Christian Leaders Who Drift and a God who Never Will…

It’s been a week filled with all kinds of hoopla in Christian blogger-land. I believe the issue is much bigger than the players involved, so I’ll stick to the bare facts for starters. On one side, we have an ultra popular Christian author for (Jen Hatmaker) who came out on her blog in support of traditional marriage last year but has since deleted said post and apparently done some rethinking. She did an interview affirming her support for gay unions, and lamenting the Christian church’s response to them as a whole, not being inclusive enough, etc. Not surprisingly, she got called out. Lifeway dropped her books. Other Christian bloggers countered her arguments. And it takes off from there.  I really want to address the bigger issue of what is happening right now which is the idea of Christian compromise. Is it the crazy election year that seems to have brought all this bubbling to the surface? Perhaps. As the world demands more “tolerance” out of believing Christians, the shake up is inevitable. The days of just drifting by are coming to an end. Christians are either standing up or walking away – those really are the only two choices. Can we stand up for truth and not be hateful? Yes. It’s not up to us if the world receives the message or not, but it is not hateful to disagree, it is sometimes necessary.

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” DA Carson

Like a steady rain shower, the slow but relentless stream of compromise is eroding our very foundations. What started out as well-intentioned tolerance has become full-fledged spiritual dilution. We’ve been told our beliefs are passé at best, hateful and bigoted at worst, so we stop. We quit speaking truth in love. Attacked from every side, we cave. Not because we don’t love God or desire to be a light for Him, we simply don’t value His word above the worlds voice. Period. The truth seems harsh. God’s way is confusing to a world so given over to selfishness and sin. It requires surrender.

I’ve read enough of Jen Hatmakers books and blogs to know that she has a heart to help people who are hurting. She has a magnetic wit and humor and compassion for people that most of us wish we could muster up. Thats a calling.

Here’s the inevitable “but”… When we live man-centered instead of Christ-centered, we are bound to go down the road of compromise. Well-meaning Christians can empathize to the point where they actually take on everyones burden. Instead of walking along side someone and directing them OUT of their sin (through prayer and God’s Word), it’s more acceptable (and easier) to SIT DOWN with them in the midst of it and embrace it for what it is, accepting it and sometimes even celebrating it.

Timothy warned us of this compromise saying many would come who “have the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) People who claim Christ but deny His power to do anything to really help the situation. The logical conclusion to that thinking is to just embrace the sin and compromise your once held beliefs.

This isn’t just about Jen Hatmaker or about the gay rights debate. This is about how we as Christians deal with sin and compromise. It’s increasingly difficult to reconcile what God’s Word says with a world so diametrically opposed to Him. Every time we compromise some of His truth to fit the world’s ever-changing idea of what is acceptable, it gets more fuzzy. Suddenly, here we are. Well-respected Christian authors and leaders jumping ship and changing their tune to the dismay of some, and the relief of others.

When we don’t abide in God’s Word, the world comes to abide inside us, and the world is hostile to Jesus. We drift. We absorb whatever comes at us. We seek out other truths. As crazy as it sounds, we begin to embrace the world’s sin and question whether Jesus really meant what He said.

We don’t need to smooth out the gospel for anyone. We also shouldn’t ever put so much stock in one human beings opinions and writings as to be totally knocked over when/if they stumble.

Perhaps the Jen Hatmaker ‘debacle’ of this week can teach us at least this – we are all human and susceptible to drifting towards all kinds of idolotry when Jesus isn’t in His proper place in our hearts and lives. This world (and modern progressive Christianity) will squeeze us dry if we let it. We must thirst for the Truth and understand that “God does not lower His standards to accommodate us. He will not tolerate a compromise of character” (RC Sproul). Jesus said it is the TRUTH that sets people free, and I think He meant it. Like a plant that isn’t getting enough water or sunlight, we suffocate under compromise and watered-down Christianity.

 

Friends, we are called to be salt and light. Truly knowing God and His character leads us to desire holiness. Real love never rejoices in sin but in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Don’t be rendered passive, church. Compromise can be seen a mile away if we are rooted and grounded in Jesus and His Word. Never allow anyone’s words to have more power over you than those spoken by the One who created you.

A Blazingly Holy Life

IMG_1790“Do I believe I need to be holy? Do I believe that God can come into me and make me holy? If, through your preaching, you convince me that I am unholy, I then resent your preaching. The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it is designed to reveal my unholiness, but it also awakens an intense yearning and desire within me. God has only one intended destiny for mankind – holiness. Oswald Chambers

Holiness – does the idea that we are created for this awaken resentment in us or does it encourage us to press in even harder to Jesus? What makes some resentful while some hopeful?

The reality of who WE are – sinful, struggling, imperfect – forces us to accept we will never be very good, much less HOLY. It’s an impossible goal. The heart resents what it can’t achieve. The law is impossible to fulfill. People stop here in resignation.

The reality of who CHRIST is – relational, forgiving, perfect in love – allows us to run to Him (in spite of our shortcomings) and enjoy the freedom of our salvation. He fulfilled the law, and we are free to be holy, not because of anything we do or don’t do, but because of the fact that we are saved through our faith.

I think the reason people become resentful and give up is because we’ve equated “holiness” with “sainthood”. Doing good deeds. Never feeling tempted. Never failing or struggling. For those on the outside looking in, this kind of Christianity  doesn’t seem possible or attractive.

“Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also…” Matthew 23:26

Jesus went straight to the heart. He wants us to understand that what goes on inside will naturally be made known on the outside.

What if we just exuded “holiness” as a natural result of abiding with Christ? We aren’t saved because we’re holy. We are holy because we are saved. It’s a by-product of our relationship with Him. We are saved based on our faith in Jesus.

What a gift! Just to embrace the ‘new man’ that God created us to be and the gifts we receive when we put our faith in Him. How I wish people could see this in us more. It isn’t about performing or doing. It’s about receiving!

The world needs to see the joy in true holiness. It’s a fruit of our salvation, not some unattainable, dull state of being that only a few are able to reach. If we are saved through faith in Jesus, we are destined to be holy. We are made to be holy. Not perfect, but holy. Set apart.

If we are authentic, this will flow out of us like water in a fountain.

“We are saved and sanctified for God, not to be specimens in His showroom, but for God to do with us even as He did with Jesus, make us broken bread and poured-out wine as He chooses. That is the test – not spiritual fireworks or hysterics, not fanaticism, but a blazingly holy life that confronts the horror of the world with a fierce purity…” Oswald Chambers

Confront the world with a blazingly holy life. Even as broken bread and poured out wine. It isn’t unattainable or set aside for perfect saints. Confront the world with a fierce purity and natural holiness – that’s how we will make a difference in a dark world.

Not safe, but good.

“Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly.”                                        

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.                                                                                                         

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

We live in a safety-obsessed society. The mom in me appreciates and embraces this: helmets, which we never had as kids; seat belts, which we never wore; the “may contain nuts” label on food packages because people these days seem to be more allergic than 30 years ago; it’s great. Parents naturally want to protect their children. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve shouted “Be careful! Don’t get hurt!” as they play… I’d be rich. Safety is necessary.  Kids need to know that running with pointed scissors isn’t a good idea. They have to understand that chasing the ball into the street is dangerous. But what if this is all we teach them? What if this is all we ourselves have to hold on to? If the only thing we desire is to avoid risk at any cost?

I come back to this passage in the Chronicles of Narnia often. God is Holy. He is wild. The Lion of Judah isn’t a puppy. We wouldn’t want Him to be. He is fierce, protective, and powerful. A life submitted to Christ doesn’t guarantee a life in a plastic bubble free from harm. What it does guarantee is that the fears of this world cannot hold power over us. We want quick, effective formulas. I see Bible studies all the time that emphasize this. We are comforted by 3 step or 30 day formulas. What if the breakthrough God has for us comes in 2 days? What if it requires more than three easy steps? We want to understand the mystery, but are too afraid to let God really touch our deepest wounds or insecurities. It’s like wanting to go camping without the bugs. Or cook an amazing meal without messing up the kitchen. Or travel to a foreign country only to run to the nearest McDonalds. I asked myself: what if all this preoccupation with safety and comfort is causing me to miss the really good stuff that God has for me?

One of the great things about walking with Christ is that He invites us to go on the adventure. We are free to choose. If we decline, we may be safe for a time. If we go with Him, there will be risk. Until Aslan returned to Narnia, they were living in a perpetual winter under the White Witch. Winter, minus Christmas of course. In the final book, the children have traveled deeper and higher into Aslan’s country, farther than they ever imagined they would go. Afraid of being sent back, they are worried. Aslan reassures them they are home and that “the holidays have begun.”  He brought life back and he led them through to where they needed to be. It was anything but safe, but it was definitely good.

We can stay put in our ‘safe’ places and endure the long winter. Or, we can choose to go out with Christ into the imperfect, messy world and see just what He has in store for us. The decision to go with Jesus means we are going into some wild and risky places. God wants to get us out there but He wants us out there with Him. He loves us too much to let us slumber in our safe places, numb to the rest of the story. There may be a mountain. There probably won’t be an escalator up it. I’m learning to say ‘oh well’ and go anyway. There will be dirt and bugs and rocks in our way. I’m learning to deal with it because it is so much better to be out in the wild with God than to be safe in my self-made shelter alone with my 3-step book!