Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stop Apologizing for Who You Are... Unless You NEED To.



I sit and listen as the news, social media, and Christians talk about how our world is "Going to Hell," and that our world will "never be the same."  I read the stories about the supreme court, capital hill, disrespect of people/flags/rights, and horrific news about people being sold for sexual purposes/body parts/political gain, and the list goes on.  Even as a minister of the Gospel, I find myself in dismay and shock at the way things are going.  I cry out to God, and He brings passages of Scripture like this to us:


"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."  -- Matthew 24:1-14 (NIV)
God is not surprised at the condition of the world.  In fact, the term "Going to Hell" is a perfect description of a world that does not know the amazing love and grace of Christ.  The descriptions we see of hell in the Bible are terrible, but in my opinion, the absolute worst part of hell will be the complete absence of God there.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control will be horribly absent.  There will be no hope.  

It is in these dire times that people are naturally looking for someone to lead them out of the smoke and devastation around them.  Of course, I'm speaking figuratively here, as there may not really be visible devastation, but it does not take long to see it all around us (remember the first paragraph?).  Followers of Christ, it is our time to STAND on the TRUTH of the Word of God!  We MUST live out our faith in very visible ways.   We need to REFLECT a true image of who Christ is, without distorting His image with our own preferences.

Now, please do not misunderstand me here.  I am NOT saying that we need to start a bunch of new boycotts, alienate people, or all move to the same place so that we can live without having to "deal" with the sin of this world.  In the passage above, we see that it is going to get HARDER to live on this planet, and even TOUGHER for people that are living for Jesus Christ.  We already see false prophets that distort the name of Jesus, and love seems to be growing cold everywhere.  Everywhere BUT in the nature of Jesus.  We need to be the hands and feet of our Savior.

In the days to come, it will become easy to get lazy, and just "go with the flow."  That is the nature of the culture that we live in.  This has been a temptation since Bible times, but we see in these words from Jesus that we need to be on task all the time, because we do not know when the return of Christ will happen.  Jesus says the following in Mattew 24:

"42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  -- Matthew 24:42-51 (NIV)

As a follower of Christ, which of these two servants describes your life?  In our culture in America, it's pretty easy to forget about our mission, and get really comfortable and selfish.  Sure, we still identify with Christian "issues" and do not mind lobbing insults on social media towards groups that do not fit with our own tastes and preferences (yes, I'm guilty of this too).  Could it be that this type of virtual "lip service" is what we are using to cover up the fact that we have let our spiritual lives in Christ fall to pieces?  Not only are we seeing a warped and distorted view of ourselves, but in turn we are presenting a warped and distorted view of Jesus to the world around us.

This is not a note to bash anyone... it is a reminder that we should NEVER apologize for being followers of Jesus.  The gut check for us as Christians is that we need to make sure that the Jesus we show the world is authentic, and in line with the whole of Scripture.  We need to make sure that we have not clouded His name with our sinful nature.  It happens to all of us, and THAT is the time that we should apologize... to God first, and to those that we may have not shown the love of Christ by our own actions and words.  Be who God CREATED you to be... never be ashamed of who you are...  Remember these words the One that we serve:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." -- Matthew 5:14 - 16 (NIV)

May we be the ones that God uses to change lives in an eternal way...  God can handle it all...