Rabu, 31 Juli 2013

20 Pictures of Jesus (Pt 2)

20 Pictures of Jesus (Pt 2) – David Platt


David Platt describes 20 pictures of Jesus.
11. He’s ending
12. He loves his fiercest enemies
13. He’s the Savior King
14. He’s Righteous Judge
15. He’s filled with God the Spirit
16. He’s loved by God the Father
17. He’s the new Adam
18. He’s the true Israel
19. He’s the Light of the World
20. He’s the hope for all nations

Love Just One

Love Just One
By: Francis Frangipane
(En Español)
The Upward Call
It is sad, but many Christians muddy along, hoping for nothing loftier than a short reprieve from sin and self-condemnation. Should the lowliness of our sinful state have veto power over the enormity of God's promises? May it never be! For Scripture assures us that our call, even as lowly as we feel sometimes, is an upward climb that relies upon faith in God's abilities and Christ's redemption. We are not harnessed to our flaws and weaknesses; rather, in spirit-to-Spirit fusion we are united to the resurrection power of Heaven! Our call is not merely to attend church but to walk with God, whose eternal goal has predestined us to be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.8:29).

Yes, let us deeply repent for our sins and learn to walk humbly with our God, but let us not assume faith must depart so humility may arise. No, our adoption as sons and daughters has made us joint heirs with Christ. You see, everything concerning our salvation and the gifts of God in our lives comes to us not as something we attain by works but as an inheritance we receive by faith.

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17).

Therefore let us set our hopes high upon the promises of God. Though we fall, the Lord will lift us (Prov.24:16; Micah 7:7-8). God's grace will not wilt because we're weak. In ever-increasing degrees He will work in us conformity to Christ the Redeemer. Let us take faith: God will help us.

The Voice of Love
Let me take our statements of faith further and make our quest for discernment as practical as possible. If we seek to know Christ's motives we will soon perceive His thoughts, for thoughts exist to fulfill motives. Christ's motive for coming to mankind is to reveal the Father's love. If we obtain His motive, we will increasingly hear His thoughts.

Thus, as we seek true discernment, let us make our steps practical by turning our focus upon Christ's love. Indeed, God's Word tells us that "faith work[s] through love" (Gal. 5:6). Our discernment is made more sure as we rest our heads upon Christ's breast and listen to His heart.

Yet I also acknowledge that, for some, to love as Christ has loved us remains an ideal too far to reach. Therefore let's start small and bring this task close to home. Rather than attempting to love everyone, let us reduce our challenge and determine to love just one person. Now I do not mean stop loving family or those you already love. I mean add just one person and love that individual in a greater way.
This person may be a lost neighbor or a backslidden friend; he or she might be a sick acquaintance or an elderly person from church or a child in pain. The Lord will lead you and help you reduce your goal to genuinely loving just one soul.

Come to this experiment without seeking to correct him or her, unless they themselves ask for advice. Pray daily for the individual. And as you listen to the voice of God's love, something inside you will flower and open naturally toward higher realms of discernment. Inspired by God, impulses and ideas born of love will increase in your relationship with others as well, and the knowledge and insights you gain from loving just one will become a natural part of your personality in loving many.

Yes, discernment will grow as you love just one.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Why Accountability Groups Don’t Work

Why Accountability Groups Don’t Work

I have never been fond of accountability groups. I have been a part of several over the course of my life as a pastor, church member, and seminary student. I always felt like there was something… manipulative about them.

Accountability Groups I Have Been In

accountability group bondage
Here is my sense of every accountability group I have ever been in: they pretty much only force people to become liars.
Here is my sense of every accountability group I have ever been in: they pretty much only force people to become liars.
Oh sure, maybe the specific sin that the group meets together about is discussed and out in the open, but most often, the other sins are kept hidden and safely locked away. Furthermore, what happens most often in accountability groups is that if a person doesn’t want to talk about his sin, all the accountability group does is make him feel more guilty about it, which then makes him fall into the sin even more. I was in one accountability group where we were dealing with issues of sexual temptation. The group lasted about two years, and we all did pretty good admitting our failures and praying for and encouraging one another. The group fell apart when one of the members got arrested and sent to prison for molesting a young girl. In the two years we met, he never said a word about any such struggle, temptation, or risk he was facing in this area. Not one word.
I was part of a different group a while back, and I recently learned that one of the men in the group is facing the possibility of divorce because of an addiction to pornography which he hid all those years.
I am not judging or condemning these men. What I am saying is that accountability groups don’t “work.” Some people will swear that accountability groups do work, and that every person should be part of one, but I’m just not so sure….
While counseling and accountability groups might be temporarily helpful for some, they do not result in lasting success for the vast majority of people who participate in them.

What Accountability Groups Focus On

Accountability groups usually focus on guilt and peer pressure to modify behavior. There are other behavioral management techniques that are sometimes used as well, but for the most part, there is very little about an accountability group that is overtly “Christians.” Oh sure, the accountability group might pray and talk about the Bible, but in general, there is very little difference between a Christian accountability group and any other form of behavioral management group. And usually what is discovered in these groups is that even IF a person is able to modify one behavior or overcome one addiction, they often fall into some other sort of destructive behavior or addiction, which often makes their overall condition worse than it was before.
When Accountability groups do work, it is often not due to the accountability group itself, or what it is doing, but because the person who experiences “success” stumbled upon some the truly biblical and Christian ways of dealing with sin (which I will explain below).
Here is the main problem though with accountability groups: They cause us to focus on our sin.
Here is the main problem though with accountability groups: They cause us to focus on our sin.
And as any psychologist will tell you, the more you focus on something, even if it is focusing on trying not to do something, the harder it is to not do what you are focusing on. accountability group liarsTake the classic example of the “Do Not Touch – Wet Paint” sign. People usually feel no desire to touch walls and railings in public places… .until you put up a sign which says, “Do not touch! Wet Paint!” Then every person walking along the wall feels the strong urge to touch the wall and see if the paint is wet.
So also with our sin. When we walk around all day thinking, “Do not look; do no taste; do not touch” (Col 2:21), we will constantly struggle with urge to look, taste, and touch. This is essentially what Paul is saying in Romans 8:5-7 when he talks about the mind set on fleshly things. If we set our mind on things of the flesh, even if we are setting our mind on not doing things of the flesh, we will face the constant struggle of falling into fleshly things, and will frequently stumble. And then when we do stumble, we often feel so guilty for our failure, that we think to ourselves, “Well, I’am already sinning, I might as well make the most of it. And we plunge headlong into the sin and gorge our fleshly inclinations. I mean, if we have to ask God for forgiveness anyway, we might as well make it count, right?
So this ongoing struggle continues. We try and try and try to not sin. We walk around repeating the mantra to ourselves over and over. “Do not look. Do not taste. Do not touch.” Then we do look, or we do taste, or we do touch, and once we do, we feel so guilty, we can’t face God, we feel like death, and so we decide to just enjoy the sin while we’re in it, but that only makes things worse on us in the long run, until eventually, we feel so filthy and disgusting, and get so angry at ourselves for the way we behaved, we come slinking back to God, begging and crying for forgiveness, and we confess our sin to our accountability group, and they forgive us, and tell us to try harder. And we commit to trying harder.
And for some people, it actually works! But this is the biggest trap of all!

The Biggest Trap of Accountability Groups

Let me be honest. Accountability groups actually “work” for some people. Those who have the most resolve, the greatest discipline, the highest amount of self-control. They can make accountability groups work. And they have all the secrets on how they changed their life and live free from sin. They write the books and preach the sermons and lead the groups. And week after week after week, they announce “success” to their accountability group, and everyone else looks up to them and thinks, “Someday, somehow, I will be just like him — free from sin and temptation.”
Do you see what happens when someone is successful in an accountability group? It turns into self-righteous pride for him, and idolatry for everyone else. The successful person become self-righteous about his success (which is by far the worst sin of all), and often looks down on all the pitiful failures who just cannot gather together the resolve to keep themselves free from sin. Everybody else ends up feeling like more of a failure, because obviously, the accountability group works for some people, and it must be their own weakness, or lack of spirituality, or little faith, or failure to read their Bible and pray enough, or whatever it might be to grant the success that others experience.
This is why accountability groups don’t work, even when they “work.”

So what is the Alternative to Accountability Groups?

You know what the alternative is to accountability groups?
It is one word: love.
We don’t need accountability groups to defeat sin in our lives. We just need to know that sin is already defeated because of God’s love.
accountability group tyrannyWe don’ t need to strengthen our resolve. We just need to recognize that no matter what — yes, NO MATTER WHAT — God loves us. He cannot love us any more. God doesn’t wait for us to fix our lives before He loves us. He loved us while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8). And it is not as if God loved us while we were sinners, but once we believe in Jesus to become His children, He only loves us while we remain free from sin. No! He loves us NO MATTER WHAT!
God does not love some future version of you more than how much He loves you right now.
God does not love some future version of you more than how much He loves you right now.
It is not as if God is saying, “Well, I love you about 90% of the time right now, and if you would just stop drinking too much, I would love you 91%.” No! He loves you 100% right now. Whether you sin or not. W Let me put this dangerously. If we are talking about when God loves us more, it may be most accurate to say that God loves us more when we sin. I don’t mean by this that we should go out and sin more so that God can love us more. No, what I mean is that when we recognize we are sinners, and take that sin to God, it is there, in the midst of our sin, that God can show His love to us. You see, when we get caught up in our own self-righteousness, we think we have earned God’s love. We think that the love God is showing us is because of our own goodness.
But God doesn’t love us because of our goodness. He loves us simply because He is love (1 John 4:8).
God doesn’t love us because of our goodness. He loves us simply because He is love (1 John 4:8).
Here is a little exercise I have found to helpful when dealing with sinful tendencies in my own life. When you are facing temptation, and especially when you fall to the temptation and find yourself in the midst of sin, try this: invite God into the sin with you.
I know, I know. This sounds totally contrary to everything church teaches us about God and sin. God can’t be near sin and all that. That’s garbage. As I’ve written previously, the reason God cannot be in the presence of sin is because sin burns away in the raging fire of His love, grace, and forgiveness. So when you are sinning, invite God into it. Here is the type of conversation I have:
“Whoa! How did I get involved in this! Uh-oh. This isn’t good. Hey God! Are you seeing this?”
Yes, Jeremy. I see what’s going on here. 
“Sorry about this.”
It’s all right. I still love you. 
“You do? Don’t you see the filth I just walked into?”
Yep. I see it. I’m here in it with you. I’m not going to abandon you to this sin. I love you and will never leave you. 
Yeah…. You know, it’s kind of silly how you ended up here. Did you see the steps you took to get here? 
“I saw it. I’ve been down this road a thousand times. I knew what was coming, but I just didn’t care. I’ll be honest, though, I kind of wanted to go down this road.”
I know. And I’ll walk this road a thousand times more if you want. I do appreciate the honesty, though. Always before, you denied any knowledge of how you ended up sinning. At least now you are beginning to recognize it and admit what happened, and talk to Me about it. I like that. 
“I like that too. Thanks. And hey, I’m sorry.”
I forgive you. I have already forgiven you. And I love you. 
You see? All God really wants is to let us know how much He loves us. And this love of God is the one and only thing that will EVER help us gain freedom and victory over sin. It is only when we see how much God loves us that we can invite Him into that sinful space with us, so that He can work within and inside the sin, to show us that His love is greater than any satisfaction or enjoyment we could get from sin. But until we see how much God loves us, we will be to scared of God and of our sin to take our sin to God and have an honest conversation with Him about it.
And look what else is happening. Rather than focusing our mind on things of the flesh, we are focusing our mind on the things of the Spirit, and especially the main truth of the Spirit-filled life, that God loves us and is on our side.
When we focus on sin and trying to overcome sin, it only results in more sin. Never less. Sure, we may gain “victory” over some type of sin, but all we really end up doing is trading one sin for another, and usually the other sin is some sort of religious self-righteousness, which is worse than the sin we started with.

Don’t Turn to an Accountability Group; Turn to God

So when you sin, don’t become guilt-ridden. Don’t beg and plead to God for forgiveness and promise to try harder next time. Don’t make resolves and promises you can’t keep, and even if you can keep them, will only result in self-righteous pride.
And whether you have an accountability group or not, don’t depend on other people to keep you free from sin. You can’t do it, and neither can they! Instead, when you sin, just take it to God. Seriously. Just talk to God about it, and thank Him for His unconditional love and limitless grace.
Until we begin to understand God’s love for us, sin will always cause us to run from God, hide from Him, and keep Him at bay. He doesn’t like this, and neither do we, for it only leads to greater separation from Him, and more sin.
The point of life in Jesus is not to sin less, but to grow in intimacy with God.
The point of life in Jesus is not to sin less, but to grow in intimacy with God.
And the close we get to God, the less likely it is that we will sin, not because we have developed some great inner resolve, but because we will learn that life with God is better than anything that sin and the world can offer. When we allow God into our struggles with us, we are still growing in intimacy with God, even in the midst of our struggles! It is a beautiful, gracious process, so that, in a way, even our sin is redeemed! It is a crazy thing when sin helps push you deeper into the loving and forgiving arms of God.

10 Christian Clichés To Avoid Like the Plague

10 Christian Clichés To Avoid Like the Plague

There are numerous Christian clichés get people nodding their heads in agreement and saying “Amen!” in sermons, but when you stop to think about them, they are not only meaningless, but also border on heresy. OK, maybe heresy is too strong a word, but at the bare minimum, these Christian clichés are dangerous.
christian cliche
On the surface, many of these Christian clichés appear to be true (some are even quotes from Scripture), but they are almost always used in a damaging and controlling context and teach people some very bad theology.

So don’t say the following Christian clichés

  1. Where God guides, God provides. The worst Christian clichés are the ones that rhyme. Like this one. But more than that, the message of this Christian cliché is awful. When people say this, what do they mean by “provide”? Does this refer to money and finances? That is the context in which I have always heard this statement said. So, if this Christian cliché is true, then the only things we should follow God in are the areas where we have money and finances to do it? And even if you do receive lots of money, or lots of people, are you sure this is God’s green light to move forward? It seems from Scripture that God is most often at work in small ways, foolish ways, insignificant ways, and with people who are nobody, and who have no money, no power, and no prestige.
  2. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. Hey, it rhymes, so it must be true! Gag me. Maybe God didn’t bring you to it at all, but you brought yourself to it. Or maybe He did bring you to it, but He is not going to bring you through it, because He wants you to sit in it for a while and learn something. And even if He is going to bring you through it, maybe it will take decades.
  3. The greatest distance in the universe is the eighteen inches between your head and your heart. This Christian cliché is quite popular, but thankfully it doesn’t rhyme. What people mean when they say it is that following God about more than just what you know; it is about what you do. I suppose this is true at one level, but the fact of the matter is that what we do is most often based on what we think. This is why Paul encourages his readers to “renew their mind” in Romans 12:1-2. The renewal of one’s mind leads to the renewal of actions and behavior.
  4. You can’t outgive God! Again, this Christian cliché is almost always said in the context of some call for monetary donations to a building project, a ministry opportunity, or some other fundraising campaign. And while it is true that God is more generous than we can ever imagine, it is not true (as is often taught) that if we give lots of money, God will give us even more money. Don’t give beyond your means to a church or ministry based on this faulty understanding of finances. We can give generously and joyfully, to ministries and people that are serving in the Kingdom of God, but don’t expect that by giving, God will give you greater financial wealth. He probably won’t. 
  5. We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. This is based on a misunderstanding of James 2:14-26. Related to this is the statement that “Even demons believe.” I’m not going to say much about this, because I have written on these Christian clichés elsewhere. Click the links to read more.
  6. When God closes a door, He opens a window. What does this even mean? And even if He does open a window, what am I supposed to do? If I wanted to walk through a door to a certain opportunity, and God “opens a window,” does that mean I just get to sit there and look out the window? Am I supposed to crawl out the window? I just don’t get this Christian cliché.
  7. Man meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. So, God is in the business of getting evil people to do evil things? I know that Joseph said something like this in Genesis 50:20, but pretty much just like every other verse quoted out of context, we should not understand Joseph to be saying that evil things that happen are good. God never calls evil “good,” and neither should we. Evil is evil. What Joseph meant is similar to what Paul says in Romans 8, that although evil things happen, God can bring good from them, and still accomplish His goal and purposes in our lives despite the evil.
  8. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Yes, another Scripture that is quoted a lot. This one comes from Hebrews 10:25. I wrote on this misquoted verse previously as well, and won’t say anything more about it here, except to say that this Christian cliché is often used as a club to beat Christians over the head who are following Jesus by loving and serving others, but who may not “attend church” on Sunday morning in a building with stained glass and a steeple. I don’t think that is what the author of Hebrews had in mind…
  9. A Bible that’s falling apart usually belong to someone who isn’t. In my experience, those who have Bibles that are falling apart should just go buy a new one. I have also seen Bibles that were falling apart because they were severely abused by their owners… you know, thrown into duffle bags with the gym clothes and poorly-sealed tupperware container of leftovers. A Bible doesn’t fare well in those situations. But even when Bibles are falling apart because their owner truly does read and study it all the time, many of them are some of the proudest, self-righteous, judgmental Christians I know. Being a Bible expert does not guarantee Christlike behavior.
    Being a Bible expert does not guarantee Christlike behavior.
  10. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. In other words, “I just believe the Bible.” Riiiiight. Me too. So when we disagree, who is correct? This Christian cliché is another idea I have written about elsewhere (see this post, for example), but my concern is that when most people say “The Bible says” what they really mean is, “My understanding of the Bible says…” Any Bible student who has read more than two books on any subject in Scripture will be aware that different people read various passages in Scripture in different ways. Settling theological or ethical debates is not a matter of just quoting Scripture.
    Settling theological or ethical debates is not a matter of just quoting Scripture.
    We need to actually understand what the Scripture says in its various contexts, and then bridge the gap between those contexts and our own. In this process, there are thousands of possible ways to go astray, and so in many areas of theology and Christians ethics, what we believe must be held with a degree of humility.

Bonus Christian clichés:

christian clicheOne bonus Christian cliché is that sign to the right…”This is a ch ch. What’s missing? U R.” This Christian cliché always reminds of that sign you see at swimming pools: “Welcome to our  ool. Notice there is no P in the pool. We’d like to keep it that way.” The ironic thing about this church sign is that sitting in a building on Sunday morning doesn’t make you part of the church. In fact, someone can be a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ, loving and serving others on a daily basis, but not ever “attend church” yet still be a member of the Body of Christ. Nothing magical happens by sitting in a pew on Sunday morning to sing a few songs and listen to a sermon. I kind of covered this point above already, with the Christian cliché about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.
I’ll pray about it.” This isn’t a Christian cliché as much as it something Christians say when they want to get themselves off the hook for their own personal decisions. I remember when I was a director for a Bible camp, and a young male teenager wanted to work as one of my counselors. He asked his dad, and the dad said, “I’ll pray about it.” As his father walked away, the young man looked at me and said, “That means no.” We can’t fool our kids! If you have to make decision, and you want to say “No,” then say “No.” If you want to say “Yes,” then say “Yes.” But don’t blame God for your decisions by using the cop-out Christian cliché “I’ll pray about it.”

Rabu, 24 Juli 2013


Why the Cross is Not Enough

Why the Cross is Not Enough
Christianity without the cross is a sham, but the cross is not enough.
Christianity without the cross is a sham, but the cross is not enough. You heard me: The cross is not enough. Before the cross came incarnation, and after the cross came resurrection: Jesus modeled all three, and so should we.
I’ve watched recently as an increasing number of teachers and leaders encourage us to follow Jesus’ example by going to the cross. Our Lord is a model—the model, actually—of self-sacrifice and humility. This much is true: He is our example, and he went willingly to the cross. He didn’t miscalculate, he wasn’t blindsided by people or events beyond his control. No one took his life from him: He laid it down freely, and so should we.
Before the cross, however, all of heaven gasped in wonder at the miracle of Incarnation. The Creator become part of creation. He did not stand afar off and offer advice, he became present in his world. He arrived in the usual way for a man, and the most unusual way for God. Nor did he simply drop in for a weekend redemption spree. He lived life to the full and left a record of how we should live. This part of his example required humility and sacrifice as well.
The Apostle Paul tells us the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The cross, he says, is a scandal to the religiously minded and ridiculous to the wisdom of this age. The world does not value humility and sacrifice, but they are the calling cards of another realm. Still, Paul did not leave Jesus in the grave, nor did the Father. To win by losing is an oxymoron. But Jesus didn’t win by losing. He won by winning, and the winning came by the resurrection.
Jesus’ example did not end with the agonizing beauty of his tortured death. His final words on the cross were not his final words. He had much more to say, and plenty for us to do. His work beyond the cross required the Father’s intervention in his life, and our work should require no less. Have you ever considered the humility and faith Jesus displayed by placing his future in the Father’s hands? Jesus died in faith, trusting in the Father’s promise of resurrection, but he had no guarantee beyond the love and trust he exhibited that night in Gethsemane. In this, too, we can follow his example. The Spirit of God is hovering and poised to infuse our lives with resurrection empowerment even now.
No witness is complete without these three vital elements: incarnation, sacrifice and resurrection. Our attempts at ministry are incomplete without the three. We cannot stand far off and offer advice. We cannot follow Jesus without bearing the cross, and we cannot carry on his work without the Father’s intervention. Our tendency, though, is to prefer one of these above the rest. Which is our default position, and how can we make room for the other two aspects Jesus modeled? 

Ray Hollenbach, a Chicagoan, writes about faith and culture. He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture. He is the author of "The Man With All The Answers," (a collection of very short stories) and "The Impossible Mentor: Finding Courage to Follow Jesus." (A full-length book on spiritual formation.) More from Ray Hollenbach or visit Ray at studentsofjesus.com

Minggu, 21 Juli 2013

What is the Sin Against the Holy Spirit?

What is the Sin Against the Holy Spirit?

sin against the Holy SpiritA reader recently asked me this question: “What if you incorrectly identify something as demonic?” While I will answer that question, I think the fear behind it is something related to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The real question that was probably being asked was this: “What is the sin against the Holy Spirit?”
The reason I say this is because there is an event in the life of Jesus that is often used by some power-hungry and control-freak pastors to beat and cajole the people in their church into submission, to quell all dissension, and to quiet all objections. These pastors usually accuse people of committing a sin against the Holy Spirit (or blasphemy against the Spirit) if they challenge or question the pastor, and especially if someone accuses the pastor of doing something demonic.
Let me just say this: Some of the most demonic things that have ever been done in the history of the world have been done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Some of the most demonic things that have ever been done in the history of the world have been done in the name of Jesus Christ.
 In fact, I would go further and say that if one person does something evil, and another person does the exact same thing but does it in the name of Jesus Christ, the second action is way more demonic and evil than the first. Doing evil is bad enough, but there is nothing worse than doing evil in the name of God. 
Doing evil is bad enough, but there is nothing worse than doing evil in the name of God. 
Anyway, back to the point…

Matthew 12 and the Sin Against the Holy Spirit

The event from the life of Jesus that some pastors and church leaders refer to is found in Matthew 12. Jesus performs some miracles and the religious leaders accuse Jesus of operating under the power of Beelzebub (aka, Satan). In turn, Jesus accuses these religious leaders of being close to committing a sin against the Holy Spirit, or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
So when one Christian accuses a church leader of doing something evil or wrong, the pastor often feels justified in retorting the same way Jesus did, and accuses his accusers of committing a sin against the Holy Spirit. They teach that if someone is doing something by the power of the Holy Spirit, and someone else says they are doing it by the power of the devil, that this is a sin against the Holy Spirit, and those who commit this sin will never be forgiven.
You see how this works? Some pastors use Matthew 12 to make sure that no one ever challenge or questions their ideas, teaching, actions, or motives. For they are “God’s anointed” and if you do question them, then maybe you are committing the sin against the Holy Spirit and will end up damned for all eternity as a result.
Hmmm…. is this true? Let’s consider the specific situations where this occurs a little more closely.
There are some churches out there that have times in their weekly services where they engage in practices like speaking in tongues, prophetic utterances, and miraculous healing. A second group of leaders and churches (which do not practice these things) often accuse the first group of doing these miracles in the power of the devil rather than in the power of God.
Why would they say this? Sometimes (but not always) in churches where healing and miracles take place, there is also a lot of chaos, bad theology about God, and power struggles between leaders.( Of course, these things are pretty much present in any church, but that’s an inconvenient truth….) So when churches that are prim and proper see the chaos and the bad theology, they say, “See? If these things were from God, there would be peace and order… like in our church. But since there is chaos and division and bad teaching, then these signs are not from God but from demons.” They often point to passages like 1 Timothy 4:1 that warns about how doctrines of demons will be taught in churches in the latter days.
Churches and pastors who participate in miracles and prophecies don’t like to be told that they are being controlled by the devil, and so they often counter with the argument that anyone who says that something is of the devil when it is actually from God is committing a blasphemous sin against the Holy Spirit and will never be forgiven of such a sin. They get this idea from Matthew 12:31-32 where the religious Pharisees of Jesus’ day said that He was doing His miracles by the power of the devil, and in response, Jesus said that they were close to committing the unforgivable sin.
sin against the Holy Spirit
I have written elsewhere about why attributing the works of God to the devil is not the unforgivable sin (get the book on this topic here: The Unforgivable Sin)and so you can go read about that question there. By way of summary, the Pharisees did incorrectly discern the source of Jesus’ power, but Jesus does not say that they have committed blasphemy, but that they were close to committing blasphemy. So it is obvious from this that attributing the works of God to the devil, while a serious mistake if one makes it, is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
It may not even be a sin against the Holy Spirit.

Sin Against the Holy Spirit vs. Obedience to the Holy Spirit

While it is true that if someone is operating under the power of God, to accuse that person of operating under the power of the devil is a sin against the Holy Spirit, I think that there are few cases where a person is actually operating by the power of the Spirit where it will not be obvious to all that this is going on. It will be obvious because the fruit of the Spirit will be evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23) If these things are not obvious, then there is every reason to think that the actions being performed are not from the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it is no sin to question or challenge such actions. While we should probably not accuse others of operating under the power of the devil (see my previous post on signs of demonic possession), it is not wrong to call leaders to account for the things they do and say which do not lead to godliness. 
Far from being a sin against the Holy Spirit, such questioning of abusive and controlling church leaders is actually good and Godly! As I indicated at the beginning of this post, there is nothing more evil than committing sin the name of Jesus Christ. If Christian leaders are using their power and influence to control and threaten others, and doing this in the name of Jesus, then it is not a sin against the Holy Spirit to call them out on this! Far from it, it would be obedience to the Holy Spirit to do so.
This is even true if the spiritual leader in question is able to perform signs and miracles. Often these leaders use signs, miracles, dreams, and visions to “verify” their status as “God’s anointed.” But even the magicians of Pharaoh were able to copy and emulate many of the early plagues that Moses brought upon Egypt (cf. Exodus 7). Also, Satan is the father of lies, the great deceiver, and one who masquerades as an angel of light. Satan loves nothing better to appear divine and to get people to do demonic things in the name of God.
But again, be wary about making accusations too quickly about any person, especially accusations that they are operating under the power of the devil. Making such an accusation is in itself a possible indication that you are trying to use your power and influence to control others.  So don’t do it.
If you are in a church where such spiritual abuse is taking place, just leave.
If you are in a church where such spiritual abuse is taking place, just leave.
 You don’t need to raise a ruckus or cause a stink in the church. Just stop showing up on Sunday morning. Stay home or go somewhere else. And if you are a pastor or church leader and another leader in town is behaving in strange and erratic ways, there is no need to accuse him of being of the devil or preach against him and his ministry from your pulpit. This is spiritually abusive as well.
All of us Christians would get along a whole lot better if we each focused on doing what we are called to do, which is to follow Jesus in loving others.

The Tribe and the Church

The Tribe and the Church

This post is written by Sam Riviera, a frequent contributor to this blog.

the tribe and the churchThe adults of the village filed into the community meeting house and found their usual seating locations, which identified their rank within the tribe. Everyone was dressed in accordance with the customary dress for such occasions.
Music began. The crowd swayed and chanted with the music. Everyone knew the music and the words. Containers of drink were passed from person to person and everyone drank a few sips.
An elder stood and spoke. Everyone respectfully listened. The tribal meeting concluded with more music.
Though this description sounds like something that only happens in a Native American ceremony or in an Indonesian jungle, the description above actually describes what happens in countless churches around the world every Sunday morning.
But is this wrong?

Our Tribal Urge

We all have a tribal urge. A tribe is group where one can belong and others are excluded; the place where one knows their place and exactly what is expected of them.
A tribe consists of people who will be there in one’s time of need; the people who will not allow one to die alone.
This all sounds fine, but why do we want to belong to a tribe? Are there advantages? Are there disadvantages? Can the tribal urge find fulfillment in Christ? Can it find fulfillment in the church?
Or does the tribal urge conflict with Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves?
The Russian thinker Peter Kropotkin, in his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution suggested that survival is the result of cooperation of people together against the environment. Each person benefits from the things others contribute and share. Can this best be accomplished within the tribe or within society at large?
Do we form tribes for the purpose of surviving in a harsh environment, or as an attempt to group with others similar to ourselves and to exclude all others? Is the tribe an effort to meet our own needs, to the exclusion of the needs of others?
All of these questions and considerations are relevant to those of us who follow Jesus and his teachings. Is it possible to really love our neighbors as Jesus commanded and at the same time withdraw into our Christian “tribe” where most of our neighbors are de facto excluded?

You Don’t Belong!

Consider the case of our neighbor who knew almost nothing about Christianity and who had never attended a church service of any kind. Her life was in turmoil and someone she slightly knew suggested she should try “going to church.”
She did not know that the church people considered tiny shorts and a halter-top inappropriate attire for attending church. She did not know that she was expected to arrive on time, and that she should not walk up to the front row to find a seat during announcements. She did not know that she should not sit on the floor next to the communion table during the prayer.
She didn’t know the music. She didn’t understand what to do when the communion trays were passed. (She immediately drank the juice and ate the bread, instead of waiting until everyone had been served and the pastor had read a Scripture, as was the custom in that church.) She didn’t understand the sermon about Pauline theology.
Almost everyone avoided her after the service, but whispered about her, which of course she overheard. (That was part of the idea for those who “stage whispered” about her clothes and everything else she did that clearly identified her as “not one of us”.)
She had never been to church before that time and never returned. When the turmoil in her life calmed down, she realized that she was extremely embarrassed by all of the missteps she had made when she went to church in an attempt to find help.
The ladies of the church were glad that the very attractive young woman in the very revealing attire never returned. Their husbands were safe, as was the tribe, complete with all the “rules” everyone was expected to know.

Follow Jesus or Preserve the Tribe?

Was this a case of the tribe working together as Christians to survive in a hostile, non Christian culture, or a case of excluding those who don’t fit in, those who don’t know and follow the rules?
The Spirit may draw people to himself, but do we often run them away when our tribal urge kicks in – our need to think alike, dress alike, act alike and even look alike? Are we more interested in loving others in Jesus name, or in defining and preserving our identity as the tribe?
We will consider some further issues with the tribe and the church tomorrow. Until then, what do you think about the church and our tribal urge? Where have you seen the tribe of the church keep at bay those who were seeking Jesus?

Church Tribes vs. Jesus’ Tribe

Church Tribes vs. Jesus’ Tribe

This post about church tribes is written by Sam Riviera, a frequent contributor to this blog.

church tribe Jesus tribe
Yesterday’s post  introduced to the concept of church tribes. This post looks at the pros and cons of church tribes, and how to be part of Jesus’ Tribe.

Benefits of Belonging to a Church Tribe

There are benefits to belong to a tribe… especially a church tribe.
One of the primary benefits of having a tribe is that it gives us a sense of belonging, a place where we can call home, and feel protected.
We all want safe havens where we are listened to, accepted, and loved. Most of us can handle aggressive, angry, hostile people much better when we know we have a loving, supportive family waiting for us at home, and a loving, supportive group, be it a church or a social club, with whom we will gather to escape a hostile world and support one another.
Together we can accomplish what we could never do alone. We can work on common goals, trade ideas and “have each others backs.” It’s nice to be part of a group where together we can form a united front that tells people, “Don’t mess with us or we’ll stomp on you.”
Even if others think us strange, weird, or crazy, that’s OK. We have each other to tell us that we’re normal and everyone else is crazy.

Disadvantages of Belonging to a Tribe

Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages to belonging to a tribe, and to church tribes in particular.
Most tribes expect those who belong to conform to the rules of the tribe. This is especially true of church tribes. If we want to belong, we must first learn who’s the chief, who are his right-hand people and what we are expected to do to show proper respect to them. We may be expected to show not only respect, but to give gifts of time, money and other items to the “tribal leaders”.
We will be expected to know our status within the tribe. We may be expected to wear the tribe-approved dress, learn the tribal rituals and music, and learn what behaviors are considered acceptable by the tribe.
If we intentionally or unintentionally break the rules, we will almost certainly discover that something is amiss. How? Someone else in the tribe is certain to point our mistake out to us. Perhaps other members of the tribe will ignore us. We will find out that we’re no longer being invited to “insider” parties. No one tells us tribal gossip as they did in the past. Everyone is suddenly too busy to have time to talk to us.
If we cannot manage to restore ourselves to the good graces of the tribe, we may discover that the tribe no longer considers us one of them. Although we probably won’t literally be murdered, we may find that we are the victims of “character assassination.” Unless we’re total idiots, we’ll get the message. “Get out. Go Away. We don’t want you. And don’t you dare post your grievances on a blog, or we’ll sue you.” (All of these things have happened.)

Jesus’ Tribe

Who belongs to Jesus’ tribe? – Everyone. Jesus came for all of us. Jesus came for rich and poor, young and old, fat and thin, fit and disabled, Jews and Samaritans, the clean and the unclean, those like us and those unlike us, those of our ethnicity and those of other ethnicities, those who believe the “correct” theology and those who have all kinds of strange ideas, Republicans, Democrats and people with no political affiliation, straights and gays, people in suits and people in bathing suits, people like us who “have it all together” and people who don’t, Baptists and atheists and you-name-it.
Whose tribe should we choose? The Baptists? The Democrats? The Samaritans? Weight watchers?
How about Jesus’ Tribe?
Don’t confuse the Church Tribe with Jesus’ Tribe. The two are not always the same. Whenever church people create rules that exclude others, they are creating a religious tribe that did not originate with Jesus.
Whenever church people create rules that exclude others, they are creating a religious tribe that did not originate with Jesus.
Tribes are not necessarily bad. We all need our safe havens. We all need people who accept, love and support us. We all need people who want to hear what we have to say.
We just need to make sure that we allow Jesus, our Tribal leader, to make the rules for our tribe.
Instead of excluding others from our tribe, or even inviting them to be a part of our tribe, do you think it is possible to realize that we are all part of the human tribe, the tribe Jesus honored by becoming part of the tribe? Is it really possible to learn to love, honor and accept all of our neighbors, just as Jesus did? When we join Jesus’ Tribe, we find that we can have all the benefits of belonging to a tribe, while not having to deal with any of the disadvantages.
Jesus’ Tribe is so broad, it invites all people from all backgrounds among all ethnicities and from every socio-economic level. Jesus’ tribe has no official language, no preferred music style, no political persuasion, no dress code, no rules about tattoos or hair-length or food choices.
Jesus just loves all, invites all, and accepts all. If we are part of His Tribe, we will do the same.

Minggu, 14 Juli 2013

"This Time I Will Praise the Lord"

"This Time I Will Praise the Lord"
(En Español)
We cannot pass through life without getting hurt. Pain and disappointment in this world are inevitable. How we handle our setbacks, though, shapes our character and prepares us for eternity. Our attitude is the pivotal factor determining the level of our protection from strife. Regardless of the hardships we have faced, and in spite of the mistakes we have made, the end of our lives can either be full of praise and thanksgiving or full of misery and complaint. In the final analysis, what we have experienced in life will be as rich as the desires we have had fulfilled or as painful as the things we regret.
The Bible tells us, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12). Deep disappointments in life have a way of never leaving us; they enter our hearts like fire and then harden into our nature like lava. Setbacks can leave us cautious about new ventures and suspicious of new friends.
Our woundedness restrains our openness. We are fearful we will be hurt again by new relationships. Gradually, unless we learn to handle heartache correctly, we become embittered and resentful cynics. We lose the joy of being alive.
The Source of Fulfillment
It is our own desires and the degree of their fulfillment that produce either joy or sorrow in our lives. Even basic desires for marriage or friends can enslave us if they consume our attention. Are these desires evil? No, but if having our desires fulfilled is the main reason we have come to Christ, it is possible our lives simply will not improve until our priorities change.
The Lord is concerned about fulfilling our desires, but to do so He must pry our fingers off our lives and turn our hearts toward Him. Indeed, the reason we are alive is not to fulfill our desires but to become His worshipers.
Personal fulfillment can become an idol; it can develop into such an obsession that we are living for happiness more than living for God. Thus, part of our salvation includes having our desires prioritized by Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, He put it this way: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself " (Matt. 6:33-34). God wants to, and will, satisfy us beyond our dreams, but not before He is first in our hearts.
A wonderful example of this can be seen in the life of Leah, Jacob's first wife. Leah was unattractive, unwanted, and unloved by her husband. Jacob had served Laban, Leah's father, seven years for Rachel, who was Leah's younger sister. On their wedding night, however, Laban put Leah in the nuptial tent instead of Rachel. Although Jacob actually did marry Rachel a week later, he had to work another seven years for her. So Jacob had two wives who were sisters.
The Scriptures tell us that Rachel was loved by Jacob, but Leah was hated: "When the Lord saw that Leah was hated . . ." (Gen. 29:31 KJV). We must understand this about the nature of God: the Lord is drawn to those who hurt. "The Lord saw . . . Leah." What wonderful words! In the same way water descends and fills that which is lowest, so Christ reaches first to the afflicted, to fill the lowliest and comfort them.
The Lord saw that Leah was unloved. He saw her pain, loneliness, and heartache. Leah, though unloved by Jacob, was deeply loved by the Lord, and He gave her a son. Leah's reaction was predictable. She said, "Surely now my husband will love me" (v. 32).
Worse than living your life alone is to be married to someone who hates you, as was Leah. How Leah wished that Jacob would share the love he had for Rachel with her. Who could blame her? Leah's desires were justified. She had given him a firstborn son. In her mind, if the Lord could open her womb, He could also open Jacob's heart. But the time was not yet; Jacob still did not love her.
Twice more Leah gave birth to sons, and each time her desire was for her husband. She said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons" (v. 34). Yet, Jacob's heart still did not desire her.
For Leah, as well as for us, there is a lesson here: you cannot make another person love you. In fact, the more pressure you place upon others to accept you, the more likely they are to reject you instead. Leah's concept of fulfillment was based on attaining Jacob's love and now her problem was worsening. Not only was she unattractive to Jacob, but also her jealousies were adding to her lack of loveliness.
Three times we read in this text that the Lord saw and heard that Leah was unloved. He saw her affliction. Through all her striving for Jacob and her disappointment with her marital relationship, the Lord was tenderly wooing Leah to Himself.
As Leah became pregnant a fourth time, a miracle of grace occurred within her. She gradually became aware that, while she had not been the focus of her husband's love, she was loved by God. And as this fourth pregnancy drew near to completion, she drew nearer and nearer to God. She became a worshiper of the Almighty.
As she gave birth to another son, she said, "This time I will praise the Lord" (v. 35). She named that child Judah, which means, "praise." It was from the tribe of Judah that Christ was born.
Leah had been seeking self-fulfillment and found only heartache and pain. But as she became a worshiper of God, she entered life's highest fulfillment: she began to please God.
It is right here that the human soul truly begins to change and enter God's stronghold. As Leah found fulfillment in God, He began to remove from her the jealousies, insecurities, and heartaches that life had conveyed to her. A true inner beauty started growing in Leah; she became a woman at rest.
Likewise, we each have character defects that we are reluctant or unable to face. Others have seen these things in us, but they have lacked the courage to tell us. Both physically and personally, these flaws in our nature are what leave us anxious, threatened, and unfulfilled.
It is not counsel or classes on success or self-esteem that we need; we simply need to discover God's love for us. As we begin to praise Him in all things, we simultaneously put on the garments of salvation. We are actually being saved from that which would otherwise have destroyed us!
Disappointments and heartaches cannot cling to us, for we are worshipers of God! And "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Rom. 8:28). If we continue to love God, nothing we experience can ultimately turn out harmful since God takes all we pass through and, in His redemptive power, works it for our good

The Tree of Life
You will remember the verse we quoted, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12). The verse concludes with, "But desire fulfilled is a tree of life." As our desires are fulfilled, we are fulfilled. Since it is the fulfillment of our desires that fills us with satisfaction, the secret to a rewarding life is to commit our desires to God.
Let Him choose the times and means of our fulfillment, allowing the Lord to prepare us for Himself along the way. The truth is that in ourselves we are incomplete; but in Christ we have been made complete (Col. 2:10).
You say, "That's easy for you to say. You have a wonderful wife and family. You are blessed. But you don't understand my problems." Yes, I do. My wonderful marriage was very difficult for the first few years. We struggled with many things in our relationship. My wife and I both came to the place where we were unfulfilled in each other. But, like Leah, we both looked to God and said, "This time I will praise the Lord." In fact, we named our second child the very name Leah gave to her fourth: Judah.
For us, as for Leah, our lives were turned around as we chose to delight in God in spite of being unfulfilled with each other. As we became His worshipers, He began to work on our hearts until we were not only more pleasing to Him, we were also pleasing to each other! What I am relating to you is the very thing that saved and blessed our marriage!
Psalm 37:4 reads, "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." As you delight in God, you change. The negative effects of disappointment and grief fall off. As love and joy from God begin to fulfill us, our very souls are restored and beautified. Yes, delight yourself with Jesus and your self-destructive tendencies will actually begin to vanish. Christ will beautify your life from the inside out.
The Outcome of Leah's Life
What happened with Leah? Well, the long years came and went. In time, Rachel and then Leah died. Jacob, on his deathbed, spoke to his sons: "I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave . . . which Abraham bought . . . for a burial site. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah" (Gen. 49:29-31).
Jacob had buried Leah in the ancestral place of honor! Oh how those words, though few, say so much! They tell us that God had, in some marvelous inner way, beautified this afflicted one with salvation. After Leah found fulfillment in God, God gave her fulfillment in Jacob. Over the years, inner peace and spiritual beauty shone forth from Leah; Jacob was knit to her in love. It is not hard to imagine that when Leah died, she left smiling, with the praises of God upon her lips.
Become a worshiper of God! As you surrender your desires to Him, as you put Him first, He will take what you give Him and make it beautiful in its time. He will take what has been bent and imbalanced within you and make you stand upright in His light and glory.
Therefore, this day speak to your soul. Tell the areas of unfulfillment within you that this time you will praise the Lord!

Lord, I am a Leah, unlovely and always seeking the love of those who have rejected me. How foolish I have been. How blind. There is no love, no fulfillment in this life apart from You. You are the Tree of Life that satisfies all desires; You are the Healer of my heart. I love You, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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Adapted from a chapter in Francis Frangipane's book And I Will Be Found By You, available this week for just $6.95 (Retail $13.50) www.arrowbookstore.com
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Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations were taken from the NASB.

Get to Know Neighbors by Throwing Parties

Get to Know Neighbors by Throwing Parties

This practical post on getting to know your neighbors is by Sam Riviera. Sam is a frequent contributor to this blog. See the bottom of this post for more articles in this series about getting to know your neighbors.

In the previous posts in this series (see link list below), we discussed how to get acquainted with our neighbors and then building relationships with them.
Neighborhood Once we have built relationships with at least some of our neighbors, we’re ready to move on to the next step: group events.
People sometimes try to host group events, such as a backyard barbecue, before they have developed relationships with their neighbors. We have discovered that this is almost always a mistake. Group events always function more smoothly when we know and have already established a relationship with most everyone we invite to the event. So don’t rush the steps of building friendships with your neighbors.
But once you have developed relationships with your neighbors, you can build on those friendships by hosting a group event at your house.

Group Events

Group events are great opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other better, both those we already know, and those we barely know (even though those people may live just half a block away), or don’t know at all. Through group events we will discover new things about each other, including shared interests. We often discover that neighbors we assumed were unfriendly are actually very friendly.
When we’re planning the event, we try to make sure that everyone we invite knows someone else in the group in addition to my wife and me. Since we know everyone in the group, we introduce people to anyone they don’t know. Since everyone already knows someone, the people they know also introduce them to other people. Conversations that begin at group events are often continued in the days and years ahead.

Our First Neighborhood Group Event

Here is what happened at our first group event for our neighbors.
Neighbors New Years Eve PartyMy leg was in a non-walking cast. I was unable to help clean the house or to prepare most of the food that would be necessary for a New Year’s Eve party. But our neighbor was terminally ill with cancer and this would be her last New Year’s Eve. We agreed that if she could come for even ten minutes, we’d have a party. She said she would come. Then we invited more neighbors.
My wife cleaned. I made a shopping list. We went to Costco (me in a wheelchair) and bought take-and-bake pizza, salad, hummus, a cheese log, crackers, cheese trays, sparkling cider and champagne. We came home and I made cheesecake and persimmon pudding.
Everyone we invited came, fourteen in all, including our sick friend. She looked fabulous (it was her “best day” between chemo treatments). We talked. We swapped stories. They stayed (even our sick friend stayed almost three hours). We toasted each other. Oh yes, we ate, but the food was not the centerpiece of the event. Spending time together was the main focus of this event.
That was a special night, and everyone there understood that. After the event, everyone said they wanted to do it again, and those present who do not live in the neighborhood asked to be invited to the next event (they were and they came). Some people called us later and asked for each others phone numbers. New relationships were begun and old ones strengthened.
In the next post, we’ll look at what happened at our second neighborhood group event and what has happened since then. Then we’ll discuss pitfalls to avoid and loving your neighbors without an agenda.

Does God Shame Us at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Does God Shame Us at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

It is sometimes taught in Christian circles that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, God will replay all of our sins and mistakes before the entire mass of other Christians who are there as well.
I have heard the judgment seat of Christ described as though there will be a big movie screen and as we are all gathered together on judgment day, God will show a movie of all our sins, mistakes, and failures for everybody to see.
Have you ever heard something like this taught about the judgment seat of Christ?
I was reminded of this idea recently when I saw this picture:
shame at the judgment seat of Christ
This guy cheats on his girlfriend, and so to teach him not to do this anymore, she makes him stand at the mall wearing this sign. He shouldn’t have done what he did, but at the same time, I am not sure that this is going to get him to love his girlfriend more…
Some people view God this way. We sin. He gets angry. So He tries to punish and shame us into obedience. Ultimately, when we all get to heaven, the first thing we have waiting for us is the worlds longest horror movie ever of everything bad we have ever said, done, or thought. Not every sin is sexual, but the sexual sins alone would make a XXX-Rated movie millions of hours long. Then you have all the violence, murders, anger, slander, gossip, greed, hate, jealousy, etc., etc., etc.
I cannot imagine a worse way to start eternity….

We Must All Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

I suppose the idea is that since none of us want our deepest secrets and darkest sins revealed to the whole world, this sort of idea is to keep us from committing sins. There are even a few verses which seem to back up this idea. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an answer for the things done in the body, whether good or evil.
So the teaching is that at the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus is going to call us one by one before His throne and replay our life for us, pointing out in excruciating detail all the things we did–both good and bad–during our life. And since everyone else is going to be there too, well, they are going to overhear what Jesus says or be able to watch the movie of our life along with us.
Again…. this is NOT a good way to start eternity…
Thankfully, I don’t think this is the best way of understanding these sorts of texts, and more than that, I don’t think that this type of explanation fits well with the God revealed in Jesus Christ or everything else we know about how God treats us as our loving Father.
Let’s put it this way. If you have friends over to your house for dinner, and you pull out some family videos about your children, are you going to show clips of all the times they misbehaved, threw fits, wrecked the car, got in fights, failed classes, came home drunk, and every other bad thing your children did while they were growing up?
I hope not!
This is not what good parents do.
Good parents, parents who are proud of their children and who love them, show the highlights of their children’s lives. They show the winning shot at the buzzer. The ballet recital. The times of laughter and hilarity. The smiles, the joy, the beauty, the kindness, the fond memories, the vacation trips, the best of show. Proud parents show love by boasting about their children.
So also with God.
I think that if there is some sort of public broadcast at the judgment seat of Christ, it will be similar. God is proud of us. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. He is the best father and the proudest parent. He has no desire to shame us in front of others. There is shame, for sure, but Jesus already bore all that on the cross into death. Shame has been done away with.
So what does a verse like 2 Corinthians 5:10 mean? I can think of three possible explanations.

The Judgment Seat of Christ might be Private

First, maybe the accounting of what we have done in the body will be an intensely personal and private discussion with Jesus. Note that 2 Corinthians 5:10 does not say the accounting will be public.
If this is the way of reading this verse, it would be like Jesus pulling Peter aside after Peter had denied Jesus six times, and having a personal one-on-one discussion (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5). It would be like in the movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia” Aslan takes Edmund off to the side to speak privately and quietly to Edmund about his betrayal. Afterwards, it was never to be spoken of again.

Sins at the Judgment Seat of Christ will remind us of God’s Grace

Second, maybe the bad things will be publicly broadcast, but they will no longer appear “bad.” Oh, I know… we all think of the terrible, evil things we have done and think, “That’s not possible. I did some bad things. I don’t want anybody to see them.” Right. But remember that in our redeemed, glorified bodies, we will also have redeemed minds. We will see sin and rebellion against God in a different light. Those things will still be terrible, but they may not invite shame and sorrow into our lives as much as they will inspire wonder, awe, and worship at the grace and forgiveness of God.
So if the bad things are publicly declared at the judgment seat of Christ, our response will not be, “Ugh! You did that! Disgusting! How could you, you sick bastard!” Instead, it might be, “Wow. You did that and God STILL forgave you? Incredible! His love and grace truly is amazing!”
I have a real hard time imagining that this is what will happen though…. I just cannot see it. So I go with the third option….

There will be no Sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ

The best option seems to be that when the accounting is done, there will be no bad things to report. When it comes time to give an account for the things done in the body whether good or bad, it will be discovered that there is no bad to report. Those pages in the book have been wiped clean. Those scenes on the movie of our life have been scrubbed, deleted, washed away.
This fits with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Jesus was made sin for us. He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness. So maybe, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the only thing left to report is all the wonderful things we have done. It truly will be the “highlights reel” from our life, so that all other believers can celebrate with us in the kind words we have spoken, the sacrificial love we have shown, the generosity we practiced.
If we tell God that He missed a few things from our life, He will look at the books and say, “Hmmm…. I don’t see anything else here. There was something written here, but Jesus erased it. Hey, Jesus, what do you know about this?”
And Jesus will smile back with a twinkle in His eye and say, “There was a minor recording error there, but I took care of it. Now shush! I love this next part in the movie. Watch how she defends her neighbor to the religious leaders. It is so loving! Her actions remind me of Someone….”
Though we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an accounting for the things done in the body, there will be no shame; just glory, love, and celebration. Though we have all done things in our life we are not proud of (and we will all do many more), when we stand before Jesus we will discover that we have nothing to hide.

Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?

Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?

A reader recently sent in the following question:
Can a Christian be demon-possessed? And do Christians have the authority to say someone is demon-possessed? The Bible says to discern the spirits, but what if you’re wrong and say something is from the devil, but it is actually from God?
There are three questions here, each one requiring a careful answer. So let’s take each questions one at a time over the next three blog posts… When they are done, I will include links to all three at the bottom of each post.
So let’s tackle the first question in this post:

Can a Christian be Demon-Possessed?

Can a Christian be Demon possessed?I do not think a Christian can be demon-possessed.
Christians cannot be demon-possessed because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 
There is a whole lot of theology behind the nature and origin of demons (I do not think demons are fallen angels), but the main thing to remember is that they are unclean spirits. Demons are unholy spirits or evil spirits.
When a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they are immediately regenerated, indwelt, baptized, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Believers are the dwelling place of God. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).
Since God dwells in us, I do not think that God is going to share His dwelling place with an evil spirit.
For the Holy Spirit to share His dwelling place with an evil spirit, or to get replaced by the evil spirit, would imply that the evil spirit was more powerful than God. We know this cannot be true, for greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
There are numerous other Scriptures which help answer the question of whether or not a Christian can be demon-possessed (cf. Col 1:13; 1 John 2:13; 2 Cor 6:15-16). One resource I found online which does a pretty good job showing this is an article by Don Stewart called “Can a Christian be Demon-Possessed?” He summarizes his article this way:
Scripture does not teach that a Christian can be possessed by a demon. The believer is “in Christ,”- one of His. Every example in the Bible of a person being demon-possessed concerns an unbeliever – there are no examples of believers being possessed. Furthermore, we must be careful not to rely on stories of believers and demon-possession – many other explanations are possible. The Christian, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, need not fear demon possession. Yet, demons do attack believers in various ways. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that they cannot have any affect on the Christian
So can a Christian be demon possessed? I say no.


When someone asks, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” it is necessary to state a few caveats to my brief answer above.
1. Not everyone is a Christian who says they are.
First, there are lots of people who think they are a Christian, but aren’t. If a person goes to church, reads their Bible, and calls themselves a Christian, but has never believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47), then they have not received the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Christian be demon possessedThere are many people today who walked an isle at a revival service, raised a hand at a youth event, or prayed a prayer in a trying moment of life, and they think that these actions “saved them.” But they didn’t. Scripture nowhere instructs people to do these things to receive eternal life. Instead, Scripture tells us to believe in Jesus for eternal life. To receive the free gift of eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
If we are believing in something else for our eternal life, or have tried to earn our way into eternal life by some sort of good work or change of behavior, then we have not received the free gift of eternal life which is given to anyone and everyone who simply believes in Jesus for it.
So whenever someone asks the question, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” I always begin to answer that question by emphasizing that although the answer is “No,” the real question is, “Have you believed in Jesus for eternal life?” It is by faith that we receive eternal life and the indwelling Holy Spirit, who guarantees by His presence that a Christian will not be demon-possessed.
While it is true that a Christian cannot be demon-possessed, this only applies to those who are Christians.
2. There is a difference between demon possession and demon oppression. 
Second, it is important to note that just because a Christian cannot be demon possessed, this does not mean that Christians cannot be oppressed by fallen angels and evil spirits.
The devil and his minions can tempt and influence people to disobey God. Demons can tell us lies and try to lead Christians in direction that will ruin their lives and destroy their fellowship with God.
Evil spirits cannot take away our eternal life, for nothing can do that (Rom 8:38), but they can try to hinder us from enjoying the benefits of our eternal life and keep us from participating in fellowship with God. So while we can say “No” to “Can a Christian be Demon Possessed?” we can say “Yes” to “Can a Christian be demon-oppressed?” The spiritual realm is nothing to be trifled with, and we ignore it at our own peril.
3. We must be extremely careful about labeling someone as demon-possessed.
Just because someone exhibits erratic behavior, says evil things, or engages in un-Christian behavior, this does not mean that they are demon-possessed. There are all sorts of other explanations for why a people might have such behavior.
We will continue to look at this point more in the next post.
What do you think? Can a Christian be demon-possessed?