Christian, seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Phil 2:14-15)

Christians, we are lights shining hope into a dark world. Hope the world desperately needs, especially during this time of division in our country. What we need to be about right now is the gospel of Jesus, not political arguments or armed battle. We should live as blameless and innocent children of God without blemish.

We can shine as lights in the world by “holding fast to the word of life” (Phil 2:16). It is God’s Word that should provide our marching orders, not a politician or political party. It is God’s Word to which we should look for guidance and how to live in this difficult time in the life of our country. God’s Word tells us that we should love one another and seek unity, not division.

It is our love for one another, even those who are on the other side of the political aisle, that allows us to shine as lights. Loving your enemy is not easy. It is an upside down way to approach the world. But approaching the world in that upside down way is exactly what allows us to push back the darkness.

Christian seek to shine as a light for Christ by loving others.

A Christian View of Social Justice

Social Justice is a word we hear often. From discussions with our neighbors at our local coffee house, to the nightly news, to the political arena, social justice seems to be a common topic of discussion and debate. But what is meant by the term social justice? Is it biblical? Should Christians participate in acts of social justice?

Two Predominate Views of Social Justice

(1) Unconstrained view – This view is based on everyone getting their fair share. As we are all aware, every society has a finite amount of resources to go around. This view holds that everyone should have their fair share of those resources. It is unjust to allow some to hold onto a greater portion of those resources. We should, then, do all we can to see that those resources are shared equally.

(2) Constrained view – This view is based on the fair treatment of all peoples, and it is not concerned with everyone having their fair share of the total resources in a given society. In this view, it’s not unjust for people to hold onto wealth. People are entitled to what they have earned. Instead of putting energy into the redistribution of wealth, we should put our energy into seeing that everyone is treated fairly.

Which View is Biblical?

Let’s look at a few verses on social justice from the Bible:

  • Exodus 21:1-11 provides laws regarding the fair treatment of slaves.
  • In Deuteronomy 15:1-18, especially 7-11 and 13-15, rules are given concerning meeting the needs of the poor.
  • Psalms 72:12-15 and Psalm 103:6-7 tells of God redeeming the oppressed and persecuted from their oppressors, working righteousness and justice for them.
  • Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to judge righteously and to defend the rights of the poor and needy.

By far these are not all the verses in the Bible on social justice, but they give us an idea of which view the Bible is upholding. I believe that is the second view, the Constrained View.

God’s Word does not command us to redistribute our wealth to neighbors, so that we all have equal access to the total resources of the society in which they live. Differing classes and a distribution of wealth does not constitute injustice [1].

A biblical view of Social Justice holds that we are not to show partiality, not to steal, not to swindle others, not to take advantage of the weak because they are uninformed or unable to stop us. 

Rather than saying we need to redistribute our resources, so that we are all on equal footing, the Bible tells us that we are to care for the oppressed and seek to stop others from oppressing them. We are to speak up for those who are being persecuted. We are to work for laws that stand for the fair treatment of all peoples regardless of race or nationality.

Christians are to Work for Social Justice

If we believe part of God’s mission is to redeem the oppressed and persecuted, to make sure the poor are cared for and the helpless are not taken advantage, and if we believe we are a part of that mission, then we are to do the same. Christians are to work for social justice in their cities.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you agree that the constrained view represents the biblical view of social justice?
  2. How does your church care for the needy, oppressed, and persecuted?

Resources

Gilbert and DeYoung, What is the Mission of the Church?, 176, 180-183.

[1] I do not believe the churches actions in Acts are meant to be prescriptive. Rather, I see their actions as being descriptive of what took place in that city.

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Identity: Where do you find yours?

Where do you find your identity? That is a great question to ask yourself. If you are like most Americans you probably find your identity in your career, your family, your success, or your possessions, just to name a few things. But these things will fail you.

In Surprised by Oxford, a past professor offers up this crucial advice concerning identity to Carolyn:

What is important is that my identity doesn’t lie primarily in being a professor, or being a wife, or even in being a mother. Those things will always fall short. Entire careers get swept away at a moment’s notice at the presentation of a pink slip, a vote of the elders, an accusation of a student, a cut in the budget. Marriages face infidelities, for instance, and end up like car wrecks from which people can recover but are never again the same. Children grow up and move far away and forget to write or call – as they should.” She smiled wistfully.

The point is, if you have your identity in any of these things, it’s surefire disappointment. Anything man-made – or woman-made, for that matter – will and does fail you. Having my identity in Christ first and foremost gives me the courage – yes, the courage – to live my life boldly, purposefully, in everything I do, no matter what that is.”

I believe her professor is right. Jesus Christ is the only One who will never fail us. Everything else this world has to offer will, but Jesus will be there forever. So why find your identity in anything else?

Questions for Reflection

  • Where do you find your identity?
  • Do you realize that everything else will ultimately fail you? Agree or disagree?
  • Are you willing to commit to finding your identity in Jesus instead of in the world?

Recommended Reading

Resources

Be an Ambassador

Have you ever thought about your purpose in the world? Have you ever thought about what it means to be an ambassador? I am sure many of you have thought about your purpose in the world, but few of you have probably thought about what it means to be an ambassador, let alone if you are an ambassador.

In my last post, What is My Purpose in the World?, I answered the first question by concluding that,

When we image God to others by our actions and our words, we are taking up God’s mission to reach the nations with His gospel. When we take up God’s mission, then and only then are we accomplishing our purpose in God’s story, which means we have found our purpose in this world.

So we know what gives us purpose, namely, imaging God. It is possible for us to image God by reflecting His character and sharing His gospel because we are redeemable.

Why We are Redeemable

We are redeemable because we have been made in God’s image. Since we are made in His image, we are able to understand His actions in Jesus Christ, as well as we are able to understand His Word, which tells us what His actions in Christ mean.

My last statement brings up an important point. Without God’s Word, the Bible, we would not know the importance of Jesus’ actions. God’s Word is then a crucial aspect to our understanding of God’s plan, and it is what we must share with others. As God’s ambassadors, we are to share His Word with our neighbors and the nations.

We are God’s Ambassadors

An ambassador is someone who delivers a message on another’s behalf in their authority. The United States has ambassadors who travel to other countries to conduct business on its behalf. Just like the US has ambassadors, God has ambassadors. Those who are saved by Jesus Christ, who are professing believers, are God’s ambassadors.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 we read:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We who are reconciled by God through Christ are God’s ambassadors. Our job as His ambassadors is to implore (call someone earnestly) to believe in Jesus Christ, so that they will then be reconciled to God and enjoy the salvation we enjoy.

Looking Forward

In my next post, I will discuss our motivation and how we are empowered for this task. For now, let me give you some questions for reflection.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you see God’s Word as crucial for understanding God’s work in the world?
  2. Do you see yourself as God’s ambassador, or do you believe this is left up to the professionals?
  3. What are some ways you can begin acting as God’s ambassador right where you work, play, and live? (Need some ideas? Read: How to Meet the Unchurched.)

Resources

Bill Clem, Disciple: Finding your identity in Jesus, 11-35.

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Human Depravity Leads to Accountability

Last week, David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times entitled: The Age of Innocence. He opens his column by saying the following:

“The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.”

In America, we decentralized power building checks and balances that served “to frustrate and detain the popular will.” In Europe, they did exactly the opposite. They centralized power, which “was held by small coteries of administrators and statesmen, many of whom had attended the same elite academies where they were supposed to learn the art and responsibilities of stewardship.”

Even though the checks instituted in America and Europe where different, Brooks says, they “were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching.” He then goes on to quote James Madison, who essentially says the reason we are naturally selfish is because we are depraved.

After setting the scene, Brooks then addresses the problem, which is that people no longer believe they are depraved. “They think depravity is nonexistent and they take self-government for granted.” Leaders no longer “believe their job is to restrain popular will.” Rather, they believe they are to “flatter and satisfy it,” which has caused many of today’s voters “to regard their desires as entitlements.

This has caused massive problems in today’s society. Governments have made promises they cannot afford to keep, as well as it’s people believe they are entitled to benefits for which they are not willing to pay.

The reason this has occurred is because people no longer believe they are depraved. Their worldview has no room in it for human depravity. Causing themselves to believe they are capable of self-policing. But this is simple not true.

We are depraved and we will always be depraved.

In Romans 3:10 Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Even as Christians, unrighteousness lives in our flesh and wars within us, never leaving us. Speaking of the unrighteousness that lives in his flesh Paul says in Romans 7:21-25:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

So, yes, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are Overcomers (1 Jn 2:13; 5:4-5), but we still are at war with our flesh, and, at times, will succumb to our flesh, as Paul makes evident in Romans 7.

So What are We to Do?

I think David Brooks’ column has a lot of insight for us here, not on a political level, but on an individual level. In his piece, he tells us that we as a nation have forgotten our depravity. I think we as a church from time to time forget that as well. While we live on this earth, we still dwell within a sinful tent; our flesh is still warring with our spirit. As a result, we too need a system of checks and balances.

This system has to exist outside of ourselves, for we cannot police ourselves anymore than our governments can police themselves. So what I want to challenge you to do is to find another person, preferably of the same sex, and someone other than your spouse, and form an accountability relationship.

Who to Look For?

When looking for someone to form this relationship with, you should pick a person who you can trust and who will hold you accountable. Someone to whom you can confess your sins and pray with about those sins. Someone who will check up on you throughout the week, as you do the same with them.

What to Do?

Once you find someone, start meeting with them once a week, or once every two weeks, whatever your schedule allows. These meetings do not have to be elaborate, they can be simple. To give you an idea of what a meeting would look like, you could read a passage of Scripture together, discuss it, talk about any sins that may be present in your life that the biblical writer brings out, and pray with one another. It is that simple! And a simple act like that can, and will, reap huge dividends in your spiritual growth.

My Challenge

So, I challenge you to begin praying this week for God to provide you with an accountability partner. If you already have someone in mind, I challenge you to get started.

The Cost of Following Jesus

I am following a read through the Bible in a year plan. My readings this morning were in the gospel of Matthew chapters 15 and 16. At the end of chapter 16, Jesus begins to tell His disciples He must go to Jerusalem to suffer many things, be killed, after which He will raise on the third day (vs 21). To this news, Peter rebukes Him, telling Him this will never happen (vs 22). Instead of agreeing with Peter, Jesus rebukes him along with Satan. He tells Peter he is being a hindrance to Him and that he is setting his mind on the things of man, not the things of God (vs 23).

The Cost of Following Jesus

After this brief dialogue with Peter, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach his disciples what it means to follow Him. The text says,

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

The cost of following Jesus is to daily take up our cross and follow Him. In other words, we are to be willing to give up our life for the sake of following Christ.

Hard Words

These are hard words to stomach. Even harder words for me to know the true meaning of as I live here in the United States free from religious persecution. We, in the United States, often want Christ and the world, but Jesus tells us we are to set our mind on the things of God, not the things of this world (vs 23). We are to sacrifice for the sake of Christ, even if it means we are uncomfortable, poor, or killed. Again, these are hard words for us, who live in comfort and have plenty. Even so, they are true and what we must be willing to do, if we want to be a follower of Jesus, because to follow Him is to take the road less traveled.

Follow Jesus: It is the only thing that matters

Gaining the world will not profit our soul. No matter how much worldly wealth or fame we have gained. In the end, all that matters is that we have counted the cost of following Jesus, recognizing it is much greater than anything this world can ever offer us, and we followed Him.

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