So today I walked into the office to hear a sermon broadcasting from Charles’ computer. Yes, Charles is a Christian and I have to admit, he’s really on fire. He has a great heart and yearns to know more of God, and at times I feel as though God placed Charles here to bless me.
However, the sermon being played kind of pissed me off. (Yes, I can say that all in one sentence!) First of all, I have to be candid in that I have NEVER liked preachers who scream at the top of their lungs. Never. So I already was biased against him just by hearing his yelling voice. But moreso was his message – you really can’t know you are truly saved unless you prove it with things such as going to church, avoiding worldly things of all kinds, etc. He went onto say that you “better be scared” because you could lose your salvation at any moment if you don’t watch out.
I must add that, usually when Charles has these sort of preachers on, I just pray that the Holy Spirit reveal himself to both of us and that there might be a balance to His love and also to our role as ambassadors for Him to the world. However, LOSE YOUR SALVATION????? I cannot STAND this sort of crap! How can I have more power than Jesus Christ Himself when I had nothing to do with my salvation in the first place????
So, just hold up a second, please. I am NOT saying we as Christians should be willy nilly and do anything because we have this “sure fire” thing called salvation. When we accept Christ, we ARE changed and the Holy Spirit indwells us and makes us a new creation. And we SHOULD be new, should seek to be more like Jesus everyday, and become sactified by the Holy Spirit. But, let’s face it, we still suck apart from Christ and we are so gonna fail in many, many ways. I tried to articulate these thoughts to Charles, but he told me that we are slaves to Christ and therefore should not sin. I said it was impossible. He said I might need to get right with God (not directly and not mean spirited……)
So I instead wrote this email:
I agree with the CONCEPTS of the pastor speaking today, but I think there is too much emphasis on the outward. The Pharisees in Jesus’ days knew the law, did many of the outward things required by the law (and like us, tons of things we as humans have added to the law), yet Jesus was clear that their arrogance and sick hearts were wrong and kept them from knowing God.
For example, his words “you are known by your fruit” and should not “be of the world”. I have heard some claim that if I, as a woman, wear pants, I am of the world and beyond salvation. I have heard that if I drink beer, I am of the world and cannot be a Christian. (keep in mind, the Bible says “be ye not DRUNK”). I have heard that, if I listen to secular music, I am not saved. All of these are outward signs and have nothing to do with the heart or even Jesus Christ. However, many Christians who go to church and tithe and cut their hair a certain way (aka, “like the Pharisees), treat a homeless person like crap and turn their backs on “sinners” in the world and justify those actions by saying “we are not of the world”. But when the scriptures tell us to follow the law – which I am not even saying we shouldn’t – I believe Jesus set the heirchy for this following. Matt 22:34-40 NIV (emphasis mine) says:
The Greatest Commandment
34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So, the way I see it, if we do not love our God and our neighbors, no other adherence to the law matters, as everything hangs on these two things. And who is our neighbor? They are the ones that society tells us to hate (Samaritans), they and the sinners (aka the adulterer who was not stoned), they are the world. And, by Jesus’ own actions (as he did everything the Pharisees thought was “of the world”), we need to love and reach out to all people no matter what their circumstances and LOVE THEM EVEN IF THEY DO NOT ACCEPT HIM!
And again, focusing too much on the outward “fruits” (that really can be defined in world ways, don’t you think? Going to church, looking a certain way, speaking a certain way – cliques do that too!) is dangerous. Jesus himself shared in Luke 18:9-14:
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So, I am NOT saying we should not put on the garments God provided through His Son at the point of our salvation – I am not saying there should not be a change in us when we accept Him as Savior. But I also do not want to take other scriptures that promote fear or make me feel as though I need to put on the garments of man to “prove” my salvation. I rely on the Holy Spirit on a daily basis to fight the flesh that is still present in my life (just as Paul shared in Corinthians). I hope and TRUST that I am being sanctified each day by the Holy Spirit and that HIS LOVE is manifested in me and that I truly follow His greatest commandments – to love Him and love others – before I get all arrogant to measure my other fruits in a greater way. And I am will based my faith in the Bible that says I am saved because I accepted Jesus Christ, and I will not worry about “losing” my salvation or question that salvation because I may not adhere to one or another “rule”. No matter how great I am with the “clothes” or outward signs, I am really and truly like that tax collector – I so suck and I am 100% a sinner and really, I do not deserve a damn thing. And even if I get some sense of “godliness” with my “walk” or my “talk” or my church attendance or anything else that I can do to separate myself from the world, I still suck except for the blood of Jesus that has given me something I do not deserve.
So THAT is what I was trying to say. And there is no scripture that says what we need to “listen to” specifically…….because just as I sent this email, the preacher dude said if you listen to secular music, you just might not be saved……and used the scripture “you called ‘Lord Lord’ but I did not know you” as proof…….sigh.
And maybe the next conversation we can have is – can a secular job be your ministry? J
I am posting this mostly because I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Am I wrong? Should we focus more on things like music, clothes, church attendance, and less on loving others or maybe working on our hearts?
And on a side note, I have words of advice for business owners. If you do not pay withholding taxes to the IRS and State you’re located in, they can and WILL take all of your money out of your bank accounts and will not care if you just sent our payroll checks or your opinion that “you can’t stop our operations like that”.