 offers the pattern of surrender in prayer in the illustration of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane – tell God what we want, then tell God we want whatever He wants.
• Know the Word – it will instruct you on the character of God. We will always need to trust the character of God – especially when we cannot understand the actions of God.
The paganization of education has corrupted the modern mind at its core. Instead of using God’s Word as the foundation of truth – many have deliberately replaced the truth with unending questions and bold assertions that such truths do not really exist. As we quadruple our social services budgets and clog the system with an unending number of dysfunctional people, we will see the error of that way. People cannot get life together when they don’t have a truth foundation to put it on. When any nation is taught to focus on fulfilling their desires without the balancing truth of taking joy from wholly serving their Creator – they lose their way.
• Reshape my expectation: Life isn’t FOR me, but for me to serve Him! When Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, he didn’t try to change WHO Jesus was, but rather tried to focus Jesus on Himself and His needs rather than on His Father – for Whom the whole mission was conceived. Jesus was here for His Father’s joy – and focus on Who He is was a distraction from that chief end. Satan is a master at pulling our eyes from the MOST IMPORTANT to the LESSER THINGS – and once our eyes are following his prompting, he will pull our attention into rebellion. Jesus would have none of it. Even as the Eternal Son of God – He knew His call was to serve His Father, and keep His attention on that as His chief joy.
I wonder how many believers have been trained to think this way. Have we really instilled in those we disciple that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him in the process? The message of modern Christianity often sounds like the tempter’s voice: “Come to Jesus and YOU will find fulfillment and happiness.” Even though the words are true, can we not see that they beckon us to get Jesus for our own purposes – and not to surrender our lives to HIS? We must be careful about this, for how we motivate people will show up later in the discipleship process.
• Don’t expect a self-oriented world to understand the first three – they don’t live for the same purposes as a real Christian. They don’t get you – but that doesn’t mean you are wrong!
We shouldn’t be surprised when the world opposes us. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 John 3 reminds: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”
• Don’t accept false Christianity as legitimate – live distinctly.
I strongly believe we are living in a day of delusion -even within the community of the Christian faith. The foundation for many is the flawed foundational idea that God’s chief interest is their happiness (not holiness). Because of that, anything that would curtail their ability to express their inner desires and feelings could not be commanded by this “reshaped” god they now follow. If they feel they were “made with certain desires”, they cannot imagine a god that would tell them to deny their feelings – because their true god is their appetite. We live in a time where even believers have been subtly convinced that the center of the universe is how they feel, not Who they serve – and that separates the modern church from the message of its past.
Jesus made clear to Satan at the temptation the issue wasn’t simply what we DO, but for WHOSE GLORY we do it (Mt. 4:7). A man who lives with the chief goal of making himself happy doesn’t live for God’s glory… period. When I live for my Master, I can and WILL enjoy life – but that cannot become the goal or I am changing the essential message and purpose of my faith.
Stop for a moment and see if you can recognize one of the great issues of our day at this point in our study. For many in the modern church, personal experience too often dictates the determination of truth. If you are younger than 30 years of age, there are two critical lies that have been subtly introduced into many serious discussions of moral behavior. They have often been introduced by educators and further reinforced by modern entertainers.
• First is the idea that moral premises can be decided on the basis of your personal feelings alone.
• Second is the notion that your life experience is the best guide for truth. True Christian thinking, i.e. Biblical thinking stands opposed to both ideas.
To the first, a Christian acknowledges that how I feel about things needs to be subjected to how GOD feels about them, and that is clear only when I understand what the Bible truly says about the issue at the center of my decision. I cannot be “taking up a cross daily and following Jesus” while openly opposing God’s right to set the standard of behavior for His Creation.
To the second, followers of Jesus must reckon that our grasp of experience is grossly limited because we only perceive PART of what is truly happening. We are passing through an experience that we will only truly understand much later.
Here is the key: Decisions about truth and reckoning of moral behavior are not reliably decided based on feeling and experience apart from the Biblical record. Such standards of behavior are not Christian, they are pagan, ungodly and strongly applauded by a fallen world. When the whole fallen world is for your “boldly tolerant” decision, you should not be impressed. Open your Bible, therein is the standard for the follower of Jesus.
The fact is that Bible believers, when living Biblically, confound the modern way of thinking because they can both love the person they see as living in an immoral way and yet reject their life behavior as wrong. I don’t hate people who oppose the Biblical view; I see them as victims of the Fall of man, held in the embrace of a fallen prince doomed to destruction. They aren’t the problem to be solved; they are the sinner to be loved and a victim to be rescued. At the same time, I will not embrace their standard of behavior no matter how bigoted they evaluate my faith to be. Why? Because if there is a God (as the Bible purports) and if this IS His standard (in the Bible), how they feel about my evaluation of their life is not more compelling to me than what HE has said about their behavior. If I surrender that ground, I have surrendered the Bible to the modern sense of toleration, and I have no message for the sinner but this: “God loves you, but do what you want, or what seems good to you.” That isn’t Biblical at all, and it robs the church of a message that God will save you from your fallen state.
The point is simple: How I feel about things needs to be subjected to how GOD feels about them.
• Do I feel sex outside of marriage is wrong? The Christian answer is “Who cares what you feel about that?” The believer may feel it is perfectly acceptable in their heart (“because I really love them”) – but the Bible makes it clear that it is NOT God’s standard. When weighing the deciding factor, Christian thinking dictates that God’s Word is the standard of both my faith and my behavior.
• Do I feel that because someone says: “I have always felt this way”, that acting on that feeling is ok with God? The Biblical answer is “Your feelings are from a fallen heart that will deceive you.” That is what the Bible teaches.
Let me say it again: God is God and I am not. I am the clay; He is the Potter. In the end, that makes His Word more important than my feelings and His glory more important than my comfort.
He isn’t mean, He is good.
He isn’t angry, He is loving.
He isn’t begging me to love Him; He is telling me the truth about how I was made, and where true happiness comes from.
He is no less God in an atheist convention; He is still our Sovereign even when people don’t believe it.
It is also important that I remember…I am also not God.
His will is more important than mine.
His plan is the tapestry of my life.
His glory is the reason for my breath – and I am glad that is true.
That surrender is what makes me a Christian.