Thursday, June 26, 2014

God Created in Man's Image

I have to start today with a little disclaimer. The reason for the disclaimer is that we Christians have a bad tendency to pick our "favorite" sins to stand against. I will be referring to a particular sin below, however, it is simply a real-life example which I will use to get to the point of this blog. Please do not latch on to that particular sin or the topic that is my launching point. Don't miss what is really being said here:

I was on Facebook this week and a friend who is a leader in a church posed this question:
"Would you permit people, living the homosexual lifestyle, to volunteer in your church?" What ensued this question was a litany of responses and reactions. I was truly disheartened by many of the responses, not because of the topic stated, but because of the attitude toward sin and God's Word. Let me give a few quotes from that interaction:

No. And while we're at it we should forbid volunteers who eat shellfish, gossip, work on Sunday, have been divorced, give in to greed, are quick to anger, don't unconditionally love the least of society, or otherwise fall short of God. Oh, wait.....

 Absolutely. They are people. We are to love ALL of our neighbors. To not allow them because of their lifestyle is judging them based not on their abilities but on their sexuality. Is it really any different than having someone volunteer that lives with a sexual partner before marriage? People do that all the time and are still allowed to volunteer. Jesus loves us all and does not judge. Why should we?

Instead of building social barriers, we as Christ-followers should be the ones who remove these barriers. The Apostle Paul himself explained in Galatians 3:26-29, that Christ has removed all the stigmas of social stratus. Anytime we deny someone access to the foot of the cross, we communicate that we are better than them, more deserving of his grace. This is an untruth. The early church dealt with this issue in a different form. Early church members would look down on women and slaves. Jesus countered this lie with his behavior every day. So should we.

In this sample of responses is the evidence of  how humanistic many Christians have become in the way we approach the issue of sin.  First of all,  sin is justified in the statement that all people are sinners and therefore we all would be disqualified if this standard was upheld. What is missing in this logic is that there is a difference between being a sinner and living in sin. Grace does not allow us to go on in sin, it cleanses us from it. We are to hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable. That means I am to be held accountable as well if I am in sin.  God did not send Christ to die so we can keep on sinning, He sent Him to die to pull us out of sin. We trample the blood of Jesus with our humanistic, bleeding heart justification of sin. God's standard has not changed.

Secondly, sin is trivialized when one points at others doing the wrong thing and conclude then another wrong action or attitude is okay. For example, in the second quote above, "People do that all the time and are still allowed to volunteer". The old adage "Two wrongs don't make a right" is still true. We cannot justify our wrong by someone else's wrong. Nor do we condemn someone else's wrong. We are permitted to judge, but only according to Scriptures and only to the extent that we do so to help bring our brothers and sisters back to fellowship with God, all the while watching ourselves lest we to fall (Galatians 6:1).

Thirdly, sin is spiritualized by stating that to deny someone the right to volunteer because of sin is equivalent to denying "access to the foot of the cross." This is untrue because, if they are working in the church, they ought to be  believers. This means they should have already accessed the cross. Also, no one is saying that if they are lost and in sin that they cannot come to the church to hear and see the gospel message.

Fourthly, sin is magnified when Scripture is used to justify it. In doing this sin is raised to equality with the divine. In the final quote above, Scripture is used to say sin is okay because it is a natural part of life. The truth is that sin is a "natural" part of life. We are all born into sin. It is in our nature (Ephesians 2:3). However, it is not in God's nature and the cross did not change His stand on sin. Rather, it solidifies it and makes sin even more grievous when we claim the blood of Christ and then turn and trample on it:
 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries . Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine , I will repay ." And again, "T he L ord will judge H is people ." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31, NAS)
 Let me clarify: I am not free of sin, nor can I condemn someone for their sin. I also recognize that God is not only Just as much as He is not only Love. Scripture says that God does not desire for any to perish (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 1Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). I take no superior stand on these things. My point is that Scripture is our foundation and we must use it as it is written and it must always agree with itself. It is not possible for the Bible to call sin "sin" in one context and it not be sin in another. Also, our feelings do not enter into the equation. The Bible says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick ; Who can understand it." (Jeremiah 17:9, NAS) Our hearts will deceive us if we allow them to be our standard.

Here's the bottom line, as well as the reason for my title: We cannot pick and choose our sins and Scriptures based on what makes us more comfortable or what makes the most sense to us. The standard is God's Word. His Word is true and when we argue with His Word we are wrong every time. When we try to make sin fit into the Christian life, we are guilty of breaking God's second commandment: we are making graven images. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments the first time, the Israelites made a golden calf and said it was the God that had delivered them out of Egypt. They were recognizing the right God, but they were worshipping Him the wrong way. They limited Him and made Him more comfortable to live with. They formed Him into an image that was not so scary and mysterious.  We cannot form God into our image, He made us in His.   In Christ we are daily being made a better reflection of His glory as we allow His Word and His Spirit to sanctify us. But to do that, we need to study, obey and remain faithful to the truth of His Word.

 In Psalm 50:21 God says, "These things you have done and I kept silence ; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes." Let's not be guilty of reforming God. Let's do our best to live according to His Word and quickly repent when we have fallen. Let us be an accurate reflection of the God who redeems sinners. Let's remember we are sinners when issuing the call to repentance, understanding that it is only grace that has saved us. Let's give God the glory that suits His holiness!

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

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