I love this testimony of how God saved rap artist Lecrae.
Sometimes it’s tough to know where to draw the lines.
I’m talking about sin, of course. We live in the era of “If it makes you happy / it can’t be that bad” (see Sheryl Crow). Our culture has become so wishy-washy on areas of right and wrong, that nobody has the courage to say, “I think what you’re doing is wrong.” As Christians we need to stand firmly on what the Bible says is right and wrong, without caving to the culture.
But we need to make sure that what we’re standing for really is the truth. I think that most people have a sixth sense (I’m resisting the temptation to make a joke about seeing dead people) that lets them know when we are spouting our opinion on something, rather than proclaiming God’s word. If they think that we’re just pushing our opinion, they’re going to push back. After all, why is my opinion worth more than their opinion?
John R. Rice was one of the leaders of the fundamentalist movement in the 1930’s and 1940’s. This is what Andrew Himes says about Rice:
Rice was interested in cultivating and promoting a very specific type of preaching. It was preaching that pulled no punches. It was preaching that was sharp and clear, preaching that took a definite stand. It was preaching that could bring revival back to America. In 1940, one of his sermons titled “Evangelistic Preaching” appeared in The Sword of the Lord [Rice's newspaper]:
Preach on booze. Preach on the scarlet sin, adultery. Some cheeks will turn red with shame, and some won’t like it, but it will bring people to repentance. Preach on the dance, tell people it is rotten as sin. Tell people they dance because they enjoy the lust, the deliberate inflamement of passion of the dance. They do!
I would agree with a lot of what Rice says. We need preaching that has guts and spine and conviction. We need to preach against the sins clearly spelled out in the Bible. Rice said we should preach against booze. If he meant drunkenness, I’m all for that! He said that we should preach against adultery. Yes John, yes! He said we should preach against dance!
Wait, what? Dance?
I understand what he’s saying. There are many dances that are inappropriate, and I’m sure that many people do dance for the sake of lust. But to call dance “rotten as sin” goes beyond what the Bible says and forces you to draw all sorts of lines in the sand that are purely arbitrary. For example, is ballroom dancing wrong? What about tribal dancing? Was it wrong when David danced in the Bible? And are you sure that everyone who dances is dancing for the sake of lust?
We can tell people that lust is wrong. We can tell people that, if dancing causes them to lust, that’s wrong too. But we can’t flat out say that dancing is sinful.
When it comes to declarations of right and wrong, each of us face two temptations. The first temptation is to be too soft on sin, and not take a stand for what’s right. The second temptation is to swing too far the other way, and to draw lines where God never draws lines. People can smell our opinion from a mile away. And people can disagree with my opinion. But they can’t disagree with the word of God. So let’s stand on the word.
A few days ago I invited anyone interested to enter to win a Giclée print on canvas or paper of one of my paintings.
There’s still time to enter if you’d like. Here’s how you can win: Share this post or something about my painting site on Facebook, Twitter or some other way, and tell me you’d like to enter in the comment section below. Or if you’d like, you don’t have to post on Twitter or Facebook, just tell me you’d like to enter in the comments below. This coming Sunday I’ll draw a name from all the entrants, and announce the winner. Then I’ll contact you and you can pick the painting you’d like and I’ll send it to you.
Thanks to all who have entered so far and for your kind words of encouragement!
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
That’s what he told me. I’d called him because I’d noticed that he and his family hadn’t been around for a few weeks. “Chuck, is everything alright? I haven’t seen you guys for a while. You guys okay?”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he said. “We did everything we were supposed to do. We faithfully came to church and care group. We read our Bibles and prayed. We taught our children about the Lord. We gave our money to God. And now look what’s happened. My son gets a girl pregnant and has to get married. He’s not following the Lord. I thought God promised to bless me if I followed him.”
Sadly, this man never came back to our church.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Though many of us wouldn’t say this, we often subtly believe it. If I follow God, he will bless me with a good life. If I follow the Lord, all my children will be saved at young ages, marry attractive, godly spouses, and have perfect children themselves. If I follow the Lord, I’ll have a great life.
But God doesn’t owe us our best life now. He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe God everything. Jesus doesn’t save us to fulfill our plans and purposes, but to fulfill his plans and purposes. God’s plan is to glorify his name, not make us successful or give us long, healthy, trouble free lives.
If we believe it’s supposed to be a certain way if we do certain things, that makes God our debtor.
Then it’s not grace. He owes us. We earned it. We deserve it. But God doesn’t operate on a deserve it system. His kingdom runs on grace, from beginning to end. We don’t deserve to be saved; he saves us by grace. We don’t deserve any blessings; God graciously pours out thousands of undeserved blessings on us by grace.
God’s plan is to not to give us our best life now, but to glorify his name by transforming us into the likeness of Christ. And sometimes he does that through suffering. Sometimes he makes us like Christ by withholding what we’d desire.
It is wrong expectations that get us into trouble. Wrong expectations of God. Or our church. Or our spouse. Or of life. If we expect something and don’t get it, then we can become disillusioned, bitter and depressed.
We can have expectations of God, though. We can expect to know God more and more through his Word and Spirit. We can expect him to be faithful to us, to never leave nor forsake us. We can expect God to supply us with all the grace we need to glorify him in any situation. We can expect him to use every blessing and every trial in our lives to make us more like Jesus. We can expect to someday see his face and worship him forever and enjoy our eternal inheritance in heaven.
I try to have no expectations from this fallen world. I try to have no expectations from fallen human beings. Even of those Christ has redeemed, my fellow sinner saints, I expect them to fail and at times even sin against me, though I believe they love Jesus and he will complete the good work he began in them, just as I will fail and sin against them, and Jesus will finish his transforming work in me.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Here’s how it was supposed to be – we all should be in hell, in darkness, despair and unimaginable pain. Instead, if you’re a believer, we’re here, loved by our Father, saved by the Son, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Adopted into God’s family. Sons and daughters. No, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. It should have been worse. So really, this is our best life now, no matter what we’re suffering. But our true best life is yet to come.