America can’t be our savior

I recently had an opportunity to watch a film about The Voice of the Martyrs founder, Richard Wurmbrand. Richard was a Lutheran pastor during the 1940’s and was imprisoned in Soviet-occupied Romania for speaking out publicly against communism, claiming Christianity and communism were incompatible. He stood up as a well-known citizen in his community and defended the name of Jesus. Right in the middle of a pro-communism rally. Right in the face of evil.

1948mugshot Before being kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured daily for 14 years, Wurmbrand led a secret church in his small apartment,  even baptizing new believers in his bathtub. Because atheism was the state religion of the Soviet Union, it was illegal to practice Christianity. He had a great love for the soviet soldiers, and risked his life daily to share the gospel with them. He risked everything he had to love the very same people who persecuted him. He didn’t withdraw preaching the gospel when the laws of his country were changed.

If you’re anything like me, seeing a story like this makes me grateful to live where I do. I really dodged the persecuting bullet. Although, part of me is quite jealous. I want that passion. I want that boldness. I want that zeal for spreading the gospel like Richard had, but I think those things almost always come under pressure. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10) How badly do we want that blessing?

Christians in the US can’t really empathize with Mr. Wurmbrand. We are free to worship as we please. What if that changed? Lets face it – we love our American comforts. We love being able to profess Christ and the Gospel as long as its legal to do so, and doesn’t rock the boat too much. We blame “taking God out of schools” as the reason for school violence, but why on earth did we teach our kids to stop praying when the government banned school-sponsored prayer?  Why did we teach them to withdraw the gospel because the world told us to? We cower far too easily. The message we’re sending to our kids is that even when the smallest means of persecution arises, its ok to cease preaching and praying in order to not offend the lost. Nobody kicked God out of anything, God’s people just stopped being bold.

We cannot expect the American church to thrive when it depends on the world to give it permission to do so. I think we should begin to realize that America isn’t God’s precursor to the Kingdom of God. If we actually lived out the words of Jesus, we would be hated here too (Matthew 10:22). We can’t depend on our rights, legislation, or candidates to make things easy for us to advance the Kingdom. We can only depend on Christ and His supreme sovereignty to provide us with the necessary faith to handle the inevitable persecution.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)

Paul warned Timothy that the persecution he was suffering wasn’t limited to himself, but  is promised to every believer in Christ. The American church hasn’t exactly had to deal with the extent of suffering that Paul had to endure, but what if it was coming? Its happening across the globe today, why not here? I’m not sure we’re ready. We would rather point the finger at the lost for making things inconvenient for us to spread the gospel than rejoice to suffer under the banner of Christ and His Kingdom (1 Peter 4:12-13)

We as a church aren’t preparing ourselves the right way. We should be leaning into God’s sovereignty while the country grows colder to the gospel. We should be trusting that God’s purpose will prevail no matter who the current president is. I remember reading posts from so many believers absolutely panicking over the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. The only relief was on election night, but not because their hearts were quickened to the sovereignty of God. Only after Trump was elected president did they feel confident in their future, as if somehow we’re safe now. We are showing the world that we put our trust in ourselves, not the Father.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Paul is painting a grim picture of the last days. There is no reason to expect laws of the United States to remain partial to Christianity. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with wanting those laws to remain partial, it is sinful to place our trust in them.

We protect and defend our rights as American Christians no matter the cost, but certainly don’t share the same zeal when it comes to the gospel. We often respond with pride, hate and bigotry when another group pushes an agenda that goes against Christianity. Rather than respond with love, we belittle the emotions of the lost that are confused about their gender because we don’t understand. Instead of coming to the table with the love of Christ, we publicly announce that we’re going to boycott certain stores with a certain bathroom policy. Instead of exhausting all efforts to bring Christ to the classrooms, we scold the younger generation for walking out of their classrooms in protest.

The fact is that our country is changing, and God is in complete control of that change. Our hope and joy as Christians should only remain in the promise that God is working all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). Possibly in this life, but definitely in eternal glory with Him.

The American church still has one job; to spread the name of Christ to all nations. American Christians must stop getting preoccupied with trying to control our own comforts and rights in this country and simply focus on Christ. We’re only sojourners. He is our home, not here. Jesus is our savior, not America.

Don’t lose your salvation

Growing up in a southern Baptist church, the salvation process was fairly easy. There was a prayer to repeat, and a card to fill out. Many confessed and went through the process, but why did so many fall away? Why did they go back to living like the world? I think what we created was an immensely false sense of assurance in something that just wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong. Repeating a line and filling out a card aren’t necessarily bad practices. But what if that form of evangelism actually did more harm than good? What if we valued the numbers more than we did the salvation? We never taught them about justification, sanctification, or the necessary war on their sin. We never finished the whole gospel. When we called it a night at “you’re forgiven”, we left droves thinking they could pick up their cross, leave it at the church door, and go on living their lives without change. What a dangerous and false gospel we created.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Let me be clear, the goal here isn’t to give anyone a false sense of comfort. It’s only to warn against the tactic of the enemy. If your assurance of salvation is based on the belief that you don’t really have to fight your sin because it’s forgiven through the blood of Christ, you have bought into satan’s lie; in essence, losing your salvation. Not because you once had salvation in Jesus and now you don’t, but rather, you never had it to begin with. One of my favorite quotes from AW Tozer sums it up: “The Holy spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that.”

the power of the gospel

The gospel doesn’t end with “you’re forgiven”. That’s only the beginning. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) To die to sin is to die to self. The old me was a slave to sin, totally depraved, and unable to escape the bondage of it on my own accord. Christ’s redeeming work on the cross changed this for me. He called me out of death into life, revealing my sin and my need for Him. He created in me a new purpose and a desire to glorify Him in everything I do. It would be a contradiction for me to claim this truth, yet continue practicing in sin. (Hebrews 10:26)

The reason that habitual, unrepentant sinning is a sign of an unregenerate person is because it reveals the heart’s desire. In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin if we are alive in Christ. In other words, the new desire in our hearts will be to glorify Christ, and we now have victory over sin because of Him. We don’t have to sin anymore. That life-long sin of lust that you just keep falling into? You have the power over it. The problem is that there is a false sense of assurance that we really don’t have to dig our heels in and fight being pulled in. We believe we can jump into the pit of sin because Grace abounds. Honestly the stakes in our mind just aren’t high enough.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:12)

We can’t put sin in our crosshairs until we attack the root. If we don’t attack the root and just attack the conduct, that is simply behavioral modification and not the gospel. The problem is rooted within, and that problem is preferring anything above God. That is what happens when we sin. We are telling God “my plan is better, and I desire this thing more than I desire you.” We must put our sin to death. Our salvation depends on it. (Romans 8:13) Not because we are a child of God one minute, and then the next minute we have sinned too much for the power of the Cross, but rather, if we go on sinning and aren’t convicted into repentance, we are fooling ourselves if we expect to enter the kingdom. I pray that God quickens our hearts to the gospel and moves our affections for Him.

backsliding 

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant,
for I do not forget thy commandments. (Psalm 119:176)

I am in no way suggesting that we will live a perfect and sinless life after conversion. We see in the above text that it is possible for a saint to backslide and go astray, but we also see that the psalmist isn’t content with his backsliding. God’s law is written on his heart, therefore he longs for God to allow him to return. He is waging war on his sin.

Lean on the promises

God’s promises to His people are all throughout the Bible. Learning them to recite to yourself when battling the flesh is a good and wise practice. One of my favorite promises when temptation rears its ugly head is Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. It reminds me of the wedge that is driven when I sin. I want to be reminded that communion with Christ is infinitely more valuable than this counterfeit pleasure.

Rest in the promise of your perseverance. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

I urge you to make sure that you have assurance of salvation through the grace of Christ Jesus, lining up with the truth of the Bible, and not our own watered-down version of the gospel. In Philippians 2:12, Paul warned the church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Did we sign the card in the hopes of simply escaping hell? Or are we actually devoting our entire lives to the glorification of Jesus? Let’s be sure, because salvation is only found in the latter.

Tell your wife about your porn use.

First off, a warning: Don’t destroy your family with pornography. If you’re giving lustful thoughts an inch of freedom to roam around in your mind, it’s imperative that you fight it. Your marriage, family, and most importantly, your salvation depend on it. Yes. Your salvation. If you continue in this habitual sin, you will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). In Matthew 5, Jesus takes the law a step further (vv27-28) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So how serious was Jesus about fighting lust? Read on. (vv29-30) “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” I think the stakes are high enough to turn from this sin.

You need to know there is freedom from porn and lust, and its found only in Christ. If you are made alive in Him, you are no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6). Because of His victory on the cross, you already have the victory over it. Repent and embrace the purpose God has placed on your life; to lead and shepherd your family.

I was ready to move on with my life after finally making a decision to turn from and destroy the stronghold of lust in my heart. I found a deep ocean of Grace in Christ. He restored peace in my soul. My prayer life was strengthening. My bible reading was deepening. I felt a communion with the Father that I hadn’t felt in a long time. After a couple of weeks, I woke up one morning feeling overwhelmingly convicted. I couldn’t shake it. I acted confused. In denial, I pretended to ask God to remove this spiritual attack on me. But deep down, I knew what it was. The Holy Spirit was shining His vivid light on the sin at hand. I needed to tell my wife about my recent porn use, and knew I couldn’t be right with God until I did. 1 Peter 3:7 tells husbands that if we don’t treat our wife in a godly way, He won’t even listen to our prayers. Therefore the opposite has to be true; He will if I do.

Rectifying my relationship with my wife would only be a byproduct of being in communion with God again. Of course, I don’t want to lie to my wife anymore, but if that is the only motive in confessing to her, it will fall short. If I place her as my treasure, she will fall short. Being renewed and walking in light with Christ is the ultimate goal, and fellowship with my wife is the gift because of that. He is the desire, and she is the blessing.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Sitting down on our sofa with my beautiful, strong, and gracious wife and confessing the awful acts of betrayal was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wasn’t promised an easy response, because there are earthly consequences to our sin. There were so many fears of her throwing in the towel because of my adultery, but I had to get everything out in the open. Even if trusting in Him meant losing her, that’s worth the risk. Contrary to what the world will teach you about manhood and masculinity, there is such a hidden blessing to be found in being vulnerable in front of your wife. Thomas Watson, a 17th century puritan, puts it like this: “Confession of sin shuts the mouth of hell and opens the gates of paradise” (the doctrine of repentance).

To say that my wife responded with love would be an understatement. I was undeservingly met with tears of reassurance and grace. I was able to witness the Holy Spirit leading her away from her fleshly desire to walk away, and leading her toward love and forgiveness. God is so faithful.

tell the whole truth

Be completely up front. Don’t try to soften the blow. Trusting God with any of it means trusting God with all of it. One temptation that immediately followed was to not be completely honest about the details, essentially trading one lie for another. If she has questions, answer them honestly and humbly. You won’t do her or yourself any favors by withholding things. “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Ephesians 5:13) Drag this whole thing into the light. Then kill it.

stay humble, not shameful

Shame is a tactic of the enemy. It’s not a method the Holy Spirit will ever use, therefore don’t give it a stronghold in your life following your confession. Shame of one sin will lead you into more sin. Satan will try to convince you that you’re not worthy of leading your family. Don’t buy it. Don’t let the shame and guilt of your past keep rob you of your joy in Christ. Pray for God to restore the joy of salvation to your heart and uphold you with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51)

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

The flip side of this coin is to stay humble. You’ve betrayed her trust. Give your wife the grace needed to process the pain. Pray for her daily. Give more grace. Let the Holy Spirit restore peace in her soul. Give more grace. If she randomly questions you or asks to see your phone, graciously hand it over. (Also give more grace.) You’re showing her that you’re being led by the Spirit by repenting and confessing to her. That’s a solid rock of reassurance to stand on while beginning to earn her trust.

beware the lion

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Satan wants to devour you. He wants to keep you so preoccupied with your fleshly desires that you completely miss out on your ministry as a husband. He is actively seeking to destroy your spiritual life. If he can deceive you, he gets the family. If he can deceive the families, he gets the church. Fight for your family. Pray for and pray with your wife daily. Stand firm in your faith, and don’t give sin permission to reign over your life any longer. (Romans 6:12)

You have the victory in Christ Jesus.

Was Jesus Anti-Gun?

Was Jesus Anti-Gun?

I don’t think so, but I think we as Christians should tread lightly when faced with this question. The topic of gun laws in America is an extremely sensitive one, no doubt. Most often, the ones that are the most sensitive and passionate about this topic are the evangelical right. We spew out heavily condescending, sarcastic, and prideful rhetoric to people desperate for a legislative solution to the plague of mass-shootings in our country. We obviously value our 2nd amendment right that is potentially being trampled on far more than we do the Gospel of Christ and reaching the lost, and I bet they can tell.

American Christianity no doubt looks very different from the rest of the world. I read in weekly newsletters of how our brothers and sisters across the globe are being tortured daily for proclaiming Christ. I purposefully set aside time on a regular basis to read them, and I need these testimonies to stay humble and stay alert in the comfort of this country. I fear that if I turn a blind-eye to them, I’ll be consumed with trivial things; for example, my right to bear arms. I read stories of entire families dragged from their homes and tortured, even killed for refusing to denounce the very same Christ that most Americans profess to believe in. What’s missing from these stories? Outrage from Christians because they want the right to bear arms and protect themselves from the persecution. They seem to rely on God and His supreme sovereignty as their refuge, not guns. They remain humble. They don’t boast. They respond in love, praying for their persecutors. They are emboldened to further preach the gospel to their cellmates. They absolutely thrive.

On Wednesday February 14th, a man named Nikolas Cruz walked onto the campus of a Florida school armed with a high-powered rifle and murdered at least 17 people. Women and children included. The days following, my social media news feed was an all-out keyboard battle over the right solution to this ongoing horror of mass shootings. One of the hot-button issues that is always brought up is a call for politicians to pass some sort of legislation aimed at guns to curb this violence. I have always held a firm belief that any sort of legislation would not only be ineffective, but would actually be counter-productive. This time was different. Now I’m not so sure. I started to pose the question: If I really believe that God is sovereign and controls all things, why do I care if I can’t have a gun? I couldn’t answer honestly with myself because If I were honest, I knew I trusted my gun for protection just a little bit more than Christ, and I needed to repent.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, the capital of gun culture. I’ve owned a gun my entire adult life. I’ve taken it out and practiced shooting it. I even went through the training several years ago and obtained a permit to carry a pistol concealed. Boy, was I ready. Don’t mess with this guy. Also – Jesus loves you. After all, Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloak and buy a gun if they didn’t have one (Luke 22:36), and that’s all the biblical authorization I needed. But what if I was focused on the wrong thing? What if I wasn’t really walking in the faith that God is sovereign over my steps? If I’m attacked on the street, was it wise or necessary to have the option to retaliate with instant death, potentially sending a person that doesn’t know Christ to hell? I instantly go on to glory with the Father if I die. I have no idea if this person is ready, but probably not if they are attacking me. So am I saying that its sinful to defend ourselves in the event that we’re attacked on the street or in our homes? Of course not. There are certainly numerous scriptures that support both positions, but there are also so many reasons not to immediately want to kill if we care at all about the lost. If we believe in Sola Scriptura, and the Word of God is the ultimate authority over our lives, then lets at least be sure we’re lining up with the Bible and not just giving a prideful response.

I completely agree with most of the common responses from the pro-gun side. Especially the position that the issue isn’t with guns at all, it’s with the total depravity of man’s heart. However, what if we didn’t respond with anger and pride but instead responded with the gospel? What if we chose to show the rest of the country that we value life more than our rights? Take my guns. Pass your legislation. Christ is still King. He is still on His sovereign throne and I have no fear because of that.