Category Archives: Theology

Theological thoughts

BSA Continues Down The Road

 

The headline of the article says it all, “Boy Scouts president calls for end of ban on gay adults. . .” It is a journey that began, for many, long ago. A journey that was presented to the eyes of the rest of the world in 2013 when a vote was taken at the BSA National Conference to allow boys, under 18, who identify at gay to be members. It was a first major step down the road. Last week, BSA President, Robert Gates, spoke to those assembled at the 2015 BSA National Conference. In his address he proposed that the time is at hand to take the next step down the road.

I would be lying if I said I did not see this coming. In fact when the vote was taken in 2013 I gave it five years, at most, until the ban on gay leaders  was lifted. Now I am not saying that I had some great insight, I am sure there were many others who made similar predictions. My point is that the first step taken down that road two years ago should have been obvious and here we are about to take another step down this road. But in the end, I am afraid that it is not the road to the glorious destination it is trumpeted to be.  It is rather, a road that leads away from the foundations upon which scouting was built, and the values I hold as a bible believing Christian.

Now I could go down the road that argument leads to and find myself going back and forth with those who disagree with my position, those who feel this decision is the greatest things to ever come out of scouting. But experience has taught me that such arguments accomplish very little. If people do not come from a common starting place, then the ends seldom converge. Instead, I choose to state my position by addressing three quotes from Dr. Gates speech.

The first quote has to do with how we respond to the society in which we live. Dr. Gates says that as a result of “the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country . . . the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.” In other words, our society has changed so much that we are out of step with it and need to change if we want to continue to exist. Now this is a response to challenges, but is it a good response.  What this is telling me is that if things get hard, then you just give in.  Is this really the lesson we want to teach out children? That when things get tough you just give up. If this is really a justification for suggesting the change I find it cowardly and shameful.  For an organization that holds honor at such a high level, what honor is there is just giving up? What strength is found in going with the crowd? What virtue is found in trading in long held values?

True honor would be found in standing strong in the beliefs held from the beginning, beliefs that have guided the BSA for over 100 years.  I find far greater respect for those who will stand firm for their beliefs and values in the face of ridicule and hardship, even if it means the eventual demise of the organization, than I do in those who change their foundational beliefs simply to survive.

I’m going to be honest, there comes a time when all social movements (when it boils down to it the BSA is a social movement, that is to say it is intended to build up society) reach a point when they must decide, are they going to be true to their foundations even if everything says it will lead to its demise or compromise simply to survive. It is the far more noble action to stand for your values in the face of opposition than to surrender your beliefs to appease others.

The second quote concerns the position BSA policy puts boys into relating to their church. Dr. Gates says, “As a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.” This argument is fallacious in that the exact same argument can be given from the other perspective. By changing the policy to allow for homosexual involvement we embrace a policy that more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.  Based on the poor logic of this statement, I will forego any further discussion of it.

It is the third statement that concerns me most, as a Bible believing, evangelical Christian.  Dr. Gates states, “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing. . .” Yes, he is correct. You would have to blind to not realize this fact.  But change is not always a good things or for the better. Worse yet, change simply for the sake of change can often be worse than maintaining the status quo. But this is a different discussion.

There is something for more significant about this statement that struck me the moment I heard it. “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing. . .” I had no more that heard this quote when without thinking, I finished it by saying “but God doesn’t.” God does not change. Any person who calls themselves a Christian must accept this fact, God does not change. Why not? Because a god who changes is not a god in whom faith can be placed. If you do not know that tomorrow God will be the same as he is today, then how can you trust that his salvation will last.

But I can remain confident that God does not change.  In Malachi 3:6  God declares, “I the LORD do not change.” James 1:17 tells us that He is “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Psalm 33:11 tells us, “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” And Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” No, God does not change! 

Because He does not change, I can place my faith in Him. This is why Psalm 18:2 declares, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Because He does not change, I can be confident in His word. A word that tells me that a homosexual life style is contrary to God’s teaching.

God’s teachings are repeated over and over through the Bible. In Leviticus 18:22 God told the nation of Israel, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” In I Corinthians 6:9 – 10 homosexuality is grouped with  other sins like, “idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.” And Romans 1:26 – 27 clearly presents it as unnatural.  Now again, we can get caught up in the discussion of how these are to be understood, but I believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God and that God’s Word is true. In light of this, I can stand strong in the values presented in the long held BSA policy with confidence because, God does not change.

This same God, whom many of us have followed in the BSA for over 100 years, does not change. Therefore, to change our position based on an ever fluctuating societal view versus the position of an unchanging God, is at best foolishness and at worst, a direct a affront to the righteousness of God Himself.

Please understand the point I am trying to communicate. My opposition is not out of hatred, for this same God has taught me the need to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:31) It is not out of fear that our children will be “preyed” upon, such thinking is unfounded and ludicrous. It is out of my commitment to the first point of the scout law, duty to God.

As I consider the implications of this address, I am left to wonder the true motive behind Dr. Gates’ remarks. If it is out of compassion for those who feel excluded, I share his heart, but must remain faithful to my duty to God. If it is out of fear of loosing membership from being out of step with society, I understand, but must remain faithful to my duty to God. If it is for any other reason, I must still remain faithful to my duty to God.

And so, as the BSA continues its journey, step by step, down the road they have chosen, I see it as only a matter of time until their path and the path of many more will go their separate ways.

 

 

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At Calvary

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

Now I’ve given to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my king,
Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary!
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

Words by William R. Newell, 1895
Music by Daniel B. Towner

 


“‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting.
Leviticus 4:13 – 14

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
Ephesians 4:17 – 19


 

“I shouldn’t have been given a ticket for parking there.  I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed.”  I spent many years working in university security and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard these words.  It was not their fault, because no one told them it was not allowed.  Sound like it makes sense, but we all know that it is not an excuse. It’s something we have probably been told since we were very young. Nicole Flatow puts it this way in the opening of her article about a recent supreme court decision at “Think Progress.”  She states;

“There is one simple concept that law students learn in their very first weeks of criminal law class: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle means that when an individual violates the law, it doesn’t matter whether or not they knew what the law said. If it’s a crime, and they are found to have committed the elements of that crime, they are guilty.”

Whether you knew it is wrong, or not, it was still wrong. Taken further, the question is, if we do not know what we are doing is wrong, how can we ever expect to make amends.  The short answer is that we can not, but there is someone who can. This is the message of William Newell’s “At Calvary.”

The song summarize the ignorance that most of us live in far too easily.  An ignorance that many seem to revel in. After all, the old saying is “ignorance is bliss”.  So the hymn begins with the words, “Years I spent in vanity and pride, Caring not my Lord was crucified, Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.”

This is how we so want to live our lives . . . for ourselves.  We are nothing new in this capacity.  Jesus, when speaking of the end times uses this description in Matthew 24:37 – 39, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” In the days of Noah, people lived to meet their own pleasure, oblivious to the circumstances around them.

This life of seeking our own pleasures is an offense to God Himself. We must then come to accept these action that violate God’s law, even when done in ignorance must exact a consequence. Leviticus 4:13 – 14 tells us, “‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting.”

One might argue, “well that was Israel. God has revealed himself to them so of course they had no excuse.  Paul answers this objection when he says in Ephesians 4:17 – 19  “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” Jew or gentile, it makes no difference.  The axiom remains true. Ignorance of the law is not excuse.

So we today easily find ourselves doing the same. We are all to often unaware that our behavior is self-indulgent, and an affront to a Holy God.  But as the hymn tells us, the truth has been made known if we will but listen.  It says “By God’s Word at last my sin I learned; Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned, Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.”

When we realize the magnitude of our actions.  That we have lived a life seeking our own, mocking God, whether intentionally or unintentionally, at every turn, we can not help but quake with fear.  This is the Holy God, Creator of all and we have dishonored Him at every turn.  But thanks be, that we are given the way to make things right. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.

When we turn to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can experience the forgiveness of all sins, whether intentional or unintentional. This is the only means of making amends and God has given it to us freely.  This is why Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When we accept this gift, we can know “salvation’s plan!” We can know “the grace that brought it down to man!” We can begin to comprehend “the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!”

No, ignorance is no excuse.  We remain guilty, even when we did not know what we were doing was wrong.  But praise God that He did not abandon us in our ignorance, but that provide a way to forgiveness that we might be restored to fellowship with Him. When we accept this we can join with all believers declaring, “There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.”

 

 

Read more about “At Calvary.”

Do This In Remembrance of Me

 

I am taking a brief aside from my hymn reflections to look at another aspect of worship. In this Lenten season we begin by looking at Christ as our example. We reflect on the fullness of His life. His struggles, His triumphs, His sorrows, His joys and most importantly His sacrifice. We look to Jesus as not only our Savior, but our example of living a life in service to the Father. We follow His lead in the examples He set, in the parables He told, in His teaching and in the commands he gave. I want to look specifically at something in this last category.

Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist, The Bread and The Wine. What ever term you use for it, as Christians, we are called to partake of it. The words of Jesus echo down through the ages. “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is the command that Jesus gave us, a command with a deeper meaning. It is not like the slogan of Nike, “Just Do It.” which carries not reason or meaning other than enjoying yourself. This call has real meaning. There is a reason we are to partake. Jesus said, “Do this . . . in remembrance of me.”

We find the account of the Lords supper in Luke 22 and then find Paul recounting the events with further explanation in 1 Corinthians 11:23 – 32.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Luke 22:7 – 20

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:23 – 32

In Remembrance of Me

Now I realize that we could get caught up here in a debate on the substance of the Lord’s Supper, but the final conclusion will be that people hold many different position from Transubstantiation to Memorial. But from whichever belief you come, as believers we are to take part in The Lord’s Supper with remembrance of Christ.

We remember that He was born into this world in human flesh. John 1:14 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This is of utmost importance, for the manger and the cross are intrinsically linked. Remove one and the other becomes meaningless. You can find more of this in the article, The Real Meaning of Christmas.

We remember that while he was born fully man, He was still fully God. John 1:1 tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” He was Emanuel, God with us. Not a God who remained distant from us, but a God who dwelt among us. He walked among us that He might know us and we might know Him.

We remember that he faced the very temptation we face in this life. Temptations to meet physical desires, to meet the lust of the eyes and the desire to elevate our selves above God. Yet the scriptures tell us in Hebrews 4:15 that He was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin.”

We remember that he came to “give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He paid the penalty for our sins when He hung upon the cross, His body broken, His blood shed so we might not know death.

We remember that He rose triumphant from the grave so that we need not fear death. He opened the door to eternal life. This is why 1 Corinthians 15:20 – 22 tells us, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

We remember that Through Christ, we have become joint heirs with Him. We have become children of God. That we may stand before God not in trembling fear of judgement, boldly as children before a loving Father. So Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

A Word of Warning

When we come before the Lord’s table our attitude should be one of remembrance and reflection. For while we remember Christ in all of these ways, we reflect on our lives. Have we remembered to give Christ the recognition He is due? Have we confessed the sin in our lives? Have we sought to live our lives Honoring Him? Have we surrendered our lives to follow Him?

These are the questions that we must ask of ourselves as we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper, for Paul has warned us in 1 Corinthians 11:28 – 29 that “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” When we fail to properly prepare for the Lord’s Supper and when we fail to remember the real reason that we partake of the Lord’s supper, we make it meaningless. We take the incredible sacrifice that the Lord has given and make a mockery of it. This is the judgement Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 11:29. For we have forgotten that Jesus gave everything for us.

So, as we go through this Lenten Season may we be reminded of this truth. May we prepare each day to come before the Lord’s Table. May we remember Jesus and what He has done for us. Let us truly partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.

Dear Traditional Worshipers,

3603902954_f1747d7601_bDear Traditional Worshipers,

I know how you feel. . . I hear you. I’m am one of you. I get it. . . But here’s the deal. We’ve become part of the problem.

Read more at, “Ponder Anew.”


 

This is from a blog that I follow regularly.  I think Jonathan clearly lays out the import role of true worship over simple preference.

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth.
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past.
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore.
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
Love paid the ransom for me.
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Words by Fanny Crosby, 1880
Music by John R. Sweney, 1880

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8 – 14

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Luke 4:1 – 2

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13

“Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Matthew 8:20

There they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
John 19:18

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

 

One of the many fond memories I have of growing up was sitting around as my mother would read The Hardy Boys Mysteries. Now I love reading, but there is something about being told a story that makes it come to life.

Stories have been used for generations to teach lessons, to pass down history and to communicate truths. Why? Because they open up our minds. We are not bound by cold facts, but rather by facts that are living and exciting.

And so the words of Fanny Crosby ring true to each of us. “Tell me the story of Jesus.” But this is not simply a story to be entertained with, this is a story that she wants to be foundational for her life, so she declares, “write on my heart every word.”

She then goes on to lay out a simple creed, not unlike the apostles creed. She leads us from Christ birth, through His resurrection. To follow Christ, we need to know who he is. Crosby lays out the basic truths of who he is and what he has done. So I join with Fanny Crosby and so many others, with the words, “Tell me the story of Jesus.”

 

 

Read more about “Tell Me The Story Of Jesus.”

His Truth To Triumph Through Us

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Words and Music by Martin Luther, 1529

 

“‘I love You, O Lord, my strength.’
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.”
Psalm 18:1 – 3

 

You know there are days when everything seems to go perfect and it seems nothing can go wrong. Then there are the others. Those days when it seems that nothing is going right. Those days when it seems the whole world is set against you. This is where David found himself just prior to 2 Samuel 22, in danger from enemies and pursued by Saul. It is here that he utters the words found in Psalm 18, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.”

Martin Luther, the author of “A Might Fortress”, as well found himself hunted and persecuted by the leadership of the church, but God delivered him. It is here that Luther writes the words to one of the most powerful hymns of all time.

A Mighty Fortress lays out, from beginning to end a clear portrayal of God’s ultimate victory over Satan and how no matter what struggles and threats we may feel, God is our refuge and strength to face whatever may come.

What I find really interesting, however, is how Luther chooses to end this hymn. “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill.”

A hymn that starts with the phrase, “A might fortress is our God” comes to a conclusion not that we will come safely through everything, but that we may lose everything (belongings, family and even life). How does this seem a victorious song? Because Luther ends with these words, “God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

God has not guaranteed that we will not suffer loss, simply that His truth and kingdom will last forever and there is nothing Satan can do to stand in the way. What is this truth? I think it is best summed up in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  It is because of this that we can declare with Luther, “We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”

 

 

Find out more about “A Mighty Fortress.”

Are We To Be Pitied?

 

1 Corinthians 15:16-19 NASB

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

On this past Easter Sunday, as I took time to reflect on those events some 2000 years ago, I began to wonder if we truly believe.  Christians all over the world for the previous week spent time remembering the triumphant entry of a man into Jerusalem.  A man that people were ready to declare King.  They remember a man who challenged the traditions of the people.  They remember a man who spent a last meal with his closest friend.  They remember a man who was betrayed by one of those friends.  They remember a man who was tried for treason and blasphemy.  They remember a man who was tortured and beaten.  They remember a man who was killed in one of the most excruciating ways ever devised.  They remember a man who was laid in a tomb.

And if this is where the story ends they remember a fool who died for nothing.

But the story does not end here, because they remember a man who did not stay in the grave.  They remember a man whom God raised from the dead.  You see Jesus was not simply a man.  He is the Son of God.  Jesus did not simply die and rot in a grave.  He was raised again to life and is alive today.  A life that is offered to everyone who will believe.  This is what Christians remember.   This is why we celebrate Easter, Good Friday, Maunday Thursday, Holy Week and Palm Sunday. Praise God for this truth.

But far too often, as I look at churches and Christians I have to ask, “Do we really believe?”  Does this truth really permeate our lives or is it just a nice story? Do we live like Jesus is alive? Do we really believe in the ressurection? Or is Jesus still in the tomb to us?

Maybe we go to church on Sunday (or Saturday or possibly a different day depending on your tradition and circumstance) to sing songs, pray and listen to the pastor. Maybe we teach a Sunday school class or lead a small group. Maybe we preach from the Bible.

Some of us may read the Bible throughout the week. Some pray each night before we go to bed.

We are friendly with our neighbors and strangers. We are generous with those in need. We do the right thing at work and in business even if it will make our life more difficult.

In any of these cases we are living the Christian life, aren’t we. After all doesn’t the Bible tell us that we show our faith by our deeds. From the time we are children we are told that actions speak louder than words. So these actions show that we truly believe. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Far too often we do these deeds for the wrong reasons. We go to Church on Sunday not to worship, but because it is what is expected or because it feels comfortable. We teach or preach because we want to feel that we have a place we fit in or we want other to look up to us.

We are friendly with neighbors and strangers because it is our personality or we were taught it when we were young. We do the right thing in business because we want others to see us as virtuous or we are afraid of being caught doing otherwise.

It’s not as simple as actions speak louder than words. In the sermon on the mount Jesus declares “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22 – 23)

Yes, our actions are important, but no matter how great they are, they are meaningless without the right backing. If we do not believe the foundation of the Christian faith, If we do not believe Jesus is the Son of the Living God, If we do not believe Jesus rose from the grave, and if we do not believe that forgiveness and eternal life can be found in him alone then our actions are meaningless and we are truly to be pitied.

My friends, if you are doing good I am certainly not saying to stop. Continue doing so and always look for more opportunities, but don’t let that be the end. Look behind the action. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Are you doing it because Jesus gave us an example for this life or because you truly believe Jesus was who he said he was and your actions are a response to His incredible gift which reaches beyond this life.

 

Brian Olson is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ having worked with both youth and adults.