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This One Thing

February 2014
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Just One ThingWe all have various agendas going on in our lives on a regular basis. Some are good, some not so good, and some are downright evil. We do still recognize evil, right? We pass our days making plans for the future to make our lives better by acquiring more money, climbing a corporate or church or some other type of social ladder, and leveraging for a little more power (and, oh, the ways we use to get that stuff). From a gender perspective, men are primarily good at it by using money (if they have it) or “scratching other’s backs” and women by using sex or spreading nasty gossip. Oh, “the games people play, every night and every day” (see YouTube Video at the end of this post).

There are three verses in 2 Peter that sum up clearly what God’s purpose (remember God?) is for all people on this planet of ours. Let’s read them in 2 Peter 3:8-10:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

As we strive for “bigger, better, more, more, more,” in any way we can get it, we forget that this life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow (see James 4:13-17). We live for the temporary (which is this life, folks) and grab for all the gusto we can get, and we forget all about the eternal (you know, the place where we will spend eternity–as in forever.) And that includes many Christians living in America, too. And often (way too often), pastors tend to focus their sermons on the “here and now” and how we can be successful in this life and rarely, if ever, give sermons about what comes after this life. Those “success” sermons wouldn’t fly very well in Syria or Egypt, but they keep us here in America always seeking after “the good life” here and now.

Let’s take a look at what James has to say about this in James 4:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

When was the last time we heard a sermon on those verses? Maybe a few decades ago depending on how old we are. But that’s where it’s really at, folks. Real life–God’s way of life–not in the “bigger, better, more, more, more” sermons that keep us focused on “us” and what we can get right now. Unfortunately, we now have an entire generation who has grown up on only those kinds of sermons, and they don’t have a clue what truly following after Jesus Christ is all about. And it’s not about “bigger, better, more, more, more.” No wonder the younger generation as a whole has lost interest in Christianity. The brand of Christianity they’ve been sold is nothing more than the world all around them dressed up in religious garb but still doing the same things that everybody else does.

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse but the horse isn’t dead yet (but it’s close). I’ve spent my entire life in and out of churches here in America and I don’t much like what I’ve experienced as a whole. The culture has taken over the church instead of the church being salt and light (see Matthew 5:13-14) to the culture. We’ve taken greed and gossip and sexual immorality into the church instead of exposing it for what it is. And church discipline is nonexistence today (read the book of Acts which is the story of how the church began in the first place). And repentance? Who does that anymore?

If you’ve been reading my blog you are aware by now that I can hit pretty hard on what the Church has become in our day (as a whole and not individual churches). Unfortuately, the church in America has so succumbed to the culture that it is often about as effective in living out the true gospel of Jesus Christ as putting a bandaid on cancer. How we live on a daily basis–including work, church, social activities, and generally how we treat others including our enemies and those we don’t understand (e.g., just consider the political arena if you think we don’t have any issues in these areas)–and how we go about making and spending money–screams to the culture all around us that we are really, at our very core, no different from them, and that makes the gospel of Jesus Christ null and void. And the book of Hebrews has much to say about that kind of living while professing to be Christian.

red-warningWe need to wake up, folks, and stop playing church games that only benefit us. When was the last time we actually tried to help a homeless person, or better yet, our enemy, whether that enemy is someone trying to get our job or someone we don’t like or don’t even know, or, better yet, someone we gossip about and tear apart with our words. When have we tried to love someone who makes us jealous or stole our spouse away. What do we really think it means when Jesus said we are to love our enemies Matt. 5:43-48)? Do we think he meant we should disparage them and gossip about them behind their backs and spread false rumors about them?

And how about how we earn our money? Are we ethical in the way we earn our money or do we screw over others in order that we might have more of it? Some of the practices in my own field of work left a lot to be desired in this area (on the admissions side of the business). So exactly where IS Jesus in the midst of us, folks? The very way we live our lives proves out on a daily basis whether or not he is real to us and to others, too.

That, of course, doesn’t mean we are perfect, but God calls us to a holy life. It’s not about making up our own rules as we go along while giving lip service to God. God is not fooled, nor are the people around us who aren’t Christian. There are plenty of places in the New Testament that bears this out (e.g., to not live a life of duplicity) if we would only take the time to actually read and meditate on them and take them seriously. But the question remains–do we really even want to change our lives? Most often we want to live like the rest of the culture and have God, too. And it doesn’t work that way.

And it never has, either . . . .

Regarding the verses I quoted at the start of this blog post, let’s put them into context with the surrounding verses (2 Peter 3:1-18):

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Those words give a pretty clear picture of things to come that we don’t hear in most churches today. Are you currently sitting in a church that preaches “bigger, better, more, more, more” on a regular basis without any real substance regarding how we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ? If so, you need to think about leaving that church, and finding one where the gospel of Jesus Christ is honored and not the kingdom of self. And if you are living a life geared around “bigger, better, more, more, more” and always seeking after what you can get, then you need to repent and stop before it is too late.

Christianity isn’t a game, and so often we make it a game here in America by the way we live. No wonder the unbelievers in our culture often think it is a joke. What can a weak and insipid form of Christianity possibly offer to them that they don’t already have without all the “God talk” thrown in for good measure? No, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes people from the inside out. Christianity is not there to benefit us politically, socially, monetarily, in the workplace, at church, or anywhere else. In fact, true Christianity is not about us and what we can get in this life at all. True Christianity will cost us everything (see Luke 14). In a commentary on Luke 14 on BibleGateway.com the following statement is made:

So Jesus calls for a follower who will hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life (see Luke 14:25-27). The point of the list is that no other relationship is first for a disciple. “Hate” is used figuratively and suggests a priority of relationship. Jesus is first. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus, not anyone or anything else. A disciple is a learner, and the primary teacher in life is Jesus. This total loyalty is crucial, given the rejection and persecution that lie ahead. If his followers care more about family than about Jesus, when families are divided under pressure of persecution, they will choose against Jesus. This is what lies behind Jesus’ remarks. Discipleship is not possible if Jesus is not the teacher.

This is why bearing the cross and coming after Jesus is the issue of discipleship. Learning from Jesus means following him, experiencing the rejection he experienced and so bearing the cross he bore. We cannot “learn Jesus” without being prepared to walk this path. Discipleship is basically allegiance. To follow Jesus is to rely on him. Paul makes the same point in different imagery in Romans 6. (The full commentary on Luke 14 can be accessed at this link.)

And if we don’t believe that, we don’t believe what Jesus Christ has to say about how we are to follow after him (and not the culture and what we want). Now I realize this is one of my harder hitting posts, but this life is not a game about how much we can get and still pretend to be following after Jesus Christ, and to think that it is has serious and eternal consequences. So let’s remember the final words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:17-18:

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

I’m sharing this information with you as friends . . . 

So be forewarned and stop playing games . . .

Before it is too late . . . .

YouTube Video: “Games People Play” by Joe South:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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1 Comment

  1. Nina Stone says:

    This was powerful and hard-hitting, and nothing but the truth. Thank you.

    Like

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