Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Faith, Feelings and Hypocrisy

"But if I do what I don't feel like doing, doesn't that make me a hypocrite?"

I've heard that question many times and didn't always know how to answer. Isn't a hypocrite someone who says one thing and does another, or tells me to do one thing when they do something else? Yes.

So if I do something and don't feel like it, how does that count? If I go to church and don't feel like it am I a hypocrite? What about going to work? Working out at the gym? Doing laundry? Feeding my family?


Interestingly the question only seems to apply to spiritual issues. We brush our teeth, clean the car, mow the yard, and prepare meals when we don't feel like it. Does that make us hypocrites? Dr. Bob Smith (M.D, Faith Church, Lafayette, IN) says the "natural" man (unbeliever) lives by nature; the supernatural man (believer) lives by faith. That helped me tremendously.

Before Christ was part of our lives, we made decisions and lived based on sensuous criteria. We did what we wanted--within reason--based on what we could see, feel, hear, smell, taste or based on our emotions and desires. You're familiar with the underlying message: "Follow your heart," "You deserve a break today," "Just do it," "I'm lovin' it," "Betcha can't eat just one...." The world  appeals to our sensual nature. We are driven and pulled by what we want and think will make us fulfilled.

But once we are bought by Jesus we have new, spiritual life. We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a different nature, created in holiness and righteousness for good works (Ephesians 4:24; 2:10).  To live and walk is this new nature is to live by faith instead of sight (senses). Think of faith as "believing God will do what He says He will do." (Hebrews 11:6)

Because I have been born again by faith, I live and make decisions based what God says in His Word. After all, I believe He will do what He says He will do, regardless of how I feel or what my senses tell me. As I pray and ask for God's help, reading the Bible becomes more clear. I see how He's working to make me more like Jesus and I trust Him to help me be kind, forgive others, speak the truth, treat everyone the same, be respectful of authorities, etc. I may not "feel" like doing any of those things at a given time, but I choose to, with the help of the Holy Spirit. I obey because I'm a new person. I no longer have to give in to what I want or what I'll get out of it or what makes sense based on what I see, hear, touch, smell, taste. That means I'm not a hypocrite. I'm living by faith just the way God intended in His original design.

Does that send emotions out the window? A life of gritting my teeth sounds miserable. You and I tend to think it's all one or the other, but God's plan is all-inclusive. He redeems not only our behavior, but our emotions and attitudes as well. He wants me to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. The difference is that when I live by faith, my emotions are under my control--under the Holy Spirit's control--instead of controlling me. Sinful emotions can be confessed, forgiven and forsaken. I don't have to be ruled by them, leading to a life of regret or remorse. Instead, I have access to hope, peace, joy, contentment, freedom from guilt and shame, and a renewed sense of purpose.

Living by faith doesn't mean a life of always eating vegetables and never getting dessert. Living by faith is more like eating such a balanced diet that I'm rarely hungry, my taste buds are satisfied, my body is healthy, and I have adequate energy to complete the day's tasks. It's a fulfilled, rare, rich life of purpose and identity. Am I sad sometimes? Yes. Do I fail? Yes. Do I give in to overeating, oversleeping, being critical, or snapping at others? Frequently. But Jesus doesn't love me more. He doesn't love me less. He picks me up, dusts off my bottom, and sets me on my feet... so "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus..." by faith!

[Jesus said,] “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” John 14:18-21

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Be There...It's That Simple and That Hard

We've had illness at our house for the last few weeks and it's slow.ed. us. down. In times of physical discomfort and nurturing those who are uncomfortable, I haven't had any particularly insightful spiritual wisdom except...."presence." Simply being there--in the moment, sharing pain--is powerful.

"Was Jesus changing diapers at 3:00 a.m.? Cause that's what I need--someone who's been there."
That's what a student recited at the high school play last week. We know Jesus was up at 3:00 a.m. regularly, praying (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15; 6:12). We know He endured everything a man ever can or will; that He was made like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17-18). But His purpose was unique--and as a result, you and I are here. You. Me. We're here to be Jesus; to be one whose body fights weakness, fatigue, illness, hunger, lust, depravity--and who is redeemed, reborn, recreated.

For those of us who have accepted His payment for our sin, Jesus' presence is the power that moves and changes us. It's not a presence that's "out there." His Spirit is "in here"--dwelling, at home, living in and through us (John 14:16-17). And because Jesus is God, fully everywhere at all times, we can take comfort in knowing He is with us "always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His presence allows us to give up selfish desires and love others. It's a slow, day by day, year after year transformation. Not reformation. Not conformation. Transformation. Complete, radical change. And it is the living, breathing, loving life that gives hope, peace and comfort to those in suffering and pain.

1) You can only be there if you've embraced and endured.
You may not have had exactly the same experience, but you can be there for someone else if you've worked your way out of bitterness, fear, resentment, anger or self-pity with God's help. If you haven't, you will help no one. You will only breed more: more bitterness, fear, resentment, anger and self-pity. Like a child's finger-painting, you will add to the confusion and chaos with dark colors of unconfessed sin. But if you've considered the prophets of old, who spoke in the name of the Lord; if you've run to the name of the Lord as your strong tower; if you've considered it joy to suffer and learn and grow then you can undergird, uphold, encourage, come alongside and bind up the broken-hearted.

2) You can only be there if you're there.
If you isolate yourself from the trouble of others, brush off another's hurt with words of platitude or condescension, refuse to get involved, or simply say, "I'll pray about it," you are not the presence and aroma of Christ. Loving yourself more than others is not a measure of presence but self-protection. Jesus did not protect Himself, He gave Himself freely and trusted His Father to meet His every need. The payment of His presence was pain, suffering, a life of poverty, and ultimately, death. Are you really willing to be Jesus in the life of others?

If you want to be there, if you're willing to enter another's hurt, offer your presence. Be Jesus. Tell them of His eternal forgiveness and the hope that's available in Christ. Live it. Share it. It's life the way He intended it.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us,He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Friday, April 1, 2016

Stay in Your Lane

"Why do I have to put on napkins? Carl's not doing his job."
"What did I ask you to do?"
"Put on napkins."
"Are you doing your job?"

Then I remembered these verses, "Peter...said to Jesus, 'But Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.'” (John 21:20-21)

That's the story my friend, Jess, shared the other night and it's stayed with me. It's so easy for me to blame other people for my failure; to get distracted by someone else and not do my part. As another friend says, "Stay in your lane." As soon as I start worrying about someone else or trying to "fix" them, I've crossed the line and am headed for a collision.
Jesus said, "That's a none-ya" (none-of-your-business). "You. Follow me."

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 
Matthew 12:34-37

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:

“As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. Romans 14:7-13

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
Hebrews 4:12-16